“Untitled” by Nicolas Castermans

This mountain stands at 5,000 meters above the sea level in the region of Cusco, Peru. It is known as the “Rainbow Mountain” or “Vinicunca” for the locals in Quechua language. It’s become known to the public and quickly famous just a few years ago (2017, I think). But back in 2015, I was probably one of the first foreigners to discover it while I was exploring the region in autonomy.

I was obviously stunned by these insane colors and transported by the magic of the place… And I couldn’t expect that two years after, from 1,000 to 2,000 people would visit it everyday. I’ve always been sad to see how things have changed, and how mass tourism has slowly destroyed that particular magic. Besides, I hadn’t taken a photo of it that I was happy about.

But in 2019, during a late cloudy afternoon, there was absolutely nobody there. I was finally alone again to enjoy that stunning landscape. I remember that I’ve felt almost the same way as when I was there for the first time. So a simple idea came to me. I wanted to have a representation of how it used to look like before mass tourism arrives. The locals have always been hiking through this pass, from one valley to another, without even paying attention to how insane that mountain is. For them, it is “normal” since they were born in the region…

Then I saw a horse rider coming, from far away. The opportunity was too beautiful. I couldn’t miss that shot. I had time to anticipate where he would walk, to find a spot for myself, to compose my image… The result is simple, this is a straightforward kind of image, but it faithfully represents what I saw and how I felt in 2015.

What do you think are the TWO most impactful features that make your image a good photograph? Don’t be shy!

The first feature that makes the image work to me is obviously the colors of that mountain, and the overall color palette. This is what first attract the viewer’s attention I think. It is not common to see such a landscape. Even the colors of the blankets on the horse match with the ones of the mountain.

But the second most important feature to me is the fact that I didn’t use the Rainbow Mountain as the main subject of the photo. It is not a landscape image. I rather used it as a background, or a decor for my horse rider, to tell a deeper story. The photo has depth, different layers separated by perpendicular diagonal lines, and an obvious leading line created by the trail… So there’s a natural sense of story. Even the furthest mountain peak is perfectly placed on the intersection of these diagonals and tickles the curiosity of the viewer. It is like an invitation to a fairytale world where Mother Earth has done some magic with its painting brush…

If you would be able to make this photo once again, what would be the ONE thing you would like to do better or different?

I’ve already seen this mountain under a snow fall. It was magical. Even more touching. I wish I could have witnessed this scene with more dramatic weather conditions.

Nicolas Castermans shared this photograph in the FRAMES Facebook Group.


Nicolas Castermans, Peru


Equipment and settings

Fujifilm X-T3
Fujinon XF18-55mm F2.8-4

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Comments (2):

  1. Colleen

    November 19, 2021 at 01:52

    Beautifully realized vision of this remarkable place! Thank you for sharing your story!


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