Fotoeins Fotopress

One photo at a time – one journey to last a lifetime

Posts from the ‘South America’ category

Chilean morning send-off: under the Andes with Atacama minions

Cerro Tololo, Región de Coquimbo, Chile

Valley morning fog below Andean foothills

The “rays of God” mark the first light of dawn. Sounds come scarce, piercing the silence with soft whistles and drawn-out wails. The nighttime cotton blanket pulls back slowly; small puffs break loose from low-lying areas and push west towards the Pacific.

The sun climbs higher, shadows grow shorter, and morning fog parts. A spectacular view is unveiled at a height of over 2000 metres. Dry river beds twist and stretch along canyon floors. Cactus and desert scrub blanket neighbouring hills in faded greens and dusty browns. To the east rise jagged teeth capped with white frosting, fixing the location of the Andes along the Chilean spine.

I wonder about the brave souls who make their home in this part of the Atacama desert. They’re farmers, prospectors, and miners, carrying individual loads for financial endeavour. People have always been digging: plant, mineral, or any kind of pay dirt.

There’s another human enterprise, one that looks up into clear skies and seeks different rewards. People come to ask questions of the universe. How do planets take shape? How do stars form? How are galaxies assembled? How far back in time can we look back? These concerns occupy guest astronomers here on the summit of Cerro Tololo, the telescopes pointed up, reaching for elusive answers.

Cerro Tololo, Región de Coquimbo, Chile

Illuminated telescope domes on Tololo

I’ve never gotten bored of Chilean sunrises, impressive as always over the great cordillera beyond. Fifteen years will pass, and every sunrise is a marvel. I’ll witness hundreds of Andean sunrises, but today’s sunrise is different.

I’m leaving the mountain for the last time, and soon, I will leave astronomy.

All the signs indicate changing course, although continuing was a safer bet. I’ve fought against changing times and priorities. Grief over my loss eventually transformed into great relief, and I’m fortunate to have departed science on my own. I have no regrets about my time as astronomer, but I’m likely never coming back.

I’ve a new imperative and a new journey: to take on a full year of travel with visits to family and friends around the world. I’m okay jumping into the unknown with many questions and few replies.

Some furry four-legged creatures arrive to greet the morning on Tololo. A scruffy mountain goat appears to check out the hubbub. Three diminutive desert foxes join the party, but they soon leave disappointed, their attempts at begging for food thwarted.

With a smile, I wave at their retreating backs.

It’s fitting validation, a final valediction.

Cerro Tololo, Región de Coquimbo, Chile

Mountain goat (cabra) on sentry

Cerro Tololo, Región de Coquimbo, Chile

Yappy desert foxes (zorros culpeos)

More from Chile

•   Fotoeins Friday: Asleep at the Atacama view
•   Chile’s Elqui River: World Tourism Day

I made all of the photos above. A version of this story appears on World Nomads. The present version appears on Fotoeins Fotopress at, and also appears as part of the Sunday Traveler series.

Fotoeins Friday: Asleep at the Atacama view

Chile’s Elqui River: World Tourism Day

Embalse Puclaro, Region de Coquimbo, Chile

27 September 2013 has been earmarked by the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) as “World Tourism Day 2013″. Various tweets throughout the day have highlighted responsible water usage around the world.

The Elqui River in north-central Chile begins in the mountains of the lower Andes, and flows west to the Pacific along the southern edge of the Atacama desert through the towns of Vicuña and La Serena. The average annual total rainfall in La Serena is 10 to 13 cm (4 to 5 inches), less than one-tenth of the total for Vancouver, Canada.

The Elqui was dammed by 1999 to control water usage by farms in the lower valley and by pisco vinyards in the upper valley; however, construction of the dam displaced people in small low-lying towns on both sides of the river. Behind the dam in the Embalse or reservoir Puclaro (photo above), the water level has declined with lower annual snowfall in the mountains above and higher usage by farms and the increasing population below. The price for water continues to rise due to competition from mines, farms, and the growing population. Numerous research visits and five years living in La Serena emphasized the contrast of the importance of water to people’s lives in the region with the dominant presence of the neighbouring Atacama.

