Quechua hat makers of Iluman was next on the list to visit. The village is mainly known for its curanderos (yachaks) aka shamans. We met Adela Picuasi in the Otavalo market and upon the request where we can see how these hats are made she invited us to her shop. We took up on the offer and visited few days later her shop, which is basically their home. These hats  in contrast to Cuenca, which is famous for its plant fibre ‘Panama hat’, are made of 100% natural sheep wool. The Picuasi family is keeping up this tradition for several generations now, basically using the same method and basic tools to create various hats. Adela guided us through the explaining in details all the steps of the process. It takes several hours of work, up to a day, to finish up a hat and they are distributed among the surrounding villages, but some of them are sold as far as Cuenca. The hats are going for $5 for the tiny ones (about 8″) and $25 for the larger ones. Tech: For this series of photos I used my Sony A7 and Zeiss 16-35F4 lens, completely in manual mode. As the light is pretty dim inside the shop I had to chose between high ISO or on-camera flash (I couldn’t find my IR remote). Unfortunately I managed to break two flashes on the road and I’m down to an ancient Canon 380EX, which is pretty basic, without any settings and no swivel head. After few shots managed to tune in the light and I could lower my ISO to 100 to 250, which is nice. Travel photography seems to be a pretty good boot camp for equipment use. There’s no time and space to use fancy setups. Also let’s mention that I don’t ask people to pose for me, I prefer to shoot while they are involved in their activity, which means they are moving continuously and they have a  rapid hand movement. Also their facial expression is more natural. I need to make sure that I nail the shutter speed to phase out blur and factor in some shutter lag, especially with the Sony.

Combing the sheep wool.

After the combing the wool sheets are getting layered.

Two generations at work.


The basic wood shaping tools are few and simple.

This sombrero is said to have 180 years.

The colouring of some sombreros are done with natural extracts.