Last year I visited Cholula in September, and came away with some great photos of the Iglesia de Los Remedios with the Volcano Popocatepetl. In one photo, I got really lucky and captured a nearly full moon as well. I have a minor obsession with this church and volcano and have returned to it regularly.
A few weeks after my visit last year an earthquake rocked the area and the church was damaged. There’s a Youtube video of this happening.
I read online that this church would be a priority for restoration, because the large festival in early September is centered around it.
I decided to head back to Mexico a year after my last visit and see if I couldn’t get a photo of the church with the moon rising behind it. I found the dates this would be possible, and they were near the end of September — perfect, as the festival would be over.
I found a hotel that had a rooftop I could shoot from, and it lined up with everything pretty well. I booked it. I ended up taking a 600mm lens with me, as I would need that length to get the photo I was after.
I arrived in Cholula to find that the festival — which I thought was over — was still going on! A large white tent (“carpa blanca”) was erected in front of the church. I asked around and was told that the tent could be there the entire month, even if the festival was over. This was not good.
That evening, I climbed up on the roof and as the moon rose, I got the photo I wanted. Sadly, the tent blocks the front of the church.
I tried to think of ways to incorporate the moon but not the tent. As the moon quickly rose, I considered a silhouette photo:
I had another chance the next night, but that tent was still there…
Day three, the tent was still around. I resolved to leave the next morning, as the moon wasn’t going to be in position any longer anyways.
As the taxi drove me toward the bus terminal the next morning, I looked up, and the tent was gone. I made a split second decision and went back to the hotel and stayed another night. No, there would be no moon….but perhaps I could get a nice early morning photo.
The next morning, I climbed on the roof, and took a few photos. Before the sun rises, there’s a period of 20-30 minutes where the sky is a deep blue, often called “the blue hour” (even if it doesn’t last an hour). Here’s a photo of the church — sans tent — from the blue hour:
As the sky continued to lighten, some interesting cloud patterns became visible. I took this photo with a wider view to incorporate another church dome:
I’m happy that I stayed around and got a few photos without the tent. I do feel like I have some unfinished business, though, and I’m already eyeing up full moon dates in 2019 to see when things might line up — just NOT in September!