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We just arrived in Cotocachi yesterday and already, I’m in love. Today is the first full day of photography lessons as part of our Photography Expedition in Ecuador. We arrived in Quito, Ecuador’s capital city (and the closest airport to Cotocachi) on Saturday and I have to say… it’s nothing like I expected. For starters, it’s much larger than I imagined.  Ecuador, after all, is no larger than the U.S. state of Nebraska. Talk of the villages and markets across the country had conjured up in my mind pictures of gravel roads and bicycles… not skyscrapers and street lights as far as I can see from the 7th floor of our hotel. And while the news reports stories of Quito crime, mass flooding, and war with Colombia, my husband and I spent the day wandering the dry, crime-free streets day dreaming about moving here. We can see ourselves living in the Mariscal area or just outside of Old Town.  Children play in the parks, women walk around selling the most amazing fruits to the families who set up picnics beside the playground. And $8 buys you a lot at the market. That’s what I paid for a traditional Ecuadorian sun hat and a hand-sewn dress for my niece that I’d easily pay $30 for back in the States. I’d buy property here in a heartbeat if they weren’t moving the airport.  Turns out, flights won’t arrive in Quito much longer.  The high altitude and lone runway make it tough for most airlines to get in.  Flights can only arrive at night, and pilots need special training to land. The new airport, however, is to be 30 to 60 minutes outside of Quito, where the altitude is much lower and there’s space for a second runway. Will travelers visit Quito if the airport is no longer there?  I’m not so sure. Cotocachi, where we’ve set up camp for this week’s photography Expedition, on the other hand, may benefit greatly from the new airport. It’s only an hour to an hour-and-a-half away from the new airport and it’s got all the old world charm of Quito without the bad reputation. Indigenous families still dress in their native garb and greet you with a smile… the food is mostly organic with fruit juices made from the most delicious fruits (sweet, exotic offerings we don’t get in the States)… and you can’t beat the prices.  You can eat well for a couple of bucks just about anywhere in town and you can still buy a three-bedroom apartment for less than $50,000. Plus it’s amazingly photogenic.  Professional photographer, Rich Wagner, gave our photography attendees this tip today… Pick your battle.  You can’t have everything. Your camera can only record about seven to nine stops of light.  Yet the human eye can see at least twice that.  So it’s up to you, the photographer, to decide which seven to nine you want your camera to record.  Choose one direction and you’ll lose all the details in your shadows.  Choose the other and you’ll loose detail in your highlights (the really bright areas of your photograph). Rich, and most other professional photographers, likes to err on the dark side.  You can sometimes recover your shadows in Lightroom or Photoshop but you can’t recover highlights if they’re too far gone. Not to mention, from an artistic standpoint, our eyes are drawn to really bright areas in photographs.  If you have a big bright spot where you’ve lost all your details to too much light, your viewer’s eyes will be attracted there… drawing their attention away from the subject and the general mood you’re trying to portray in your picture. So err on the dark side, he says.  In most cases, it’s the safer bet. This morning we’re up early to visit Crater Lake for our first photo shoot.  I’ve put up several photos of our classroom sessions so far on this page here: http://www.thephotographerslife.com/ecuador_photo_expedition We stopped at the equator line on our way to Cotocachi from Quito and grabbed a group shot.  It’s true what they say about the egg, too.  It really does stand on end at the equator.  We tried it! — Lori Lori Allen Director, Great Escape Publishing P.S. If you’re ever traveling to Ecuador, remember that it’s right on the equator.  The temperatures may get down between 50 and 60 with rain, but the sun is still very hot.  It could rain for 20 minutes or so in the afternoon, but you’ll still need sunscreen or a hat year-round. If you would like to experience the magic of Ecuador for yourself, sign up for our next workshop! To check out photos and listen to attendee testimonials from the April Ecuador workshop, visit our Ecuador website at: www.lorisentmeecuador.com. Learn more about how you can turn your pictures into cash in our free online newsletter The Right Way to Travel.  Sign up here today and we’ll send you a new report, Selling Photos for Cash: A Quick-Start Guide, completely FREE.]

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