This Wasn’t Your Average Christmas…

As a travel photographer I always try to portray my subjects in the best possible light. Travel photographs, after all, are used to sell an idea…a perfect moment in time.

There’s no room for gray skies, unhappy faces, or trash blowing in the wind. Although most travel photographs are taken in summer, there are plenty of opportunities to sell photographs that depict the beauty of the different seasons.

At this time of year, I enjoy visiting Puerto Rico. It’s where I was born and raised so it’s always good to spend time with my family during the holidays. But it has other advantages.

Puerto Rico at Christmas time also gives me an opportunity to photograph beach scenes, rainforest landscapes and holiday decorations all in one trip. As an extra bonus, the weather is warm and I get to enjoy some of the best seafood found anywhere.

A few years back, while visiting the island during Christmas, I decided to drive to the city of Ponce to photograph its famous firehouse (Parque de Bombas in Spanish). Built in 1883 in a unique Moorish style with Gothic Victorian touches, the firehouse sits in Ponce’s Plaza Las Delicias in the center of town.

Because of its unique architecture and unusual paint job, the building is easily one of the most photographed icons on the island. But I was going to try to capture it in a different way.

Because the firehouse is illuminated through the night, my plan was to get up early and capture the building at twilight when the skies are a pretty cobalt blue. The night before, I stayed in a nearby parador, or country inn. The accommodation was simple but clean and comfortable…and delicious traditional fare of mofongo (seasoned mashed plantains) and asopao (a hearty stew) was served up by the friendly, welcoming owners.

See the picture above for how the firehouse looked in my photo.

It’s a remarkably colorful building on a regular day…but even more so come Christmas thanks to the decorations. If you look closely you can spot a vintage fire engine inside. The dome on top actually belongs to the cathedral but I think it complements the image nicely.

I’ve since sold this image numerous times to a variety of local tourism publications. Festive shots are often in high demand.

After the shoot, I wandered over to a local bakery (you are never far from a bakery in Puerto Rico) for a coffee and a mallorca—a sweet, fluffy roll covered in powdered sugar. Then I pulled up a chair and watched the city of Ponce wake up.

Wearing shorts and a T-shirt, sipping coffee and enjoying balmy, tropical weather in December, it occurred to me that this was a traditional Christmas for me.

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