Patagonia is one of those places that I’ve wanted to visit for quite some time now, and I was finally able to make the journey to Argentina and Chile to see the beauty of this incredible place firsthand. The landscapes and mountain peaks are simply incredible, and although Patagonia photography is a bit challenging at times, it’s quite the paradise for photographers. It’s by far my favorite place that I have traveled.
The Challenges of Patagonia Photography
All of the things that I heard and read about from others, were true; including the notorious, un-predictable weather. Normally I don’t mention it, but Patagonia photography is not very easy; I encountered several days of VERY strong winds, drove hundreds of miles, camped in the snow, waited out a few big storms, and did a bunch of trekking. Due to the weather, I wasn’t able to see and photograph everything that I wished to, but I made memories that will last a lifetime. Some of the mountains were clouded in for days at a time, but I’m grateful for what I was able to experience.
Initially, I was going to write about my day to day encounters of the journey, but that’s getting boring for me, and it’s something you really should just go experience for yourself if you are able to make it happen. I do recommend that you avoid shelling out thousands of dollars for one of the several “Epic Patagonia” photo tours available. Instead, just do some simple research online, buy a plane ticket, rent a car, and make your own adventure along the way. Spend the “EPIC” amount of extra money you saved, on some good photography books, some new gear, or another plane ticket. Most of these workshops and photo tours are a complete scam, and a huge waste of money in my opinion… (See my Bigtimers rant for more on this).
These tours/workshops remind me of the circus that happens on Mount Everest every year. These days anyone with some good luck, and $60,000, can pay for a guided trip to the summit. BUT with the help of several Sherpas, and guides making it as luxurious as possible, is that really an adventure? I don’t think so… To me, the adventure starts as soon as something goes wrong, or not as planned. That’s when the fun really begins, when you have to improvise and make things work…
When I was in my mid 20’s, my mother was diagnosed with terminal cancer, and my brother and I took care of her for 8 months as she slowly withered away. She was bed ridden for most of those 8 months, and she had a lot of regrets when she looked back on her life. One of the things that she wished for the most, was just to be able to take a walk outside again. She wanted to smell the fresh air, enjoy the warm afternoon sun, see the autumn colors, etc. She wanted the little things, that most of us, including myself, can sometimes easily take for granted. I learned a ton of lessons during those 8 long months, but the most valuable thing I learned along the way, was too live everyday to the fullest, and to try my best to enjoy the small things along the way.
Contrary to what some people may believe, I travel because I love the adventure first and foremost. It’s not because I’m dying to make photos of places that others can not. Of course I also love to make photographs of these places, but it’s the sense of being on a journey far away from everyday life that grabs me, and draws me in the most; the chance to see new places, meet new people, try different foods, and just wander around endlessly exploring, is something I will never take for granted. I want to be able to sit in my rocker when I’m old and grey, and reminisce about all the great adventures I had, all the great people I met, and all the wonderful friends I made along the way. The photos are also nice to have, but they are just a material thing after all. The memories, on the other hand, will always stay with me; unless I happen to come down with Alzheimer someday…
I read a quote recently that really gets it right. The Dalai Lama, when asked what surprised him most about humanity, answered “Man. Because he sacrifices his health in order to make money. Then, he sacrifices money to recuperate his health. And then, he is so anxious about the future that he does not enjoy the present; the result being that he does not live in the present or the future; he lives as if he is never going to die, and then dies having never really lived.”
Thanks for reading my random thoughts, and hopefully it didn’t come off like one big giant fortune cookie… I wish all of you the best adventures.
And here’s a tune…
oh man this is Epic …especially sunrise in Chile LoL
Gorgeous work Jesse and great advice on the workshops, I missed your big timers post before, I’ve been struggling with the idea of whether or not I should do workshops to make money, just because that’s how everyone else seems to do it, but it felt dirty to me. Now with that idea out of my head I can focus on creating better work than I did yesterday that will inspire people.
I’m digging Mishka BTW 🙂
Excellent shots as always Jesse! Loved reading the story about you and what you learned from your Mom’s illness .You are so right about living your life with no regrets.Fortunately it looks like you have been able to do that.Thanks for bringing us along on the journey!
Great article. Full respect to your approach to photography with the adventure and the photography itself at the core. The artistic freedom of your approach is clearly seen in the quality of your images. The pressures and boundaries that the business of photography puts on photographers can often been seen in reduced quality of the photography of many of the new “professionals”. Although I have run a local workshop and have a small part of my income through photography I will not let go of the artistic freedom that my 9-5 programming job gives me.
Here’s to wishing you many Alzheimer’s free years man. Some sweet images here and it looks like you two found some of that autumn color you were after.
Hi Jesse – you’ve posted some fantastic photos here!!….but I’ve got to say that i Really Enjoyed reading your write-up! You bring up some reallyreally good points, and topped it off w/a great tune!
I always look forward to seeing your work. It’s very inspirational in more ways than one. thanx for sharing.
Great article, and you weren’t kidding about the colors in argentina. Beautiful.
Hi David – Thanks for stopping in. The whole workshop debate could go on and on. Being self taught, I simply don’t believe in them. Heck, most of the people charging for workshops, have never taken one themselves. My main argument though, is that 90% of them are still figuring shit out themselves, and are not qualified to be teaching photography. Glad you like Mishka 🙂
Hi Linda – Thanks for stopping by. I’m doing my best to do that, and I hope you do the same 🙂
Hi Orvar – Thanks for stopping in and leaving your comment. I also love my IT work, and I think if I depended on photography for income, it would not be as fun…
Hi Walter – I’m glad you found some enjoyment in my ramblings, and more importantly the tune 🙂
Thanks Dev! Hope you are having fun with that new fuji camera…
Excellent shots and write up! The workshop “folks” seem to always have epic conditions or so it seems, perhaps they should teach us their photo editing skill which they probably have more of than artistic skill.
