Sunday, August 31, 2014
Wednesday, August 27, 2014
The last time I visited Bosque I thought it was the last but here I was in mid-December. Most people come to photograph the sandhill cranes and the other migratory birds that spend the winter here. What keeps me coming back is the larger numbers of waterfowl in the 100’s of thousands. In the mornings, the unison blast-off of thousands of snow geese as the sun emerges is a spectacle as impressive as that of the ungulate migrations in East Africa. Not just the seeing the white clouds of feathers rising, but listening to the roar caused by the flapping of the wings, as the birds raise above the water impoundments where they spend the night.
Bosque Del Apache is a man-made refuge for wildlife where crops are planted to feed them. So it is not a natural habitat but is like a resort for the migrating birds to spend the winter in a protected area from hunting with a source of food. As soon as they leave the area, they are subjected to hunting and rare is the day that one does not hear the blast of guns along the boundaries of the refuge. Bosque is the ideal habitat because it provides food, a hunter’s free zone but most important, the water provides a relative safe place from predators to spend the night.
The first morning I arrived in mid-December I was lucky to observe a group of sandhill cranes chasing away a coyote. This predator was hiding in the brushes in the shoreline waiting for the cranes to get closer but it was discovered. The alarm was given and group of the birds formed a vigilante posse and escorted the frustrated coyote away.
The routine at Bosque is to get to the park early in the morning from nearby Socorro early to secure a good photographic spot and wait for the blast-off of the snow geese or the sandhill cranes living the impoundments in small family groups. The competition for space is noted; at times having photographers fighting for a specific waterfront spot.
The number of photographers is usually large and mostly carrying long telephotos mounted in tripods; some use 2-3 systems on tripods to include recording devices and fire them selectively with wireless controls. Some use one camera for traditional photography and others for videos. And this is why I ask myself why do I keep returning to Bosque? How many photos do I need of this place? With so many photographers going there, is it not rational to go to places where no photographer has gone before. But are such places left in the world?
Most activity occurs in the early morning when the birds depart to feed in fields outside the park and at sunset, when the birds return to water impoundments that offer protection against predators to spend the night. In between, I ride a few times along the loops inside the park and then I go roaming around the rural roads photographing landscapes and abandoned farms? Sometimes on catch surprises as the screech owl above watching the tourists passing by without been discovered. And at the nearby park headquarters in the cactus garden, the Gamble’s quails are easy to photograph.
One day, I drove to the refuge of Bernardo, where the birds feed in the corn and alfalfa planted by the government. This was different with some of the cultivated fields still standing and a range of mountains as background offering a different landscape than the one at Bosque.
While here, I noticed a herd of about 15 mule deer with a male with a big rack at the edge of the cornfield just watching me. Suddenly they started running out in to the open field where the snow geese were eating and resting. As the mule deer approached they all took off to move out of the way landing again just a few feet away. This is one of those rare occasions when being at the right place allows photographers to capture unique events.
My biggest photography challenge is air travel. Been able to carry a backpack aboard a plane is becoming almost impossible due to the rules and to their loose interpretations by the gate and flight crews. But thanks to the I-Phones, in the near future there may no need to carry 30-40 pounds camera gear in a backpack. My friends were admiring the quality of the images and videos taken with such phones…the miracles of modern technology.
Friday, August 22, 2014
The Tierra del Fuego is at the southern tip of South America. The name originated back in 1520 when Magallanes discovered the channel that bears his name. He eHe saw numerous fires in the shoreline that the Indians lighted to attract them to land. The name means Land of Fire in English. This narrative addresses the Chilean part of the big island that is shared with Argentina. About the images; most are processed using HDR and others were converted to black and white.
Sheep ranching still is the dominant industry but the heydays were between the 1880’s up to the 1920’s; it is said that around 1914 there were ¾ of a million sheep in the island. The wealth generated from these haciendas can be observed by the extent of the buildings in the haciendas but mostly by the fabulous homes that the owners built in Punta Arenas. The Menendez residence is an example of one of the many mansions there (I previously posted a blog regarding it that can be found by scrolling down and searching for previous blogs).
The first hacienda that one encounters driving to the Tierra del Fuego by road from Punta Arenas is San Gregorio that was founded by Menendez in 1878 and later expanded to more than 200,000 acres. The major complex of buildings is dissected by CH-255 highway that parallels the Straits of Magellan. Most of the buildings are in a stage of neglect but some are still in use. Two of the buildings were full of sheep skins that seemed abandoned and left to rot.
There is graffiti in some of the walls as well as vandalism scars. Chile does not seem to be concern with its past other than erecting a sign declaring the site to be part of the national patrimony; at the pace of destruction due to the extreme weather and human action, not much these historical gems will be left in 20 years.
