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…
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