End of May

End of May

Over the last few weeks, it’s become the norm’ for me to head to a hotel to use the wifi. Other than buying groceries it’s become my only real interaction with the local community. I’d be hard pushed to really call it ‘interaction’ because I only buy coffee and only one cup. As I might have mentioned earlier El Chalten has become very quiet, so quiet you wonder if it’s worth any business staying open at all. So I was somewhat surprised to see a flow of people moving through the lobby. A few came over and sat at a table near where I was sat. I couldn’t help picking up on their chatter. As I listened it became apparent they were on a big tour of South America, or as the Aussies would say ‘their big O-E’ meaning Overseas Experience.

I honed in eager to hear what they thought of El Chalten but it became apparent they hadn’t been here long. In fact from the sounds of things, they weren’t anywhere long. I guess a single day spend in Buenos Aires is just enough time for the backpacker to utter that most dreadful of travelers phrases “I’ve done it”. I don’t know why it bothers me as much as it does but to utter, “I’ve done such and such a country” really does show narrow-mindedness.

Of course, few people are as fortunate as I am to be able to spend a year in one small area. This brings me to consider what it is I like about photography because I was once a backpacker or ‘Mochilero’ as the Spanish would say. Fortunately, I’ve never rushed about attempting to ‘do’ a country in a week, but I did move, moving was what I did before taking up photography. I enjoyed traveling for the sake of being on the road and seeing something new each day. I enjoyed the simplicity of carrying all my worldly goods on my back. Carrying a backpack skimmed down to the bare essentials, knowing I could drop it; even throw it without worrying that some fragile piece of camera gear would get damaged.

In my twenties, I began doing multi-month hiking and cycling trips. I thought this was great, what a way to see the world, and of course, it is, it’s a fantastic way to explore. But somewhere along the line, I realized that as much as I was exploring and seeing a lot I was rarely taking it in properly.

It wasn’t until I became interested in photography that I was actually aware of the cycles of the sun. I thought the sun came up in the east and set in the west, I had no idea why winter days were shorter than summer. So the camera really forced me to take in my surroundings, or as the saying goes to stop and smell the roses.

I was quite taken by the foreground patterns in the ice here. The shot doesn't do much for me but it was worth scouting.

I was quite taken by the foreground patterns in the ice here. The shot doesn’t do much for me but it was worth scouting.

Again another scouting image. The foreground waterfall is Chorillo del Salto

Again another scouting image. The foreground waterfall is Chorillo del Salto

I would have given a lot to have been shooting this sunrise from Cerro Madsen or Loma de las Pizarras. Maybe next time

I would have given a lot to have been shooting this sunrise from Cerro Madsen or Loma de las Pizarras. Maybe next time

First snows of May

We had snow here in El Chalten during the first week of April, there was even a light dusting in March but it took until May before we got any in the town. The day after the snow the skies remained thick with cloud but a quick check weather forecast check showed promising conditions the following day. I made sure I was up early and out ready to hike at least two hours before sunrise. My goal was to reach a lake I’d seen on Google Earth. We’ve had a lot of rain so there was a good chance the lake would have plenty of water. At street level, the snow was all melted away but it didn’t take long to reach the snow level. With the aid of my GPS, I found the lake quite easily, it took barely an hour to reach it, which gave me enough time to find a composition. The edge of the lake was littered with boulders and these were covered in a fine layer of ice making access to the lakeshore quite treacherous. I imagine rain would have frozen onto the rocks or quite possible high winds had blown the lakes waters, which later froze on the rocks.

I don’t have a lot of experience photographing ice formations so I was excited to capture patterns on the ice. The sunrise over Fitz Roy that morning was phenomenal and undoubtedly the best I’ve seen on this trip. Looking back at the ice photographs I don’t really think they work. I feel there’s too much emphasis on the ice, which actually looks a bit too much like ripples in the sand.I did a bit more exploration of the area; this small cave was close by.

