HIDDEN LAKES OF THE ANDES

Here is another from our Sacred Valley Tour in Peru.

It's a fine balance on photography tours between maximising time shooting and getting to the really off the beaten track places. These lakes are in the High Andes around 20km from Machu Pichu. It's not a route that tourists take and getting here is a hard trek. At over 4,500mts (14,800') it's not for the faint hearted but with good preparation and the right guides it's achievable.

For anyone keen to look in to doing a trek here we can arrange this on the back of our Sacred Valley Tour. I have been up here 3 times and know the best guides and the most professional local companies. The one we use for our Machu Pichu visit is particuarly good.

It's a magical place and there is something surreal about reaching somewhere that so few others have seen.

CONDOR OF PERU

Our Sacred Valley Tour visits the High Andes of Peru and besides the obvious attraction of the Inka history and architecture, the area is home to the majestic Condors.

This shot was taken at The Colca Canyon which is regarded as having the highest concentration of these birds. The canyon is incredible and the birds glide on the upcurrents, usually early in the morning as the air begins to heat up.

If you are lucky, getting a good shot is not too difficult as they move slowly and gracefully and if you happen to be in a good position fairly closely.

Interestingly, it is said that the local inhabitants used to catch these birds by leaving a dead animal out to decompose. After the bird had eaten as much as it could it became too heavy to fly, making it a relativley easy for it to be caught.

Photo of Condor gliding above the Colca Canyon in Peru. Shot by Mike Marlowe on a Creative Trails Photography tour.

BLAZING SUNRISE

This is an interesting shot that has generated a fair bit of chatter.

I was wild camping on Ruta 40 heading south in Patagonia, literally in the middle of nowhere. The wind had been howling all night and it was freezing cold. As it just started to get light, and I could make out the shape of the clouds, the sky started to turn yellow, then yellow with crimson and blue streaks, before finally bursting in to a vivid orange. It only lasted at the most 1 minute but was a truly unforgettable sight.

I've made some minor adjustments to contrast and exposure but otherwise, this is how it looked! Interestingly our good friend Jimmy Corrigan, who saw the pic on our facebook page, recognised it immediatley and knew, more or less, the exact location.

It's one of those, you had to be there shots!

TATE MODERN

We dropped in to the Tate Modern during our last London Photo Walk. The weather was pretty grim so we had to revert to plan B (which was get out of the rain).

It's a fabulous building and one of the most visited landmarks in the UK. Damien Hirst had his long running exhitbion there so the hallways, cafe and book shop thronged with people discussing 'what is art anyway?' which seems to be a favourite topic of people interested in art.

Tripods are not allowed (like in most public buildings) here but Marisol, from Buenos Aries, hit on the great idea of using a plastic cone that was being used to warn visitors of the wet floor. By using a coat wrapped up to make a beanbag shape balanced on top of the cone the camera was solid enough to get a reasonably good shot.

If you are in the London then a visit to the Tate Modern is well worthwhile. It's on the south bank, opposite St Pauls Cathedral.

The Tate Modern in London from our photography workshop walk in London.

MYSTICAL MOUNTAIN

There are some shots that you can only get by being there at the right time. This is one such example. This was taken in The Andes and at high altitudes the light is often more dramatic and intense.

Being above the cloud line and see the sun rise is a truly magical sight. This is the kind of shot we will be looking for on our Peaks and Trails of Patagonia trail in April.

LONDON ICON

We did another London walking tour this week and as usual, the weather didn't co-operate. If the light is flat and grey (as it often is in London) then wide angle landscape shots are often uninspiring.

Shooting details of a place is one solution and of all the classic icons of London the tube or underground sign is probably the most well known. For this shot the bland sky worked to our advantage as it makes a good backdrop to the reds and blues of the image.

The roundel as it is known first appeared in 1908 and is actually a registered trade mark. According to the TFL site the underground carries 1,107 million passengers per year!

That's a lot of people!

The classic london underground roundel sign. Shot on Creative Trails photography walking tour.

