December 15, 2009

Los Mamos de la Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta

Andy and I had the rare opportunity to take photos of the Mamos de la Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta (note: an indigenous tribe from the mountainous region of Sierra Nevada). The Mamos don't normally allow people to photograph them because of their spiritual beliefs. This particular family fled to the region of Antioquia to escape persecution from the FARC (guerillas).  We drove deep into the mountains to meet with the family, and when we arrived the smell of roasted tobacco and burning herbs permeated the crisp air.  Andy and I took time to get acquainted before asking if we could photograph them.  I even had a chance to play some guitar with the head chief before taking Josca with the family (Josca is powdered tobacco mixed with other plants that when inhaled is supposed to cleans the mind of bad thoughts)

Pictures after the break...

First, we would like to give a GIGANTIC thank you to Veronica and Vicky!!!!!! Without those two amazing women, this unbelievable afternoon would never have taken place!!!!!

Here are some of the results of our once in a lifetime afternoon, let us know what you think!!!!!!


  1. Me Likey. Great work My fave is número uno y tres



  2. Thank you for documenting my country in such a great way! I hope you guys get to visit Cali before it's all over!


  3. Will,

    Thanks!!! What an amazing experience we had and we are very glad we get to share it with you and everyone else!!!

    Caphics (Tito),

    Believe us when we tell you the pleasure is all ours. This country is amazing, the culture, the people, the scenery, the food, and most of all the tranquility of day to day life.

    We are going to start traveling soon, might hit Cali on the way to el Choco but not 100% yet. Will let you know. Email me some suggestions if you don't mind Andy AT or Mikey AT


  4. Will and Tito,

    I have to tell you that today was one of the most amazing experiences I have ever had as a photographer. I don't have any other words to describe the amazing family that Andy and I met today: loving

    They made us feel completely at home and they were kind of enough to share with us their rituals and spiritual way of life.

    Andy and I plan on returning to deliver their portraits and spend some more time with them.

    Mikey AT

  5. These are amazing photos. I especially love the 1st & 3rd. Keep it up guys.

  6. beatiful work! do u guys shoot jpeg or raw? I noted the light from apollo are kinda cooler (not to compare with gel on flash). do u use gray card to balance the light from apollo?

  7. Dudes!

    Great work as always! beautiful photos keep them coming!

  8. Great job.
    Is there supposed to be a video?? Your comment mentions subscribing to the newsletter to see the video. Isn't that just your blog feed?
    I look forward to any new videos.

  9. Guys,

    I am wondering the same as Rich, I thought there was a fantastic video which included a cow, and some hot models??
    The blog is a fantastic way to see the many sides of Colombia! Ciao

  10. Hey everybody (Rich and Bekah),

    "A cow and hot models..." Hahahahaha!

    We take a lot of pride in all our videos. Shooting pictures is our passion! We just thought it would be cool to share something really special with the people that really "get" what we are doing. It's not always about the gear you have or about the sexy model you are shooting. Sometimes you have to go deeper and examine why a still image is so important in our daily lives. We want to share special moments with everyone, but we would like the ability to share special moments with people who really dig what we are doing. That's why we ask you to sign up for the newsletter. It gives us an opportunity to share unique experiences who love the experience and power of taking photos. We will have the video and pics of the Mamos by Friday night...I promise.

    Chao pescao!

    PS Until then, lighten Up and Shoot!!!!!!

  11. I really like the look of the images. They really, really look like paintings. What did you do to them in post to look this way?

  12. Rags,

    Glad you liked them, we are very proud if I do say so myself. No post straight from the camera. Only added a little contrast to darken a little. I'm gonna do a Photoshop/Lightroom Workflow post in the next few days so stay tuned.

    Any questions, comment, email Andy at or mikey at, or skype us!!


  13. I love all of your work, mike and andy you guys are the best.Will you guys please tell me what cybersync transmitter and receiver do you guys use. I know you can get them through alien bee, but i'm not sure which model to get . I shoot with nikon cameras.

  14. As I understand it you would need a CST and a CSRB, thats what i bought anyway!

  15. So you all normally shoot with a 28" right? I have been eyeing the 28" but am doubtful that I will get it before January. If you could get a 16" at a pretty good price would that be sufficient for one or two people or children (which is a lot of what I shoot) or at least as a start?

