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  • Región Autónoma, Atlántico Sur, Nicaragua

    Last summer I volunteered for blueEnergy, a non-profit in Bluefields, Nicaragua that works to bring clean water, renewable energy, and sanitation solutions to the most impoverished and isolated communities on the Caribbean coast of Nicaragua.

    Bluefields is the largest city on the Caribbean coast of Nicaragua.  I was nervous about the trip because my family and a few friends had told me the coast was an extremely dangerous place.  When I got to Bluefields however, I experienced culture shock, I found the city to be completely different than any other part of Nicaragua I had been too, Bluefields was AWESOME, specially the night life!  The atmosphere was relaxing, people were warm and friendly, reggae music could be heard everywhere, and the market was bustling with the catch from the sea and boats coming and leaving to the communities. It truly felt like I had stepped into the melting pot of old exploration days, Rama, Miskito, Garifuna, and Mestizo’s filled the old pirate city, plus a few of the blueEnergy volunteers that came from all over the world.  

    The city is to a certain degree isolated from the rest of the country, there are no direct roads that connect the two coasts and the main mode of transportation are taxis (within the city) and pangas (small boats overfilled with people and cargo) to navigate the bay, rivers and streams that connect the surrounding communities. 

    Bluefields and the whole coast is plagued with problems, it has no central water system, no sewage system, electricity comes and goes (if you’re lucky enough to even have it) and the government forgets the region exists except during elections season. 

    BlueEnergy works to alleviate some of these problems by providing bio-sand water filters to families, building community wells, installing solar panels in isolated homes in the middle of the bush, and working to educate the community on health issues.  They also provide students from all over the world the opportunity to learn and be agents of change in communities. I enjoyed every second I was there despite the numerous challenges of daily floods, being eaten daily by a healthy population of mosquitos, and adjusting to life without basic commodities.

    I honestly had a blast in Bluefields and met the most amazing group of locals and volunteers at blueEnergy.  I can’t wait to return!  To learn more about blueEnergy and the work they are doing visit them at

    http://www.blueenergygroup.org

    And to learn about the coast, read funny adventure stories and even plan a trip to the beautiful Corn Islands, visit my friend Casey’s blog

    http://rightsideguide.com

     

  • One of my favorite bands ever, Third Day, played at the Patriot Center (located in George Mason University, where I work and study) this past Thursday, February 21, 2013.  Third Day is one the most known and popular Christian rock bands in the world.  They are approaching their 20th year anniversary together as a band.  

    Third Day is touring to promote their latest album Miracle, they have also joined forces with World Vision to bring sponsors to children in countries where they may lack proper food, water, education and basic health care.  A common theme through out the night was of how we could be a miracle to someone else (Matthew 25:35) and how God uses and blesses what we have to bless others (Matthew 14: 16-17).  

    Opening the concert was American Idol finalist Colton Dixon, singing songs from his album A Messenger.  All I can say about him is “wow”.  Serious talent!!!!! Plus he’s funny.

    Josh Wilson, a contemporary Christian artist, also opened the concert with songs from his cd’s (has more than one) and ended with a very serious acoustic guitar solo.

    This was honestly one of the best concerts I have ever attended, for many reasons, security was nice to me (thank you Ken and Keith), the band management let me shoot more than 3 songs (muchas gracias guys), and I was also reminded of how God used Third Day on the days I felt lonely and depressed while being deployed in the middle of the sea.  They were and still are one of my favorite bands that I constantly go to on my iPod.

    To all the people that will have the chance to go to one of the concerts on this tour……….GO!!! You won’t regret it.  Don’t be afraid to sing out loud too, I didn’t hold back, I was screaming from the top of my lungs singing, “His name is Jesus,” even though I can’t sing.  They put the speakers loud enough to overpower your squeals and voice cracks : )

    Now go and be a miracle to someone!