In the shoreline of the hacienda there are two ship wrecks; one is the Amadeo that was owned by Menendez. It is maiden trip to Punta Arenas it brought bricks from Uruguay that was used to build the Menendez Mansion. It was not really wrecked but abandoned after about 50 years of service. In another half century all may be left would be the bronze propeller and old photos.
After arriving at Punta Delgada, one waits for the ferry to cross the Straits of Magellans in an area called the “Primera Angostura”; here is where Magellans entered into the Straits in 1520 from the Atlantic Ocean. After arriving at the big island, one is welcome with pampas that extends as far as the eye can reach. . This area is next to the border of Chile and Argentina and it obviously demonstrated at the Faro Espiritu Santo, where military outposts from both country face each other. The shoreline is spectacular at Punta Catalina Beach at susnset.
Proceding south down Rt. Y-71 one arrives at the Hacienda Onaisin. It is the original estancia Josefina founded in 1883 and the first in the Tierra del Fuego. It is situated in a windswept plateau as seen by the beaten trees. There is a magnificent manor house that long abandoned still preserve the architecture of better days.
There are several structures in this hacienda but the one that I found more interesting was the clinic with a complex roof arrangement. The interior I colorful and in a stage of gracious abandonment, what a shame…history fading.
Not far down the road is the “Cementerio Ingles” where the earlier english colonizers were buried. Some of those here were killed by the indians. A sad charpter of the history of Tierra del Fuego is that the introduction of the sheep led to the elimination of the indians but that is another story. What a barren place to spend Eternity.
Gold was discovered there in the river beds in 1879 that caused a great influx of immigrants. The rush did not last long and by 1909 the gold was exhausted. Below is one of the “gradas’ used to mine the gold. This particular mechanical dredge arrived from England in 1904 and operated until 1910.
Father south the Estancia Vicuna established in 1915 was the last one that I found with architectural merit to photograph. The corner towers gave it a special attraction; as the others is also abandoned. And this is the end of this blog; the next is further south in the mountains where I encountered extreme winter conditions. Stay tuned.
Labels: Amadeo shipwreck, Estancia Vicuna, Faro Espiritu Santo, Hacienda Josefina, Hacienda Onaisin, Hacienda San Gregorio, Menendez family, Primera Angostura, Punta Catalina, Punta Delgada, Tierra del Fuego
Tuesday, August 12, 2014
I happened to be in Punta Arenas at this time but had no idea of such a carnival taken place. Imagine a carnival in the middle of the winter and with freezing temperatures. It was an amazing accomplishment by the community with various private businesses, schools and cultural organizations participating. The carnival went on July 20-21, 2013 and it is held annually.
There were between 35-40,000 people attending the Carnival according to the local officials. I arrived at a park that was the starting point of the carnival. Participants waited for the start adjusting the outfits, practicing the dances and tuning the musical instruments for the great occasion.
The grand ladies paraded at the front of their social groups with gorgeous big dresses carrying flags and moving to the rhythms of their accompanying music bands.
And the scanty dressed ones…how did they manage? They were batucada dancers with fancy outfits and moving real fast and energetically. Surprisingly you could see the drops of sweat running down their faces; the fast action protected them for the cold. They received the most exclamations of excitement and received the most applauses and calls. I wonder why? And yes, I photographed them all.
Participants paraded in an assortment of interesting costumes with original designs as well as some imitating famous characters from the movies. Something for everyone to like.
The Gauchos and their horses were also representing their various clubs and of them came from others nearby towns as Porvenir and Natales. Men, women and children paraded but what amazed me where the young children that were still awake; this parade lasted more than 4 hours. One note about Punta Arenas is that it has a large street dog population and they were to be left out of the parade.
One of the groups that were over-represented was the auto clubs to the extreme that they took a large amount time, even the dogs complained at their numbers. These were mostly souped-up sports cars with fancy paint jobs, loud speakers and fancy fluorescent lights. However, there were not many motorcyclists.
And then there was a variety of participants in costumes or just plain citizens observing those marching in the parade, as well as other competing photographers searching for the best angle or warming their cameras.
A peculiar thing I notice was that Saturday the Queen of the Carnival in the float was different from the one in the Sunday. I must say that the most original outfit was the one of the penguins marching; this was the most appropriate since there are large colonies of penguins in the vicinity of Punta Arenas. And the guy with the jumping shoes was the most hilarious; he fell on various occasions but was a sport, stood up and kept going…wonder if he made it to the end.
Every great time must come to an end and say good bye with a grand finale to Saturday night with a great display of fireworks in the Avenida Costanera. The parade ended Sunday night; it was a repeat of the previous night and the time for the awards. Sadly, I did not win any, but I had a great time despite my frozen toes.