Well, Patagonia is here and gone with some incredible memories, gorgeous fall colors and dramatic light that could satisfy the most critical. It was an epic adventure that really tested our strength mentally and physically with inclement weather and strenuous hikes on the daily. As I wrote in my first post we were based in the small village of El Chalten situated at the base of Fitz Roy in Glacier National Park. Our days were spent hiking for several hours in and out of the back-country exploring high and low looking for new and unique angles. We wanted to come away with something different than what we always see from the area. Even for a Colorado guy, hiking and playing in nature really became something that I am now craving almost as much as shooting.
Our time in El Chalten was a bittersweet experience: I loved the area and spending hours each day exploring just to see what was on the other side of that ridge, discovering hidden lakes from atop a small mountain (anything larger than a hill is a mountain, right?) we decided to bushwhack up for the fun of it and finding a small brook just by listening to the silent morning sky and following its quiet roar. The challenging aspect was more of a mental one: just a couple of days after we arrived a storm set in and shrouded the peaks for days. Each morning started with a 4am alarm followed with the thought, "will we be coming home empty handed again?" It was tough to hike for hours each morning and put in so much work to come home without taking a shot. What I did take away with me more than ever before was learning to sit and relax and enjoy natures show. There was no predicting the weather, no 'on/off' switch that I could use to magically make the storm move on. The sooner we can learn to sit back and appreciate Mother Nature's beauty the sooner we can begin to appreciate why we're out here in the first place: to enjoy and get away from it all.
When we arrived in El Chalten, we were blessed with a couple of days of great weather with clear skies and no wind which were incredibly rare. The photo from Post I is from our first morning: talk about being lucky! Man, did the weather change on us. After the first few days we were introduced to the real Patagonia: steady wind pushing 80 mph for hours on end, rain and cold. Our daily routines went from gorgeous hikes into the back country to forced (and appreciated!) reading days powering through more pages of written text than I have had the pleasure in months. We also had the small world encounter of meeting Marc Adamus in a bar and sharing a beer and stories with him one afternoon. My mind was blown; I know Dan's was too, to meet who can arguably be coined as today's supreme landscape photographer. He shared with stories of recent travels, where he was planning to look for his new body of work which will be breathtaking and how fortunate he is to be able to spend time in such a gorgeous setting. It was funny to meet him as people are never what you build them up to be: he is not the large, rough voiced 6' mountain man I had envisioned. He is shorter in height, a small frame and a very humble and soft spoken guy. It was really a great experience and made me wonder if he realizes how insanely good he is..? Maybe not.
As the days went on, we started becoming nervous: was the light going to work out?; were we going to get a gallery photo? We didn't know and our spirits were beginning to take a turn to the negative. We kept hope and continued pursuing our end goal of looking for the unique and new with the intent to inspire. We were down to one morning with a second storm setting in: wind was raging, rain falling and clouds filling the sky. Our hopes were crushed, but we hit the trail and made the 2+ hour journey from our warm beds into what we were sure was a pointless and cold mission. Along the trail we ran into Adamus again and had a quick chat before moving on to a previously scouted location with a back-up location should the peaks be covered. I had been quietly hoping for plan B as it was the awesome little brook that I mentioned finding above. As we sat there watching the clouds swirl and grip onto the peaks like smoke from dry ice it became clear that this was not going to work out in our favor and clear.
I'm always amazed at how nature will speak to you and if you listen, she will not let you down. The brook was there and after I let myself sink in and observe for a while and shoot I ended up getting a pretty great shot. In the end, Patagonia was an incredible learning experience teaching me more about photography, myself and my comforts than any trip to date. I came away with so much more than self-motivated attempts to acquire gallery images; Patagonia gave me a renewed sense of self and how to better handle uncontrollable challenges we are presented with daily.