JHP Newsletter - 2004, No. 3, 23 December
Equipment: Canon EOS 1Ds Mk II
My new Canon EOS 1Ds Mk II arrived at the beginning of the month, and boy is it an awesome piece of equipment! The full-frame 16.6 megapixel sensor creates spectacular image files. They're slightly smaller than a scanned slide (about 19 megapixels), but there's no distracting grain. The 1Ds Mk II has the same physical and menu layout as my EOS 1D Mk II which makes switching between the two bodies a snap. The internal mechanisms must have more differences than just the sensor size and associated electronics, because the bodies sound different when the shutter is released. The 1D Mk II snaps like my old EOS 1v, and the 1Ds Mk II has a duller sound, almost like the mirror moves slower. The mirror mechanism may have been changed because the 1D Mk II can shoot at 8.5 frames per second and the 1Ds Mk II can only shoot at 4.
Travel: Torres del Paine, Chile
I had a wonderful six-day visit to Torres del Paine NP in the Patagonia region of Chile. It was my first visit to southern South America, and I can't wait to go back. I traveled with Joe and Mary Ann McDonald (www.hoothollow.com) and four other participants. We had a local guide who specializes in that park and who is a photographer himself, so the arrangements were perfect for a photo tour. Unfortunately, the weather wasn't very cooperative. We had two days where it rained for the whole morning or the whole afternoon, which is very unusual. Rain showers usually blow in and out quickly with blue skies and white clouds in between.
Because we were so far south (about as far from the Equator as the southern panhandle of Alaska), the days were long. We were up for the 5:00 sunrise, and usually didn't get to bed before 11:00 at night. We usually had an hour or two during the day to rest a bit, but it was still an action-packed, and tiring, trip.
The main attraction of Parque Nacional Torres del Paine is the landscape with 10000 ft mountains rising from the 300 ft plains with almost no foothills. We stayed in a neat small hotel (Hosteria Pehoé) on a small island in a lake (Lago Pehoé) accessible by a 100 yd pedestrian bridge with a fantastic view of Paine Grande (Big Paine) and the Cuernos del Paine (Paine Horns) (See below L.).
Cuernos del Paine (Paine Horns) on the right
on a blustery, mostly-cloudy day
The wildlife in the park is abundant and is generally habituated to humans, and provided many good shooting opportunities. The gray fox mother (below) lives near one of the park entrance stations, and the rangers feed it, as do the tourists. (Yes, things are different in Chile.) On the day we arrived, she came within four or five feet of one of the participants who put some trail mix down to attract it. We shot her another day from about 10-15 ft away, and the spring wildflowers made a really nice addition to the shots. We shot two gray fox pups about a mile inside the park, and their den was about 20 ft from the side of the road. We sat on the other side of the road, and had a fantastic time shooting them as they came in and out of the den, played a bit, and eventually went after the road-killed hare that we placed near their den.
Guanacos are camel-like animals that call the Andes home. We shot several small herds, and the most interesting was a group at the top of a ridge overlooking the main formations.
One of the neatest experiences we had occurred as we were heading back to the vehicle after shooting some cascades. Two condors had landed on a rock outcropping about 1/4 of a mile from where we were, and more were circling above them. We quickly got out our long lenses, and spent about half an hour shooting the eight or nine condors as they circled above us as we moved towards the area where some had landed. Two of the birds flew within 20 yds of us, provide more than frame-filling shots.
We spent the afternoon where it happened to rain in a forest shooting Magellanic woodpeckers feeding young in their nest. The adults are about a foot tall, and both the male and female would return to the nest about every 30 minutes.
One afternoon, we took a small boat to the far end of Lago Grey (Grey Lake) to the face of Glaciar Grey (Grey Glacier) which terminates in the lake. One section of the face has the deepest blue I've ever seen in a glacier. Icebergs from the glacier are blown to the near side of the lake, and provided another exciting shooting opportunity.
I was really impressed by Chile. It's a lot more developed than Ecuador, and reminded me of New Zealand with a touch of Germany. The food was great, and so were the local wines. I was also really impressed by my flights on LAN Chile. The domestic flight from Santiago to Punta Arenas had almost the same level of service as the international flight from LAX, and we were served full meals on both parts of the one-stop flight in the afternoon! Just slightly different than the level of service I got from United between Denver and LAX where I got a bag of peanuts for my mid- and late-morning flights. The flight attendants for LAN Chile are all in their 20s and 30s, and their fashionable uniforms create a much more attractive package than I got on United with flight attendants in their 40s and 50s with slightly-lower than business casual outfits (I wouldn't exactly call them uniforms.). The trip was too short, and the bad weather reduced our shooting time even more, so I have to go back.
I'll be making a short trip through the Southwest over New Years, making stops at Arches, Death Valley, and Grand Canyon National Parks, and Bosque del Apache NWR.
Have a joyous holiday season.
James Hager Photography :: www.jameshagerphoto.com