Saturday, October 8, 2011

Photo Carousel #12: "San Angel Inn - Mexico Pavilion in Epcot"

"San Angel Inn - Mexico Pavilion in Epcot"
Here's my next Photo Carousel entry, "San Angel Inn".

One of the things that I've started to do lately is take photos of the cool places that my family dines while we're traveling.  I realized that eating is an important part of traveling, yet I rarely take photos of the restaurants that we stop at along the way.  This is a pretty big gap in the overall group of photos from any given trip because a lot of good times are shared.....while eating!  If you don't have a few photos of those dining stops, some of those memories can sometimes slip away...

With that in mind, on our recent trip to Disney World in Florida, I photographed each restaurant where we ate.  Some of the pictures are just casual snapshots to capture a moment, but the one above took a little bit of work to get right (and the subject deserved it).

If you've ever been to the Mexico Pavilion in the Epcot theme park, you can appreciate the work that went into it.  When you first enter the pavilion, there are displays of Mexican art and culture, and after you view that area and walk through the crafts section of the pavilion where artists are working on souvenirs, you enter a different (and dark!) world.

It takes your eyes some time to adjust to the darkness, but when they do you'll realize that you're standing in the center of a recreated Mexican town market with craft and artwork vendors, souvenir stands, people standing around shopping and having fun, and in the back....there's the San Angel Inn restaurant.

Off in the distance there's a scaled replica of a Mexican pyramid like those that you'll see at the Chichen Itza historical site in Mexico.  There's also a ride that has its entrance on the left side of the pavilion called "Gran Fiesta Starring the Three Caballeros".

This area is a visual feast, and it's so well done that it's easy to quickly forget that you're in Disney!  At the back of the pavilion is the restaurant in my photo above.  It's a large restaurant, but if you're thinking of going here for lunch or dinner, be warned that you absolutely will not get in without a reservation.  Plan ahead!

From a creative perspective, I was trying to capture the overall mood and size of San Angel Inn.  I feel that this photo does that by using a layered approach of showing the dining area in the front, the pyramid in the middle, and then beyond that is the background wall painting with the volcanoes.  The dining area where the tables are is somewhat more intimate and slightly darker than it appears in this photo.  I over-exposed this shot intentionally to show the detail in the seating area better, but you can still get the idea that each table is candlelit and relaxing (i.e., no overhead lighting).

From a technical perspective, the shutter speed for this shot was slow (about 1/25 second) to gather enough light from the dark scene to create a useful photo.  I didn't use flash because that would have ruined the mood of the photo.  Hand-holding was out of the question due to the low shutter speed, so I propped the camera on a railing and used the self-timer to steady it while framing the shot as best as I could.  There was nowhere else to put the camera, and that's why those two chairs are blocking the low part of the shot.  I couldn't reach over the railing to move them.

For me personally, this shot succeeds because it really captures the mood of the San Angel Inn and I think it conveys the thought of this being a relaxed place to sit and have a meal.  Because of the effort that I put into it, this photo turned out to more than just a travel snapshot.

Going back to the point that I made at the start of this post about capturing memories, just seeing this one photo reminds me of the mood and atmosphere that night at dinner, and the great time (and food!) that our family had there.

On a side note, if I do humbly say so myself, this photo blows away the official Disney photos of this restaurant that appear on their website at the links above!  Maybe I should sell it to them!  :-)

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