Escuela Nocturna: A nighttime of difference

Jun 21, 2017 | 5 comments

(Author’s note: I wrote this story and took the photograph sixteen months ago after being in Ecuador for only a few weeks.)

Seventy feet below where I live in Cuenca is a school. In the morning, the children come very early, about 6:30. They attend in three shifts, the last of which ends at 9:30 at night. Each time there is a change in class, an air raid siren is activated. It sounds just like you’re watching an old episode of Hogan’s Heroes. There are no bells to signify that it’s time to head to math class or eat lunch or go get on your bicycle and head home. The last air raid is at 9:30 p.m. when school is over until the following morning.

While the children study, so do I. Our lessons are different. I study about how to navigate within their country’s social customs and geographic locations and how to develop a command of their language. They occupy their desks and I occupy my mind, high above them, conjugating Spanish verbs.

I’ve been in Ecuador for three weeks and five days; the time has been without boundary. Establishing a modicum of infrastructure has been the daily ritual. Domicile, furnishings, utilities, transportation, doctors, mercados, tiendas, languages; on the list goes. I have been able to maintain an exercise regimen similar to what I did stateside, it’s my stress reliever. But cameras, lenses, compositions, perspectives; ahhhhh…not so much. I’m working for myself, not someone else, so I have the luxury of doing as I see fit the majority of the time. It’s always hard to immerse myself in the cauldron of creative juices while the basics still require a heightened level of focus.

Oh, but last night, well, last night was different. There are only so many books I care to read in the evening, only so many pirated DVD’s that I wish to view. The pattern had to break and yesterday evening, there was deviation from the abnormal norm of a new life in Ecuador.

As the children bolted for the doors of their school coming up on ten o’clock, I rummaged through my black ops Pelican case selecting the correct camera body and lens to get to work with. Shortly after ten-thirty, I had my gimbal mounted on my RRS tripod with a camera and 400mm lens attached securely to the top. That setup swings like a fifty cal and I quickly brought it to bear on my subject of interest. Things are always different at night. They don’t just look different, they are different as the night robs the day of the details it offers.

I often compose my art with both geometry and color and the scene I selected allowed for both elements to be realized. The triangle of the black concrete opposed by strong curves of the repetitive arches provided the lines I needed when combined with the zig-zag of the staircase and the roundness of the trash can. The turquoise-like blue of the stairs, where the only light in the photograph emanates from, provided a strong anchor and the opposing reddish orange trash can keeps the eye moving within the work. The other colors remain muted as their elements are only providing support for the stairs and the trash can.

If you have read this far, you either already know me or you want to know me and my work. I’ll be developing a good body of it here as Ecuador seems filled with countless opportunities. Go ahead, climb into the scene, check it out, embrace it, simplicity is an element unto itself.  Are you wondering what lurks at the top of the stairs or is it the whereabouts of the janitor who has abandoned the trashcan for the night that’s on your mind? You’ll simply have to let me know.

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