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The Eddie Torres Dancers performing at the Congreso Mundial de la Salsa in NYC.

These pictures were taken at the Congreso Mundial de la Salsa held on Sunday the 16th of May 1999 at the Copacabana Nightclub in New York City. The place was so packed with people that I could only shoot over the heads of the people in front of me. Please excuse the quality of the photos.

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Shooting the Event

The Copacabana is a New York institution. It has been around forever and there are true and mythic stories about events and people that have become legends associated with the club since that time. Although the club has moved from it original location it seems that the myths have moved with it and its still "The Copa".

I had spent the afternoon of the show between B&H Photo and my office, going to the camera store twice but finally deciding on a Sony Mavica FD-91 digital camera. It wasn't all that hard since it boiled down to one possible choice. I knew I wanted manual focus.

I was able to make a few test shots in the early evening under natural light conditions. I arrived at the Copa at about 11 PM. The place was packed like a Saturday night. I noticed that there was not much light. Back then it was totally cool to shoot in the Copa. You could walk right in with a camera. Club policy has changed and now you have to ask permission in advance to take photos.

I did not know the new camera very well so I set it to full automatic (exposure, aperture, and white balance). The little flash incorporated in the camera didn't do much. The stage lights were colored and provided the sole source of direct light in the dark club. I opened the zoom to its widest position held the camera over my head and hit the trigger. I remembered the first time I had done that to take a picture of the returning Miss Mundo 1976 surrounded by her adoring countrymen in the Caracas airport. We had flown over with her in Tourist Class and all had to wait as she got off the airplane through the front door so it would appear as if she had flown First Class.

In the club I checked the shots I had taken. They were exposing at 1/60 of a second; the camera's slowest speed. The lens was wide open as well at 2.4 f-stop. Shooting at this speed requires stillness of the camera during exposure. I did the best I could and got some usable photos mixed in with a lot of great shots of the back of a video cameramanís head.

After the show I took some close up portraits of Winsome Lee and Abbie Plotkin, Mario Diaz and Marisol Rodriquez, and Freddie Rios for fun and to test the flash at close range. These people are all performers, choreographers, and/or instructors with international experiance. They all live in New York.

When I got home I reviewed the photos. The next day I published the page with the photos and captions to the Internet address: www.justsalsa.com. The photos were published at 640 x 480 all in a row with captions below and some indexing at the top. The page was slow to load and is replaced by this one. I had registered the name justsalsa.com earlier in the month after conversations with Freddie Rios about making a website to promote salsa dance and music.

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J. Fernando Lamadrid B., New York City, November 18, 1999.

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