High in the Andes, the deep blue skies can be deceptive. This was mid-morning and the lake in front of me was frozen. At night, the temperature regularly dropped to -20 Celsius. It was also breathless here as I was standing at over 4,200m altitude.
If you like desolate, abandoned places, the Atacama Desert is the place for you.
I was standing on the edge of Lake Titicaca, the world’s highest navigable lake at a dizzy altitude of 3,811 m, when the girl in this photograph approached me and asked if I would take a picture of her. This was in 2003, so this shot was on 120 film, certainly well before the widespread usage of digital cameras. I doubt she will ever see this image, unless she somehow managed to find my blog.
If you ever decide to see South America, I strongly recommend that you visit Lake Titicaca, on the border of Peru and Bolivia. The lake is beautiful, with the Andes scraping the sky behind them in the distance.
High on the altiplano between Bolivia, Chile and Argentina, the sky is an impossibly deep blue. The car pulling up was my driver, who played a prank and drove off when I was talking too many photos. It gave the scene a sense of scale, which was perfect. I ended up asking him to do this a few times over the 4 day trip, much to his bemusement.
Strange shapes in the desert. Whilst crossing the Atacama desert in Bolivia, I passed through the Salar de Uyuni salt flats. In the vastness of the white desert, strange shapes were cut into the floor. Blocks of salt were extracted and left in the sun to dry before being removed and sold. The remaining angular shapes were gradually filled with the water that lingered beneath the surface.
In the wet season, the floor of the salt flats becomes flooded and the looks like an impossibly huge mirror, making it hard to know which is heaven and earth.
On my last trip to Peru, a few years ago, I was trekking in the Andes surrounding Cusco in the south central mountains of the country. The area is awash with Inca ruins, including Machu Picchu. I hired a motorbike for the day and drove around the city, hoping to find something interesting, when I stumbled across this place. I have no idea where it was but there were no tourists there, just a few llamas.
The shot below was taken on a trek around Huaraz, north from Lima in the Andes, close to Chimbote. I was pretty high when I took this shot, around 4500m above sea level. Both shots were taken on my Noblex 612 film camera.
Still in the Canadian Rockies, I tried to shoot the famous Moraine Lake, situated close to Lake Louise, a few times but to no avail. In the end, it took me three attempts to capture this dawn scene. First time, I wondered into the forest jutting out into the lake on the right. I was spooked by a bear and decided a shot was not worth a mauling. The second attempt was marred by terrible weather. Third time lucky. The light lasted about 5 minutes before clouding over.
The solitude of the morning was somewhat dispensed with when I was interviewed by a Japanese film crew, who turned up too late to capture the dawn and wanted to use my photographs.
I was staying in a small motel in Banff and had scouted this location out the previous day. The light was falling to my right on the lakeside but I loved the dawn vanilla skies above the mountain on the other side of the lake.
A few years ago, I was in the US to shoot a TV commercial for VW. I took a couple of days out after 5 days of filming and wondered over to Death Valley. I was incredibly lucky to be there as the weather turn from bone dry to stormy. This is a short while before the heavens open and flooded many of the roads in the National Park.
Moon Valley in Chile, close to San Pedro de Atacama, very much lives up to its name. Trekking in the heat of the day at 4000m altitude, in the altiplano, literally took one’s breath away.
I took this shot in the mid afternoon, as the shadows of the canyon cast increasingly longer trails across the exposed spikes of the rock outcrops, akin to the vertebrae of the valley jutting out of the ground.
Back in 2003, after completing a 4 month stint as expedition photographer for Raleigh International in Coyhaique, capital of Region XI in Chile, a few colleagues decided that the best way to end the experience was be to trek Torres del Paine, situated at the southern tip of Chile.
Amongst this ensemble, only three of us were foolhardy enough to attempt the full loop and circumnavigate the entire range. It was April, the very end of the season and all the refugios were being closed down for Winter. Consequently, we had to carry all of our food with us for the multi-day trek ahead.
Temperatures varied from a comfortable 20 degrees Celsius during the day to a chilly minus 20 degrees Celsius at night. We restricted our gear as best we could but our packs stilled weight in at just under 35kg each.
The effort, however, was more than worth it, as we were constantly treated to such beautiful vistas as the one above, with not a soul for miles to break the tranquility. In the end, it took Tom, Bill and I just under 8 days to complete the trek. I eagerly hope to return and do it once again in the future.