    Support the bands here

    Third Day

    Colton Dixon

    Josh Wilson

    World Vision

    willmzapata.com

  • On Tuesday, February 19th, Matisyahu performed at Rams Head On Stage in Annapolis MD  for his Acoustic Tour.  Levi Robin, a Jewish songwriter and musician from the US, opened up the show with very authentic voice and melodic guitar tunes.  Be sure to check him out and support him here Youtube and his website

    Matisyahu then played tracks from his Spark Seeker: Acoustic Session CD.  It was a great night!!!

    willmzapata.com

    http://matisyahuworld.com

  • King’s Men Tour!!!! Whooo!!  What a night it was at the Verizon Center.  Saturday, October 6th, was a day of blessings for the DC area.  Four of the best gospel singers of our time in one place with God’s people singing along and worshipping.  The Verizon Center was full to the brim.  It was a concert full of surprises that blew anyones expectations!! The music was beyond great, the lights were phenomenal, the songs chosen by the artist were heart felt where you could go on a FULL day singing each one.  If you have the opportunity to attend one of the last shows of the tour, do yourself a favor and GO! You will not be disappointed.

    Will

    willmzapata.com

  • Whoa!!! Talk about a blessed night.  Last Friday, Grace Covenant Church celebrated their 30 years anniversary at the Patriot Center in Fairfax VA.  Israel Houghton, from Israel and New Breed sang songs from all his albums.  He also sang songs from his recently released album, Jesus at the Center.  I’ll be honest, I had a hard time focusing on taking photos.  I am a huge fan of Israel but hearing the man sing is a whole different story.  The song “Jesus be the Center” was specially moving for me, sometimes you invite Jesus into your life but only offer certain areas in your life to him and reserve others for yourself.  It’s hard letting go of control, you wonder if God knows what he’s doing or if he knows what you want.  God DEFINITELY knows what you want but even better, he knows what you need!!  We’re limited in our vision, we hardly get passed ourselves, the song “Jesus be the Center” reminded me to surrender ALL, for living life in him is where you find purpose!!!  Now….the musicians….yesssirr!!! The guys were on fire, the drummer was sick, the pianist were amazing as well as the guitarist and bassist.  The night was seriously a blessing.  Sinbad then took the stage and the man brought jokes!  The whole crowd was cracking up.  Like I said, it was a great night.

  • Tuesday night Matisyahu, along with Dirty Heads and Moon Taxi, stopped by Richmond VA to promote his fourth album, Spark Seeker, in which he continues to use his signature sound and mixture of reggae, hip-hop, and electronica along with traditional Jewish instruments.  Fans were not disappointed with the show and in fact, they got a little more than they were expecting on the second to last song for the night, King without a Crown.  Matisyahu put one of the monitor speakers upright and jumped across the photo pit and security rails so he could crowd surf among his fans.  Check out the photos to see him jumping, lots of unhappy security personnel that day : ).  

  • Earlier this month I was able to visit and spend time with my grandma Carmen.   My grandma lives in Nicaragua.  A couple of years ago she fell and broke her pelvis bone, greatly limiting her mobility.  Although my grandma lives with my aunt and sister, she spends a large portion of her day alone, laying in bed with nothing but her thoughts, the sound of her radio and the cars that pass by right outside the house.  My grandma is caring person, I remember growing up in Managua living with my grandparents because my mom and dad had migrated to the US.  My grandma Carmen would take the bus across town to go visit me and my brother.  She would take us treats, sometimes take us to a river to swim or to her hometown of Mata de Caña in Rivas where the howler monkeys roam free in the trees.  I enjoyed seeing the sparkle in my grandma’s eyes every time I walked through the door to the hallway where her bed was.  You could tell that if she could she would get up and hug me for hours, actually, I did get the long hugs.  Every time I left her side I had to tell her constantly for 10 minutes that I would be right back.  

