Thursday, May 16, 2013

¡Exprésate! - España day two and three Toledo

The morning had us driving to Toledo or so I think. Again, I was shooting TIFF not RAW files so the metadata is not that detailed. The timeline might be a bit off. I remember having our driver pull over so I could make some images of these amazing red wildflowers. I always made a photo of flowers for my Mom, and still do.

Flowers for Mom - Images by Don Couch

Toledo was a blast to photograph. Running around the small narrow streets photographing the people and the incredible architecture. At one point, Ivan, one of my "fixers", was driving our van down this very narrow street and the mirrors rubbed the sides of the buildings. He just laughed and said, "That's what insurance is for!'. At one point, we stopped in a jewelry store to photograph the artisans working their craft. There were also many swords made there. Ivan reminded me in the movie HIGHLANDER, the villain Kurgan, says "This is my Toledo sword". (There can be only Juan!)

Toledo - Images by Don Couch

I did get to photograph in the Greco museum. Incredible collection!

Greco Museum - Images by Don Couch

And the train station. Oh man did I ever want that train sign, We actually went back to snag it but one of the workers at the station went out and brought it in. He must have seen Quino holding it. It was so cool looking and I figured it would pack in my suitcase. Oh, well...

Toldeo Train Station - Images by Don Couch

We caught another wedding, much like we did in Mexico city.

Toledo Wedding - Images by Don Couch

We went back to Toledo a bunch of times. One thing I remember is Marta would allow me to "play". In Toledo, I did some panoramic shots. It was nice working with someone who would let me try new things. I'm pretty sure the pano made it into the textbook. At this point, I'm not sure if Mark Cooper was there or not. If I recall correctly, Marta had something to do or something so HRW sent Mark to fill in.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

¡Exprésate! - Ten years ago today... España

We begin shooting in Madrid, Spain. We have been in Madrid for two days now location scouting and sorting out the talent. But on this day... I get my laptop stolen! Somewhere in the background of this image, thieves are making off with my laptop. It was a group of men in suits. These guys were so pro, it was like an American Express commercial, one guy distracted the maître d', one distracted the talents mom who was watching our bags and a third made off with my brand new laptop. I remember Marta coming up and telling me "Your laptop just got stolen". I shook my head and kept on working. Really nothing more I could do. After this shoot, we went to the police station to make out a report. In some ways, I was lucky it was brand new, there really wasn't any information on it yet and we did have insurance. My welcome to the Old World...

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

últimos días - last days

At this point, we would have been back home in Texas. Somehow, the timeline got a little messed up but hey, "It's Mexico, Man!". Also, I know I am missing some CD's. Where are my images from Puebla? And more from inside Diego Rivera's studio? (BTW per the WIKIPEDIA - Diego María de la Concepción Juan Nepomuceno Estanislao de la Rivera y Barrientos Acosta y Rodríguez)

Diego Rivera - Images by Don Couch

 I know I had some sunrise volcano images as well as more studio food shots. I'm sure the Cd's will turn up as I start to sort the rest of the archive out. As of right now, I'm showing 2490 images spanning 98 CD's for the Mexico les of this project. At this point, I didn't know I was going to get the rest of the entire project. I had expressed my desire to both Paul and Marta to do that but didn't think it would happen. The next two legs were El Paso and Miami. No real loss there for me to not get those. Bur some time in the next few weeks, I got a phone call from Cindy. I still have the scrap paper I wrote to Brenda "We got the all" on as Cindy was telling me this. We were so excited. Spain was next. It was here that my laptop got stolen on day one, I met Mark Cooper, a dear friend to this day and I learned more Spanish.

final days - Images by Don Couch

 One of the funniest stories happened at the airport when we landed in Mexico City. At this point, I really didn't know Marta. We'd met about a year earlier on a developmental program for this project but that was just a one day shoot in my studio in Austin. I think the next time I saw her was a few weeks before we were scheduled to leave for Mexico. Anyway, before leaving the U.S., Brenda was so worried I would get ill from the food or water in Mexico that she packed canned chicken and crackers for me to eat. Well, we had so much equipment packed that when we landed, Marta and I just split up the bags to go through customs quicker. Unbeknownst to Marta, this "care package" of food was in one of the bags she picked to mule through customs. All of a sudden there are inspectors and custom agents clamoring around Marta. Turns out there was some kind of ban on imported chicken from Illinois or Iowa, some farm state. So the inspector had to check the origin of the cans of chicken and poor Marta is standing there probably thinking, "Why would he be packing chicken?". If I recall correctly, I packed that chicken BACK into the U.S.