I made the photo above on 9 August 2008; the photo is also available here. This post appears on Fotoeins Fotopress at

7 SuperShots: fotoeins’ super-7

Thanks to Christina Hegele’s kind nomination in her post, I’m participating in “7 Supershots”, organized by the folks at HostelBookers.

I’ve had a lot of fun with this exercise, as I’ve had to peruse and think, select and ruminate through a truckload of photos. I hope you enjoy my “super seven”!

1. “A photo that … takes my breath away”

Prague at night, Prag, Praha, Czech Republic

Míšeňská, Malá Strana, Prague, Czech Republic – 9 October 2009

This has always been one of my favourites, because the photo always evokes memories of the “open city that is the museum itself”. At night, the place calms down, and visitors and residents head back inside. In my view, the late hour is the best time to explore the beautifully illuminated parts of Prague.

2. “A photo that … makes me laugh or smile”

Sandtorhafen at sunset, Hamburg, Germany

Speicherstadt, Hamburg, Germany – 2 October 2011

As the sun set over Hamburg harbour, I caught sight of this young family in silhouette on one of the bridges in the Sandtorhafen district. I like the juxtaposition of living people big and small with the mechanical cranes of the working port in the background.

3. “A photo that … makes me dream”

Vaxholm, Stockholm archipelago, Sweden

Vaxholm, Sweden – 26 June 2008

It’s summertime in Stockholm’s archipelago – long hours in the warm sun, beautiful blue skies, smooth calm waters, cozy cottages on little islands, with boats darting here and there. I dream of spending summers in Scandinavia – how about you?

4. “A photo that … makes me think”

Opera House, Sydney, Australia

Tiles on the Opera House, Sydney, Australia – 8 October 2010

When you hear the words “Sydney Opera House”, the curved shells which make up the roof come to mind. But you don’t often think about the details. The symmetry and geometry shown here come from the individual glazed ceramic tiles which make up the shell-roof surface.

5. “A photo that … makes my mouth water”

Hon's Wun-tun House, Vancouver, Canada

Hon’s Wun-tun House, Vancouver, Canada – 4 May 2010

It seems all too simple: pork and shrimp dumplings, soft thin egg noodles, chopped green onions, all in a light savory broth. Once a favourite meal as a boy, I’ll now devour bowls of wun-tun noodle soup. That is, if I’m not distracted by the BBQ-pork rice-plate …

6. “A photo that … tells a story”

Grouse Mountain, North Vancouver, BC, Canada

Grouse Mountain, North Vancouver, Canada – 7 February 2012

The “blind” skiier is at the top of the downhill run called “The Cut” (easy-level); their seeing-guide is in front and off to the left. Did blindness come early or later in life? Has this person always skiied? If not, how did they learn? What other senses are accentuated while skiing?

7. “A photo about which I am most proud (a.k.a. shot worthy of National Geographic)”

lights, Coquimbo, La Serena, Chile

The lights of Coquimbo from La Serena, Chile – 7 May 2011

By experimenting with “focus-pull” on a zoom-lens and a steady tripod, I wanted to see how the lights in neighbouring Coquimbo would appear on photographs with minute-long exposure times. As you can see here, I was satisfied with the result.

What do you think? If you have any favourite(s), please take a moment and leave your impressions in the comments below.

Although they may already have existing requests, I’m still passing the torch to the following people:

  1. A Dangerous Business – Amanda Williams
  2. Cheryl Howard
  3. Monkeys, Mountains and Maultaschen – Laurel Robbins
  4. Nomadic Samuel – Samuel Jeffery

I made all of the photos shown above with the Canon EOS450D (XSi) camera. This post appears on Fotoeins Fotopress (

A video message from me to you

La Serena, Chile – Tuesday, December 20, 2011 : 1915h CLST (2215h UTC).

This piece of tomfoolery (poor tom) appears originally on Fotoeins Fotopress (


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 2,094 other followers

%d bloggers like this: