helynn ospina photography

Baja Travel Vibes ..

When I travel, I’m not looking for a place that feels familiar. I crave otherness. I look for destinations where you are so far removed from your daily routine that you can lose your sense of self and focus entirely on the experience in front of you.

Baja was that sort of place.

I traveled to Mexico with nothing in mind but surfing. When I arrived, I found the Pacific flat. The sand was inviting. The waves? The waves were nonexistent.

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No matter. I swapped the surfboard for a camera and went wandering.

I have to confess something to you, now: I’m a lazy traveler. I book a flight and jump on board without doing much research. In fact, I avoid it. Knowing what I’m walking into isn’t what I’m searching for. I’m seeking the unexpected.

The first unexpected thing I stumbled on was the terrain.

I came to Baja for the openness of the water, and I found myself drawn to the unlooked-for serenity of the dessert. It’s vast and barren, and yet it’s packed with cacti—so strange when you have become accustomed to the lush land of Redwoods.

A cactus is an odd plant in every way. It’s even odder when you don’t expect it to be there and then, on a morning drive out to the beach, there it is with hundreds of its brothers, standing taller than you are and looking far more at home than you and your rental car.

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You may have guessed that I’m not much for itineraries and guidebooks. I’m not sure what they would have been able to tell me about the little town I landed in. So, I can’t rattle off the history of Todos Santos, and I can’t tell you its five most popular tourist attractions or which hotel has the best rating.

What I can tell you is how blinding the light is at noon in the market. It cuts around the storefronts and the shadows they cast, which vendors and makers have settled into for the day. The sun-bleached streets spotted with shaded havens create a peculiar oasis in the middle of town. It’s the sort of dichotomy that puts you on the spot. “Are you going to buy something? Well? Hurry up, then!”—that’s what I can hear it saying as I snap.

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It’s a bright place, Todos Santos. Its walls are splashed in jumped-up pastels and its goods are beaded and embroidered and woven by hand, stacked in lines for tourists like me to meander past, hands cupped over our eyes against the sun.

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Todos Santos is one of those small towns that feels tiny. It has a wholesome sensibility to it. When you walk through the streets, you feel like you’re walking through real life—not your real life, but a life lived by those you spy through windows and garden gates. There are traditional papel picado banners linking stores to homes. They might be leftovers from a festival. I like to imagine they’re the remnants of a neighborhood celebration, a quinceañera, perhaps, or a wedding, but I’m probably being a bit dreamy.

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It’s the light that gets me.

As a photographer, it’s the first thing I notice about a place. As a traveler, it’s essential to what I remember about a trip. My memories are keyed to how Mother Nature lit a certain moment. The light is transformative. It’s moody. It tells the story of the place, and it does it all in a snapshot. A weak ray cutting through fog? Just the beginning of a cactus-strewn morning. A sunset piercing the rim of a margarita glass? The precipice between a day in the sun and a tequila-soaked night out in Todos Santos.

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The color of the light in Baja is different from what it is at home. Here, it’s hot. The temperature is balmy—comfortably in the mid-70s—but the warmth of the light makes it look like the sun is beating down on you. It makes the oranges more vivid and the blues appear ready to melt.

And that does feel so very much like Mexico, doesn’t it?

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Cover Feature on Modern Luxury Interiors Winter/Spring 2016!!!

Very Exciting news!!! - A recent project I shot with my long time clients MAS Design , was featured on the cover of Modern Luxury Interiors California Winter/Spring Edition!  

This has been one of my favorite jobs ever.  The team at MAS Design contacted me months in advance knowing they definitely wanted to shoot the house once it was complete.  Once I saw the house on our scout day I knew why they were so excited!   Seven months later we wrapped the shoot and I knew we had something very special.  It's great knowing everyone else also loved the project as much as we did!

My Dream House in Sonoma!

This past summer I had the pleasure of photographing my dream house!   Well it wasn't actually MINE but a girl can dream.   The project was shot in the Alexander Valley area of Sonoma and is the work of the design team at MAS Design located in Oakland, CA.   

I asked Dawn Carlson of MAS design what their inspiration was for the space... their goal Organic Modern.

This project is near and dear to our hearts.  We worked with fantastic clients whose primary residences are in San Francisco and Tokyo.  Their vacation home is in a stunning part of the world, Sonoma County, and the home has incredible architecture and even more impressive views. 

Although the clients’ tastes are typically uber modern, we all agreed that the natural setting and views should be showcased above all else.  The organic world would be our inspiration, and although we always infuse an element of surprise into our designs, the focus here should rather be about subtlety and textures that would complement and showcase the natural surroundings. 

Our choices were either inspired by nature, or in stark juxtaposition with it.  We love the tension created by a strong juxtaposition (such as lucite and natural stone, for example).

The client had one great request:  That we find items with a story.  Don’t just create a beautiful/vapid space, but something that would also have meaning. The jumping off point was the pendant lighting over the kitchen island, which are a rare find.  They were once Indonesian water backpacks, converted into pendant lighting. There are a lot of special moments like this throughout the design.

From there we just kept with the theme, which we’re calling “Organic Modern”.  Chic, nature-inspired textures, strong juxtapositions, neutral hues, and the Japanese concept of “wabi sabi”, or perfect imperfection.  There was no shortage of inspiration.

