As we have come to expect, we travelled widely with the Walkers, encompassing the length of South America, from the heat of the Atacama desert(at 15,000 feet in the rain shadow of the Andes it is the driest place on earth), down to chilly Tierra del Fuego, across the Beagle Channel from Ushuaia to the Falklands, South Georgia & the Antarctic peninsula. It almost goes without saying that the photography was superb, but I was particularly struck by their pictures taken with wide angle lenses, that put the wildlife most dramatically in the context of its wild environment.
The terracotta waters of the famous Iguazu falls in Paraguay were five times their normal volume due to flooding & videos took us right into the tumbling cataracts of water. It was definitely an amazing place to experiment with long shutter speeds, to produce silky jets of water, despite the major problems of photographing in the spray of 400,000 cubic feet of water tumbling over the falls each second.
The Atacama by way of contrast receives less than 1 mm of rainfall per annum & the aquamarine salt pans attract three species of flamingo – the rare Andean, the Chilean & James flamingos which have pink legs.
El Niňo had left its mark & in places had resulted in unusual wild flower displays. As travel photographers we have to accept what weather conditions prevail at the time of our visit, however well planned, & sometimes things work in our favour! The mountains were barren but beautiful volcanoes (some still active) which were coloured by iron, copper, lithium, tin, gold & silver. The Valley of the Moon is used by NASA to test moon landings. The geysers & thermal features of the area are unprotected – so you need to watch your step rather than end up in boiling mud!
We had a quick foray into Buenos Aires for some street photography & to dance the tango with professionals – available for hire
– before moving further south & departing on a Russian “spy” ship for Antarctica. The Walkers had a lot of bad weather, & their advice was to avoid cyclones! In the Falkland Islands, which have a population of 3000 people & a million penguins, they saw the beautiful black- browed albatross, the argumentative rock-hopper penguins and the indigenous Cobbs wren.
Cruising further south to South Georgia, the sight of the panorama of Jason Cove with its 180,000 pairs of King Penguins was astounding.
I wished I had been there to absorb the sounds of the birds as well, but possibly not the overwhelming smell!
There were photographs of the overall scene, close-ups
& fascinating abstract art of the penguins’ feather details. There were also remarkable pictures of elephant seal beach master fighting – males can weigh 3 tons, be 20 feet long & are 6 times larger than the poor female.
In the Southern Ocean, amongst 40-foot waves, despite being very cold & very wet, the Walkers took full advantage of the fabulous opportunity to photograph the icebergs,
whales breaching & beautiful birds in the context of the rough seas.
It was an exciting trip, exceptionally well captured by Alan & Julie & it made for an exciting & enjoyable evening.