Uyuni, Salt Flat, Bolivia

Uyuni, Bolivia. was founded in 1890 as a trading post, the town has a population of 21,400. The town has an extensive street-market. It lies at the edge of an extensive plain at an elevation of 3,670 meters above sea level, with more mountainous country to the east.

There is little agriculture in the area because water supplies are scarce and somewhat saline. Today the town’s primary function is as a gateway for tourists visiting the world’s largest salt flats – the Salar de Uyuni. Each year Uyuni receives approximately 60,000 visitors. The city also acts as a gateway for commerce and traffic crossing into and out of Bolivia from and to Chile. Salar is salt flat in Spanish and Uyuni originates from the Aymara language and means a pen (enclosure).

One of the major tourist attractions of the area is an antique train cemetery. It is located 3 km outside Uyuni and is connected to it by the old train tracks. The town served in the past as a distribution hub for the trains carrying minerals on their way to the Pacific Ocean ports. The train lines were built by British engineers who arrived near the end of the 19th century and formed a sizable community in Uyuni. The engineers were invited by British-sponsored Antofagasta and Bolivia Railway Companies, which is now Ferrocarril de Antofagasta a Bolivia. The rail construction started in 1888 and ended in 1892. It was encouraged by the then Bolivian President Aniceto Arce, who believed Bolivia would flourish with a good transport system, but it was also constantly sabotaged by the local Aymara indigenous Indians who saw it as an intrusion into their lives. The trains were mostly used by the mining companies. In the 1940s, the mining industry collapsed, partly due to the mineral depletion. Many trains were abandoned thereby producing the train cemetery.

The Salar de Uyuni  is the world’s largest salt flat at 10,582 square kilometers (4,086 sq mi). It is located in the Potosí and Oruro departments in southwest Bolivia, near the crest of the Andes, and is elevated 3,656 meters (11,995 ft) above  sea level.  The Salar was formed as a result of transformations between several prehistoric lakes. It is covered by a few meters of salt crust, which has an extraordinary flatness with the average altitude variations within one meter over the entire area of the Salar.

The crust serves as a source of salt and covers a pool of brine, which is exceptionally rich in lithium. It contains 50 to 70% of the world’s lithium reserves,which is in the process of being extracted.  The Salar serves as the major transport route across the Bolivian Altiplano and  is also the breeding grounds for three species of pink South American flamingos: the Chilean, Andean and rare James’s Flamingos.

 

It is one of the most stunning sights I have ever seen. I was lucky to have travelled there various times with my job and never tired of it. The openness and the sense that you could get lost is eerie.  The locals mines the salt from the edge of the salt flat and bag it then sell it locally.

It´s also a great place for photographers to experiment with forced perspective photos.

 

During the rainy seaon the water just stays on the salt, it has no where to go and this produces some amazing reflections.

 

Bagging the salt, in a rather unsafe fashion, the flames from the gas bottle seal the plastic bags closed ready for sale. They sit here for 8 hours a day, with no heat at all in crazy cold condition and earn pennies.

The pink here in this photo are the flamingos.

En route to Chile from the Salt Flat.

 

Ingapirca

These are the largest known Inca ruins in Ecuador. The most significant building is the temple of the sun, an elliptically shaped building constructed around a large rock. The building is constructed in the Incan way without mortar. The stones were carefully chiseled and fashioned to fit together perfectly. The temple of the sun was positioned so that on the solstices, at exactly the right time of day, sunlight would fall through the center of the doorway of the small chamber at the top of the temple. Most of this chamber has fallen down.

The Incas were not the first inhabitants of Ingapirca. It had long been settled by the Cañari indigenous people, who called it Hatun Cañar. After the King of the Incas died in Peru, the oldest son took over the kingdom. The younger brother decided to find a place and kingdom of his own. He took his family and followers to the coast of Peru and followed the coastline north to Ecuador. He found his way into the Andes to Hatun Cañar. After much fighting and killing, the Inca dominated the Cañari, but they decided to settle their differences and live together peacefully. They renamed the city and kept most of their individual customs separate. Although the Inca were more numerous, they did not demand that the Cañari give up their autonomy. Eventually they merged into one group.

On his trip from Macchu Picchu to Ingapirca, the younger son developed a taste for fresh fish from the coastal towns. He liked it so much that he had relay runners bring him fresh fish on a daily basis from the coast. At Incapirca they developed a complex underground aqueduct system to provide water to the entire compound.

The people had numerous ritual celebrations. Gallons of a local fermented drink were used in these festivals. As sun and moon worshippers, they tried to be as close to their gods as possible. The weather changes there are usually within minutes of each other, calm and sunny one minute and within fifteen minutes rainy, windy and cold. This climate volatility is typical year round. The people felt strongly that this was the place where the gods had led them, regardless of the climate.

