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FOOD FOR THOUGHT: “Perfect Patagonia”, by Ruth Grindrod

In April 2024, I was exceptionally privileged to be able to visit the Torres del Paine National Park in Chile.

I have wanted to visit this region for many years because of its absolute natural beauty, including mountains, glaciers, rivers, and lakes. I chose Autumn as I knew there would be Autumn color and varying light. In addition to witnessing some remarkable landscapes, condors, pumas, and guanacos are prevalent, too. The flying time is around 18 hours from the UK and involves two flights. Flying via Santiago meant a stopover in this diverse, hugely populated city before flying onto the sparsely inhabited wilderness of Patagonia. Due to the distance of the journey, I packed two Nikon camera bodies and a whole range of lenses as I did not want to be without any focal length in a landscape that I won’t be able to visit again in the near future. I can honestly say I used all my equipment to its full extent.

Ruth Grindrod – Mountain Dawn

The one thing that I categorically knew about Patagonia was the ferocity of its wind sometimes reaching 100 miles per hour. There are signs warning people not to venture in certain areas if the wind is such – You will be blown flat!  Luckily, we only experienced this on a couple of occasions and despite not shooting in these conditions, it was good to experience this real element that makes Chilean Patagonia unique.

During the 12-day trip, exquisite dawns were experienced, as well as rich autumn colours spread amongst the many dead trees.  Turquoise and aqua lakes were plentiful often positioned close to the historical ranches still used by Gauchos when herding their sheep on horseback using their trained dogs.

Ruth Grindrod – Patagonia Dawn Colors

Chilean Patagonia is also known for its extensive and sometimes difficult hikes taking the individual through its mountainous terrain and in sometimes dangerous conditions. Many photographers portray this landscape through this perspective. To be honest, as a middle-aged woman who is a dedicated landscape photographer, I know all too well that I would have struggled with 10-mile hikes in such conditions. But does this mean I could not portray or capture the unique essence of Patagonia within my photography? I hope the photographs that accompany this article prove that I can, as can others. My view of landscape photography is a very broad one, which basically means capturing the beauty and essence of nature and the outdoors and, if at all possible, capturing a mood and a feeling of a particular location. Whilst there are many people that go to extremes, including experiencing danger to capture landscapes, that does not have to be, in my view, the only way, as it excludes vast numbers of the population.

Ruth Grindrod – Ranch House

The mountains and the lakes are majestic and even awe-inspiring, and the big vistas are magnificent. However, I found that I wanted to concentrate on some longer exposure work at the many lakes and lagunas, slowing the water down and capturing the luminosity of the varying turquoise and aqua hues with the mountains as a backdrop. In addition, I wanted to show the textures and colors of the waves when they presented themselves. The mountains dominate the landscape from every angle, and the ever-changing weather patterns across the huge peaks and the glaciers create the perfect atmosphere for detailed studies of aspects of these mountains as well as the whole vista. My overall aim was to return to the UK with photos that captured the essence of Chile both in terms of its incredible landscapes but also of some more subtle aspects including the isolated buildings that are dotted about this vast landscape.

Ruth Grindrod – The Avalanche

East of the Torres del Paine National Park, there are a number of estancias, which are privately owned working ranches where the Gauchos still live a traditional life, skilfully riding their horses and herding thousands of sheep and cattle. They maintain many pastimes that date back a century, and within the landscape, there is an array of small buildings that were used both a hundred years ago and still today. I was lucky enough to capture some of these both externally and internally. They are wooden, often have no electricity, and reflect the hard life that the Gauchos live.  Elements of the tough life lived are present within these structures and I chose to portray them honestly within my photography.

Ruth Grindrod – The Horns

The trip flew by and when arriving home I did not open the files for a week or more as I find that you rekindle the excitement more by waiting and reflecting on your trip. I was not disappointed. Hopefully you will not be either. Landscape photography in its broadest terms can and should be for all.  

Ruth Grindrod – The Window and the Chair
Ruth Grindrod – Bed and Line

RUTH GRINDROD

Ruth Grindrod is a landscape photographer currently living in Norfolk, East Anglia, UK. Her work takes her to a variety of locations, but her real passion is coastal photography. She started taking photographs many years ago, but work intruded upon this. In those days, she shot film and processed and printed mono images in a home darkroom.  Her return to serious photography was around a decade ago, and she now shoots digitally and is a firm believer in processing to print. Her awards include Scottish Nature Photographer of the Year overall winner in 2019 plus Sea and Coast winner. She was also one of the winners of the LPOTY 2021 and a Bronze Award winner of PX3 France 2022. She publishes widely in magazines and journals.

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