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Monday, November 17, 2008

Back from Patagonia

Cerro Torre at Sunrise
It was arduous.
It was exhausting.
it was uncomfortable.
It was freezing cold.
It was dangerous.
It was perhaps among the most exhilarating things I have ever done.
Some time ago, Darran Leal from SafariWise asked me to lead a photo tour through Patagonia. Ever since I saw Galen Rowell's magical images of this place I have wanted to do so. The answer was an obvious yes.So, I loaded myself up with over a dozen large Sandisk Extreme III and Extreme IV cards so there would be nothing I would miss. I chose not to bring a back up hard drive or laptop as there was already a space and weight issue to contend with. After all, when I travelled in years prior I always carried film. I didn't have back ups or back ups of back ups. Just the film. These days, film is digital and probably more reliable. A dozen large 8 gig Sandisk cards would prove to be all I needed.
I also took with me two new Tamron lenses, thanks to the good people at Tamron in Japan and Australia. I took the new Tamron 70-200 f2.8 and the revolutionary Tamron 18-270 VC lens at the request of Tamron Japan. This incredible lens became permanently fixed to my D200 body, while I concentrated most of my photography efforts using my new Nikon D700.
Photographing Patagonia is no easy trip. For mountains like Fitzroy and Cerro Torre, you need to camp and hike in if you want to catch them at sunrise. The nights are cold in Spring, and the weather during the day is always unpredictable. As I was leading the photo tour it fell to me to wake at 4:30 each day and check for a starry sky. If I could see stars it meant getting out of my sleeping bag, out of the tent, waking the others and hiking to our vantage point to photograph the sunrise on these mountains. There was no driving up to the parking lot for these babies. But when the sun rises on Cerro Torre, it is nothing like you will ever see anywhere else. It is among the most spectacular things I have ever seen.

We were very fortunate in fact. The day we arrived to see Fitzroy, the clouds cleared and we were able to photograph its magnificence unhindered for hours.For almost two weeks prior to our arrival, no one had seen this spectacular peak because of the almost constant cloud cover. The same thing happened with Cerro Torre and Torres Del Paine.Speaking of which, we crossed the border into Chile to witness the unbelievable reality that is Torres Del Paine. These mountains have to be seen to be believed. They are like no other mountains I have ever seen. The landscape that surrounds these mountains is also spectacular, but requires the photographer to be patient and to endure the constant winds for which these regions are known.
It was an extreme version of these winds which had us pinned to an incline for several minutes at Salto Grande, a waterfall in the Torres Del Paine National Park. Freak gusts of wind are not uncommon but the ones we experienced at Salto Grande were incredible.So much so I could very easily have been killed by the gusts that pinned me and a couple of others on the tour to the cliff wall for several minutes. Had I been standing on the edge of the waterfall as indeed I had been only two minutes earlier this blog would not ever have been updated.For my work I find myself photographing people more than any other subject. This trip was about mountains, waterfalls, landscapes and wildlife. It was a real change for me, evern s as a photographic tour. No doubt I will find a whole bunch of new images to use for tutorial videos in my photography tutorials website, Five Minute Photographer.
Photographing Patagonia was without doubt the most demanding photo tour I have ever had the pleasure to run. It was exhausting and difficult. But it was exhilarating...incredibly exhilarating.

And I would do it again in a heartbeat.>


Anonymous said...

What a fabulous picture!

I adore this humble portrait of a man, obviously in respectful awe of the incredible landscape surrounding him.

S.E.M. said...

Hi Shelton, I heard the podcast of you describing the Patagonia adventure and came back to your blog to find the photos. Wow! Thanks for sharing, they are inspiring. Susan

The Life, Times and Images of photographer, Shelton Muller

Images on this blog are copyright Shelton Muller