Forget the processing this just a quick a quick scouting image

Forget the processing this is just a quick a quick scouting image

I’ll certainly return here, longer icicles might look really cool with the mountains in the background.We have little more than eight hours of daylight at this time of year so I didn’t have that long to consider shooting the sunset. The skies were very promising but Cerro Torre was definitely hidden in clouds. The best of the building lenticulars looked to be building in the north so a westerly facing shot of Fit Roy wasn’t going to work. I hiked out to the gorge, which is barely 4 miles from town, but it was so windy I could barely stay on my feet. In the end, I hiked back to town, the lenticulars had moved off to the east, which was extremely unlucky. With almost nothing exciting to use in an image, I decided to take a quick shot of the sign at the head of the town. I see tourists photographing this all the time and I never thought I’d be doing the same thing but with such awesome lenticulars, it was that or nothing.

From my front door I can see the clouds building.

From my front door I can see the clouds building.

The lenticular clouds were impressive but from this position I was really struggling to find a composition

The lenticular clouds were impressive but from this position I was really struggling to find a composition

Michael Korte and his unusual assignment

I got to meet professional photographer Michael Korte this evening, Michael is from Hamburg in Germany. He’s been a photographer all his working life and he was down here on an assignment to photograph images along a geographical line; part of which passed right over Mount Fitz Roy. Never one to photograph the mundane Michael was setting off to photograph the ice field behind Fitz Roy but we got together for a chat before he left. Once finished photographing here Michael has to rush off to the States, again photographing on his geographical line. He then pushes on to an island in the Pacific before finally making his way to New Zealand.

We couldn’t talk for long but we did have time to look online at some of our images. It was clear we both have a very different style. Michael had drunk just enough red wine to be loose-lipped so I think his assessment of my photography was a lot more honest than might have been otherwise. In fact, I’d go as far to say that I’m no longer my worst critic!

Here he is with what is probably the most impractical camera ever be carried in a backpack, the hugely expensive Swiss made Aipa medium format camera. Michael assures me the cameras grips are real rose wood. I guess that’s useful, you’ve got something to burn to keep you warm on the ice field.

Michael Korte with what is arguably the most impractical backpacking camera ever designed

Michael Korte with what is arguably the most impractical backpacking camera ever designed

Cascada Veinticinco de Mayo

I went out on a hike recently and for no apparent reason, my knees really started to hurt. There was no explanation, I hadn’t fallen, neither had I done anything physical for a while, we’d just had a run of bad weather which had kept me housebound. The pain was quite intense and I was understandably concerned. The following day I set off, hiking in the dark into the park, I took it a bit easier and hiked a little slower. The plan was to try a sunrise at one of the popular waterfalls. You could call it a comp stomp, the waterfall has been shot untold times before. We’re still in that transition between autumn and winter, there are no leaves on the trees and in truth the scenery isn’t that incredible. The trees have lost their leaves and the ground is only patchy with thin areas of snow. I think I was trying to convince myself that if I were to get amazing light it would still be a great shot. As night turned to twilight it became clear the mountains were covered in thick cloud. I decided to give my knees a rest and return to town. I was only about 5km into the park so it was a short hike, as I was making my return I noticed the clouds clearing over the mountains. Thankfully I have a very good knowledge of the park but I decided to try somewhere a little different, somewhere I’d never been before. Dropping down from the trail I found a new waterfall, one with possibilities far exceeding the location I was going to comp stomp. The light was good that morning, the peak of Poincenot broke through the clouds but Fitz Roy stayed hidden.

It was as I was hiking back that I wondered why I’d never seen a photograph of this scene before. I suppose I already knew the answer, we follow each other like sheep and are content to shoot the same locations in the hope that somehow we’ll get it a bit different, maybe even a bit better than the last guy. So I can be truly grateful to those who don’t have the time to scout or those who’re happy to comp stomp.

25th May Falls. Processing might not be to everyone’s taste. I’ll rework it when I can.

Quick update

I’ve only recently created an actual page on my website for my Patagonia images, up to now I’ve been using the blog or Facebook. The reasons are partially laziness, partially my questionable processing skills and partially because my website layout drives me nuts.  I only have a few images on the page, I will work some more as and when I have time.

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