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Panama Canal - Patagonia and Yosemite - part 6 of 1 2 3 4 5 6

by Mike McNamee Published 01/02/2016


Trees struggle in the harsh Patagonian landscape.

Photographically our two contributors are quite different. John Rowel was heavily laden with survival gear, food, stove and tent, leaving space only for an Olympus 4/3 camera and a single lens; Paul Gallagher on the other hand was laden with DSLRs, a big tripod and an armoury of lenses - often moved around in the back of a car. The difference in the number of images shot is telling; Rowell, always on the move, shot 10 times more than Gallagher who had time to ponder and linger, sorting out a viewpoint without fear of falling behind, being stranded in a whiteout or simply being frozen to the spot! Both approaches are, of course, equally valid - you can embark on a lightweight raid into a remote place or you can sit closer to your car while your camera grinds out an image through a Big Stopper; all you have to worry about in Yosemite is being chased by bears (trust me it is scary, been there -got the t-shirt!). That is not to say, by the way, that Yosemite can be taken lightly, the place is high, frost can occur on any day of the year and people have died in autumn to be found in their car in the following spring when the snow melted. The scale of Yosemite is also large; Half Dome and back is a 17-mile yomp, and that is the easy route around the back - the direct route up is a vertical rock climb which took the first-ascenders five days. By way of comparison Half Dome is climbed by as many as 1,000 people per day (it requires a permit today, when I did it in July 1986 there were just nine people around on the fixed rope section!). Torres del Paine receives 150,000 visitors per year, Yosemite 3.8 million. The whole of Argentina is only visited by 5.8 million tourists each year.

Both regions are well documented with fine literature. For inspiration we went to Bruce Chatwin's book, In Patagonia, which describes the oddball collection of Falklanders, Welsh*, Germans, Boers, etc who have recreated their homelands in the discrete little valleys of Patagonia which resulted in him singing hymns in Welsh in a chapel that could have been airlifted out of a Welsh valley. Yosemite is also well served by literature and, from a photographic viewpoint, the work of Ansel Adams stands out; it is quite a thrill for a photographer to stand in the Adams gallery in Yosemite Village, surrounded by his favourite subject matter. John Muir's writing would be a good place to start. Much of the literature for Yosemite is in the form of guide books and photo essays.

*Nearly 150 years ago, on July 28 1865, more than 150 Welsh-speaking men, women and children landed at what is now Puerto Madryn on the Atlantic coast of Argentine Patagonia. They had sailed in May from Liverpool on the Mimosa, a converted tea clipper, with the intention of establishing a community where they could practise their language and faith free from the dictates of 'English' government. Many emigrants left from areas around North Wales close to The Societies' HQ.

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1st Published 01/02/2016
last update 30/01/2018 12:09:36

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Updated 30/01/2018 12:09:36 Last Modified: Tuesday, 30 January 2018