Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Trips’ Category

The Emu in the Sky

The Emu in the Sky

What happens when you find yourself standing in the middle of the night at 800 meters high, with little or no humidity and more than 200km away from the nearest artificial light-source? Welcome to one of the best nigh skies in the world, at the Somuncura plateau in the Argentinian Patagonia.

There is a scale to measure the quality of the night sky called “the Bortle  Dark Sky Scale” in that scale Somuncura is a class 1 zone, there’s not a single lightbulb in hundreds of kilometers around you!

From Scorpius to Orion

From Scorpius to Orion

If you are used to the horrible pink glow of urban or suburban skies you will notice several differences in a class 1 sky. The first one is that you can’t see! And I really mean it, on a moonless night you can put your hand in front of your face and you won’t see it. Interesting!. Several deep sky objects are easily seen with the naked eye. The Magellan clouds are very bright and the Milky Way is stunning. The Orion Nebula is fuzzy and easy and of course you see thousands of stars. Something that really caught my attention was how the dark coalsack  nebula next to the southern cross contrasted against the Milky Way. It was deep black against an ocean of stars.

The Light of the Milky Way

The Light of the Milky Way

The Milky Way is so bright that it casts shadows and can be used as a light-source. This panorama is Milky-Way lit, no moon, no artificial lights no other light source in hundreds of kilometers. I blogged about this before in a post called “The Light of the Milky Way“.

The Celestial Equator

The Celestial Equator

One inmediate effect of darkness is that you can take a really long exposure photo without blowing the sky, at the place where I live I can expose the sky for about 30 seconds, at Somuncura I could expose for 2 hours and the photo had still room for more photons! This is very nice but caught me totally off guard and I run into several technical problems with my remotes, batteries and supporting gear because I wasn’t trained for such long exposures.

Meteor at Somuncura

Meteor at Somuncura

My final paragraph is for meteors or shooting stars. I visited the plateau in March far away from any significant or even small meteor shower. Even then it was very easy to catch a few sporadic meteors jut by grazing at the sky for some time. I even got a nice bolide in one photo jus by pure luck. I can’t imagine how a meteor shower would look under these skies but I would love to be there for one.

Read Full Post »

Laguna Blanca and Cerro Corona

Laguna Blanca and Cerro Corona

The Somuncura Plateau is a large and almost unexplored part of the Argentinian Patagonia. It’s between the coast on the East popular for the beaches and the whales and the mountains on the west popular for the ski, snow, lakes and glaciers. In the middle we have this gigantic piece of basalt formed millions of years ago by volcanos that are now extinct.

Somuncura

Somuncura

In this remote location at about 800 meters above sea level the weather is very extreme and random, you can have more tan 40C in the Summer and -20C in the winter, it can snow at almost any time of the year and winds above 60km/h are constant. Rain is very rare making water a very precious resource.

Difficult Roads

Difficult Roads

Only a few brave people live in this place where distance is measured in horse-hours, sometimes in days. The roads are made by hand removing the rocks one by one until a path is cleared, they are difficult and only accessible with 4×4 vehicles and horses. Most people live from their animals struggling to survive day after day without electricity, gas or any form of service. At some points of the plateau you will be more than 200km away from the nearest inhabited place.I’m not a “people” photographer but their stories really deserve attention and respect, a lot of respect.

The Centinel

The Centinel

Only a few species make the Somuncura Plateau their home, there are a lot of Guanacos, very shy from people as they are hunted for their fur and sometimes meat. The majestic Condor can be seen at some specific locations of the Plateau. All the other forms of life are small rodents, mammals and the typical plants you can find at the desert.

The Pointed One

The Pointed One

The terrain is mostly flat with a few volcanic cones here and there. The highest elevations are from “Cerro Puntudo” at around 1600 meters, “Cerro Corona Grande” and “Cerro Corona Chico” are also prominent. All these are extinct volcanos with the classical conic shape of a stratovolcano, that’s why basaltic lava is so common in the soil. You can also find very large rocks in the middle of the plateau that could have been ejected from a volcanic eruption many millions of years ago.

The Pearl

The Pearl

There are only a few permanent bodies of water at the plateau, “Laguna Azul” is one of the biggest ones connected perhaps to an underground reservoir but even the it’s becoming smaller and smaller year after year. The lagoon is in the middle of an almost perfectly circular volcanic crater. Basalt, pumice and obsidian rocks are commonly found and used by the people that live here to make tools and construct their homes.

The Somuncura Plateau has one of the best night skies in the world but I’ll leave that for the next post.

