Torres del Paine National Park, Chile - Part 1

So finally I'm getting a chance to show some photos from Torres Del Paine National Park in Chile. As I did with the last set of photos from this trip, I'm going to use the captions to tell most of the story.

After leaving Bahia Bustamante, we flew to El Calafate then took a bus to the Chilean border near the entrance to the park. Our bus driver forgot his papers though, so we were stuck at the border for a number of hours. People from the Explora Hotel came and picked us up and took us to the hotel.

The hotel is situated on the Lago Pehoe, and has an amazing view toward the towers and the main attraction of the park. Although it was the most expensive hotel we've ever stayed in (thanks mom and dad!) it was also the nicest. Each day we went on cool adventures and the food was magnificent.

We had four nights there, then everybody went back to the United States except for me. I stayed and did a hike around the park, and that will be the subject of my next photo essay.

This is slightly out of order, but I like to start off a set with an interesting image. As we were waiting just inside the border to Chile, outside Torres Del Paine, we made the most of if and had dinner. Unsurprisingly, the Patagonia light gave us a splendid evening, so I ordered a meal and headed outside. Anyways, light and lines.

The man of the trip, my dad, at seventy years young. As you can see, he's got a nice little pocket camera, the Sony RX 100. I've got one too. Here my dad is waiting just outside the shadow of our bus. Yes, the bus who's sole purpose is to take us from Argentina to Chile, but who's driver neglected to bring his own papers. So we were stuck. But at least the light was nice!

Can you find Eli's aunt in this picture?
Here's the whole crew, eating an unexpected meal outside the park, as our bus was not allowed to cross the border. You can see my mom also taking pics at the same time.

While we were waiting, I took the opportunity to enjoy the landscape and the light. I use this photo and the next to show two very different compositions and processing methods to the same scene. Here, the fence draws the viewer in, and I pushed the shadows, hence the very late day shade.
This is obviously a tighter composition. Here it is not about the foreground at all. In fact, whatever information was in the shadows I pulled back. The focus is on the clouds and the silhouette. It's hard to go wrong with a sky like this, but you can see I still focused on centering the clouds and not cutting off the tip of the upper one. I also like how the blue peaks out just around the edges of the horizon.

Full moons are dope.

My dad is a "glass is half full" kinda guy. He said this night stuck in limbo land was one of his favorites of the trip. I definitely agree that it's the unexpected adventures that live the longest in our memories.

So, we got in after midnight and crashed. I could tell the hotel was cool, but we were all too tired to think about anything except for sleep. When I awoke in the morning and pulled back the curtains, this is what I saw.

So of course I ran outside to take some shots as quickly as I could. Here's a shot of the hotel looking back 180 degrees from the shot above. There's no denying that the Explora Hotel is an architectural masterpiece. It really does sit well in the environment.

Here's more of a zoomed-in shot of the south side of the massif.

Right next to the hotel was a pretty big waterfall. And of course, incredible Patagonian light.

I absolutely love these wooden stairs. It's cool how the plants are almost overtaking them, and the stairs rise at the uneven pace of the slope. They were also really fun to run down.

I can't tell you how many rainbows I saw. So I won't.

I particularly liked how this stair heads straight up into the sky.

Looking back to the Explora hotel.

Okay, I know. Enough boardwalks and stairs. But seriously?!

The dining room, which serves incredible meals, sits right next to a waterfall coming from this aquamarine lake.

Stu, Roberta and Marilyn joking around.

Relax Nancy! These two have been best friends for a very long time.

Cool plant, not a great shot. It's my blog though, so I'll put in mediocre shots if I want to. You can't stop me.

Our guide Rafael. Each day we could go on two half day adventures, or one full day adventure. Or neither. This was the first hike we did, which was our first experience with crazy Patagonia wind. Easily gusts of 70mph with pretty much steady 40mph wind for much of the hike.

Okay, there is some wonky processing going on here. Almost an infrared type look. Basically, I screwed around with the contrast and pulled the clarity way down. What do you think?

We went right up that thing.

So, here's my first mention of fire. To make a long story short, Torres Del Paine national park has experienced some devastating fires, all started accidentally by hikers. Apparently due to the wind from the west, air masses don't collide much here so the storms don't produce lighting. I don't know if that's b.s. but the fact of the matter is the environment hasn't adapted to fire. The last fire, in late 2011 burned tens of thousands of acres.

My wife likes to jump off of things.

I still can't decide if I like this image, but I do like the concept. The grass shows how much wind is blowing.

Use natural objects as framing devices.

I don't know much about the plant life but here you can see a common evolutionary trait. Many plants seemed to grow in bubble like clusters to protect themselves from the wind.

Once we got up on the ridge, the view back showed a tale of devastation. Many of the forests are still standing as black reminders of our impact on the environment.

Kathleen, Alan and Rafael near the windiest part of the ridge.

This was the first trip where the straps on our bags became instruments of torture, bombarding us with whips.

I always love photos with both sun and rain. It really gives a sense of rapidly changing conditions.

Roots Shadows

At least the burnt trees provide great photo subjects. Again, I loved how the foreground is lit with a warm glow in contrast to the grey sky behind. Cropping was difficult with this one, as I didn't want to cut off any of tree.

First time I've tried this effect. I just used a gradient to go from B&W to color. Weird, but I kind of like it.

These fungi looked like brains, and when pressed, they expelled clouds of spores.

It's all about the light.

