An epic photography workshop spanning 12 days in Chile and Argentina. October 29 - November 10, 2019

On a frigid and picture perfect morning at 05:19 am, Cerro Torre at blue hour with it's reflection in Logo Torres and floating ice broken off of the glacier

Preparation for this incredable trip began back in May with a lot of questions on what camera gear to take, what to wear for the “spring” weather down in the Southern Hemisphere and how to pack, especially the 40 LB backpack that would be used on a daily basis for photography, and for the two day hike up to Lago Torres from El Chalten that had to include a tent, food, water and of coarse, the camera gear with tripod. My preparation, or so I thought was loading up the backpack and walking between 5 and 7 miles around the neighborhood usually twice a week to get in shape. Or so I thought! Investing in the appropriate clothing with sensible layers, jackets and rain gear was well worth the investment. I needed every bit of it!

This Hudson Henry photography workshop included the Patagonia areas in southern Chile and Argentina. We all flew into Punta Arenas via Santiago, Chile from the USA, then traveled in the two vans into Torres Del Paine National Park where we spent a few days photographing several spectacular locations.  We then crossed the border via a kilometer or two of “no mans land” between Chile and Argentina, then up into the small mountaineering town of El Chalten, Argentina to see and witness the famed mountain peaks of Cerro Torre and Cerro Fitz Roy before returning to out last stop, the town of El Calafate and the famous Peito Merino Glacier with its 70 meter tall glacier ice walls. The final leg was the flight from El Calafate to Buenos Ares, switch airports, then the long trek back to the USA and our respective cities.

The Hudson Henry video below provides a great summary of the people and places we photographed. The amazing group are Hudson Henry, David Archer, Lynn Hackett, Roman Swartz, CJ Glynn, Dave Hancock, Bill Wallace, Bob Wightman, Sam Scott & myself. Our typical day was up at 4:30 am, hit the road by 5 am to go and shoot the day’s sunrise. Back to the hotel for breakfast and discuss the next spot to shoot. We would either skip lunch or eat somewhere along the way then prepare for the evening sunset shoot and back to the hotel around 9 pm. The long days were always packed with fun and we witnessed some of the most amazing scenery you could possibly wish to see in sometimes crazy weather, cold, rain and windy with one day having 120 KPH or 75 MPH wind. None of this craziness effect our quest to photographing whatever presented itself in the moment. 

Enjoy the video and a few of the 6,000 or so photographs I took, including a few from others in the group. The photo credit follows the caption in each group photos used.

Enjoy the chronological sequence beginning in Punta Arenas, Chile and ending in El Calafate, Argentina

What an awesome group; L-R are: Bill Wallace, Sam Scott, Roman Swartz, CJ Glynn, Ken Scheepers, Hudson Henry, David Archer, Lynn Hackett, Bob Wightman, Dave Hancock

Day 1. Punta Arenas, Chile

Punta Arenas, with a population of around 125,000,  is a city near the tip of Chile’s southernmost Patagonia region. Located on the Strait of Magellan, which connects the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, it’s often used as a base for excursions to the surrounding wilderness and Antarctica. The Plaza Muñoz Gamero has a memorial to explorer Ferdinand Magellan, and the Museo Nao Victoria features a replica of one of his galleons.

Day 2. Puerto Natales to Torres del Paine National Park, Chile

From Punta Arenas, it was approximately a 3-hour drive to Puerto Natales, the first stop for lunch, made to order pizza and cold beer, walking around near the town square and taking photographs, then finishing up down at an old pier to capture what would be our first dramatic cloud covered mountain scenes of this adventure. Back into the vans, it was another few hours of driving into Torres del Paine National Park, where we would spend the next four days capturing images of one of the most spectacular places on earth.

Day 3. Torres Del Paine National Park, Chile

Drama on our first day in the Park, we would learn that our original hotel reservation at Hotel Pehoe (seen in the picture below) was cancelled as it had been closed for failing an inspection, so, plan B was created an would have the group spend one night at Hotel Los Torres, which was slightly out of the way, and the rest of the time at Rio Serrano Hotel and Spa, an upgrade, a great location and rooms with wonderful staff and great food.

Day 4. Torres del Paine National Park Sunset

Torres del Paine is an amazing National Park with 360 degree views of all kinds of photographic opportunities. The dramatic clouds that are ever present make for spectacular photographs and time-lapse videos at dawn and sunset.

