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Patagonia in Autumn
2023 Trip Report

Our Patagonia trip began in Buenos Aires where we met up with our group of hearty photographers on our first day in Argentina. After resting in the morning from overnight travel, we ventured out in the afternoon to visit a natural area called Costanera Sur Wildlife Reserve and Palermo Lake. We tried our luck photographing some shorebirds like wattled jacanas and other local inhabitants which entertained the group and honed our photographic skills for the upcoming tour. After a couple hours of photographing, we headed over to one of my favorite restaurants in the Puerto Madero area of the city for our official first dinner where we raised our glasses of fine Argentinian wine and feasted on a massive buffet fit for royalty. At 3:30 am the next morning, we had an early departure from the airport for El Calafate where our adventure begins.

Los Glaciares NP 100

Patagonia is a land of contrasts, where snow-capped mountains meet turquoise lakes, and windswept plains stretch as far as the eye can see. As we drove north from El Calafate to El Chaltén, the majestic mountains of Patagonia and Fitz Roy came closer into view. Once in the quaint mountain town of El Chaltén, we spent the next four days exploring the region. Every morning we made attempts to see and photograph the Fitz Roy Massif just outside of El Chaltén. Our first three attempts were unsuccessful in seeing the mountain, as clouds and wind, which Patagonia is well known for, thwarted our photographic attempts. On the last day the mountain appeared at the crack of dawn, illuminating the mountains in pastel alpenglow.

Los Glaciares NP 126

During one of the days, we split the group for those who can handle a hike of six miles round trip to Lago Capri and a scenic waterfall with Fitz Roy as a backdrop. Only three from our group made the hike, and along with our local guides, left in the dark to arrive by pre-dawn. The rest of our time was spent up the Río las Vueltas, Lago del Desierto and Chorrillo del Salto waterfall north of El Chaltén. This area has occasional views of the massif and is better known for vibrant fall-colored beech trees throughout the valley, plus waterfalls and clear mountain streams. We took countless images of the fall-colored trees and even experimented with vertical blurs to spice up our landscape photography. A few birds were photographed, and we managed to see several condors at close range for those who had the right lens at the right time.

We bid farewell to El Chaltén and drove south to El Calafate to photograph Perito Moreno Glacier in Los Glaciares National Park. Perito Moreno glacier is the third largest reserve of fresh water on the planet, surpassed only by Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets and historically one of the only stable ice fields in Patagonia. That has changed significantly since my last visit in 2017 and the warming planet is starting to influence the ice sheet—sending the glacier back a few hundred feet in the last six years. This was also evident on the flanks of the glacier where the retreating ice left a rock ring. Like the rest of the planet, things are changing at a rapid pace and no place on the planet is being spared.

Los Glaciares NP 136

Our sunrise shoot at Perito Moreno Glacier was the best of all my trips to the area. An orange glow of low-hanging clouds illuminated the glacier and bathed it in warm morning light. The rest of the day was spent photographing the change of light on the ice and calving glaciers and, in the afternoon, we had a boat ride along the face of the glacier.
The following day was a long drive to Torres del Paine National Park, which is in Chilean Patagonia. We stopped a few times along the way for food and beverages and the required border crossing. The park is home to towering granite spires, bright blue glaciers, and herds of fuzzy guanacos (a South American camel relative). That evening we arrived in the park and were met by some ferocious winds which by my estimate from living in Wyoming, were 60mph plus. The wind here is serious business.

Our base of operations was Hosteria Pehoé which requires walking a footbridge to the hotel on a private island. Not the best of comforts, but the location is unbeatable for landscapes right from the hotel and easy access to wildlife and landscapes in the immediate area.

Torres del Paine NP189

For the next four nights we worked out of Pehoé photographing landscapes and iconic wildlife such as guanaco’s, foxes, reas and a rare day on some pumas. We were very lucky to come across a family of pumas within easy camera range and spent the entire day observing and photographing them. In all the years I have traveled to this area this was the most memorable day, ever!

With two days to spare, we traveled south to the Lago Grey area of Torres del Paine. Having scheduled a boat ride to Lago Grey Glacier in the morning, our good intentions were upset by torrential rain and wind. Two from our group ventured out in the afternoon and took the boat ride in the rain while the rest of us relaxed around the lodge. During the afternoon I did some classwork for those interested in how I work in Adobe Bridge, Photoshop, Nik and Topaz filters as part of my workflow. The lazy afternoon was welcomed by many since we worked hard and had long hours in the field the previous two weeks.

Buenos Aires 077

Finally, we said adios to Torres del Paine and headed back north to El Calafate for our late-night flight to Buenos Aires. Early the next morning we were at it again but this time photographing a Tango shoot in the La Boca region of Buenos Aires. La Boca is a barrio of Buenos Aires and is considered a melting pot of culture in the 20th century. The neighborhood is the source for porteño culture which helped define the Tango dance. We had arranged for some photogenic Tango dancers to perform for our group in iconic locations. We were constantly on the move seeking photogenic backgrounds and the right light prior to the weekend crowds who would later fill the small streets. When the shoot ended, we returned to the Puerto Madero barrio to have a buffet lunch at the same location as our first dinner and then we headed to the airport for our evening departures. 

Overall, a fantastic trip and a great group of clients, both old and new. Our guides were the best for both Argentina and Chile, and we could not have done it without them on our epic trip south. If you are interested in future trips to this region, check out the slide show for a taste of Patagonia and our great adventure to South America.

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