Stu is a strong hiker. I hope I'm half as strong when I'm 77.

The wind sent up little tornadoes on the water.

I had a hard time with this photo deciding on how much of the foreground I wanted to be visible. You can see the road below, and our hotel is located at the confluence of the two lakes.

First lichen, then grass, slowly break down the rock enough on which to grow. Was that last sentence grammatically correct?

Our little group is learnin'

Glaciers moved these erratic rocks and when they retreated, left them in odd places.

Everywhere you look, beautiful scenery.

Finally, an image which I think is actually stronger as a black and white.

See those buses there? Well, Rafael told us that just a few weeks earlier the wind was so strong it tipped over a full size tour bus. Something like forty people were injured and one guy lost his legs. Geez, who knew bus tours were so risky?

Probably one of my favorites from the set.

The whole time I was in the park I was thinking about how incredible this would be as part of the Stretch, or Earth Sciences Foreign Study Program at Dartmouth. Pretty far from home though.

Don't ask me what's going on, because I have no idea. But damn is it beautiful. Photographers love inclement weather. It provides great light and drama in our images. I'd take thunderstorms any day over a bluebird day.
It's cool how the grass seems to blow outward from the rock. I like to use water sometimes where one would expect sky. Anything that makes you pause on the image to figure out what's happening is good in my book.
A condor.
I often find myself at the back of the pack when hiking, as I'm always stopping to take pictures.

The slope of the valley shows clear evidence of glaciation. This is the last shot from the first full day. Hard to believe all the shots up to this point were from day one. We obviously lucked out with the weather!

Although small, I think our shadows in the corner are what turned this image from a fail to a success. It's true that the expanse of grey lake is not great, but the addition of the shadows of people turn creates a story and the whole image takes on another layer of meaning. If it sounds like I know what I'm talking about, I don't.

I've shared this image before. Say hello to the guanaco. I guess they're best described as wild alpacas.

The strong wind creates lenticular clouds over even minor peaks.
Gotta get that itch!
The guanacos have a nice sense of photographic spacing. Thanks guys!
While everyone was looking at the guanacos, I noticed this nice abstract marsh picture.
And again, thanks guanacos for lining up like that!

Our tour group. This hike walked along the edge of the park. My next photo essay will be about my eight day hike where I walk much closer to those mountains in the background.

This rock is huge! See the little space under the rock up on the right? That's the cave we were heading to.

Another great hike, another great guide.

Framing was very important in this shot as I tried to place the edge of the marsh just inside the borders.

Under the cave.

So these rock drawings are very old and remain from the indigenous people. This was the clearest set of drawings, but there were more all over the cave.

Another view of the cave. The drawings are located in the shadowed area here.

It took me a long time to figure out he processing on this one. I almost turned the rock wall pure black, trying to emphasize the lines and the cloud outline. Then I realized the cliff had some cool textures so I pulled out the shadows just a bit to give an idea of rock without losing most of the contrast, which is the main reason for the image.

Another pretty view from the cave.

Not a great image in it's own right, but I thought it was cool to see the guanacos grazing on the hill side. Although the guanacos add to the desertification of Patagonia, apparently it was the sheep who really destroyed the vegetation, as sheep eat all the way down to the roots of the grass, while the guanacos just eat what is above ground.

Eat up!
Baby guanaco get's some eats. I also like how the sun shines through the fur on the ears.
And yet one more photo of the cliff. I included this one so you could get an idea of it's relative size.

This lone guanaco checks out the view. I guess old males, or ones that have not asserted their authority yet become loners outside the main herd.
Another cool shot of the towers zoomed in with the Canon SX 50HS.
A guanaco bath. There are these weird concavities all over the place. I guess they roll around in these spots to clean off their fur.
This guy is no longer with us.
Our path, looking back. The fence on the left is the edge of the national park.
To the guanacos, the fences marking the boundary of the park really made very little difference in their grazing patterns. As you can see, they can hop right over the fences!
Yours truly, and my lovely life.
Bird on a fence.
What did you say? I missed that since you're talking with your mouth full. Finish the grass then let's chat.
This is a rhea, basically a South American ostrich. Their camouflage made them very difficult to see in certain environments.

More rheas.

This was a cool waterfall just outside the Laguna Amarga gates to the park.

Here's a view of the same waterfall from farther out.

Numerous times during the trip we were treated to a great asados, or barbecues. Here you can see the lamb being cooked over the coals along with some great empanadas.

More empanadas, both corn and meat. Yummy!

Another asado pic.
Another view from our hotel. I never took the boat. This catamaran would transport people much closer to the mountains for day hikes. Many days the wind and resulting waves prevented the boat from even launching.

The wind constantly created cool cloud formations.

The late day light hits the towers.

Same time as the photo above. As mentioned, my eight day hike took me right up next to the towers.

Marylin and Riko.
Inside the Explora Hotel.

My mom comes out of the Explora Hotel on our last day to get some morning shots.

Mom + stairs + wind.

I like shots where you have difficulty telling the perspective.

One of the nicest hot tub setups. Period. Julia and I took advantage of this, as well as the sauna which we would hit then jump in the uber-cold lake for five seconds and repeat the process.

This is the road from the hotel.

You get the idea. I like stairs. And the hotel.

The final birthday cake of the trip for my dad, held by Rosario who is one of the managers of the hotel. She helped me acquire all the food I'd need for my hike as we had no access to markets.


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