Torres del Paine at dawn taken from the elevated perch overlooking Lake Pehoe and it turquoise water

Day 5. Sunrise at Serrano Hotel & Spa

We did not go out this morning for our usual sunrise shoot so a couple of us walked into the back of the hotel grounds and captured an amazing sunrise with a fresh dusting of snow on the mountain tops and of a few birds and a big rabbit. The morning was a good time for us to get together and review some of our images taken up until this time. The “downtime” also inspired us to take a group shot dresses in the spa gowns. This idea came about after we saw many hotel guests walking in the hotel lobby, headed to the spa with their Snow White legs and all! It was cold and windy but we went ahead, with the hotel guest looking out of the windows wondering what this crazy group was up to? Hudson’s tripod and camera blew over and fortunately, no damage to the Z7 and the 75-200mm lens.

The “milder” weather didn’t last long as the wind picked up and was gusting to 75 MPH. at times. We would later head to the Salto Grande waterfall and photograph an amazing fall and capture a herd of Guannaco trying to shield themselves from the wind by loitering on the leeward side of the hill.

Day 5. Salto Grande Water Fall

Although the weather started to worsen with high winds and rain, we soldered on to the Salto Grande water fall. Although it turned out to be cold and wet, we managed to take some amazing shots while enjoying several laughable moments when the 75 MPH winds about blew some of us over.

Day 6. Travel to Argentina & Dawn at Rio Serrano Hotel

The dawn morning was spectacular following an overnight  fresh dusting of snow on the mountain peaks. The clouds were dramatic as usual, but with the sun peeping through the clouds was magical. As usual, early mornings alway have a bunch of birds flying around to photograph which made for a pleasant way to start this day, before we hit the road on our way from Torres del Paine National Park in Chile, and onto to El Chalten, Argentina

Day 6. Road trip to El Chalaten

The road trip out of Torres del Paine National Park took us past the Mirador del Nordenskjold turnout again, stopping so I could retake pictures of the area that I accidentally deleted from the first time were passed the area. The next unplanned stop was a small lake where we observed flamingos and other migratory birds resting so out with the cameras! From here, the drive up to the small border town of Cerro Castillo where we had lunch and purchased a few items to rid of the remaining Chilean currency. After passing through the Chilean Border Custom, we drove few kilometers through no mans land (literally) and into Argentina. Both customs experiences were a breeze and once we were in Argentinian, there were a few more hours of driving, stopping once for diesel and power steering fluid, and then finally into the town of El Chalten. We checked into our hotel then immediately headed out to a place a few kilometers south of town we called “The Hill”. It had an elevated bank to shoot from where we would photograph sunrise and sunset  almost every day.

Day 7. Sunrise from The Hill, the Town of El Chalten and Sunset this day.

Our dawn shoot at this location south of El Chalten on Road 23 we referred to as “The Hill”, would be the location we would frequent twice daily for the duration  of our stay for both, dawn and dusk, waiting for the magical moment for Cerro Torres and Fitz Roy to expose themselves out of the clouds. We would have to wait until our last day! This would also be the first time I began time-lapse photography, and something I would be ragged on the remainder of the trip!

A dramatic sunrise taken from a few miles south of El Chalten at a spot we name "The Hill"

Day 7. El Chalten and Cascade del Salto Waterfall

This waterfall is just a couple of miles due north of El Chalten and a short walk from the car park turnout. After this shoot, it was back to town and head to a highly recommended Italian restaurant, and boy, it was as good as it gets. The ambiance was delightful and rustic with all of the Argentinian Malbec verities on display. Once again, an awesome meal and fine wine made the day.

Day 8. El Chalten.

Due to rain, we did not do a sunrise shoot and instead, made plans to go back to the Rio De la Cascade Falls and reshoot it from a different vantage point. On the way out, we saw several woodpeckers in the forest and spent a few minutes stalking them! After lunch we headed out to a different location but conditions were not that good so we took o few shots and called it a day.

Day 9. El Chalten town an afternoon hike up to Mirador Fitz Roy and back

We departed the hotel around 11:15 am and walked through town to the hike entrance then headed up to the trail. Early in the hike provided a great vantage point looking south of the town from not too high up. Rather busy at times whined helped conserve a little energy and rest.

About half way up, I took a series of hand-held shots to composer this pano of the Rio de las Vueltas River valley below

Day 9. The Waterfall

Hiking to this remote location off the beaten path was such a rewarding experience. Unfortunately, none of us had a tripod so we had to improvise. My only option was to set the camera’s L bracket down on a rock and hold it with an exposure setting that created these images.  As we had no control of the clouds, Fitz Roy’s silhouette had to be good enough!

