I first visited Cuenca on vacation six years ago and quickly decided that it would be the perfect place to live. A year later I returned to live here full time and have been loving it ever since. The cool, mountain weather, the food, and the cost of living are all great—but the thing I love the most about Cuenca is the people. Cuencanos are the kindest, most welcoming people I have ever met.
It is not uncommon for a family to see me walking in the park with my camera and yell “foto, foto.” I’m more than happy to take their picture and always give them my business card after. This has resulted in some great friendships over the years and even led to being hired as an event photographer.
I have been very lucky to have become involved with the Cuenca Symphony Orchestra as their “unofficial photographer” for many concerts. They have used my images for posters advertising upcoming performances. My work for them is all donated, but has led to many other contacts and paid jobs.
The pay for shooting family parties or weddings is less than what I got in the States, but it goes a lot further here, and the extra money funds my travels around Ecuador.
Just recently I took a spectacular trip to the Galapagos and got a chance to photograph the tortoises at Charles Darwin Station. I snapped sea lions napping on park benches and trying to get a snack at the fish pier, and saw the famous blue-footed boobies, iguanas swimming in the harbor, and the green sea turtles gliding through the water.
During the trip I posted photos to my website every day. As a result, before I had even left the Galapagos, I had an order for 18 large prints from a Quito attorney who wanted to redecorate one of his offices. This, and the sale of other photos, covered the cost of my flights and accommodation. You can find great places to stay for as little as $35 a night on Santa Cruz Island, breakfast included. I was amazed by this, considering the fact that the Galapagos is such a prime tourist destination.
On Isabela Island, a two-and-a-half-hour boat trip away, you can snorkel and swim with the sea lions, or visit the Galapagos penguins on the nearby island of Tintoreras. Instead I opted to climb the Sierra Negra, one of Isabela’s five volcanoes. I found it to be very steep and at the first rest stop I said goodbye to the rest of the group—who were hiking like they were on a track team—and walked back down.
The residents of the Galapagos, typical of Ecuador, were some of the nicest and most genuine people I have had the pleasure to meet. One family invited me to their home for a delicious meal of fresh seafood.
Thanks to photography I’ve met lots of people and made lots of friends in my new home—and the extra income is a great way to pay for more travel opportunities.
Main Image: ©iStock.com/Bobbushphoto
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