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Photography Tips for Patagonia

My wife and I recently had the opportunity travel to Patagonia with Wildland Adventures. Since I work as a professional photographer shooting sports (primarily soccer) and concerts I was very interested in pretending to be a landscape photographer on this trip. I have been asked to provide some thoughts on taking pictures during a trip like this. 

If you are not a landscape photographer then trying to prepare is daunting. Although I spend a lot of time on forums, the tutorials and books written by Ian Plant have been a huge help to me ( Although he specifically addresses Patagonia, his general comments and his Photoshop lessons are great. These are tools that I rarely use in my other photography.

This is a horrible dilemma, you want to have everything at your disposal but of course weight is an issue. I know of no way to have an optimal pack for clothing, water and camera equipment. On all but one hike I had a porter to carry my camera equipment (longest hike 18 miles). On the one hike that I didn’t have one (ten miles) I left a wide angle lens that I wish I had. Of course you need a remote wired trigger.

Pack: Gura Gear Kiboko 22L, very comfortable, easy access to everything and compartments can be customized for your gear. Has a pouch for a computer which helps for the plane rides but obviously unnecessary for hiking. Tripod setup is OK, IMHO not great.

Tripod: In my opinion, Gitzo makes the best carbon fiber tripods for this setting. Obviously you want a great ballhead, there are many reasonable choices from them, although nothing is cheap. Winds are an issue, so sturdiness does matter.

Filters: If you could take very Singh Ray filter offered with you, that would be optimal ( My must haves would include a polarizing filter; the variable neutral density filter is great and then of course graduated neutral density filters are critical. You cannot have too many and you should be prepared to stop down at least 4 stops with your graduated filters.

Bodies: I brought two Canon 5D Mark III bodies but only took one on each hike, felt it was important to have a backup. I shoot with the addition of the battery grip, but this is not critical and does add to weight.

Lenses: I brought a 70-200, 2.8; 24-70, 2.8; 14, 2.8; 8-15, 4 (fisheye). The last two are somewhat limited because you cannot put filters on them. Make absolutely certain that you bring your favorite cleaning implements, dust is an issue.

There are many issues. First, during summer, the days are long. If you want to shoot sunrise or sunset you will be shooting very early and very late. There are other people around and they will at times get in your way. For one of my favorite shots, I could not get a clear shot without people in the way. Thank god for photoshop. It is critically important that your tripod be one that extends to a tall height. I at times shot with the center pole fully extended to avoid getting obstructing trees. You should also be prepared to hang your pack on the center hook in heavy winds. We did not have a lot of rain. You should have a rain cover for your pack and if you want to shoot in wet weather, appropriate gear for your body and lens. I chose not to do that so did not bring anything. In general, if it is raining your pictures will be soft and you are more likely to have clouds +/- fog which may not create optimal conditions.

I hope this helps with your photo needs and if you want to see my photos from our trip with Wildland Adventure just click the link: Patagonia, Torres del Paine, Chile and Helsingfors, El Calafate and El Chalten in Argentina

your friendly photographer,

Steve Limentani
Steve Limentani Photography
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