When Plans Change
This year the Chile workshop didn’t exactly go as planned. Twenty-one hours before I was to leave to meet the participants in Patagonia, my flight was canceled due to a strike with LATAM Airlines. Because of this, I wasn’t able to make the first half of the workshop in Patagonia. I emailed the participants the classes we would have had the first day, and did what I could remotely but I wasn’t able to meet them until the second half of the workshop in the Atacama Desert. You can see more about the rerouting and almost 60 hours of travel that was necessary to meet the group in this video. Luckily I work with a great hotel for this trip and have guides and vans set up so they could still continue as closely as possible to the original plan in my absence.
I arrived at the hotel in the Atacama a day before the group, just in case there were any delays in my travel plans. With no more hiccups to speak of on that leg of the journey, it gave me a day to relax and prepare for the group to arrive. Luckily everyone was very understanding of the circumstances and had an immensely enjoyable time in Patagonia. Now that we were reunited though, it was time to put the pedal to the metal to make up for the in field education they missed out on in my absence. During our first sunrise shoot together, we broke out the Grad ND filters and started to create some images. After returning to the hotel for an enjoyable lunch we headed to the large salt flats that make up a lot of the valley we were in and more specifically to a place known as Laguna Chaxa. Despite being the time of year when most of the flamingos migrate elsewhere, there are always a few that stick around for some surreal images. When you have a bird that is that vivid placed in front of countless volcanic peaks, there are always images to be made.
The next morning we headed out for a leisurely horseback ride through the 20 million-year-old rocky sand dunes near the Moon Valley. I am certainly not a skilled horseback rider. Luckily the hotel I work with has amazing horses and top trainers, so even for me with a skill level approaching non-existent, a ride with them is pleasant and safe. In both, Patagonia and the Atacama, we have rides that take us into areas that we otherwise wouldn’t be able to experience.
Later that day we headed back to the Moon Valley for a hike through the interior. This is one of those places with huge landscapes that seem to go on for days. Coincidentally, NASA actually tests their rovers here because it is closest to the conditions found on the moon.
When we returned to the hotel there was a Quincho about to happen. This is a traditional split lamb BBQ where traditional dancers perform. Although the lamb roast is the main attraction, there is plenty of other food on hand.
The next morning was another sunrise. This time though we had about an hour and a half drive to our destination, El Tatio Geyser Plain. A good opportunity to continue sleeping in the van on the way. This is the world’s highest geyser system sitting at over 13,000ft. Because the Atacama is the driest place on earth with an evaporation rate 50x greater than Death Valley, the steam only rises until just after the sunrise. After a quick breakfast and some coffee, we continued on to photograph some of the surprisingly abundant wildlife in the region. After putting some clicks on our shutters we headed for a relaxing soak in some hot springs and a nice lunch. To finish out the day, we headed back to the hotel for an edit and critique session in Lightroom followed by a tour of the night sky at the hotel’s private observatory. Because of the unique conditions created here and the incredibly dark skies, almost 70% of the world’s observatories are in the Atacama.
After a late night and an almost non-stop schedule, it was time for a long overdue day of sleeping in. After lunch, we all hopped into the van and headed to around 14,000ft to the Altiplano Lakes. These high altitude lakes are always beautiful. On the way back to the hotel we were treated to a South American Grey Fox focused on capturing a rodent. One of the participants got a sequence of him lunging into the air to pounce on his narrowly escaping prey.
Unfortunately, Time To Go
Despite the unexpected start to this workshop, it was an amazing experience for all. If you would like to join next years workshop, it will be from April 21- May 1st, 2019. You can click here for more information. As I type this, I am on my way to Machu Pichu and the Sacred Valley to scout out and add an optional extension for next years trip. Hope to see you there!