About 13km into the Andes Trek

Our hike is starting to get closer to our quarry. The destination inside the Parque Nacional Los Glaciares are the isolated peaks of FItz Roy.

Every few kilometers the terrain can change drastically. Because all the land around here is recently glaciated, the soil is very fresh and full of life. The strange mountain formations make for unpredictable weather patterns and cloud/fog formations across the landscapes. Even better, we are here in the middle of autumn, so many of the leaves are turning.

It’s always a welcome relief to take off my pack, set it down, and then wander about for some photos. I grabbed this one along the way to share with you all.

I noticed that the Wikipedia entry for Monte Fitz Roy said, “the weather in the area is exceptionally inclement and treacherous”. No shit. Wait until you see the shot I upload tomorrow. It was taken after 16km of walking in a single day after waking up to -7 degrees at 4:30 AM from a tent that contained the heavily scented noxious scents of the one and only Yuri.

About 13km into the Andes Trek

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Le Tango de le Muerte

I am still here in Argentina, although the photo below is from last week in Buenos Aires. If any of you watch Lost, then you will be familiar with my “flashback” and “flashforward” style of description. I know some of you were waiting to hear more about the backpacking adventure, but I’ll sprinkle that stuff in over the next six months or so, interlaced with other various plots (again, like Lost). Also, like Lost, many of my stories have no endings.

As for this one, the five Russians and I went to one of the oldest Tango dinner expositions in the city. Argentina is famous for the tango and swarthy Argentinian men who perform it. This is the famous dance hall of Homero Manzi, who is apparently some kind of a legend, according the little video they put up before the dance. The video was of very low quality, which made me think it was either very old or made by a college student.

The dinner consisted of a variety of meats and wines and tango dances and music. It was quite a show. The whole thing was scripted like an old 1960′s style dinner theater with all sorts of staged scenes and dramatic dances.

These sorts of things are always extremely difficult to photograph. It’s very dark. There’s a lot of movement, and it’s tough to figure out the ideal setup. I clambered up to where the supplies are stored and set up for this shot. You can actually see Yuri somewhere in this photo… I won’t say where. Although I can assure you he is not one of the swarthy Argentinian dancers. Furthermore, this was shot with a wide-angle lens, so objects such as Yuri may be larger than they appear.

Le Tango de le Muerte

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Beginning the trek to Fitz Roy on the edge of Chile

This is the start of what would be a 40km backpacking trek through the Andes. And I mean THROUGH the Andes.

I have come with my friend Dima, who is ex-Soviet miltiary. He’s tough. At 23, he led a 3-week expedition through Siberia to find the rare Siberian Tiger. Now he is 43 and he hasn’t slowed down any.

If you look closely at this photo, over on the middle right you can see some very sharp vertical peaks. In there is Fitz Roy, one of the hardest places to reach in the world and even harder to photograph. That is our destination.

Beginning the trek to Fitz Roy on the edge of Chile

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Adventuring Deeper into Patagonia – the Perito Moreno glacier

After a four-hour plane ride deeper into the Andes, we started to get further into the wilds of Patagonia. Perhaps I should explain that I was on this trip with a very good Russian friend named Dima, who is also a photographer. He brought four other Russians with him. Despite our friendship, he had given me a non-English-speaking roommate named Yuri that never ceased to amaze. Within five minutes of dropping him off in my room, Yuri was in his underwear and I noticed his approximate size to be that of a smallish beluga whale. This ended up propagating many other problems For example, on the flight to El Calafate, our small plane had a bit of a hard landing because I was not sure the pilot was fully informed of Yuri’s weight.

After setting up camp in El Calafate, we went out to the edge of Lago Argentino tonight to shoot the sunset to shoot the Perito Moreno glacier. Every few minutes, you could hear giant shards of ice cleave off and drop into the lake below.

See all of the dark bits of ice floating in the water? Those are actually the clear bottoms that were once underwater, but recently flipped over. In the midst of all this, and from out of nowhere, Yuri produced a giant bottle of cognac, which seemed to keep the Russians happy in the freezing cold. When I posted this photo on the blog and across the various social networks, many of my Facebook and Twitter friends requested a photo of Yuri. That night, while he slumbered, I endeavored to take a panorama of him. I considered the glacier as practice, since it was also big, white, and cracked.

This was shot with the Nikon 14-24mm 2.8 lens. The second of the five exposures (the -1 EV shot) was at f/8.0 with a shutter speed of 0.033 secs and a 250 ISO. As for the coal length, I think I had it cranked all the way to 14mm to take this shot. I’m always flummoxed as to whether or not I should take a panorama of these places, which essentially means I’d have to map out an invisible grid and then take a photo in each cell for later stitching using post-processing software. For this photo, I did use a Nikon D3X, which already has a 24 megapixel sensor, making the final product a fairly detailed 6000 pixels across or so. There is some invisible point when enough is enough, and I never quite know what it is. One limiting factor is time-of-processing. Panos take a long time to both shoot and post-process, so that comes into the decision making tree fairly early on.

Adventuring Deeper into Patagonia

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Argentina’s City of the Dead

This is one of the many dead city blocks in La Recoleta Cemetery in Buenos Aires. This place was filled with ornate mausoleums which ranged in style from the gothic to Victorian, each as macabre as the next.

The graveyard hosts some of the most famous people from Argentina, including Eva Perón. I spent about an hour walking down narrow alleys and broad boulevards of this eerie city. I could have spent many more hours, and I have an idea to sneak in one night after dark and bring my own lighting equipment. Any takers? Let’s do it… what’s the worst that can happen? (These kind of questions often get me in trouble).

In other news… I was taking a siesta today and in barged two Russians. One, my friend Dima, announced, “This is new roommate Yuri. He does not speak English.” Yuri is the size of a smallish Beluga and he is currently in his underwear.

Argentina's City of the Dead

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