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Devon Barker Stills & Motion - Catamaran Sailing - Carribean

On The High Seas – Guatemala to Florida

We didn’t have much of a plan on how to actually get back from Guatemala. We had three months on our Visas and knew we’d have to get back to the states via bus, plane or as it turns out…sail! We had a few days to kill before meeting up with our friends who own the catamaran “Adonai” so we jumped on the bus from Yepo to the Caribbean coast and did some exploring.

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The best turtle hunters in all of Rio Dulce! The water taxis in the background run up and down the lake all day running expats to their homes and boats.

 

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We’ve been to many hot springs in our travels but this is the first hot waterfall we’ve ever been too. This one is going to be hard to top!

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In search of Topado in Livingston, Guatemala. Topado is a sea food dish that usually consists of salt water fish, mussels, prawns and plaintain stewed in a coconut based broth. After passing an older gentleman on the street who handed us a paper menu, we had to give his restaurant a try. Turns out it was a just a couple tables and when we were told we could eat outside we found that we had our own little private wharf to enjoy sunset and a Gallo : )

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Never know what you’ll find creeping around in the jungle. #freelensing

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Beautiful morning to be setting sail.

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Navigating downt the Rio Dulce towards the Carribean.

 

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As we made out way down Rio Dulce, all I can imagine is the Spanish trying to bring galleons up this narrow river with nothing but oars for power.

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The days activities have always got to include fishing! Mahi for everyone!

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Kaydee and I took the early morning shift (my favorite) which means we always got to catch the sun coming up over the horizon.

 

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Sails up and calm seas.

 

Devon Barker Stills & Motion - Catamaran Sailing - Carribean

When you have an abundance of beautiful purples reflecting off the atmosphere and in turn the texture of the ocean you just can’t help but ask the wife to model for a moment ; )

 

Devon Barker Stills & Motion - Petate Weaving - Yepocapa, Guatemala

The Art of Petate Weaving

Petate weaving is a craft that extends back to the early Mayan period and is a staple in the Yepocapa economy. Tul is harvested once a year and is then dried, sorted by length and split before being woven into bedrolls, mats, baskets and other everyday utensils.

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Tul, the wetland grass used for Petate weaving is harvested once a year so that the individual blades are similar in height. But, before the Tul can be cut and stripped for weaving it must be dried and sorted by hand. Time for a Tul sorting party!

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Tul sorting consists of a few things: sorting by height, sorting by diameter and lastly tying everything into organized bundles. The height difference is only a matter of inches so each person must choose pieces that match perfectly with everyone else.

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The Tul is bound into bundles of similar length and size to make transport easier, but also to get an idea of what size Petate Mats can be woven from this harvest.

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The dried, sorted, and split Tul is woven into Petate sleeping mats, baskets, rugs or wall hangings that start life as a pattern in shades of green.

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It’s only takes a couple days to weave an average size Petate mat, but it’s taken generations to refine the skills to pull it all together.

Devon Barker Stills & Motion -  Yepocapa, Guatemala

Life in a Guatemalan Village

Yepocapa, Chimaltenango – Guatemala is a bustling little town. With one major road running through it that connects the western side of the Sierra Madre de Chiapas mountain range with the pacific coast. I called Yepocapa home for three months as  I worked on Siglo: A Century in The Soil alongside Director of Photography, Sarah Schwab and our crew. While “Yepo” hosts families from the entire region for it’s daily street market, we spent the majority of our time out in the fields with local small-plot coffee farmers (Campesinos/sinas) who are part of the San Pedrana Cooperativa. The coffee trade is a changing industry in Guatemala, and while I won’t go into detail (you can watch the film for that!), suffice to say it’s  a complicated situation. Blessed with high altitude, cool temps, and an endless supply of fresh volcanic soil thanks to Volcan De Fuego, the farmers here enjoy perfect coffee growing conditions. Here’s just a few of my favorites of day to day life.

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Our day wouldn’t be complete without at least one visit to the Tortilleria on our street. Just look for the kids running around out front, the tin window sign “tres tiempos” and the sweet smell of maiz tortillas!

 

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Just never know how the day will shape up. We made a trip with the leaders of the Co-op to Antigua to visit a dry mill. These raised dry beds are full of honey processed Geisha.

 

 

 

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One of the local farmers measuring the distance between rows during a visit to one of the larger Fincas near Antigua. Gotta take notes!

