Atacama Desert, Chile

October 11, 2015  •  Leave a Comment

Above San Pedro de Atacama, Chile. Phase One 645DF, IQ180 back, 55mm Schneider lens, and lots of sand.

Qantas flyers may think they have seen this photograph before and they'd be correct. It featured in a photo essay on Chile late last year for the inflight magazine. It is also one of the images I've been using as I prepare for a presentation next weekend on designing and printing photo books (it's on at the Digital Show courtesy of Momento - details in the banner above).

Where do ideas like this location come from? Answer: other travel photographers.

Is it okay to copy other photographers' locations? I mean, I ranted about plagiarism a few weeks ago, what's the difference here?

Plagiarism is when you copy the work of one photographer, inspiration is when you copy one hundred other photographers! Taking the idea of this location and then heading out to investigate it yourself is not plagiarism. In fact, when you're working professionally, I'd call it essential research.

I was staying at the Explora Hotel in San Pedro de Atacama and somewhere in their brochures I saw a photo taken looking out over this vista, with the Licancabur volcano in the distance.

It's also a popular vantage point for the horse riders (the hotel has its own stables), so when I mentioned the location to the guides at the hotel, getting me there wasn't a problem.

The biggest challenge on this particular afternoon was sand. Those beautiful foreground dunes didn't appear overnight, they are the result of hundreds, if not thousands of years of erosion, with the light sand from the plateau up above and behind me gradually accumulating into these massive sand dunes. Keeping the sand out of my cameras was challenging on a particularly windy afternoon.

Also challenging was the contrasty light. Perhaps a better time to shoot this location would be after sunset with just the skylight illuminating the landscape. I was kind of hoping this was going to happen, but cloud along the western horizon didn't permit the sky to light up as required. Still, I'm not complaining about the shot I have taken.

And there's always next time. In fact, I'm leading an exclusive trip there in August next year. If you're interested, check out my brochure by clicking here.


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