Photographing the Spectacular

Spectacular cloud formations are illuminated by a glorious sunset over the Beagle Channel near Ushuaia in Argentina.

Photographing the Spectacular

Surely one of the most beautiful sights there is: a spectacular sunset. I was fortunate to record this particular sunset while on a helicopter flight over the Beagle Channel near the city of Ushuaia way down at the bottom of Argentina.

It wasn’t an easy photo to make. The pilot was pushing to get us back to base before the night descended. Consequently we seemed to be flying quite fast.

I made the photo with a Canon 5D Mark II at the relatively modest shutter speed of 1/250 second at f4. The ISO was kept to ISO 400, relatively slow by what’s possible today with our most recent crop of DSLR cameras.

Depth of field wasn’t a concern, as everything was quite a distance from the camera. However, I was photographing from the back seat of a pretty small helicopter and the windows weren’t all that clean. And this is despite the fact that I was assured they would be prior to booking and paying for the flight.

Reducing Reflection and Maximizing Sharpness

What made things worst was that the windows were made of curved perspex. I had to position myself at quite a tricky angle so as to keep the camera’s lens parallel to the glass. To minimize reflection on the perspex I positioned the front of the lens as close as I could to the perspex without actually allowing the two to touch. That would have caused vibration and resulted in a loss of image sharpness.

I’m really happy with the result as it’s a visually dynamic image that’s a great memory of a very special event just before I co-led a group of enthusiast photographers on an adventure to the Falkland Islands, South Georgia Islands and Antarctica.

A City of Contrasts

Ushuaia is an interesting city, situated as it is at the bottom of South America. It’s a long, long way from anywhere and surrounded by a beautiful yet quite wild landscape. The main tourist precinct seems quite well to do and clearly benefits from the influx of tourists. But the drive in from the airport showed the reality of life for the common working poor. I began to experience a sense of disquiet which grew significantly stronger when I visited the capital, Buenos Aires.

Despite a prosperous past, evident in grand architecture, much of the capital is crumbling and decrepit. You could almost taste the disillusionment and anger amongst elements of the population. Walking back to my hotel after a fabulous meal in a famous restaurant (a rare treat for me) I came upon the remains of what had been a fairly large protest. The strange thing was that everybody seemed to be looking at me and my traveling companions. As an experienced traveler I’m used to this, but the feeling was different this time. Just out of site I noticed a truck with a water cannon attached. It was surrounded by armed security forces.

I have no hesitation recommending Argentina as a travel destination. Yet, like other countries in the world, you need to have your wits about you when visiting as an independent traveler. Tourist muggings are, apparently, common place in Buenos Aires. Something to be aware of folks.

Glenn Guy, Travel Photography Guru