From the incredible mountain scenery to the chiseled faces of the Indian elderly and absolutely beatific babies, Ecuador is a photographers dream. Photoshop imaging software is almost unnecessary as the bright sunlight almost eliminates the need for fill flash or correcting underexposed shots. The biggest problem is having the camera ready when you come upon the “shot of the day.” The best approach for this is to have a small pocket sized point and shoot camera ready to go at a moment’s notice. I have a small Sony Supershot W230 that I keep in my shirt pocket that only takes seconds to start up and take a shot. For more planned photographs I use my Nikon D90 which has a long lens where I can take perfect close ups and which also gives me the distance to take photos of unsuspecting subjects. I hesitate to push a camera in the face of a 70 year old Indian trudging down the street with a huge package on his back. But, with a long lens I can take dozens of shots without his knowing I am taking them. Probably the best approach for an up close shot is to ask if you can take their picture and then show them the photo on the camera’s LCD. Some photographers even offer their subject a dollar for the privilege but I have not found it necessary. Most people like to have their picture taken. The streets of colonial Cuenca are lined with old buildings, wrought iron balconies and carved wood doors all demanding to be photographed. A word of caution, however, is to be sure of your surroundings and the people around you when you bring out an expensive camera. It can be a very tempting target for petty thievery.
It takes some adjustment in your thinking about a shot’s composition when photographing in the bright sunlight of midday. As Cuenca is almost on the Equator, is high in the mountains at about 8000 feet, and often has totally cloudless days, the sunlight is exceptionally bright. It is so bright that when you first experience a clear bright day, it actually hurts your eyes. When people walk, they often carry an umbrella over their head or a scarf draped over their head and shoulders just to keep out of the sun. Sunscreen is almost essential. This extremely bright sunlight creates some very unusual photo possibilities. As an example, we drove up into the high mountains of the Cajas National Park only 20 minutes outside of Cuenca. Looking down into the valleys, the grass was a green I had never seen before. It was so vivid in the natural light that it seemed as if I had put Photoshop on Vivid.
A suggestion would be to bring whatever camera equipment you need when you come to Ecuador. Purchasing a camera here is expensive, the selection is very limited and DSLR’s are almost non-existent. Most cameras for sale are point and shoot types and, even those are limited to Kodak, Sony, and a few other less well known brands. There are almost no Canon’s or Nikon’s available. As far as accessories go, there is absolutely nothing to be had at the camera stores. I have not tried to order online and have a package sent directly to Cuenca as the duty on a new product would probably make the cost excessive. I have ordered equipment online and had it sent to a friend’s home in the US prior to their coming to Ecuador. They merely carry it onto the aircraft as hand luggage and bring it into the country duty free.
If photography is a hobby of yours, there is probably nowhere else that approaches the photogenic possibilities as the people, scenery and climatic conditions in Cuenca and the mountain towns nearby.