Macro Photography by Tracie Kaska (Guest post)

Macro Photography – What Is It?

What is macro photography? It is close-up photography that produces a digital or film image that is life size or larger than life. With this type of photography you can see texture and detail that the human eye cannot easily detect.

I have been fascinated by this type of photography for as long as I’ve had a camera, so you can imagine my excitement when I recently got my first macro lens. When I first attached it to my camera I expected to go out immediately and take amazing pictures that would wow anyone who saw them. Well, guess what? Macro photography is not as easy as it looks. Macro lenses have a very shallow depth of field, so even the slightest movement can completely throw your focus off. Trust me—I have hundreds of blurry photos to prove it!

So what can you do to improve your chances of getting a decent shot? Here are a few tips that I have found helpful:

1)  If you have one, use a tripod! (I had a choice between getting a tripod or a macro lens and I opted for the lens, not realizing just how important a tripod would be to this kind of photography).

2)  If you don’t have one, all is not lost. Learn to rest your lens in your hand and rest your elbow on a nearby object. Hold your lens firmly, but don’t grip it too hard—your camera will feel the vibrations your tightened muscles make even if you can’t feel it yourself.

3)  Hold your breath. Breathe in, get your focus, and click. There is a word of warning in using this technique, however. If you take to many shots in a row, holding your breath every time, you will make yourself very lightheaded. Take a moment to breathe normally between shots.

4)  Since macro lenses have such a shallow depth-of-field you can increase your shutter speed and still have a nicely blurred background. If the light is good enough, I like to use 1/100th of a second or faster.

5)  Don’t get overly close to your subject. Getting too close to your subject will often cause the foreground to blur. In a landscape photograph this can be fine, even desired, but when you are doing close-ups, your foreground is generally part of the subject you are trying to capture. If you want a tighter shot, it is better to do a little cropping in your photo editing program that to another photo to clutter your recycle bin.

6)  And lastly, if your subject is flat enough and you want the whole thing in focus, make sure your lens is parallel to your subject.

There is much more to mastering the art of macro photography, but these tips are some that I’ve picked up through trial and error. The very best advice I can give is: Practice! Get your camera out every day and just keep snapping. Before you know it, you’ll have a portfolio you’ll be excited to share with others.

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Just for Laughs

Going through some old photos I took when in Africa, I remembered the fun I had taking the backsides of loads of animals. You may ask why the backsides? Simple, the animals where more interesed in running away than posing and photographing their nicer end was sometimes dificult so I came up with an alternative. I shot the backsides, I had great fun doing so and in my 5+ months on this amazing continent I took loads and loads of them. I would like to share a few.

I was only a few feet from this rhino, but I couldn´t exactly run around the otherside to see it´s face, so backside it was. This was during as walking tour in Zimbabwe, yes thats right, I was nowhere near a vehicle at the time. My heart was beating fast and the adrenaline was flowing, and unforgetable experience.

These two cuties were taking a stroll along the road, this time we were in a vehicle, and we had to wait for sometime before they let us pass. Mum was probably not too far away. Kenya.

This chap was part of a large family, again all walking away from us. Kenya.

Remember the Lion King? Pumbaa makes an entrance along this road in South Africa, they actually do smell bad,but  I thought they were rather cute.

Wow, there were so many more than I could get in with the current lens I had on my camera and no time to change, Kenya

This is just a cute photo, they were going nowhere, more interested in rubbing each others necks, but at the time, I could´t resist in getting my classic backside shot. Kenya.

I was at the tail end of the annual migration, so there were still loads of zebras and other animals in massive herds, another classic backside. Tanzania

Leading Lines

Leading lines in photography can be a powerful compositional tool. This simple technique helps a photographer bring the viewer’s eye to a focal point, and gives a picture an overall structure in terms of layout.

Basically, any time there is a strong line in a photograph, the spectator’s eye will naturally follow along it. This can be anything from a man-made object like a telephone pole or a road, to a natural object such as a tree or even a dark shadow. You can also pose people so that their posture creates this kind of focal point.

You can use this technique to control the viewer’s experience in a way that creates harmony or symmetry, by using one line to create a peaceful narrative. Or, you can create tension and drama by having intersecting or competing lines that fight for a spectator’s focus. When you master this compositional trick, you have vastly more control over how the emotional content of your photos will be perceived.

You can use them to give a picture a feeling of motion, by creating a visual narrative that leads the eye on a dynamic journey. Some photographers use them as guideposts that actually draw the viewer’s attention across the photo to the edge of the image, and suggests a focal point beyond the picture’s frame.