 

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No sunday is complete without a visit with Papa Leon and Mama Lipa

 

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Literally a truck full of goats.

 

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Nothing says “you’re at the mercy of the volcano” more than pummice falling out of the sky.

 

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Sarah Schwab takes a moment to enjoy the view of town from El Pilar

 

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Taking a break after a hard day of cutting coffee. The large Fincas of Antigua draw workers from miles around, many of them using bicycles for their daily commute.

 

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Looking down from the slopes of Volcan De Acatenango. Yepocapa and the town of Acatenango can be seen down in the valley with Lago Atitlan and it’s surrounding Volcanoes in the distance.

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“How do you spell your name?” Constantly working on our spanish alphabet!

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We can always use another assistant.

 

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We brought an old Polaroid Land camera and a few boxes of Fuji FP-100C with us to take portraits of the farmers and their families to leave behind as mementos. Here Don Pedro poses with his son and grandsons.

 

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Gearing up to shoot Don Evaristo and his honey bees.

 

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The Toyota pickup or chicken bus are the standard modes of transportation around rural Guatemala. We spent plenty of time bouncing down jungle roads on our way to the farms and running around Antigua.

 

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Kaydee taught PE at Collegio Berea (a locally founded non-profit school) and the last of our time in Yepo we were invited to photograph and film as well.

 

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Catuai micro-lot dries and getting ready to head out!

 

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Since most of the coffee grown in Yepo gets shipped out, I had to go in search of another morning planning beverage. Dried Cacao tea it is.

 

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It is such an honor to be welcomed into a family regardless of what country you are in.

 

Devon Barker Stills & Motion - Volcan De Fuego Rescue - Acatenango, Guatemala

Third trip (and possibly final) trip up Volcan De Acatenango – Guatemala

We had a sobering reminder of the power of weather over the weekend. Climbing Volcan De Acatenango for the second time this trip, we got an afternoon start with the intention of camping near the saddle and summiting before sunrise to shoot timelapses. When we hit the saddle the wind was whipping and there were tents everywhere out in the open and full of people trying to stay warm to summit the next morning. After being invited to join a group around their small fire for a minute of warming up and some instant coffee, we went in search of a place to setup for the night that had a little more shelter. The saddle was full so we found a small patch of dry mountainside between a couple tress to provide at least a little bit of wind protection and started to try and level a spot in the volcanic soil using machetes and our hands. We built a platform roughly big enough for our two small tents and small fire to warm up some dinner. We crawled into our already soaked tent to try and get some sleep for the next morning.

 

4am rolls around and the alarm goes off and instantly I realize that we’re all soaked. The temperature dropped in the night and condensation has soaked everything in the tent on top of the rain/sleet that started sometime around 1am. I strap on my soaked shoes and wrap my soaked sleeping bag around some equally soaked cameras in the hopes that it might help somehow and we set out to investigate the summit. We quickly realize it’s still sleeting and visibility is 5-10ft at most as we pass through the camp at the saddle. A few minutes up the trail and where there used to be a camp, there’s now just flattened tents and make shift tarps. What was a tolerable wind five minutes back down, is now a force we’re barely able to walk against on the ridge. The wind is whipping rain/sleet sideways and anything we had managed to keep dry in dry bags is now soaked through as well. The summit definitely isn’t happening and if it is, we’re definitely not going to see anything. We call it quits and head back to our camp and are on the trail back down by 5am to try and get out of the wind and warm up.

 

Fast forward to the morning after we get back…and we’re told 7 people died on the mountain that night, 3 are confirmed and the other 4 are unreleased.

 

All my mountaineering friends, stay safe out there…this weekend was a reminder that there’s just a few millimeters of nylon separating you from the elements and the power of the mountain.

Devon Barker Stills & Motion - Aerialist In The Wild  Farwell Mountain - Clark, Colorado

Mt Farwell Silks and Some Snow

I’m guilty of looking at the weather, the clouds, the light and calling it quits if things don’t look like they are working out. But sometimes we push through, rig up anyways and it just kind of all comes together somehow. We waited until an hour before sunset and watched the rain and snow rolling up the valley towards us. The wind was whipping across the slope but since we could see the back of the storm we decided to go for it anyhow. Moral of the story…get out and shoot regardless of what you think may or may not materialize!

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Clouds broke up and we got a 270 degree rainbow.

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Hurry up and RIG!

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Little rain on the lens.