National Autonomous University of Mexico - Images by Don Couch

Sunday, April 14, 2013


So now we are in Coyoacán (ten years ago but I'm beginning to wonder about the timeline) wandering around photographing. Not a bad way to spend a day. We found our way into an Italian school somehow, it may have been by design, I just don't remember. Maybe Paul and Marta might comment here and straighten things out. We stopped to get our souls cleansed (Mine took a bit more scrubbing). Like Xochimilco, Coyoacán is one of the sixteen boroughs (delegaciones) of the Federal District of Mexico City. It is one of the nicer parts of the city. At some point we came across an art show. It was an open street market. I bought Brenda some amber earrings here as well as a book. I also bought myself some clothes. I remember all the beautiful paintings. I felt bad photographing the paintings, kinda like a tourist would do instead of buying them but I wasn't there to shop. Except for earrings, books and clothes...

day 11 - Images by Don Couch

Saturday, April 13, 2013


Friday, April 11, 2003,  we went to Xochimilco, one of the sixteen delegaciones or boroughs within the Mexican Federal District. Xochimilco is known for its canals, leftover from what the extensive lake and canal system that connected most of the Valley of Mexico. Along the canals are man-made islands called chinampas. These islands were a way the ancient people of Mesoamerica grew crops on the shallow lake beds and lived on the islands. Today, colorfully decorated boats called “trajineras” tour around these canals and islands. Many of the locals have parties and celebrations on the trajineras. It was a lot of fun floating around the ancient canals of Mexico City photographing. The history of the Xochimilco and the lake itself are much of what made Mexico City so great. Lake Xochimilco plays such an important role in the history of Tenochtitlan, Moctezuma and Cortés.

Xochimilco - Images by Don Couch

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

I meet Quetzalcoatl, Popocatépetl, Iztaccíhuatl and more

Playing catch-up here. Didn't realize how taxing a daily blog would be. So, ten years ago today, looks like I was back shooting on the video set. This time we were in some clothing store. What I have missed in the past three days was, more one video day at the ballet school in Coyoacán, we drove out to photograph the volcanoes "Popocatépetl and Iztaccíhuatl", on Monday we photographed Museo Nacional de Antropología (I remember because like most museums, it was closed).

Museo Nacional de Antropología - Images by Don Couch

We then photographed Tenochtitlan.

Tenochtitlan - Images by Don Couch

We also had a Video shoot in Coyoacán

Video shoot - Coyoacán - Images by Don Couch

 "Popocatépetl and Iztaccíhuatl"

 I'm trying to make sense of the cataloging system for the Mexico segment of the project. I'm having a little difficulty sorting out the days. It appears we were still referencing film as I have the CD's with folders inside called roll 1, roll 2, etc. If I remember now, we were trying to sort the different shoots we would do. So in one day we may have had three or for shoots and those may all fit on one CD so for example, the CD marked "HRW-MEXCIO CD65" has roll 41B,44B, 46B, 67B, 82B on it. then I have a note pad with a brief description of what each roll is. Again, remember, this project was ten years ago. I am just now archiving them to LIGHTROOM. I know the next leg of the project in Spain, Mark Cooper just put all the images into one folder and burn CD's with the file in sequential order. Thanks Mark! That should make cataloging them much easier now.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

¡Exprésate! - Day Seven

So at this point, we are mostly shooting on set. The video is in full production. I seem to recall being ill. Some stomach thing, something I ate without a doubt. Or I drank some water. It wasn't too bad I recall. I remember Marta and I burning CD's. A routine we would repeat countless times together in the coming months.
I literally have thousands of CD's from this entire project. Many of them I have yet to unwrap after ten years. I believe all of those are from the video shoots. I intend to open and view every CD for this blog.
I'm sure there are some hidden memories in there.

As I remember now, I had one Fuji S2 Pro and I rented a Nikon D1 as my back-up. It spent the entire time in the safe box in my hotel room. I remember it wasn't till after I was awarded the Spain leg of the project that I bought another Fuji S2 Pro as my back-up. It, too, spent it's life in hotel room safes.

Here are a few images from the video shoot as well as a group photo of the video crew.

