Have Fun Searching For Colorful Photographic Details

Text and Photography by Chuck Place

The colonial towns of Mexico are some of my favorite locations for photographing details. Early and late in the day, I’m often working on capturing the iconic buildings and sites of a town, but during the middle of the day the harsh sunlight is very strong and, like the locals, I try to avoid it. That doesn’t mean I have to stop shooting, however.

colorful windows details

colorful windows details, Oaxaca, Mexico

Many buildings have unique architectural details, while shops and galleries often display their wares outside in the shade. It’s all a bit like a photographic scavenger hunt.
Sometimes the image is perfect just the way I find it and sometimes I have to move things around for a better composition. Maybe a potted plant is in the wrong location or some carved animals need to be grouped together. I always ask permission first before I touch anything and have rarely been turned down.

carved wooden animal folk art

still life of carved wooden animal folk art, Oaxaca, Mexico

For me, these intimate photographic details often say more about the culture of an area than more general shots and they always add a spot of strong color during a drab part of the day.

cactus fence detail

cactus fence detail, Mitla Archeological Zone, Mexico

Sometimes in can be as simple as stumbling on a fence made of living cactus, sometimes it’s a detail of a popular form of folk art.

detail of black pottery

detail of black pottery, San Bartolo Coyotepec, Mexico

Colorful images can be easy to produce at the beginning and end of the day, when warm light is prevalent, but creating fascinating photographs during the rest of the day is definitely more challenging.

hotel archway details

hotel archway details, Oaxaca, Mexico

How many of us like to collect doorways and windows? They represent an entrance into another culture and I photograph them any time I find one that is unique.

old door detail

old door detail, San Miguel de Allende, Mexico

Developing your ability to find hidden color among the details not only broadens your coverage of a subject, it also fun and helps you see what others miss. And seeing the world with greater clarity is, after all, one of the main reasons we all love creating photographs.