  16. Anthony,

    Here are the one's we use


    CyberSync™ CST


    CyberSync™ CSRB

    they work great work for us!!


  17. Darcie,

    Yes, we almost always shoot with the 28" softbox. For one person it works amazingly well, for 2 people they have to be really close together to be effective. I The 16 at a good price would work well for one person...two is definitely pushing it...not recommended. If you are on a budget..get an umbrella for more than one person. Check out our backpackers studio post it has links to the one's we use (and we make money if you buy through the link...hint hint...wink wink).

    Let me know if you have any other questions....glad to help!!


  18. Hopefully you guys got credit when I got the wescott a couple weeks ago.

    I never realized the cybersync's didn't have a hot-shoe dapter.... another reason to get rid of my sb-600

    Any word on that e-book and seminar tour?

  19. Caphics,

    Yes, I'm pretty sure we got credit so THANK YOU!!!

    No PC-Port on the SB-600, you can either sell, which is what we did. Get a hot shoe adapter (they break easily, especially if you are rough on gear) or get those Nyonggung Chinese triggers (not sure how to spell it) which do have the hot shoe. I would personally sell and buy two used SB-26 or SB-28's for the price of one SB-600.

    The e-book is coming...don't worry. I just keep adding stuff to it. I should have it ready by tomorrow night. The seminars, still working on the dates but we'll have them asap!!


  20. Hey guys,

    I have written and re-written this post several times trying to express in words the impact you have had on my photographic future.
    Just in one night of watching your videos you have reinvigorated my desire for photography.
    I shoot mostly high school sports and every year I am asked by many parents to shoot senior pictures. I always turn them down due to the lack of proper equipment. I know the most important piece of equipment is the photographer and the second is a camera. The rest is open for debate. When you talk to the "PROS" about anything related to photography you always have to be a millionare to afford what the "PRO's" tell you you need.
    You guys have simplified it and in a manner that is not condescending towards those of us that are not pro's. I will be shooting senior portraits spring 2010 after watching and reading your videos and blogs.
    Oh yeah the words I were looking for, THANK YOU.

  21. What a great movie guys! I liked the shots with the lens flare and getting the background still in the picture to give me a even greater idea where this could be!

    In these pictures the mountains are pretty much dark like a silhouette, was this due to lack of sunlight, or the shutter?

    Also are these shots using your flash at full power in that 50inch softbox? I am saving up to get the chance to work with one, but I just like to know to get a better idea how to use it.

  22. Bobert,

    Did you check out our series we did in November called Speedlight Series? We go over a ton of information that will show you how to control both ambient light and the exposure of your subject (using flash).

    To quickly answer your question (another hint: sign up for our newsletter):

    -We used flash to light up the Mamos. The ambient light source is the sun (in this case the sun created several effects: rim light and lens flare in some cases)

    -When using flash, the ambient light is controlled by your shutter speed. The faster your shutter speed the darker the background. The slower the shutter speed the brighter the background. Depending on the effect and moodiness you want control the ambient source with your shutter. I often like the background 2 or 3 stops less that the subject

    -aperture controls flash exposure of your subject.

    I hope this helps. Now get out and shoot!!

  23. Bobert,

    Forgot to answer your question regarding which light we used:

    1. we used the 1600Alien Bees flash powered by a Vagabond II. We could have used a speedlight but chose the 1600 Alien initially because when we arrived to take pictures the sun was really bright and we thought the speedlight may not be powerful enough to overpower the sun. Once we started the sun was going down pretty quickly; rather than change out the light source we decided to keep shooting with the Alien Bees to save time. But, we could have gotten the same shot with a flash. Check out our speedlight series.

  24. Wonderful photos. You convey a sense of dignity and strength that I seldom see in many photos of indigeneous peoples. Stunning.

  25. Donald at,

    Thanks for the compliment. I checked out your site and I have to say that I am inspired to do a road trip across the USA. I have been wanting to do that for a long time. I would like to talk to you when you have time...get some tips on the SW.


  26. Andy, espectaculares las fotos. Qué manejo de la luz. Era para algún trabajo especial o por hobby? de verdad que espectaculares, en estos días voy a la USA, te busco.

    Juan Carlos Mazo

  27. Did you went back and handed the printed photographs?

  28. Me llevo fotos para compartir,Gracias