On the road again

Trav­el­ling through Ar­gentina, David No­ton spies the chance for a clas­sic road shot – but the golden hour is more like min­utes here, and there’s wind to con­tend with…

Photo Plus - - David Noton On Location -

Head­ing south out of Salta we pass through a range of hills into a gorge of arid red

rock. I could swear I’m in Utah, but this is the Que­brada de la Conches in the Valles Calchaquíes. It’s stun­ning; I never knew north­ern Ar­gentina had such epic land­scapes. Yes, the Rough Guide hints at this re­gion’s majesty, but I al­ways take glow­ing travel-guide de­scrip­tions with a pinch of salt. As we drive down the val­ley, stop­ping to check out likely lo­ca­tions un­der the hot ver­ti­cal sun, it be­comes in­creas­ingly ap­par­ent we’ll not be short of pho­to­graphic op­tions here. In fact it’s all slightly over­whelm­ing – it’ll be dif­fi­cult to de­cide where to start.

We’ve stayed in some truly grim hov­els on our trav­els but as we drive down the long, tree-lined en­trance road to our next abode, it’s clear the Bodega la En­teco is not go­ing to be one of them. This is no hos­tel; in fact, it’s a nobby sun-drenched wine es­tate in a stun­ning lo­ca­tion be­neath the moun­tains. I booked it in a rush just a few days ago, chiefly for its lo­ca­tion, but it looks like we’ve fallen on our feet. Lla­mas are graz­ing in the gar­den, foun­tains gush in shaded court­yards and the sound of chirp­ing birds is ev­ery­where. What’s more, it turns out this is the very vine­yard that pro­duces Don David, my favourite Mal­bec. Some­times, things are just meant to be.

As the af­ter­noon slides into evening we head back into the Que­brada for a dusk shoot. I’ve forced my­self to choose an op­tion from the day’s recce. I have to start some­where but as I drive I’m won­der­ing if I’ve cho­sen the best. Just get on with it, No­ton – pre­var­i­ca­tion is never pro­duc­tive.

On the road again in late af­ter­noon – or rather the road, stood clutch­ing my cam­era, work­ing on po­si­tion­ing the strong di­ag­o­nals of the verge and the yel­low line dead-cen­tral in my com­po­si­tion while my wife Wendy watches for on­com­ing traf­fic. Road shots are use­ful, they can sug­gest so much: jour­neys, ad­ven­tures, des­ti­na­tions, de­par­tures, mov­ing on, you get the pic­ture. In my stock pho­tog­ra­pher days I shot a fair few around the world. Those days have gone, but I still can’t re­sist shoot­ing this won­der­ful road pass­ing through this dra­matic land­scape.

I’m set up, wait­ing for the last light on the re­ced­ing planes of moun­tains in good time. We’re too early, the light is still harsh, but here just south of the Tropic of Capricorn it’s sink­ing vir­tu­ally per­pen­dic­u­larly – prime time will not be long. A strong breeze is blow­ing and vis­i­bly buf­fet­ing my long lens; I’m not at all con­fi­dent of cap­tur­ing a sharp im­age with a slow­ish shut­ter speed. Re­turn­ing from this shoot only to dis­cover none of the im­ages are quite sharp doesn’t bear think­ing about. There’s noth­ing for it – a higher ISO of 400 to cre­ate a 1/160 sec shut­ter speed, and the whirr of im­age sta­bi­liza­tion will make for an easier mind.

With a sky de­void of cloud as is usual here, I keep my com­po­si­tion tight, uti­liz­ing the long 175mm fo­cal length and com­pres­sion of the re­ced­ing ridges which are now start­ing to glow in the evening light. The illumination of the land­scape is from a sun shining di­rectly be­hind me. Such front­light­ing is my least favourite – I nor­mally avoid it like the plague – but here it just seems to work. Wendy and I de­bate whether I shoot with or with­out a car on the road. She says with; I like the empty road, but we do both any­way. The light is gor­geous, the shoot works, life is good. To­mor­row, it’s back to Salta for a flight to Men­doza, then south to the vine­yards of the Uco Val­ley nes­tled be­neath the high An­dean peaks. We’re on a roll.

Next month on­tario

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