Day Seven - Images by Don Couch

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Day Six - Video Day one

Ten Years ago today started the first of many days I had to photograph on the video set. Part of the ancillaries to the textbook was a video novella. The story line was Paul is a stalker of young boys and girls. No wait... that was a different video. if I recall correctly, there was... actually I really don't remember. I know Paul played a character set to observe some students who unbeknownst the them were in line for a scholarship I think. Something like this. Anyway, for part of the project, I made images on set for use in the textbook. Here are a few out-takes from the next five days of video shoots. One of my favorite memories was a day or so into the shoot, the neighbors of the house we were using started raise hell. Complaining about the noise, the cars the people. This house was located inside a walled neighborhood of eight or so other houses. This is as best I can remember it. Anyway, it was like the villagers revolted and so finally to calm them down and resume production, they each received some cash. I just remember the next day they all were so nice, smiles everywhere, we were so welcomed - one guy in his new suit of clothes walking by smiling and waving. Pretty funny day.
video day one - Images by Don Couch

Monday, April 1, 2013

¡Exprésate! - Day five

My memory seems to be as hazy as my notes but if I recall correctly, saturday it rained and sunday was a studio day. I don't seem to have any images tagged for Saturday the 29th. It could just be the date was off on one of my cameras. If I go by file number, it seems after Sunday's studio shoot we went back to the Zócalo in the evening. It had rained and the lights was really pretty reflecting off the streets.

zocalo - Images by Don Couch

The studio shoot was fun. We photographed some kids in traditional dance costume. Challenging as always, my show up and shoot mantra. As this project progressed, one thing I began to realize was I NEVER knew what I was walking into. Even on the video set, which was always a zoo! Speaking of video, the crew would have showed up and it was ten years ago that I met Paul Provence. Little did I know the adventures that lay ahead we would share. And even more odd, he lives just a few blocks from my home.

studio - day five - Images by Don Couch

Ten years ago today, we had an early start to photograph the ruins of Teotihuacan. Marta, Paul and I as well as our driver, Alfredo headed off to the enormous archaeological site. My first of many ancient ruins we would visit in the coming months. Walking the Avenue of the Dead and climbing the Pyramid of the Sun and the Pyramid of the Moon. I recall being told early on about the haze in Mexico City and how difficult the skies would be in my images.

Teotihuacan - Images by Don Couch

Afterwords, we ate lunch at La Gruta a restaurant located in a cave. Another first for me, Mexican caves, little did I know I was to visit many many more in the coming years!

La Gruta - Images by Don Couch

Thursday, March 28, 2013

¡Exprésate! - Day Four - National Centre for the Arts

Today (ten years ago) was one of my most memorable. In the morning, we did a quick location scout to Adriana's parents house. I'm not sure who Adriana is. She had some connection with Holt. Maybe Marta can fill me in. But that wasn't the memorable part. Our photo-shoot at the National Centre for the Arts was. Just the architecture alone was fun to photograph but we visited the Music department, Art, theatre, dance and more. We started out in the studio of the art dept. where I photographed a student working on his painting. There were many student paintings all over the studio and the light was beautiful. From there we walked to the sculpture studio where inside a couple students were working on a metal sculpture. Outside a student was working on a clay sculpture and from here we walked into the pottery studio.

Painting and Sculpture class - Images by Don Couch

Next, we walked over to the music dept. During the walk, we encountered some students in a freestyle performance. They were running around the campus in a free flowing improv style. At one point the "leader" of the group grabbed me by the arm and we took off running while the others followed acting out a freestyle performance with me as the main character. He told me I was descending into Hell and the was reborn. I tried my best to keep photographing during this.

improv - Images by Don Couch

We then went to the theatre dept. was I photographed some students practicing a stage production, I recall the instructor was a bit put off by our presence but we did have permission to be there so he reluctantly let us in.

theatre class - Images by Don Couch

Next was the dance studio was next. Here I photographed ballet dancers practising. I could have spent all day here. In fact, from a photographer's standpoint, I could have spent all day in ANY of these studios. But this was the nature of this project. "Get in and Get out" "Gun an Run" was what I was told I would be doing. It was so true. It really tested my abilities as a photographer to walk in, access the location and get to work. Marta never pressured me but I was aware of all we had to accomplish in the short period of time we had. This "show up and shoot" style became my mantra. I quickly realized I couldn't control the who, what where and when of our shoots. So much had been preplanned before I even arrived in Mexico. I was here, I had a job to do and that's what I did.

Dance Class - Images by Don Couch

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

¡Feliz cumpleaños, Marta!

Day three had us location scouting with the video crew pretty much all day. After lunch we went back to the Zócalo for more location scouting.

Here, we go to the Gran Hotel Ciudad De Mexico. It plays the part of the “El Presidente Hotel” in the JAMES BOND film "License to Kill". The hotel has an enormous Tiffany stained glass ceiling from 1908.

