Dream Photo Shoot - Number 1

For those of you who have been following this list of my top 5 dream photo shoots, I apologize for the long delay between number 2 and this, my top dream photo shoot. You will soon see why I delayed it since my number 1 dream photo shoot directly ties into something that is happening in the world right now.

But first, a quick recap of dream photo shoots 5 through 2.

Coincidentally, my number 1 dream photo shoot just so happens to be one of the easiest to achieve, and is also the only one I have already witnessed in my life. (I obviously have been to tons of Blackhawks games, but never at glass level which is where that photo shoot would take place.)

Semana Santa (Holy Week) - Guatemala

Semana Santa

Time for me to be completely honest, I'm a horrible Catholic. I stopped going to church sometime around age 16. I know very little about the bible despite going to CCD classes throughout all my childhood. In fact, and this is kind of embarrassing to say, I'm currently watching the five part series on the History channel called "The Bible" because I came to the realization that I know very little about the bible. Apparently I spent my time in those classes goofing around rather than listening to the teacher. 

My sister, cousins, and I.

So why is a religious event my number 1 dream photo shoot? I've experienced it before with my own eyes, and it captivated me like no other family trip I had ever been on. My family took trips to New York, San Diego, and Disney World when I was a kid. And as much fun as I had, climbing to the top of the Statue of Liberty, or seeing the Pacific Ocean, or riding the Tower of Terror, none of those really captured my heart like the 2 weeks I spent in Guatemala when I was a a little kid.

Semana Santa is one of the most beautiful things I have ever experienced and attracts thousands and thousands of visitors each and every year. The center piece of Semana Santa are the processions that take place throughout the week in Guatemala City and Antigua most notably. These processions consists of large floats that depict different scenes from the Bible. Unlike your traditional parade here in the states, these floats, which weigh several thousand pounds are carried by 80 men. Each group carries the float for 15 minutes when another group of 80 men take over. It is considered and honor to be able to carry these floats and residents sign up for this months in advance. The carrying of these floats is meant to resemble the pain and sacrifices of Jesus Christ, thus those 15 minutes are incredibly emotional and spiritual for the men, women, and children carrying the floats and is usually a time for prayer. There are lighter and smaller floats for the women to carry, usually floats depicting the Virgin Mary, and likewise even smaller and lighter floats for the children to carry. I have had the honor of carrying a float in one of these processions, and not until right now do I realize how lucky I am to have had the chance to do that.

Float being carried by children - Photo by Nick Botner of

My dad with his head bowed.

I still have not fully explained why this is such an amazing event to photograph. I am driven by passion, in fact I'm pretty sure the word passion has made an appearance in every single blog post I've made, whoops! Regardless, the one image that sticks out in my head of these events, is standing by my dad's side as he was carrying a float. I remember looking up at him, and seeing tears rolling down his cheeks as his eyes were clenched and his head bowed. This raw emotion wasn't just on my dad's face, it was evident that every man carrying this float feel the deepest connection with their faith during those 15 minutes. And that raw emotion has inspired me to not hide my emotions, it's a great feeling when people can see and feel what you are going through in a particular moment.

One of my favorite parts of photographing an event is capturing all the finer details that make up the scene. The music can be heard all around you, bands following each float playing religious songs greatly adds to the ambiance.  The smoke from incense fills the air and can be seen from several blocks away. The streets are crowded and the excitement on kids faces is a lasting image.

Incense - Photo by Peter Randall

But best of all are the "alfombras" or carpets for us English speaking folk. Residents of the towns spend hours, if not days, creating carpets made of pine needles, flowers, and sawdust along the route of the procession. These alfombras are unlike anything I've seen before and are truly unbelievable to see in person. Tragically, this beautiful form of artwork gets trampled and destroyed in a matter of minutes as the procession walks right over them.


Men waiting to receive the float

This is a family trip that has stuck with me for the past 15 years. I can't wait to have the chance to go back and photograph this event as it is something that needs to be witnessed by more people. 

Happy Easter everyone!!!