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Devon Barker Stills & Motion - Zirkle Wilderness Startrails - Clark, Colorado

Seedhouse Colors Fall 2016

The last of fall is fading here in the rockies but we managed to catch the last of it for a shoot with the Zirkels providing the perfect backdrop. Mix in some coffee from our friends over at Backporch Coffee Roasters to keep the droopy eyes open and you end up seeing some scenery like this!

 

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Fresh Pacamara from El Salvador : )

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Watching the alpenglow settle on the Zirkel Wilderness.

PNW Coffee Education

Some of you know that we’re coffee addicts. But what most of you don’t know is that we’re working on a documentary that has coffee as a key ingredient. So of course when my buddy Ryan asked if I wanted to join him on a whirlwind coffee your of the Pacific Northwest, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity! A couple weeks and a couple thousand miles (ish) later and I had acquired a slightly more refined palate, a serious caffeine buzz, and a completely new beverage to craft and appreciate.

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Somewhere on the Eastern Plains of  Oregon after a night in Idaho.

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V60 Goodness

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A New Ride – Ropes – And Rain, Colorado

What do you do when there’s a new 4runner in the family and you have people visting that have never seen Colorado? Take them on a four day whirlwind of hiking, off-roading, waterfalls, a via ferrata and some of the best breakfast food around you can find!

 

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First stop, Sunrise on Immogene Pass. Aspen, CO

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Travelling with some of you favorite humans is great, but having a 10 week old travel partner is the best! Where’s the coffee!?

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A quick breakfast at 12,095ft before rolling towards Ouray.

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Breakfast views.

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First time in CO for one, first road trip for the puppy.

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Breakfast views.

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Looking back towards Ouray and the thunderstorm we just passed through driving down from McClure Pass.

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Clouds breaking on Imogene Pass.

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Getting the feet wet.

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After an hour of looking for a level, semi-dry spot and dodging rusty nails left over from the mine, we found home sweet home up at tree line.

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A little car camping dinner.

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Nothing like the San Juans! Bone stock 4runner up on top of Imogene Pass.

 

_Devon Barker Stills & Motion - Natalie Keller Lyra - Colorado Springs, Colorado

Ute Park Lyra – Colorado Springs, CO

I’m not sure why but I always end up shooting in the dark. In the dark 2 miles underground in a mine, in the dark underwater, or in the dark up on a glacier in the middle of nowhere, the sun has a way of setting long before I want it to. We set out to shoot and rig at Rainbow Falls Bridge up near Manitou but construction shut that down pretty quickly. So we grabbed the lyra and improvised a quick rock rig up in Ute Park. Nothing like a last minute location change to challenge the photog ; )

Models: Natalie Keller, Kaydee Barker

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Devon Barker Stills & Motion - Aerialist In The Wild Kaydee Barker - Clark, Colorado

Silks At King Solomon Falls, Clark CO

We’ve wanted to rig here for a few months now. Ever since we went up and did some free diving and scouting the rock faces that surround the falls, we knew that it was going to be doable but complicated. I rigged up a horizontal sliding pulley to keep the aerialists (Kaydee Barker and Natalie Keller) high and dry and used every bit of our 200ft long static ropes to span the falls and the pool with a highline.

 

Rigging (affiliate links – thanks for supporting us!):

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Just about all set. Just need to flip the main pulley and pull the knot on the horizontal pulley.

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Getting cinematic as the sun goes down. Time to gel the lights! It always amazes me what a little extra light from some small strobes can do for the mood of the image.

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Bare strobe to the right with a 1/2 CTB gel. 48″ Octobox to the left with a 1/4CTO gel.

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2016 All Arts Festival, Steamboat Springs

It was a weekend of climbing trees, some rope burn, and a little teaching some fellow photogs the frustration of photographing aerialists. When I was asked to teach a sunrise workshop in the Steamboat Botanical Gardens there was no way I could pass it up! We got a half dozen photographers and four incredible talented aerialists to model including Rebekah Leach, Kaydee Barker, Jocelynn Rudig and local Heidi Miller.

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Little Light, Big Difference: Mpowerd

I can’t believe it’s been a month since we wrapped up shooting in Guatemala. I want to say a huge thank you to the company Mpowerd  for sending some of their Luci solar lights with me to light up the homes of the students in Yepocapa. With limited access to electricity for some famlies, renewable/non-toxic light sources have a huge impact on day to day life. Here’s a couple of my favorites and check out their site and insta feed for more.

