Fiesta de la Virgen de la Candelaria, Copacabana, Bolivia

Nowadays I try and plan my trips to coincide with local festivals. This was partly ignited a few years ago in Guatemala when by chance on visiting a nearby village I happened to be there for their annual fiesta. It was like stepping into another world, I stood on the edge of the street as horsemen charged up and down and closer and closer to the spectators huddled against the walls. I didn’t have a clue what was going but loved every minute and exposed hundreds of pictures on what was probably by 2nd or 3rd day in Latin America. I’ve also enjoyed the challenge of shooting the street parades of the Notting Hill Carnival much closer to home, since moving to London 5 years ago.

In Copacabana (and Puno, Peru) they celebrate the Fiesta de la Virgen de la Candelaria from February 2nd, the statue of the Virgin is paraded through town along with brass bands and dance troupes. I had read of this religious fiesta while researching the country and it sounded suitably colourful and chaotic to worth being around for.

(Technical bit) In the past I’ve mainly shot this kind of thing with a long lens (the Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8 for example) but for this I wanted to get something a little different, there were plenty of other tourists taking pictures so I wanted to use a wide-angle and get in close to the action as much as possible. The Sigma 35mm f/1.4 was ideal for the job, and is certainly earning its keep on this trip so far. If I wasn’t feeling comfortable in a new environment then I’d be more likely to go with the long lens but after a week in Bolivia and 4 weeks so far in this part of the world I felt OK getting close to people. I picked a position where I could have the gates to the cathedral in the background and would have the dancers side lit. This meant sitting on the pavement in front of the main grandstand (where all the Bolivian VIPs appeared to be seated) for a couple of hours as the processions could be heard all around, gradually making their way to the Main Plaza, but it was worth it, and by now the sun was lower and light more dramatic. I carried on happily exposing frames until sundown, and then past sundown until finally realising the shots I was now taking were crap compared to the ones earlier! This is just a quick edit of a few of the shots from the first day – I’ll be posting a full collection when I get back and edit on the big Mac screen back in London..

Fiesta de la Virgen de la Candelaria, Copacabana, Lake Titicaca, Bolivia

Fiesta de la Virgen de la Candelaria, Copacabana, Lake Titicaca, Bolivia

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