You can find more photos about this magical place at my website. I’ve made a slideshow here: http://www.luisargerich.com/somuncura-2011

If you want to visit this or any other place in Patagonia I recomend this company: http://www.rupestrepatagonia.com.ar/ I think they are the only company with a real permit to visit the Somuncura Plateau as the area is protected.

Read Full Post »

Boca de la Sierra

Fog at the Sierras

Fog at the Sierras

Boca de la Sierra is the name of a place near Azul in Buenos Aires, Argentina. The place is just 330km away from the city but is so exotic and interesting that it seems you have traveled ten times that distance.  The sierras are part of the Tandilia system extending from Olavarria to the atlantic ocean between Mar del Plata and Miramar.

How it Happened

How it Happened

The rocks are more than 2000 million years old, they are among the oldest rock formations on earth. Many millions of years ago this system was as high as the Himalayas or even higher but today the highest peaks are just 500 meters high. That’s the effect of millions of years of erosion. Boulders such as the one in this picture are mysteriously scattered around the peaks, they were probably shaped by wind and water and then fell from their location to the places where they rest today.

The Great Light Slide

The Great Light Slide

On a foggy morning light can play many tricks with the fog and the hills,  in this photo the sun was just rising behind the hills and the patch of fog created the effect of light sliding down the hills. I think the conditions for this are not very frequent so I consider myself lucky to have been there.

Twilight Conjunction

Twilight Conjunction

At twilight the sierras create shapes that can be used as silhouettes for the sky, the clean air and an earlier storm depleted the atmosphere from dust particles so the sunset wasn’t very remarkable, just a band of color above the horizon. The Moon and Venus were in conjunction just above the landscape. Venus was very bright casting weak shadows.

Sunset at the Sierras

Sunset at the Sierras

The combination of hills, rocks that are millions of years old and clean air make this a very special place that is really worth visiting for landscape photographers near Buenos Aires. I plan to visit this place quite often as I found it really an enjoyable experience.

Read Full Post »

Miramar

Miramar Equinox

Miramar Equinox

Miramar is a coastal city at about 450km from Buenos Aires. It’s 50km south of Mar del Plata, the main coastal city in the province of Buenos Aires and a popular touristic destination in the Summer months: January & February in the Southern Hemisphere.  Miramar is a short drive from rocky beaches, surf spots, cliffs, hills and coastal forests and that means I really like the city for landscape photography.

About Clouds, Water and Rocks

About Clouds, Water and Rocks

The Tandilia System enters the Ocean between Mar del Plata and Miramar creating low rock formations near the coast, those rocky formations create small tidal pools, arches and other small geologic features that can be used as foreground elements in landscape shots. I specially like to search for reflected sunrise or sunset light in the tidal pools.

Electric Sunrise

Electric Sunrise

The Ocean is quite unpredictable at Miramar, it can be calm most of the time and quite brave during a storm or when the wind blows high. Waves are never really big but the conditions can get quite rough. This leads to interesting photographic opportunities but it also means a lot of trouble protecting the gear from the sea mist, sand and the winds. One problem I always have is that the sand moves with each wave creating problems in long exposure shots as the tripod is never totally stable.

Not in Mars!

Not in Mars!

Small sandstone formations surround part of the coastal area of Miramar, the cliffs are really small to the south of the city and get bigger to the North. The small sandstone formations can create beautiful shapes to be used at night or when the low light of the rising sun hits the rocks.

The First Wave

The First Wave

Since the city is facing East / NorthEast the best photo shots at the beach are in the morning with the sun rising above the ocean however there is a small window in the month of December where the sun sets over the ocean in the southern beaches, those are mostly empty and surrounded by rocky formations. December is also a beautiful  month to visit Miramar, the weather is warm and the tourists haven’t arrived yet.

Peninsula

Peninsula

One interesting thing about these rocks is that they are among the oldest geological formations on earth. The tandilia system is actually more than 2000 million years old, it was as high as the himalayas many millions of years ago but today the highest formations are about 500 meters high. The rocks that enter the ocean are eroded remains of mountains that were as high as mt Everest, that’s something to think about when you take or see a picture of them.

