Tag Archives: Peru

Big News

The big news is that I will be having an exhibition of the photographs I made a year ago in Antarctica at the Art Gallery on the University of New England’s Portland Campus. The doors will open January 26, 2017 and the work will be hanging until April 23, 2017. We have yet to decide on dates for an opening or closing party or gallery talks or other events. At least the dates have been locked in place.

How did this come together? In this case I edited down from the original 3,000 or so RAW frames made during the three weeks aboard Pelagic Australis to about 36 images which where then tweaked before being printed digitally.

Then curators were invited to see the work, discussions were had, negotiations were held, directors were consulted and the decision was finally made just after the new year.

Art Gallery on UNE's Portland Campus

Façade of the Art Gallery on UNE’s Portland Campus

I’m happy. I’m also amused that my mostly white photos of ice will be displayed in a white cube in the middle of a Maine winter. What could be more appropriate?

But—and this is a nice but—there’s more. The Antarctica photographs will be hung on one floor, while an older body of work I did which documented the remains of the granite quarry industry on the islands of Maine will be on another floor and a few images I made while hiking around with the Incas in Peru after the sail to Antarctica will be hung on the third, lower level. I will talk more about how these three bodies of work mesh together in a later blog post.

And I have plenty of time to make all the frames, which is going to be a big job. More about this later, also. Stay tuned, as they say….

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End

My bags are packed, so now all I have to do is wait for the plane to leave Buenos Aires for JFK late tonight. This adventure has been wonderful, starting with the sail to Antarctica aboard the well found Pelagic Australis with seven sailing colleagues and her highly professional crew of four. Could not have been a better experience that lived up to, and exceeded, my expectations.

Exploring the Inca ruins in Peru was also better than I expected, but I could have spent another week there, exploring even more sites.

To end it all in Buenos Aires was somewhat fitting, or maybe not. To go from the wilds of Antarctica to the ruins of a highly developed pre-Columbia society was, in certain respects, not that much different. Both were remote with traces of human history around every corner. Both offered me landscapes to work with that were grand, even epic, if I can make such a pronouncement, and I feel I have some good pixels to work with. We’ll see. Buenos Aires is clearly a city built from 19th-century European influences, but seems well rooted in the 21st century today. In spite of the political and economic issues plaguing Argentina, Buenos Aires seems, on the surface, to be thriving.

This will be one of the last posts entered into my blog. When I return to Portland, I plan on editing the text to correct some typos, some misspellings and add some of the photos from the sailing voyage that got lost in the ozone or the cloud or wherever. That may be the last post.

I want to thank Lori Harley, graphic designer of great talent, for guiding me through the creation of this blog and then bailing me out when stuff didn’t work the way we planned when I arrived back on dry land. If you need a great designer, check her out.

Thanks for following my adventure with me.

John

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Machu Picchu

Did it. Climbed it. Saw it.

And I’m even more in awe.

Mar3-3_Machu PicchuI’m in awe of the design and construction of these sights and how they work so well with the terrain, the climate and the conditions. I’m in awe of the labor invested in this place, as well as in the other places we’ve seen, and the hundreds more we’ll never see. I’m in awe of the social structure that made all these places and made them work, apparently, so well. I’m in awe of the visual relationship between the man-made and the natural landscape and how the Mar3-2_Machu Picchufirst humans here might have reacted when they saw the almost vertical rock walls rising from the river (a river that continues through the jungle to join the Amazon on it’s way to the Atlantic) ending in a lush green dome when not hidden in the clouds. They must have been in awe but even more so.

I made some photos, but you’ve probably seen them already. This place Mar3-1_Machu Picchuhas been photo’d out. Every corner I turned, I saw another pic that I’d seen before. I remember that John Szarkowski comment that by 1845, “…there where more photographs in the world than bricks.” Well, more photographs have been made of Machu Picchu than there are shaped granite stones in all the stone structures there, that’s for sure. Oh, well.

Mar3-4_Machu Picchu

 

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Ollantaytambo

I did my “Quarry Project” about 25 years ago, and while working on Crotch Island I paced off a block of granite 10 x 12 x 15 feet which I calculated to weigh about 720 tons. Those quarrymen had black powder, compressed air/kerosene burners, and the largest front-end loader I’ve ever seen.

The Incas and their predecessors had none of those tools but were able to quarry, transport, cut, fit and finish granite or rhyolite blocks that weighted up to 100 tons. We can only guess, and there are some well educated guesses out there, as to how they did it. There are also some really crackpot ideas involving aliens, and cast-in-place molten granite. Right.

What is known, and the experts are fairly sure of this, is that they did not quarry the stone like in Maine, but climbed high in the mountains to find stone already broken apart, rough-sized the blocks, slid them down the mountain, stacked them on one side of the river, then changed the course of the river so the stone was now on the other side, then skidded the blocks to the constriction site. Except the site was way up another mountain, so they built a ramp to get them up. The stone is fairly easy to shape with the correct-size hammer, made from a harder rock, when struck at the proper angle. What is still not known is how they lifted them in place, and lowered, then lifted, then lowered and lifted over and over to get the perfect fit. But they did.

Today we hiked about halfway up the mountain above Ollantaytambo, a small town on the river and the last stop before Machu Picchu. The ruins are both pre-Incan and Incan, but I can’t tell the difference. Some say this site is the equal of Machu Picchu, but I guess we’ll have to wait a few days to find out. Early departure allowed us to avoid the other tourists, to get great morning light and to avoid the strong winds that come up every afternoon. Perfect day.

