I'm a little disappointed in myself.

I had originally intended to use this blog post to publicly flog myself for my failure. I had an agenda for my recent trip to Cancún. I had been looking at work, lately, of humanitarian and travel photographers. I wanted to practice telling stories using a traditional photojournalistic series of images. Too many of my travel photos are devoid of people (as much as I could manage). When I travel, I like to experience as much of the culture as possible and avoid the typical tourist spots. I always tell the cab driver to take me where the locals go and I want my photography to reflect that. I also want to connect with the people. They are what makes the culture, not the location. Since I want to specialize in environmental portraiture, Cancún is a great environment.

A little HDR action of the Caribbean just after sunrise.

I figured since I was going to Cancún anyway, I might as well practice and maybe even get some good images for my new portfolio I'm working on (more on that in a future blog post). I was in Cancún with most of my family for a reason that I will not get into here, but I will say, it was difficult to keep my mind on photography. We had a few activities planned to keep my mind off things which included a trip to Chichen Itza and Xplore. Chichen Itza is one of the largest Mayan ruins in Mexico and would be a great opportunity to tell a photographic story. Xplore was a jungle park with zip-lining and driving, rafting and swimming through an underground river. Since I don't have an underwater housing, I left my camera at the hotel.

The lion on the balcony was pretty random decor.

I had already been to Chichen Itza but I felt that it was a good opportunity to get the types of photos I wanted. I think my main problem was I had already made up my mind the shots I wanted to get and, therefore, the story I wanted to tell. Big mistake. It put blinders on me and I think I missed some opportunities. Aside from that, there were opportunities right in front of me but I chickened out.

A young man of Mayan descent hawking his wares to tourists walking by.

The perimeter of the ruins were lined with locals selling every manner of Mayan trinkets to the thousands of tourists who flock by the busload there everyday. Many of these trinkets are mass-produced (some even in China), homogenized crap for tourists while several craftsman were hand-making some very authentic looking Mayan masks. These were the people I wanted to connect with and photograph. But mostly, I chickened out.

A craftsman in the beginning stages of carving a Mayan mask with hand tools.

I think I was intimidated because these people were very aggressive sellers. "Good price. Almost free" was the mantra in Cancún. I would walk by looking at the people working on their crafts and the would get into sell mode. This made me reluctant to try and connect. I get it, this is their lively-hood. But this is going to be the same wherever I go if I want to do this type of photography. I chickened out. I didn't even try. I just kept my distance. It's part of who I am and a part I need to overcome if I am to become the photographer I want to be.

Another HDR photo of the sun peeking over the pyramid at Chichen Itza.

So yes, I got some pictures of the people, but not the kind I wanted and from a distance, without any connection or interaction. I great portrait is a collaboration between the subject and the photographer. While a few of the shots do tell a story, I need to break through my own fears to make a connection with my subject. But it wasn't a complete waste because I learned some things and now I have this public self-recrimination to remind me in case I forget.