I have more images from Miramar on my website: http://www.luisargerich.com

Read Full Post »

 

The Forest's Energy

The Forest's Energy

 

 

This is a very strange forest between Miramar and Mar del Sur in Argentina.  Some people claim this forest is on top of a geomagnetic anomaly and that it is one of just a few “energy” spots in the planet. So they visit the forest, hug trees and arrange strange balancing experiments with branches. They also claim the place was studied by NASA and scientists from different institutions around the globe. You can believe or not, I have my doubts.  What is true is that it’s a very nice closed forest just next to the ocean, the trees are so packed that almost no light reaches the ground even on a sunny day. For the first photo I used the old-fashioned zooming method trying to depict the “energy” of the place. It took me several attempts to get a result I liked.

 

This Way Out?

This Way Out?

 

 

Every place inside this forest looks almost exactly the same so you can get disoriented quickly. The good news is that the forest is small so there is no real risk of getting lost. You just walk in a straight line and you will find the ocean, the highway or the end of the forest.

 

The Location

The Location

 

 

The Satellite image shows how close to the ocean the forest is, I think there are not that many closed forest right next to the ocean in the world so there you have a fact that is really interesting and doesn’t rely on any belief.  The place even has a nice sign reading “Bosque Energetico” (“Energy Forest”) so it’s very easy to find.  After many visits to photograph the forest my energy level must be quite high!

Read Full Post »

Strike One

Strike One

It was a calm day without any storm forecasted, I was already at my cabin getting ready for dinner when I suddenly saw bolts of light at the horizon  from the window and the race started. I put a 17-40 lens on my camera, set the camera on the tripod, pre focus to infinity and then raced to the beach just 400 meters away from my cabin. All the shots were taken with a Canon 5DII and a 17-40mm lens at F4, ISO400 and 30 second exposures using a remote release.

Strike Two

Strike Two

I started to “hunt” for lightning taking 30 second exposures aiming the camera at a random direction, after the first lightning I was surprised to discover I was just under a very interesting super-cell type cloud. I just didn’t see it before because it was too dark!. The first shot was a nice bolt in the middle of the frame. The second one was very big and  just too close!

Strike Three

Strike Three

I kept shooting trying to see If I could get several bolts of lightning in the same frame. Photographing lightning is a little random, you just aim the camera at the storm and fire long exposures hoping to hunt something good, I was lucky to get several good frames from this storm. But in the middle of the shooting what I didn’t notice was that the storm was coming directly towards me.

Bolt & Arc

Bolt & Arc

Once I realized the storm was coming I noted I was standing right next to a big metal tripod in the middle of a desert beach with a big storm coming. Not good!. I started my race back, believe me I didn’t feel very good running back carrying the tripod over my shoulders in the middle of the fireworks but nothing bad happened. As soon as I closed the door of my cabin heavy rain started falling. I love watching and reading about storm hunting but I never realized who was really the hunter.

More of my weather photos at my website.

Read Full Post »

San Eduardo del Mar Panorama

San Eduardo del Mar Panorama

San Eduardo del Mar is a very small coastal town between Miramar and Mar del Plata in the province of Buenos Aires, Argentina. It’s very easy to reach from either city by route #11. Once there the town is just a group of houses and you will see a very small dirt road that leads to the beach. The cliffs at the beach of San Eduardo are the interesting thing.

Fossil Tears

Fossil Tears

The cliffs of San Eduardo are made of soft sandstone and have many, many fossils. The fossils are the rests of sea mammals, fish and crustacea that were fossilized into the sandstone when the area was covered by the sea. The cliffs are about 20 meters high and there are many crossing patterns from the beach to the road.

Fossils from San Eduardo

Fossils from San Eduardo

Exploring the fossils embedded in the sandstone leads to many photographic opportunities, the sandstone has a rich reddish colour and the fossils are white producing a very interesting contrast. Most of the fossils are in excellent shape with plenty of details, you can recognize many of them as jaws or whale bones. I’m not a paleontologist but I think some of these bones have very curious sharp marks, maybe signs of a bite by a predator like a shark or an Orca?

Cliffs at San Eduardo

Cliffs at San Eduardo

This is a panoramic view of the cliffs, several images were taken in vertical format and then stitched together to make a wide panorama. The complete field of view exceeds 180 degrees. It’s easy to see the bones as white patches in the red sandstone. It’s fun to go fossil hunting in the full resolution photo.

The Beach at San Eduardo

The Beach at San Eduardo

The beach at San Eduardo is almost featureless with small rocks and pebbles that can be used as foreground elements in landscapes. It’s a wonderful area to photograph at sunrise when the rising sun light hits the cliffs turning the already reddish sandstone into a martian landscape. The beach is quiet, almost empty during most of the year, you can walk for miles and miles without finding a soul while examining the rocks, the fossils and the beautiful landscape. A very nice place for a short visit if you are in the area.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »