Friday, August 06, 2010

After ten years of photographing the vast wilderness of Patagonia, Ricardo La Piettra shows how he does it

Although a trip to the idyllic beauty of Patagonia is a far-off dream for most photographers, freelancer Ricardo La Piettra resides just a few hundred miles north in Buenos Aires, Argentina. "As a fine-art landscape photographer for almost 10 years, I've traveled through the entire Patagonian region -- both the Andes range and the Atlantic coast sides -- in pursuit of the perfect light and unique images. To make sure my final images will be of the highest resolution and quality, I rely completely on my Singh-Ray graduated and solid ND filters and polarizers to balance overall exposures, to extend exposures to blur movement, and to improve color saturation and contrast.

"In the past two years, I've become obsessed with reducing the weight of my gear. Here in Patagonia, it's necessary to hike a lot to reach the best places, carrying heavy backpacks full of sleeping and cooking gear. I've had to reduce my photo gear to the minimum by packing fewer and more compact lenses and lighter-weight tripods, for example. However, my filter kit has always remained the same. I don't leave any of my filters behind, because I never know what kind of light conditions I will have to deal with. I consider my ND Grads and polarizers the most valuable and necessary part of my photo equipment, and Singh-Ray Filters provide all the quality and versatility I need.

"I took the image above at sunrise after waiting two days for better weather. This is one of the beaches at Monte Leon National Park, a large protected nature reserve on the Patagonian Atlantic coast. Conditions were almost perfect to capture this peaceful moody scene. The thin clouds partially covering the sun created a very pleasant soft light and great reflections on the low tide pools and sand patterns. I used the Singh-Ray 3-stop Reverse ND Grad (hand-held) along the horizon line to balance the brighter sky with the rest of the scene. The reverse gradient pattern -- with its densest area just above the midline -- avoided getting the sky at the top of the frame too dark. I also used my LB Warming Polarizer to enhance the golden reflections. I've found the Reverse ND Grad to be my favourite filter and an invaluable tool for correctly exposing this kind of sunrise photo in which the brighter part of the scene is located just above the horizon line. The lens was a Canon 17-40mm mounted on my Canon 5D.

"Yes, you're seeing the iconic and often-photographed Cerro Fitz Roy mountain in the background and Chorrillo River. This is a magical location I come back to year after year -- always hoping to return home with the 'perfect' photo. This image was captured during my return from Laguna de los Tres after a 5-day camp on the mountain. The sun was setting behind the peaks on the left and my exposure reading for the sky was more than 3 stops brighter than the foreground rocks. I used a Galen Rowell 3-stop soft-step ND Grad (hand-held) to keep the sky and mountain peaks under control and a LB Neutral Polarizer to reduce the glare reflections off the water. This image was also taken with the Canon 17-40mm lens.

"This image of the Laguna Torre in Los Glaciares National Park at El Chalten was captured at sunset during the same photo assignment mentioned above, at sunset. It was a moment I'll never forget -- the most amazing sky and lenticular cloud formation I've ever experienced. Five minutes before I took this photo, I was doing some snapshots of the Cerro Torre (at the left out of the frame) with a completely flat and boring sky, it's amazing how quickly and dramatically the weather can change here in Patagonia. To balance this scene, I used a 2-stop hard-step ND Grad and an LB Neutral Polarizer to enhance the shapes and colors of that incredible sky.

"This is a photo of the El Saltillo Falls at Junin de los Andes inside the area of the Lanin National Park. I love to photograph waterfalls. When I decided to shoot this falls, I wanted to create a different rendition and more creative approach than the 'classic' wideangle waterfall photos I see every day. After exploring the area the day before, looking for possible compositions, I found this spot in the woods which I liked. I used a Canon 70-200mm f/4 lens to compress the scene and included the trees and foliage to frame the falls and the mist in the early morning light. I used my LB Warming Polarizer to enhance that already beautiful warm mist.

"If somebody were to ask which is my most important piece of gear for landscape photography, I would promptly say 'my polarizer.' I couldn't live without it. As one who loves large-format fine-art prints, I try to maintain a very high standard of image quality. I know from experience that I can trust the optical quality of Singh-Ray filters to achieve the effect I want without degrading the image quality in any way."

Ricardo will soon be leading a variety of guided photo tours in Patagonia and completing a book project featuring the wildest and most beautiful places in the six Patagonian National Parks and nature reserves. You can find many more of his images on his website at and follow him on twitter at

1 comment:

Joanna Durczok said...

I have no words to describe how beautiful Your photos are. The landscapes are stunning but they should be shown in a proper way. You managed to do this in a perfect way - BRAVO:)