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Hiking the Inca ruins above Pisac

Up early, checked out the locals setting up the market in the square in front of our hotel. Today should be active for them, since the general strike in Cusco prevented any and all tourists from coming up.

We got a cab to take us another 1,000 meters above town to the site of a large ruin taken in by a long hike. Both of us have acclimated fairly well to the high altitude, mostly because we’ve been popping the proper pills. We got there early enough not to encounter the hoards of tourists arriving by bus, but we could look down on them from the top. Military base, burial site, terraced crop sites, temple to the sun, a tunnel though the rock—this site had it all. We sort of got lost heading back, so Denise asked a local in traditional dress for directions. She was going to the same spot so led the way, spinning her thread as she walked along. Good day, good start to whatever comes next.

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Lima to Cusco

20140228-090725.jpgAte another breakfast in another airport. Lima this time. Better croissants in Peru than in Argentina. Denise had a yogurt that came with a really good honey—flavorful, rich—that had a bit of a wildflower taste with a hint of molasses. The combination of the sharply tart yogurt with this rich honey was nearly perfect. The waiter said the honey was somewhat local but he didn’t know more.

While eating I tried to spot the Machu Picchu travelers. They seemed to fall into two camps—the retired folks like us and young seekers of enlightenment. The first group had new trekking togs with lots of zippered pockets, earthy-colored backpacks and water bottles from REI. The other group wore tattered tees with profound slogans, worn backpacks, scruffy hair and a searching look. Both will be our fellow travelers for the next week. Fun.

Sea level to 3400 meters in an hour and a half. Hmmmm…

Leaving the airport, we rode (our Pisac hotel sent a car and driver to pick us up) into a two-day general strike. Seems the residents of Cusco are protesting the failure to build a new airport, something about gas service, and a few other demands I didn’t understand. The army and police were out in full force with riot gear, armored cars, mounted police standing around in the area near the airport. We tried driving out directly to Pisac but were turned back since most streets were blocked with rocks and branches. At one barricade, our driver said he wanted to get some tourists out of town, but that did not go over too well with one stout woman. Our driver then turned around, drove back to the airport to try to get out of town in the opposite direction. He got on the main road, but it was the main road going in the opposite direction from Pisac. He knew the town—he’d see a road block and take a few back streets to avoid it. All went well until we got near the edge of town and encountered what seemed like the main barrier in and out. Here protesters were sitting on the rocks and a downed power pole, so getting around was impossible.

He turned around to try going up a narrow gravel road to bypass this barricade, asked us to walk to lighten the load, but could not make it. Backtrack again to return to the barricade to wait out the protest which should end at 4pm, a three-hour wait. But, someone moved the power pole blocking the road. so about a dozen cars sped past before they could move it back. Free.

Sorry, but no pics with this blog. The idea of an old foreigner photographing the locals blocking the road did not seem wise. Nor did trying to make pics of the army troops and the police. I’m taller than almost every Peruvian, but the army guys were far bigger than me.

The landscape, once we cleared the strike, is spectacular. Developed from the same forces that created the Antarctica peninsula, but taller, steeper and green, not white. Tomorrow I’ll start working.

 

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Flying across the Andes

Flying over the western region of Argentina, there seems to be nothing below. The terrain at first glance is a rust brown but is actually colorful due to the variations in color from rust to sienna to ochre brown. I did not see any roads, but I did see what looked like a small town. Buenos Aires to the foothills of the Andes was cloud-covered, so I saw nothing.

Once we passed into Chilean territory, I noticed an occasional absolutely straight line running across the flats and hills. Then more lines, then what I at first took to be iced-over lakes which did not make sense since there was no sign of snow. One of these lakes had what looked like a salt works—a series of blue rectangles like what you’d see in coastal France or the Baja. My guess is that they are in fact evaporation flats for the salts and minerals that wash down from the surrounding hills. We passed over at least a dozen of these flats.

More straight lines, including one set going east and west crossed by another set going north and south. Perfectly straight, evenly spaced, and they continued that way as they moved off the salt flats and up into the foothills. Weird. There was also a slightly snaking, wider black line running to the ocean that I took to be a railroad, carrying out the minerals. All this seemed centered around the Chilean city, Calama, which is a huge mining area that at one time had the world’s largest open-pit copper mine.

As we descended to the Pacific, more green appeared along with more roads, towns and civilization.

No pics. I was on an Airbus this time, and the windows are way too small and badly placed for making pics. Hey! There’s always Google Maps. Check it out.

Given the choice, I’d fly Airbus any day over a Boeing plane. Quieter, smoother, fast-braking, smooth landing, just feels better. But on the leg from Buenos Aires to Ushuaia, we boarded a brand new, just-out-of-the-box Boeing 737. Not a mark or blemish anywhere, with a new vinyl smell. I asked one of the cabin crew if we were the first passengers and she said, “well, sort of,” whatever that meant.

 

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The Plan

February 2 – 22 | 3 weeks in the Antarctic

Sailing from Ushuaia, Argentina, to the Antarctic Peninsula…I will not be actively posting for the three weeks while on the boat, but during that time, you can track our vessel.

February 23 – March 8 | 2 weeks in Peru

Exploring the Inca ruins around the Cuzco area with long-time friend from NYC.

March 9 – 22 | 2 weeks in Buenos Aires

Exploring that beautiful city on my own.

 

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