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South America with a Camera and a Pack - Travel Photography

Two years ago, when I had just finished my bachelor’s degree and was doing an internship in biotechnology, my dad asked me if I wanted to go to Patagonia with him, his spouse, and my brother. They had planned to go to South America in December of 2018 for three weeks and spend most of it in Patagonia, visiting some of the most famous places there. Of course, my dad didn’t have to do a lot of convincing to make me want to go to such a place.

However, as I try to reduce my carbon footprint, I found it hard to justify flying from Europe all the way to South America for just three weeks. Luckily enough, I didn’t have any commitments at that time, and the decision to add on another few months of travel was an easy one.

I had travelled six months through Canada and parts of the United States just before I went to university, and I could picture myself traveling for an extended period again. Soon, I began to plan my trip, which would be centered around my big passion: nature photography.

I spent a lot of time exchanging parts of my photography and camping gear, shedding off weight wherever I could, because everything I would bring on this trip needed to fit inside just one backpack. I had to think of ways to edit and keep my photos safe, anticipating being without a fast web connection for months. All this while accounting for some rather harsh and diverse weather, from rainy southern Patagonia all the way to the second driest place on earth, the Atacama Desert.

Camera Bag
Everything neatly itemized, ready to pack into a backpack with only one compartment, such as my 100L beast.

In my mind, my trip is split in two parts: three weeks with my family – fast-paced, planned in detail, with nice places to stay – while the second part is on my own. My goal was to move more slowly and go with the flow, giving myself additional time for photography. Today, I would like to share with you some of the most beautiful and interesting things I’ve experienced in the nearly seven months I’ve now been traveling. (I’m still in South America as this article is published, with a bit more than a month to go before I return home.)

In Argentinian Patagonia, my family and I went to El Chaltén, one of the more famous spots for climbing, hiking, and of course glorious landscape photography. This is the place where the iconic Mt. Fitz Roy is located.

A bit lesser known to photographers – but, in my eyes, actually of a more interesting shape – is Cerro Torre. I first saw it on a hike with my brother to the glacial lagoon at the mountain’s feet. That was during the day, and the light wasn’t particularly great, but I still had a go at some long exposure experiments.

I knew I wanted to return for some nicer lighting. And so I convinced my dad – who, many years ago, got me into photography – to join me for sunrise at a lookout for said Cerro Torre. And this little morning photography session was all the best things combined. A wonderful location where we were absolutely alone; stunning light from the right direction (I had obviously checked the direction of the light beforehand, but you can never predict clouds); and spending time with the person who brought me into this most rewarding of all hobbies, that has developed into so much more than just a hobby.

Cerro Torre at sunrise.
Cerro Torre at sunrise. Canon EOS 5DS R + EF24-105mm f/4L IS II USM @ 93mm, ISO 100, 1/4, f/10.0

We went on to explore parts of Patagonia in a rather special way: On a cruise from Ushuaia to Punta Arenas. We saw places in Patagonia that not many have visited, as they are so remote and only reachable by sea. Sea straits that had been travelled by some of the earliest explorers of South America, mountains towering over the sea in an almost Norwegian fashion, untouched forests, thousands of Humboldt penguins, and glaciers flowing right into the sea, calving in front of our eyes.

Mountains in southern Patagonia, overlooking the sea.
Mountains in southern Patagonia, overlooking the sea. Canon EOS 5DS R + EF24-105mm f/4L IS II USM @ 105mm, ISO 100, 1/200, f/8.0

Humboldt penguins, being taken care of by their parents and taking care of each other.
Humboldt penguins, being taken care of by their parents and taking care of each other. Canon EOS 5DS R + EF100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM @ 400mm, ISO 800, 1/250, f/6.3