THE HARBOUR, COPENHAGEN

This shot was taken in the harbour at Copenhagen. I posted this on our facebook page earlier last week.

A few people have asked me about the colours on this shot. I use rarely use filters any more but the post processing I do is based on achieving the same look and feel as using ND grad and colour filters. I wanted to create a dramatic look that tied in with the imposing style of the architecture. This is why I also used a wide angle lens. It is possible to 're-straighten' the distortion of the lines in Photoshop but I prefer the angles as they are.

Most of the looks I go for are used with a few basic controls in either Lightroom or Photoshop. I'll post more info on those some time soon.

Architecture shot in Copenhagen. Travel photograph by Mike Marlowe

BUBBLES IN THE PLAZA

Another from the shoot in Copenhagen. This young girl was transfixed by a street artist blowing bubbles across the square. I took the shot from several different angles and there was a lot of background clutter I was trying to cut out.

These shots are often tricky because you have to move quickly to grab the photo and yet they generally only work well with careful composition.

This time everything lined up well and it was surely helped by the girl not moving for several minutes.

young girl in Copenhagen, Denmark standing in a square watching bubbles drift past.

IT'S A DOGS LIFE

This fella was leaning out of his car, watching me shooting in the street in Copenhagen. I'm used to people staring at me while I'm lining up a shot and for good reason I suppose, it can look a bit odd when I crouch down on the floor and start staring up at the top of the building, but dogs don't usually take so much interest.

The dog was unmoved when I turned my camera on him and in case you're wondering, no he's not driving!

Photo of a dog leaning out of a car window in Copehagen, Denmark. Shot on a Creative Trail photography tour.

CAN I TAKE YOUR PICTURE?

The gang at Outdoor Photography Magazine asked me to write an article for them on the psychology of shooting portraits in your local town. The idea came about during a chat with Steve Watkins, the editor who is very decent travel photographer himself, and is published in the the July edition which is available in the next few days.

I'll post the full text of the article here next month.

FADING LIGHT IN LONDON

Back on the subject of what exactly is a travel photo. This was shot in London a few years ago and the brief was to depict the feel and glamour of a global cosmopolitan city.

Travel can mean different things to different people and changes over time too. Part of developing as a photographer, or any creative, is to shoot things in a way that mean something to you personally. It takes some practice and we'll delve in to this on our all of trips where we'll be in an environment with like minded people to get a bit experimental.

Woman walking along street in London at dusk with warm backlit feel. Photograph Mike Marlowe. No commercial use permitted.

TORRES DEL PAINE

Of all the places in the world for lovers of landscapes, I don't think anywhere can beat Patagonia. Actually calling it Patagonia is a bit of misnomer because that is a vast region, most of which is windswept and barren.

The key places of interest are in the south west corner and take in Argentina and Chile. There are a number of highlights but the main one is Torres Del Paine National Park in Chile. The granite massifs and general landscape here is breathtaking. The light is often incredible and when you combine the two you end up with a magical mix of beauty.

We go here on our Peaks and Trails of Patagonia trip. If you fancy checking out this area for yourself this is an ideal way to go.

Landscape photography of Patagonia. Torres del Paine National Park in Chile.

COMMUTERS ON THE WAY TO WORK

Everywhere you go in Africa it seems like women are on the move as soon as dawn breaks. Usually, they go to fetch water, carrying impossibily large loads on their heads. I've tried with a small bowl and it is much harder than they make it look!

Best of all though is how sociable they are. It's easy to strike up a converstation and join in with the banter. Even if you can't understand what they are saying, you always get the gist of it and besides it's always accompanied by lots of laughter.

This shot was taken about half an hour after first light and it was already blisteringly hot. After a chat and a few words they went on down the road. I wanted a shot that showed them in the wider environment so waited until they got a bit further away. One of the women knew what was coming and turned around just as I pressed the shutter.

African women on the way to collect water in the early morning

LOOKING AT YOU

There really isn't much on the Salt Flats in Bolivia, just a lot salt mostly. As the worlds largest salt plain it's where sataellites calibrate themsleves so they know exactly how far they are from us!