Gran Hotel - Images by Don Couch

Also, it has a great view of the Zócalo. We went back into the Metropolitan Cathedral. One interesting thing inside the cathedral is a giant pendulum hanging from the ceiling marking the shift of the buildings foundation.

cathedral day three - Images by Don Couch

The pendulum in the center of the church has markings beneath it which show how the building has moved over the years. Being built on a lakebed, the cathedral, along with the rest of the Mexico City, has been sinking into the lakebed from the day it was built. Restoration and foundation repair began in the 1990s to stabilize the massive structure. We stopped by the The National Palace Or Palacio Nacional to photograph the Diego Rivera Murals there. Very amazing work!

Diego Rivera Murals - Images by Don Couch

Today is also Marta's birthday (¡Feliz cumpleaños, Marta!). We celebrated with a cake at the studio and went to Los Mariachis de la Plaza Garibaldi - Plaza of the Mariachis.

Marta's Birthday - Images by Don Couch

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

¡Exprésate! - Day two

Day two in Mexico City. I remember I met Marta for breakfast. I had no idea what the menu said! At this point I really didn't know any Spanish and I really didn't know Marta either. I do remember getting coffee and off we went to the the Zócalo, the main plaza or square in the heart of the historic center of Mexico City, one of the largest city squares in the world. It was the first time I saw the Metropolitan Cathedral of the Assumption of Mary. I remember when I walked in and stood the in this magnificent structure, it brought tears to my eyes. I remember thinking what amazing monuments man will build to honor his god. Little did I know I was to see many more monuments to many gods during this project.

The trip to the Zócalo was a location scout. From there, we headed to the largest market I had ever seen, La Merced Market, Mexico City. Located east of the Zocalo, La Merced is a traditional public market located in the eastern edge of the historic center of Mexico City and is the largest retail traditional food market in the entire city. This place was a photographers dream. Hundreds of stalls full of food flowers clothes - colors, textures, and the most amazing faces. But the light. The light was a terrible mix of daylight and tungsten. It was difficult at best but with some fill flash I made it through. I was shooting with a Fuji S2 Pro. They had just come out. It proved itself to be a workhorse of a camera but it loved to eat AA batteries. So much so I couldn't get thirty shots off on set of four. It was embarrassing! Later, I bought a Quantum Turbo 2x2 battery for the rest of the project. But that's another story.

Market - Images by Don Couch

I remember downloading the cards, my 256mb CF and the three 1 gig CF cards and being so excited with this days work. The market photos were my favorite. One tech note here. My client wanted a camera that would produce in camera TIFF files. They did not want to convert RAW to TIFF in the field. Remember, this was ten years ago. I only wish I had LIGHTROOM back them. At best it was the FUJI software or PhotoMechanic. My choice for a camera was either the Nikon D1 for $5000.00 and was six megapixel or the just released twelve megapixel Fuji S2 Pro for $2500.00. My contract stipulated I had to have a backup camera so two Fuji S2's it was. As fate would have it, Fuji turned out to be a great camera as well as a good career choice for me as well. My use of Fuji introduced me to more great people like Joe Cullen and Kayce Baker and years later brought my dear friend Alfred Gordon back into my life.

Monday, March 25, 2013

¡Exprésate! - Ten years ago today

Ten years ago today, I began the assignment that would change my life forever. It started me down a path of travels and adventures I had only dreamed of. Traveling to some of the most mystical and magical places in the world, being paid to do what I love most, make photographs. This one project would take me to eight countries for almost six months. I thought I would post a photo a day from each days shoot or maybe a series of images and the story that goes with it. So much of this project is seared into my memory. It seems like yesterday. I met some amazing people along the way, many of them are still close friends to this day. Next to my lovely wife Brenda, I would have to thank Cindy Verheyden the most. She gave me my first break at Holt Rinehart and Winston and we formed a close friendship ever since. Next of course would be my partners in this epic journey, Marta Kimble and Paul Provence. We went through a hell of a lot together. From Marta's bout with "Degngue" fever, Paul's endless on again off again Atkin's diet to my stolen laptop are but a few of the many funny/tragic stories I will try to remember here. The project was ¡Exprésate!, A Spanish Language Textbook with an accompanying video. In all I made somewhere over fifty thousand images for this project. It will be fun to relive each day and see what I remember. I have an archive set of CDs of the entire project. All great journeys begin with a single step. Here is the first image I made on day one of the Mexico leg of the project. I am proud to say they did use this image.