Puerto RicoIn 2013 my dad and I traveled to Puerto Rico for our annual Father’s Day photography expedition. Generally we fly somewhere, rent a car and go exploring. Usually we have a vague idea of what we are going to see but we mostly just wing it. Hanging around national parks and trying to stay off the beaten path we capture some great images. This year in Puerto Rico my newest tool was a GoPro Hero 3. The new camera allowed me to show a little bit of “behind the photos” material. It took me a while to sort this video out but it demonstrates what life on the road is like for us as well as the method to our photography.

For our annual Father’s Day excursion we flew into San Juan on Thursday June 13th. On the plane I got a tip that there was good seafood in Salinas. Salinas was on the way to Ponce, the hotel was in Ponce. We could not find any seafood in Salinas so we stopped for some amazing barbecued pork and sausage plantains. That and the struggle to find the hotel were day 0.

On Day 1 we explored downtown Ponce. We found the main plaza then roamed through the nearby streets and shops. It was all very unfamiliar. I took a lot of pictures but I think I was overwhelmed at the time.

We also visited Ponce beach. June is not really tourist season in Puerto Rico so the beach was pretty empty. There were still a few people hanging out on the boardwalk. A stand sold sardines to feed to the pelicans and we found a place to get octopus empanadas to feed ourselves.

On our second day in Puerto Rico we set off to find the huge radio telescope near Arecibo. We thought we could cut across the mountains and see more stuff. The roads are complicated out in the jungle but we were in no hurry. We drove around arguing about directions until we stumbled into Adjuntas. It is a little town with a nice plaza. We stopped for a few pictures and a pizza.
I think that we got lost in the mountains again before we gave up and drove to Arecibo. There was also a plaza. It was not as nice. The telescope is a straight shot from Arecibo though and that was what we really wanted. At about six o’clock Dad mentioned that he thought maybe he read that the telescope closed around four. We decided to press on. Maybe we would see enough of it from the parking lot to quell our interest. Could not have been farther from the truth. There was a gate and a guard and awesome space murals and cool towers we could see on top of the mountains. We had to come back on Sunday.

This time with a sense of direction we drove to the huge radio telescope near Arecibo. It seemed remarkably closed since we were on time and everything. The guard told us it was closed for father’s day. There was only one thing left to do, go to the beach and drink beers.

At the right time of year there is amazing surfing on the west end of Puerto Rico around Rincon. This was not that time of year. However, hanging out on the beach is always in season. In fact this was a perfect place to hang out. Custom cars cruised up and down the main drag lined with little open-air bars. Very vactationy and relaxing.

San Juan is like most nice beach towns in America. There are fun restaurants, big fancy hotels, gift shops, busy streets etc. They make it a policy that all the beaches are open to the public, which is pretty cool. A good place to get a beer or relax in the sand.
Old San Juan is more like a place you would find in Europe. We spent some time lost in the dense grid of one-way streets. The city is encased in colonial Spanish fortress walls. As a guy who used to play with castles as a kid, places like this are amazing. There are ramparts, turrets, dungeons and canon balls. The United States used these same walls during WWII and added a few more modern elements.

Last day on the island, we go for a hike. The El Yunque National Forest is famous for a swimming hole at the base of a beautiful waterfall. It is only a short but very steep and slippery walk. I will admit we carried a lot of gear but I was happy to have it when we got down there.
Dad set up his tripod in a good spot and shot long exposures and video. I decided to go for some long exposures too because that’s how you shoot a waterfall right? There is a bridge across the river but it was far too crowded for sticks. Forced to find a different angle. I pulled out my Mayfer and clamped the camera to the handrail. Very cool stuff with the crowd playing ghostly swimmers in the scene.
I ditched my stuff with Dad and went in with my GoPro. It was like a waterpark with all the people down there. Apparently, the thing to do is swim up to the falls and sit underneath them, which is fairly difficult and intense. After you make sure to get your picture taken you wash back out and go rest.
After an exhausting and rainy climb back to the car we took a drive down the east coast of the island. There we found some fishing village kind of stuff and ate some coconut and fish as the sun set.

For more photos and videos by Mark Lewis visit markilewis.com

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