So coming across someone else in the middle of this vast expanse is always a bit different to meeting another person in other environments. I asked if I could take the shot by gesturing at the camera and she seemed to raise an eyebrow as if to agree. After that, she just stared with a kind of a 'get on with it and then go' expression about her.

As a photographer you're always aware of backgrounds and it's great to be able to get such an engaging portrait without having to worry about clutter creeping in to the frame.

A portrait of a woman staring into the camera on the Salt Flats of BOlivia

SHOPPING SPAIN STYLE

Markets are always one of the most interesting places to visit or photograph. The ones in Andalucia in southern Spain are particular good. Meats, cheeses, vegetables, dried fruits and so on. There is a distinct Arabic influence in a lot of the food, derived from the days of the Moor occupation. It makes a great mix with the Mediterranean food and what you end up with is a big colourful medley of sights and smells.

This stall owner was not the usual camera shy type. He's looking to the side, rather than in to the lens as I wanted him to, because the old lady that he had been serving was berating him for ignoring her.

He just kept smiling and posing. We go here on our Moorish Spain trail. You can read about that here.

A shopkeeper in at a market in southern Spain selling meat, dried fruit and nuts.

TRACKS TO THERE!

Shot on the Salar de Uyuni (Salt Flats) in Bolivia. It's kind of eerie how the disused rail tracks start at the salt flats and just disappear in to the distance.

Originally built by the British in the late 19th century, the railway was used to carry minerals to the Pacific coast. At more than 3,500 metres (12,000') the climate there is harsh, often windy and nearly always cold. The thin air plays havoc with your body and it's hard to imagine what it must have been like working on a project like this in the 1800's. It's said that the local Aymara population were less than impressed with the efforts and frequently sabatoged the work and subsequently the trains themselves.

The train graveyard, which is close by, has dozens of rusting engines and rolling stock. The whole place is like an interactive museum of engineering. I'll post some images of those up too.

Train tracks on Salar de Uyuni, or Salt Flats in Bolivia. Built in the 19th century, the railroad was used to transport minerals to teh pacific coast.

BOATS AT DAWN

This surreal image was taken from the balcony of the apartment where I used to live, on the south coast of England.

I've had a lot of discussion with people lately about what exactly is travel photography and the conclusion is - whatever you want it to be. I always think of travelling as going somewhere far away, but an image from your own backyard is still a travel photo to someone else (if not you).

This pic had lined itself up a few times but I always missed it. Every week during the summer, the yachts gather and wait for the start of their race. Around September time there is often an early morning mist that only lasts a short amount of time. The effect is magical.

When I finally got myself in to the right place at the right time, I shot a couple of frames and there it was..

A surreal dreamy image of yachts in the early morning mist. Southern England near Eastbourne.

THE OPEN ROAD

TRUCKING THROUGH THE DESERT

I'm not a great lover of light aircraft but during a trip to view the Nasca Lines in Peru this opportunity came up. This area is open and barren desert (which is what has preserved the ancient lines) and the Pan Am highway runs right through the middle of it. So while up in the plane I managed to convince the pilot to do a quick detour to get this shot.

Banking at a steep angle and trying to focus on a moving target is a great deal of fun or terrifying, depending on your preference.

THE OLD BUS

Many people have been asking about the story behind this image.

I came across this relic while on an overland trip through South America and after doing a bit of pretend driving in the cab framed up a shot.

It’s a fascinating composition against the barren landscape. I have no idea how long it had been there or why it was abandoned but it was close to a fuel station. Many of them are left to slowly rot away, especially in Argentina and Patagonia.

Could I find it again?

Probably yes, but there are numerous others we can come across on our Patagonia trip next April. So if you would also like to create a similar image why not join us..


THE FUEL PUMP, PATAGONIA

I should have got a Creative Trails sticker on there first!

I posted this up on our Facebook page recently. All over Patagonia and South America in general there are so many photo opportunities in everyday places.

I love poking around in dusty desert type towns and outposts, there is always something of interest.