 

San Pedro Yepocapa, Guatemala

Helping out with lunch on a wood fired stove. San Pedro Yepocapa, Guatemala San Pedro Yepocapa, Guatemala

Students in San Pedro Yepocapa, Guatemala

Dedication and Generational Investment – Guatemala

I’ve been contemplating how to wrap up and summarize the last month of our travels in Guatemala. Do I talk about some of the issues that Guatemala is facing? Talk about the poverty level, the malnutrition in schools, the impact of tourism on local culture or the environmental and health issues caused by the volcanoes? Throughout our trip I searched for some narrative besides the documentary we were working on centered around coffee. And then I realized, the people I’ve met and grown to love have one thing in common; an undercurrent that runs through them and the Guatemalan culture as a whole. That torrent that I got to experience first hand is dedication.

 

My first brush with this side of Guatemala was through the coffee farmers (Campesinos) who have dedicated their lives just as their fathers, and thier fathers’ fathers have. They recognize that every drop of sweat put into their terranos (farms) is a generational investment in their families future and well being. In Monte Llano and on the shores of Lago Atitlan in San Juan, women dedicate their time and efforts into weaving beautiful patterns in textiles and patate. In little Yepocapa, a pair of brothers are the best Jade artisans in the country (some claim the world- their work graces the necklines of British royalty) and live in their workshop honing their craft and spending the rest of their time out searching for their next piece of material to turn into a masterpiece. Dedication.

 

The largest chunk of our time in Guatemala was spent under the roof of Erick and Karen. Erick spent his early adulthood fighting a deadly illness and (with a supernatural intervention from God, he says) emerged completely healed and with a degree in education. He teaches at the local school and is known as a pillar of the community and an inspiration for family guidance in a Christian household. Dedication. This drive isn’t limited to the men of Guatemala, the women here are true superwomen. Karen recently graduated from medical school after ten years of commuting back and forth to Guatemala City (sometimes six hours in a chicken bus) while keeping her family running and having a newborn baby. Dedication. Many of the families in Guatemala are large. Mama Lipa raised a family of six, including Tia Pati, who manages to work miracles on a couple of wood fired stoves using ingredients found in the Yepocapa market (eating food that didn’t travel thousands of miles first…what a concept!). Dedication.

 

Here’s a few of the stills I shot when I could no longer resist and had to break away from all the videography. I’ll be editing the video over the next few weeks and hopefully will have at least a teaser up in a few days.

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Volcan de Fuego (Accurately named Volcano of Fire) peaking out from between the clouds of ash that it’s continuously spewing. Yepocapa sits below the Volcano at approx 5,000 ft. One frame from a timelapse i’m working on…stoked to share that with you after the film is edited!

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Don Lipe’s hands covered in ash after tending to some of his coffee plants. Ash from Volcan de Fuego is a constant source of nutrients for the soil around Yepocapa.

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Cutting (harvesting) coffee and trying not to get eaten alive by the bugs.

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Many of the Terranos (farms) are owned by third and fourth generation Camposinos. These three represent generation number five to be cutting these plants.

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Cutting coffee is all about the technique. The cherry must be at the correct stage of ripeness and it must be cut in such a way that the stem is not damaged. Otherwise the plant will not grow a cherry in that spot next year. I found it easiest to twist the cherry as I pulled.

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As you can see, the cherries all receive nutrients at different rates (green, underripe green and red, and ready all shown) resulting in different stages of ripeness. A well cared for Terrano will be cut two or three times a week as each cherry ripens to allow the nutrients that were going to that cherry to pass on to the next in line.

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Back at the Cooperative in Yepocapa measuring out and bagging coffee that has gone through the process and is ready to ship. Cooperatives give the farmers access to processing machinery and tools that would otherwise be too expensive for small land owners (among other perks which will all be explained in the film).

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Sew it up! Ship it out!

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Papa Leon, as he is affectionately referred to by family and friends, grew up on his Terrano above Yepocapa. He is at least a second generation Campesino (accurate family records are rare) and still makes the trek into the hills to cut (harvest).

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Photographing Mama Lipa (Papa Leon’s wife and mentioned in the story above) was a complete honor and privilege for me. Mama Lipa is Kaqchikel which is one of the indigenous Mayan tribes of Guatemala, so it a took a little bit of two-way translation (my poor Spanish into Kaqchikel) to get the ball rolling, but photographing her in her kitchen reminded me of everything I love about photography.