                                                                        Dawn Carlson, MAS Design


The MAS Design team had some very clear design goals for the space and our goal was to make sure those were captured beautifully.  I always want my images to feel like you are in the room.  The viewer should get to experience the warm sun filtering through the curtains or the long shadows that cast along the wooden floor.   This is of course a bit of a balancing act because I also want to capture the details of each room accurately.  Additionally,  for this project it was essential to capture no only the design elements inside but also bring the outdoor into the mix as well.  No where is this more evident than in the kitchen.... who wouldn't want to cook in here???  Pasta Anyone?

This house was a dream to work with in terms of lighting!   I don't think I had to mutter the words " I need more light" a single time.  I really love all the images that we captured that day but my favorite of them all is the dining room.  I love the richness and silky, creamy feel of the lighting.  I can imagine sitting down to the table with some good friends and a nice bottle of wine and watching those long shadows move across the wall until they disappear as the sun sets across the valley. 

After watching the sun go down and would kick my friend so I could go relax in this amazingly serene master bedroom and bath?  Can't you just picture the cold beer or glass of wine on the edge of the tub? 

Ok! enough day dreaming... back to work!  I've been working with MAS Design for a few years now and each project just gets better and better.  We both agree that this has been our favorite butI have no doubt that they will continue to wow me with their designs! 

If you just can't get enough and would like to see more images from this awesome house check out the Houzz feature at the following link: Organic Modern

 

Thanks for stopping by!

 

 

 

 

 

Desert Magic in La Guajira

Colombia is a magical country.  It has so much to offer any traveler;  jungles, cities, snow capped mountains,  architectural gems and amazing food!.  I recently spent 6 weeks traveling in this wonderful place. Colombia is my birthplace and this was my first time visiting since leaving when I was about 2 years old! 

When initially started researching my trip my mother told me of a region called La Guajira…. A quick search on Google produced an array of stunning images of this desert region.   I was hooked.   I knew that I would hit all the usual suspects like Medellin, Bogota, Cartagena during my visit but La Guajira would be the crown jewel of my trip.   Perhaps I was drawn by it’s remoteness and stark beauty.    I had to get there.

While staying a hostel near Tayrona Park I met two fellow travelers; a Frenchman and a Dutchman.  We had all read about the fabled La Guajira (I suspect that Lonely Planet had a hand in that).  We quickly decided that we would make the journey together.  So we departed early on a Friday morning not quite sure how to arrive to the Northern most tip of South America.   Getting there is probably just as you imagine it in your minds eye…. There was a bus, a cab and a 4wd vehicle involved and 8 hours of bumpy, dusty, hot roads.    The final destination was worth ever bit of effort.

La Guajira is a travelers dream. It’s the kind of place that reminds you of why you travel. There is open sky as far as the eye can see. The colors of the golden sand set against the jewel tones of it’s salty sea form an impossible contrast. As you drive through it’s expansive landscape you see small house used by the native Wayuu people. Their colorful dresses dot the landscape like desert flowers. Wayuu Children are so curious about strangers.  The set up “candy” Road blocks for your car as you travel through the desert.

 

The northern most point of the region, Punta Gallinas, is a place where giant sand dunes lead to warm aqua blue ocean waters. Bring some cardboard and you could slide down the dunes right into the ocean!

 

This place is for a certain kind of traveler…. if you like the idea of sitting undisturbed with nothing but the blue ocean and a good book while eating fresh caught lobster…. this is the kind of place you will enjoy. It truly is the end of the earth.

Homecoming ...

You know that moment when people ask you where you are from ?  I have to confess that I'm never quite sure how to respond.   I think when I was younger I used to just tell people that I was from Florida because it seemed like the easiest thing to say.  However over the last few years that response started to seem really weird.  I think it must have happened when I was in grad school.  During all those moments of wondering if I had made the right choice to leave my cushy corporate job to follow this crazy photography dream,  I began to question other things .... mostly related to identity and roots.    It was the first time in my life I really sort of began wonder about the place my parents had left behind when the emigrated to the United States all those years ago.   I knew it was time to finally make a trip back to Colombia.  

It took a couple of years to actually make the trip happen but this past January I finally went "home" for the first time in 36 years.  I traveled for 6 weeks why my family, by myself and friends I met along the way.   The trip was truly life changing.   There were relatives that I hadn't seen since I was 12 and there were ones I had never met.   There were things that I never knew about our family ; my grandfather had been a coffee farmer, my 80 year old uncle still has a ranch and rides horses everyday,  my mom and her sisters used to get in trouble for playing in piles of coffee beans!   My aunt Amanda (who I lovingly call the midget because she is a very tiny woman) is 70 years old and an unstoppable force of nature who wears heals no matter where she goes (even on hikes up a mountain).   She was my tour guide for the majority of my family time and she left very few stones unturned in an effort to show me every corner of Colombia.

I returned with close to 5000 images (and that was after some initial editing!)  I wasn't quite sure where to start with editing so I turned to Wonderful Machine and together we came up with the Down South gallery.    The gallery contains images from all over Colombia including Medellin, Cartagena,  Villa de Leyva,  Santa Fe de Antiquioa,  Cali, Salento  and the remote desert region of La Guajira (one of my personal favorites... check out the blog entry specifically about that part of the adventure)

My trip with unforgettable!  I really wish I could pack all my friends on a plane and take everyone together.  In the meantime,  I will have to share the good ole fashioned way... photographs!