I had no idea I was going to be so taken with this landscape.
The Bolivian Altiplano brings together a vast expanse of varied geological features under unusual climatic conditions.
For one thing, the altitude of the Altiplano averages around 4000 meters or 12,000 feet. The air is thin here and for no reason I can fathom, this seemed to guarantee stunning light each sunrise and sunset.
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Because of this, I felt that I pushed my tour guide and driver to their limits as we navigated the vast Salar de Uyuni landscape before sunrise and long after dusk. With scarcely defined roads, more a slight suggestion, a faint scar on the desert like landscape, it was hard for me to watch as my driver sped through the darkness with no visible signposts as to where we were, or where we were going.
And we sped on, often to some intangible destination that my driver knew about.
But I was suffering hard. A mixture of slight Altitude symptoms and running around too much, too soon after my ascent onto the altiplano had left me with a thumping headache and slight dizziness – symptoms of mountain sickness.
I felt overawed by the experience. Coupled with my suffering, everything regarding landscape photography seemed inverted. The ground was often brighter than the sky and the sunsets proved to be more impressive than the wondrous sunrises. I was never really just sure how to meter the landscapes for the film I was using.
This is not what I’ve come to expect from most of the landscapes I’ve photographed over the years.
Being so high up, I´d expected to feel cold, yet strangely I didn’t – even though I got caught out. Like a mouth that has gone numb and un-cooperative after a visit to the dentist, so I found my hands unable to operate my camera after being outside for more than half an hour in the dawn light.
As for my most lasting impression, well I must say that I tried one day to walk on the vast salt plain for as long as I could with my eyes completely closed. It didn’t take long for my mind to concoct imaginary obstacles in my path and I had to fight my instincts, which kept screaming at me to open my eyes. When I did, I was greeted with the unchanged, vast emptiness of the Salar and a feeling that I had been tricked. By my own mind of course.
Perhaps this was the Bolivian Altiplanos parting gift to me – a lesson that most limitations in my life come from within rather than from without.