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The village of Monte Llano, situated on the crest of a hill in the western Guatemala highlands. The traditional clothing varies from area to area but each village has its own unique pattern (notice the embroidered mountains?).

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Tz’utujil backstrap weaving in San Juan La Laguna.

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After being spun into thread, the cotton is dyed naturally. In this case, the red is extracted from the body and eggs of the Cochineal.

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The villages around Lago Atitlan can mostly be reached by road but the majority of travel is done in precariously overloaded lanchas.

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Getting in a little evening of fishing.

 

All of these people have one special ingredient that has made this kind of dedication possible and it’s something we’ve lost (but not forever) in US culture. Community, and lots of it! I wish I could pinpoint what makes this place different and how the community as a whole impacts the outcome of each individual. It seems I’m incapable of articulating exactly what that secret ingredient is that we’re missing in the Unites States. If I had to take a stab at it I’d say that it’s our hyper inflated sense of pride and our innate lack of humility that gets in the way..but I think for now, that post, will have to wait ; )

Cafe, Jade and Machetes – Yepocapa, Guatemala

It’s been a crazy few days of filming. Scrambling through the jungle visiting campocinos (small coffee farm owners), hanging out at the Coffee Co-Op going through the steps that it takes to turn red cherries into the cup you and I enjoy every morning. I never realized just how extensive the process is to harvest , transport, de-pulp, sort, and dry each and every bean. Visiting with the campocinos and watching the workers cut (harvest) the coffee, you start to get a sense of the devotion these people have to their plants. For example…the very first step, harvesting, has to be done at exactly the correct ripeness and picked so that the original stem isn’t damaged, otherwise another cherry won’t grow there next year. Many of the campocinos will harvest multiple times a week to ensure that each cherry has reached optimal ripeness, giving the bean inside a chance to absorb as much of the sugar and taste from the cherry as possible. This of course means that an excellent cup of coffee comes from cherries that take a long time to ripen. This is one of the reasons Yepocapa is an excellent place to grow. The high altitude, mild climate, rich soil and constant nutrients from the volcano, makes for a long ripening process. I’ve had a couple cups of local coffee now and it is unlike anything else I’ve ever had!

Yepocapa, Guatemala. Downtown

View from the roof of Erick and Karen’s (The most amazing family that has taken us in) Towards the neighborhood of Aldea San Francisco.

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Looking out the other direction last night.

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If there’s one thing Guatemalans do well (and there’s many) it’s family. Family dinners, family churches, family walks, family terranos (farms). Of course my favorite is family dinners ; )

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Not sure how she does it but Tiapati manages to make some pretty amazing food between two wood fired stoves.

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Fresh EVERYTHING.  All grown in and around Yepocapa.

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Machete in hand, roaming the hills around Yepocapa with Papa Leon. One of the many reasons i’m in Yepocapa is to shoot some stills and film for our friend Ryan who’s working with the local Coffee Co-op on exporting single origin (legitimate single origin…as in, let’s go find it on the map) Coffee that honors the legacy of generations of Campocinos and their dedication. I’m stoked for you guys to meet these individuals once I get all the editing done back in the states!’

 

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That, is what perfectly ripened Coffee looks like after it was just cut (picked) from some pretty happy plants.

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The Co-ops receiving area starts bustling about 3pm as trucks start rolling in. Time to film!

 

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My assistant working hard. Thinking I might get replaced soon.

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End of the day recap as we figure out how to end a film we don’t want to finish.

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We had a completely unexpected treat the other day. We were walking towards the market when someone standing in one of the side street yell “buenos tardes!” at me. I mange to mumble “buenos tardes” back and continue my long strides down the hill, except, this guy is following me! And he’s still saying “buenos tardes” which unknown to me means I should stop. After a couple more repetitions I turn around and so does Ryan to find that it’s Maestro Carlos, one of Guatemala’s top Jade craftsmen. Even after I was being so insulting (unintentionally!) he invited us into his studio and we got the tour. Come to find out that Maestro Carlos and his brother Luis use Guatemalan jade, some of the best in the world, to craft pieces for all over the country and have even sold pieces to British Royalty. Carlos proudly showed off all the pieces he’s made in a collection of magazines he keeps handy explaining that Guatemala has extremely hard Jade compared to other countries and all of his tools have to be diamond coated (diamonds are a 9.5 on the hardness scale where this jade is 7.5-8). We scheduled another visit with him to photograph and shoot video which i’m really excited about!

 

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Just another day commuting Yepocapa.