Monday, September 10, 2012

Look back: South America

It has been exactly five years since I came back from my trip around South America. Argentina, Chile, Bolivia and Peru, with a dash of Ecuador's amazing Galapagos islands.

It took me this long to find the time to organize, label, and edit my favorite images. Most of the time I had more important things to do than sit on Lightroom and edit photos from ages ago. I mean, I usually had more recent photos to edit so the backlog just kept getting bigger.

Considering that my trip to Nepal was two and a half months and took four months to edit, this seven month trip, edited on the back burner for five years isn't such a shock.

I was only starting to learn photography, only a few months after I got my first digital camera (my Minolta that you have already read about).

Ashuaia, the south tip of Argentina. Edge of the world is here. Febuary 2007. 

I knew a little exposure, mainly from reading online (I remember there was some travel photography site that helped me out a lot but I don't remember what it was!) and I was learning a lot just by looking at the screen and playing with the shutter speed. I didn't really know what I was doing and hardly touched the ISO and aperture.

Fitz Roy, Patagonia, Argentina, March 2007

A lot of the images I was really proud of, even without editing. When I got home I did use minimal tools to straiten out horizons and play with levels to get some more contrast, but I wasn't in the habit of editing really. Today I open these old files and shudder.

Just the color noise, which is so easy to remove in Lightroom, makes me sick. I applied some color noise reduction and a bit of contrast to all the pictures as default. Then the ones I liked I really sat down and fixed up.

Lost in Poyehue, Chile... It was a snowing blizzard the next day! April 2007

I mean, you can't do much with non-RAW, 6 megapixels of noisy images (at 200 ISO already the noise is pretty heavy, with the maximum ISO of that camera only reaching 320).

But this camera was fairly fast, not too big, had a ton of zoom (x12 which you can get today in a pocket camera) and most importantly, a manual mode.

Here is an image I took because it looked really impressive:

and here is how it came out from the camera.

File from Camera. Not nearly as impressive as real life... May 2007

The difference is huge. I didn't even consider it a very good picture before I tried massive editing. I guess you could get the camera itself to add massive contrast and decent amount of noise reduction to get it to look ok, but I find that making all these choices in dedicated programs is so much more effective.

Road trip around Salta, north Argentina. May 2007

This one is from Sorata, Bolivia's trekking town. I had gotten a wide angle converter lens in Salta and here I am, holding it up to the end of my lens to get as much of the scene as I can. This trip made me realize a wide angle is much more important than a tele in travel photography.

Wide angle lens lost along with the Minolta... June 2007

Auzangate trek, near Cusco, Peru. July 2007

It was towards the end of my trip that I lost/forgot/got ripped off of my camera. It was a pretty nasty shock, but after a while I got the police report for the insurance and bought a new one, with even more zoom (how naive I was to think that was the important thing).

Alpamayo trek, north Peru. The last trek of this trip, photographed with my new Sony H7. August 2007

This camera at least didn't have massive color noise, but it had built in noise reduction that kicked in in high ISO and totally smeared all detail when you went above 200.

But it served my well in the last leg of my trip, the Galapagos isles, where you rarely need a zoom as animals just walk up to you and you can take as many pictures as you like.

Galapagos Islands, in the pacific ocean near Ecuador. September 2007

Particularly this next image:

Blue Footed Boobies. Yes, that's the name. 

I think this may be my favorite picture from South America. The blue clear water and those sandy white beaches, after seven months of mountains and Inca ruins really were my own paradise after a long, exhausting trip. I like the open sky and blue ocean in the picture, it reminds me of that freedom to go anywhere and enjoy life. I guess those blue footed boobies have it all in life...

For my selection of (~50) best images from seven months in South America on picasa, with a location map which I think is pretty neat.

los comentarios son bienvenidos, como siempre...


  1. How come there is no photo of me??

  2. Because all your photos are terribly embarrassing...