In last issue’s Master Printing Class, I wrote about my impressions of Machu Picchu in Peru, and the photography I did there both prior to and during a workshop I instructed in April 2009 (specifically the first photograph I made there). This article deals with the final photograph I made at Machu Picchu, as the workshop drew to a close. I’m already looking forward to adding to the Machu Picchu portfolio when I travel down there again next year for another workshop.
Machu Picchu lies at the head of the Amazon rainforest. It sits atop a knife-edge ridge 1,400 feet above the Vilcanota River, with the river turning a 180° curve in its gorge below, creating nearly vertical cliffs down to the river on both sides. Those cliffs rise up to peaks towering thousands of feet above Machu Picchu, all covered by dense jungle growth. A few, topping out at 19,000 and 20,000 feet, are draped with thick glaciers. It’s a stunning location, with the ruins and the landscape vying with one another for attention.
I photographed there for two days prior to the workshop earlier this year, and another two days during the workshop. Next year, we’ll expand that to three days during the workshops. My hope is that we’ll be given the same variable weather conditions that we had this year, where we alternately experienced rain, fog, and sun, but very little wind—conditions that couldn’t be beat.
Of course, I didn’t just photograph as if there were no students there. I also worked with them throughout our time together. And they worked with me, taking interest in what I was doing when I set up my camera.
One final picture
On the final morning of the workshop, we had several hours to photograph within the ruins. It was another perfect morning, with variable conditions continuing. So we all did a lot of shooting. But we had an absolute deadline of 9:30 a.m. to pack up and run out to catch the bus down the cliffs in time to catch the train.
Right before 9:00, I climbed to one of the highest points within the ruins just as a brief episode of sunlight shined through a set of openings— windows, as it were—in one of the massive Inca walls facing toward the east. Clouds quickly covered the sun, but during the several seconds of sunlight that I observed, I realized that a potentially wonderful photograph could be made as soon as the clouds lifted once again. Actually, I didn’t even need the sunlight (though I recognized that some sunlight could be a special benefit); I simply needed a few openings in the clouds below the ruins to see the canyon walls and also some cloud openings above to see a bit of the mountains in the distance rising up above the wall.