    I spent lots of time laying next to my grandma, she asked me how I was, if I ate, if Jenny cooks for me, and like any old lady she complained to me about everything.  How everything hurt, the noise of the cars, how sometimes she can’t sleep, how the lady that takes care of her in the daytime sucks at cooking and everything else you can imagine.  I think she enjoyed having someone to talk to, sometimes we wouldn’t say much but it still felt great to have each other by our side.  Even in those moments of silence it felt like we were having deep and meaning conversations.  I felt bad when I left the last night I was in Nicaragua.  I became aware that while I have many opportunities in the US which would be harder to obtain in Nicaragua, I didn’t have all my family close by.  I saw in that moment of how caught up I get with meaningless things in life sometimes, things that will come to pass.  Being with my grandma made me remember all the sacrifices she and my parents made so I could be a better person and live a better life.  Every grandparent and parent for the most part want something better for their kids, I’m not just speaking of worldly and materialistic things but of more important aspects such as character, faith, honesty, commitment, patience and trust.  I feel like I fall short of where I can be in those things, but with the continuing support of my family and friends, I can hopefully make people who believe in me like my grandma proud.  

  • Jesus Adrian Romero Concert

    Last week I shot the Jesus Adrian Romero’s concert at the Patriot Center with my good friend Katie Simbala and Marlon Correa.  I was so excited to shot this concert for many reasons.  One, if was my first concert at the Patriot Center, and secondly, JAR’s music has had a huge impact on my life.  I remember listening to many of his earlier CD’s when I was younger and was learning to play drums.  He recorded with Randall Gonzalez in the drums a couple of times and Randall is by far my favorite drummer even now.  My favorite part of the concert was of course when he sang those old songs.  It brought so many memories of singing those songs in church, at retreats and events to which I was invited to play drums with my friends.  The venue was also filled with the voices of the crowd singing those songs.  I’m sure they have as much meaning for them as they do to me.  Photography wise this concert had a few challenges.  I only had one camera body so I had to be switching lenses, luckily the three song rule didn’t apply so I had all the time in the world.  The musicians in the side and the back also weren’t as well lit as the singer.  I had to bumped up my ISO a little and slow down my shutter to properly expose for them.  The music style of JAR is a bit mellow and calm so even though I slowed my shutter I didn’t have much of a problem with blurry images.  I had a blast shooting this concert and it was an honor to be shooting next to two of my best friends.  I hope I get more opportunities like this one in the near future.  Enjoy!!

  • Colonel Colonel I told him he had nice eyes n he giggled Doug Matthew Colonel, Jeff, Doug and Matthew Matthew

    So last weekend I had a day off from work and what else to do but go shooting.  I originally wanted to go to DC and do street pictures.  However none of my friends responded to my tweeter or FB feeds (so much for friends huh)…I ended driving up to Baltimore to visit my good friend Katie who also a photographer.  We packed up her SUV and headed to this one street where she told me I’d find very interesting people.  When we got there I did find lots of interesting people but everyone that I approached and asked if I could take their picture said “No”.  All except for one guy who was smoking and had a skateboard.  Disappointment with my results, Katie took to this much nicer part of Baltimore.  I wasn’t too keen on the area but it seemed too regular, a nice touristy place.  We got off her car and walked very little when I came upon Matthew.  Matthew was just sitting alone in a bench looking straight with the hood of his coat up. Matthew was homeless.  I asked him if I could take his picture and he said why?  Why would I want a picture of him.  I told him I’m a budding photographer (I hyped myself up) and I was practicing my photography and that I thought he was very interesting.  He said sure but that what was in it for him.  I gave him some money and took about 5 shots.  Then I sat down next to him and tried to stir up a conversation.  I learned that he was 30, has a sister that travels back and forth between NC and Baltimore and that he ate at the local soup kitchen earlier in the morning.  I felt really bad for him.  He seemed like a great guy that had a good heart but was often seen as an “untouchable”.  Across from the park we were in were 3 other guys and I asked Matthew if he knew them.  He said he did and that they were his friends.  I told Matthew that if he introduced me to his friends I would buy them all something to eat so we headed across the park.  