Day 10. Sunrise at The Hill

Day 10 Sunrise looking north was an amazing sight to see with such dramatic cloud cover. Mt Fitz Roy & Cerro Torres are hiding in the clouds

Day 11. Hike from El Chalten up to Lago Torre & Camp Base De Agostini

The hike, with an awesome guide, Gaston, leading our group from El Chalten to the Campsite De Agostini Base that took us approximately four hours with an elevation increase of roughly 230 meters. We stopped a few times along the way to rest, snack and take a few pictures. The terrain was steep in the beginning but all in all, it wasn’t too bad. Once we arrived at the campsite, we erected our tents then headed up to the lake. It was an incredible site and the grandeur and scale of this marvel is amazing. The size of the rocks are massive, and only with a person in the image provides some sort of scale as a reference. It was FREEZING, especially my finger tips from having to take my gloves off to operate the camera. However, as the evening drew nearer, the clouds began to lift, and we knew then, that the night and next morning would be magical. It sure as hell was picture perfect!

Day 10. Dusk photo shoot at Lago Torres

Day 11. Lago Torre and the hike back to El Chalten

This 11th day started off being the most spectacular of all. The 4 am wake up call to photograph Blue Hour and the Sunrise in one of the best places I have ever witnessed in person, along with ten other friends who thought the same thing. Between time lapse and “normal” photographs, I bet I took over 200 in the 2.5 hours we spent up at the lake.

On the very cold morning, this Blue Hour photograph is one of my favorites taken at 4:51 am. 20mm Prime, ISO 64, f/1.8, 30 second shutter speed

Getting up at 4 am on this day yielded the best morning we had had on the entire trip. Although it was freezing cold, it was literally picture perfect and my only regret was that I did not have the focus perfect. I stated out on the top of the lake wall looking down and as the morning progress with the changing colors and light, I relocated to different vantage points so not every image would be the same. I was also able to squeeze in some time-lapse images using the D610 with the 20mm lens.

A Pano composed from 7 hand-held photographs take at 5:24 am. 20mm Prime Lens, ISO 64, f/1.8, 2.0 seconds

Day 11. Back at the campsite for breakfast, coffee, then pack up and head back to El Chalten

Once back at the campsite after our dawn/sunrise shoot, we had some much needed hot coffee and hot, dehydrated egg, breakfast sausage and hash brown. Damn, it was good! Then we celebrated Sam Scott’s birthday, first out guide Gaston opened a bottle of champagne that was followed by a toast. Then Sam made an amazing speech that was very moving and genuine, and I know every single one of us had a tear in at least one eye. Both of mine were teared up! The feeling and the overwhelming sense of sincerity, in this location, was amazing and something I don’t think any one of us had anticipated or was prepared for. Then it was folding up the tents and packing up for the hike back on a slightly different and scenic path back to El Chalten.

Day 11. Hiking out of Lago Torre on the northern bank with Cerro Torre behind me, high up for a great view

Day 12. Departing El Chalten and to the final stop, El Calafate, Argentina

We could not have been presented with a better crisp morning to leave El Chalten which happens to be my favorite small mountaineering town that offered our group some of the most spectacular landscapes I have ever seen. Awesome hotel, people, restaurants and the food and cold beer were outstanding. From hear, we headed south for the 3 hour drive around Lake Videma and Lake Argintino and into the town of El Calafate, check into our final hotel and the explore the town itself and then head to Glacier Perito Moreno in the Glacier National Park.

We would also end this final day with a fantastic “Last Supper” at a fantastic restaurant that served up the local BBQ Lamb and fine wine.

As photographers, it was tough not to stop along the way to photograph and capture the infamous “Road Shot” of Fitz Roy and more wonderful sights plus an awesome lunch in town, and then down to the Glacier to see if we could capture the glacier calving. Luckily, I was able to catch a “small” piece of the glacier ice falling and splashing into Lake Argentina.

Departing El Chalten en route to El Calafate

Glacier P Moreno

Our final dinner together dubbed "THE LAST SUPPER"

Throughout this wonderful adventure, I had mentioned to the group that I was not going the leave Argentina without eating their famous BBQ Lamb, roasted on an open wood fire on a spit at about a 15 degree angle. As fate would have it, I HAD TO WAIT TO THE VERY LAST DAY! Well, it was worth the wait and needless to say, it went down even better with some mighty fine Argentinian Malbecb and a great desert.

The end of an epic photography workshop