An expensive shoot

An expensive shoot

Returning to El Chalten the Vietnamese were itching to get out in the park and shoot Fitz Roy. Call me superstitious but I felt that I’d give them the best chance of getting great light if I didn’t take my camera, plus I’d agreed to porter a bag of food for them. I had no idea how much food they expected me to carry and had to draw the line when I saw two half-kilo tins of peaches! As it turned out my superstitions were right, the first morning in the park was spectacular with a red sky from the east. Fitz Roy was clear but had great clouds behind. I watched with envy as the group dispersed choosing their own compositions. They didn’t need me to help, but it was interesting to see one member of the group find the best comp’ he was taking advantage red glow on the water, which from his position was quite magical. Unfortunately, he broke his Gitzo tripod; perhaps he pulled out the leg a bit aggressively. The leg broke away from the upper shoulder of the tripod. Attempting to support the camera with a broken tripod resulted in him then dropping his Canon 5d3 with 16-35mm lens in the water. I tried to convince him that nothing could be gained from turning the camera back on and trying again. Unfortunately, he’d also missed his opportunity, as the light was gone. He couldn’t be convinced and so turned on a wet camera. Shortly later the camera turned itself off and refused to work. By good fortune, he had a spare body back in town so I returned to town and collected his 5d2.

I’m now worried about my own Gitzo, mine is only two months old and the carbon fiber on the outside of the legs has already started to delaminate. I’d give a lot to have an RRS tripod here with me right now.

The leaves fall

I’m now entering the last week of April, the are leaves beginning to fall quickly, there’s still some amazing color, some of the leaves are the same tint as my Fotodiox filter pouches but the best of the color has now passed and the valley is predominantly brown. I can’t deny that I’m looking forward to some down time. I’ve been hiking hard for the past two months and I’ve lost quite a lot of weight. If you minus the usual male appendages I’m now sporting a thigh gap most girls would envy. I clearly need to spend some time recuperating and preparing for the winter. I’m soon to be joined by Mark Metternich so rest will have to wait. He’ll join me for a couple of weeks. I’m looking forward to doing some shooting with him. The moon is waxing so we will try some night photography and of course we’ll do a lot of off-trail scouting. Mark has promised to help me with processing so I hope to bring some new images to my blog posts.

Coming into May

During peak season El Chalten is a buzzing tourist town, throughout summer and fall local businesses have enjoyed their largest turnover and it looks to improve year after year. The town itself was only founded in 1985 but it’s rapidly become one of the most heavily visited towns in the country.   All that changes in the winter, the town’s population dwindles to a mere three or four hundred. Seasonal workers head back to cities such as Buenos Aires and the local residents get the place pretty much to themselves.

Of course, this migration of tourists and seasonal workers means there’s plenty of accommodation sitting idle during the colder months. If it were not for this I would be unable to afford to live in my rented holiday chalet. As I write I’m now in the first week of May, the leaves have fallen from all but the lowest trees in the valley and we’re gradually experiencing less and less favorable weather.

Mark Metternich, who’s photographing with me at the moment has been hoping for some dramatic skies and I have to admit that I thought he would have a very slim chance of getting the high drama lenticular clouds that I shot some weeks earlier. I might be pessimistic but it’s hard for me not to draw on my previous experiences during 2010 and 2012 when I managed not one drama filled sunset.

Mark and I have been trying to shoot moonsets over Fitz Roy. Hiking out into the park in the dead of night.  Then hanging around for a few hours really messes up with your body clock, especially when trying to keep an eye on sunrise and sunset as well. On May 1st Ted Gore who’d just returned from shooting in Chile joined us for what would be an unsuccessful shoot. We had the perfect mix of clouds and stars but just at the moment the moon set behind the mountain the clouds all disappeared.Returning to town Ted and myself attempted a sunrise shoot leaving Mark to catch up on sleep.

By late afternoon of the 2nd, the clouds were starting to build into what looked to be a promising sunset. Call it superstitious but I felt that if I waited for Mark to shoot on his own he would get a drama filled sky. I decided to wait in the house, with Mark off on his own I was left alone and so busied myself with household chores. Every so often I would glance out the window watching as the skies became more and more promising. Finally, I decided to hell with it, I couldn’t miss out. I picked up my camera and with tripod in hand, camera in the other I literally ran from the house.

Mark was shooting a great view looking down into the valley, it’s a well-known vista and I’ve shot it before but of course one can always improve. I found Mark crouched around his tripod, shivering but totally elated at what was clearly becoming a great sunset. I arrived in the nick of time and managed to pull off several shots with 3 condors flying in and out of the composition.

A full-grown condor has a wingspan up to 9′ across. They are huge and instantly recognizable. Of course shooting a condor circling 100’ above you with a 24mm lens gives the impression of a much smaller bird. It was for this reason that I decided to do something I’ve never done before in my photography. I decided to shoot the bird at a larger focal length and blend it in later in post to my image. This kind of editing really pushes my ethical boundaries. A lot of photographers wouldn’t think twice about doing such a thing but I consider myself something of a traditionalist and I really wrestle with the ethics of doing this.

As we move on into the winter I’ve got untold ideas, as Marc Adamus told me nothing changes a landscape quite as much as snow and ice. Keep following and please remember my images are all processed on a laptop so please forgive color inaccuracies.

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