Success at Cerro Torre

I'm just back from el Chalten, the northern region of Los Glaciares national park. This is my third time here, because every other time I've come, the weather has played tricks with me - as it has done with other photographers and climbers alike. This region is notorious for really unpredictable bad weather, so I had no idea if I was going to strike lucky this time.


This is a file, straight from my Canon 5D. All I've done is set the levels in Photoshop.

I'm pretty knackered. I've spent three days hiking around this area with an unusually heavy backpack that has contained all my camping gear, head torch so I can see where I'm going in the mornings before sunrise, and of course, a lot of Canon lenses including a 400mm.

I've had mice rummaging around my tent at night - they've chewed spoons, cups and the nozzle of my camelback water carrier, and I feel sleep deprived - it's hard camping out when the temperature at night plummets below zero. I think it must have easily gone past -5 as winter seems to have come early to Patagonia. Then there has been the early starts, getting up in the cold, to trek over some glacier moraine with a head torch on in the dark, so I can make photographs. For what? I must be bonkers.

But it was a beautiful sight. Once I had chosen my spot (the foreground iceberg was so beautiful), I just watched as the light hit the glaciers (on the left hand side of the shot) and watched as everything just came together so nicely, almost like it was a film set.

In the image you can see Cerro Torre mountain set in the background to Laguna Torre which has some ice bergs in it. Last week the weather was so foul here that the entire Laguna froze up. It's a very wintery shot this, and I can vouch for it in terms of how cold I was in my sleeping bag each night.

All I did for this shot was put the tripod down very, very low, used a 17-40L lens at around f8 for 10 seconds with a 3 stop hard grad on and a polariser. I'm not usually a fan of polarisers, and even though this scene is directly facing east, the polariser really does change the blues in the sky to a more saturated colour.

And the last thing I did was shoot constantly. I was scared to move because I felt the composition was so good, and the light would perhaps be gone in a few minutes time... so I just shot, checked the composition and kept on shooting some more.

When I review the images on the screen of the 5D, it's interesting to see how the light changed so fast and how the best colours were so fleeting.

I'm over the moon about this shot. It's taken me 3 years, and three return trips to this godforsaken place to get this image. I couldn't have imagined it being any better.