    On the other side I met Doug, Colonel, and Jeff.  Just like Matthew they asked me why I wanted their picture but I was a little more prepared this time.  I told them I was a student and was practicing my photography and doing a personal project.  Before I started shooting I sat down on the floor facing them and began learning about them.  Colonel was the oldest among them and has 3 daughters and I believe one or two grandchild.  Doug didn’t really say much about himself but he was a kid at heart.  You could tell in his eye that he had volumes to say about his life.  Jeff was the most outspoken and a really funny guy.  After we spoke I began taking photos of them and they even helped me hold my flash as I took turns taking pictures of them.  I think they really enjoyed the experience, after I took a couple of shots I went to a restaurant on the corner and got them some food and a juice for each.  These guys were great!!!  I cannot say what a privilege it was for me to meet them.  They all had great smiles and told great stories.  I realized that they are just as human as anyone else.  Maybe they had less (a lot less) possessions to their names but they are just like you and me.  They have families, they struggle, they have feelings, they enjoy talking about themselves and most important of all, they are God’s creation.  I can’t wait to be able to go to Baltimore again and run into them again.  

  • In the photoset above I spoke about the guys and how I met them.  I truly feel it was an honor for me to have met them.  In here I want to talk about how I took the pictures.  I’m not expert but I still want to share.  I carried one lens with me.  That was my Tamron 28-75 2.8.  I also had my speedlite, triggers and a el cheapo softbox from amazon.  I did some natural light pictures but I wanted to experiment with dialing down the ambient light and lighting my subject with a flash.  I had a 3 stop ND filter on my camera and my shutter speed at my sync speed of 1/250th of a second.  Then I dialed the power on my speedlite to properly expose my person.  Was it tougher than it looks? Yeah definitely.  I sometimes over powered my subject and had blown highlights and sometimes in underexposed my subject.  However I learned a lot and can take some experience from this.  Thanks to my friend Katie and the guys for holding the flash as I took pictures.

  • Casting Crowns Concert

    This past sunday I had the great privilege to photograph a concert of one of my favorite bands, Casting Crowns.  I love Casting Crowns, their music is inspirational and deep in meaning.  I learned tons from this concert.  It was the first time I shot a concert at an arena, every concert I’ve shot before was in a church that had special events so I could shot from anywhere and could take my sweet time in the process.  

    With Casting Crowns I got the first 3 songs from each act and I had to shoot from the back of the venue which was 1st Mariner’s Arena in Baltimore, MD.  The biggest obstacle I had was being able to see the stage.  Since I was all the way in the back, I had to rack my lens all the way to 200mm and lift my camera high so I could get past the dark shadows of the fans.  The floor of the arena was flat so I did not have the advantage of a rising auditorium the farther you get from the stage.  I knew the light was going to be changing one me so every now and then I would look at the back of my camera to verify I wasn’t blowing out the musicians.  With my limited time it was important that I not waste time so I had my highlights alert on so I could quickly see if I was blowing out faces.  

    The band photographer approached during my last song and asked me if I had permission to be shooting with a DSLR, I didn’t have my pass with me because I didn’t know it was a sticker and had left it in my bag, however, I was being escorted by Ms. Curtis who is the Marketing Director for the arena and she vowed that I had permission.  Next time I will make sure I have my credentials on me as I lost a few precise seconds of shooting in the ordeal.

    Like I said earlier, I learned tons.  The value of having two camera bodies was indispensable.  I set my ISO at 1250 and my aperture to 2.8 on the zoom and 3.5 for the wide angle and after that all I messed with was my shutter speed.  Alan Hess’ book in concert photography sure came in handy for me.  Thank you Alan.  Also a big thanks to Ms. Akins for giving me photopass and to Ms. Curtis who was patient with a newbie such as myself.

    Will