Jesse you are an inspiration to all nature photographer……..!!!!
You are a technicien and an adventurer…..
Both done with professional touch….
Dont spot doing what you love….
N.B.: I made a mistake…..
the last line is :
Don’t stop doing what you love….
I am a french guy for Québec…( lol )
Thank you for this. I will need to add Patagonia to my list of places to visit. Lovely photography Jesse 🙂 … cheers steve
Goodness gracious. This very well could be the best single-trip collection from Patagonia that I’ve seen. I’m not positive how to verbalize the photos, but the word that’s coming to mind is “pure”. Extremely pure images.
I like what you said about workshops. I’m not against photographers wanting to make extra money by hosting them, but I also know I’m not going to be spending my money on them. Any photographer trying to make a living knows you want to make money, and only spend it on the necessities…it seems like a big amount of money spent for something you can easily do yourself (at the same time, enjoying it more).
Hi Matt – Thanks for the kind words and thoughts. I checked out your website also, and you have some really nice images. Keep up the great work!
Hi Steve – Thanks for the kind words, and I hope you get the chance to visit Patagonia one day…
Hi Pierre – Thanks for stopping bye, and I appreciate the kind words.
Hi Jesse, reading your blog is an adventure in itself and viewing your stunning images is a bonus! These images of Chile and Argentina are breathtakingly beautiful, inspiring me to try to get to those locations one day. Your quote from the Dalai Lama is my favorite and your story about your mom is profound. Thanks for sharing your great talent and adventures!
These are really good! The edtiing is so fitting on each one and the shadow pic is a great idea!! Impressive! I’m impressed you got a group of guys to take so many pictures! They did great!
Fantastic article and images, really enjoyed it!
Thanks Mike for stopping in!
Hi Carol – Thanks for stopping by, and I’m glad you enjoyed the quote…
Hi Teran – Thanks for stopping bye. I hope you find some time to travel to these incredible places yourself someday!
It’s truly a great and useful piece of info. I’m satisfied that you shared this helpful information with us. Please stay us informed like this. Thank you for sharing.
Your thoughts are as good as the pictures. I hope you don’t ever lose your sense of adventure. It’s easy for our culture to drive us to despair and frustration. We won’t be taking any of our hard-earned money with us when we die. So your words are well spoken.
Heya Jim! Good to hear from you, and thanks for the kind words. I hope all is well with you and the family. I noticed you have switched camera systems lately 🙂
I just returned from Patagonia a couple of weeks ago. Great photos (better than what I will be posting over the next indefinite period of time).
Just a heads-up – the animal in that photo is a guanaco, not an alpaca!
Hi Daniel – Thanks for stopping by and I hope you had a great trip man! Thanks for the correction 🙂
Hello! Love your Patagonia photos! Patagonia’s been on my list of places to go, since I was in 7th grade (I somehow found out about it then), so I hope to make it out there sometime! Thanks for the advice on not shelling out money for the those expensive tours, been thinking about just taking up one of those, but not having to stick to someone else’s itinerary sounds more ideal 🙂
How many days did you spend adventuring Patagonia? BTW, this was a really great article, so inspiring!
Hi Connie – Patagonia was probably in my top 3 places I have ever visited. It was such a great time. I was there for about 3 weeks total. I hope you get a chance to visit and photograph it yourself one day! Thanks for stopping by, and happy new year…
I love your work Jesse. I’d like to follow in your footsteps. However, i lack funds to do extensive travelling as you do. How do you fund these expeditions?
Hi Chingo – thanks for stopping by, and sorry for the late response here. I have a full time job in the IT/Computer industry that helps me pay for my travels… With that said, I have found that you can travel pretty inexpensively if you do the proper research first and move like a local wherever you are.
Thanks for this information. I traveled to Patagonia with my girlfriend during the new year and I base many of my travel decisions based on your suggestions and experience. We had an excellent time and are really looking forward to the next adventure in that region!
Hi Chris – Thanks for stopping by, and I’m glad you had a great journey. I can’t wait to get back there myself; such a lovely country!
Sounds like you had a great adventure with fantastic images. I completely agree that the adventure side comes first ( I find I take the least pictures when going on long treks in the wilderness!). Hope to see more remote parts of the world from you!
Hi Dylan – Thanks man! I checked out your website, and you have some great images yourself. Wish you all the best on your future adventures as well!
You seem like a pretty opinionated asshole. Maybe you aren’t, but you certainly come off that way online! I have done several workshops and they have been vital for catapulting my photography skills forward. I have also made so many great friend in the process. I think you come off like a “big timer” trying to tell everyone about who you think “big timers” are.
Hey Scott – Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to give your opinion. I’m so very happy that workshops have catapulted you photography. Keep up the hard work!
Great stuff man. I came upon your page while looking for an alternate to paying for an exorbitant patagonia photo tour. Would love to DIY but with ~10-12 days as a time constraint to try to get a handful of keepers worthy of printing, it has been a logistical challenge to figure patagonia out. Maybe I just haven’t come across the right resources on the web to plan such a trip. Goal is to do sunrise and sunset shoots and do other fun stuff (hiking/drinking) etc rest of the time to keep the wife amused. Any thoughts on a rough itinerary or books/blogs that might help plan? thanks!
PS: loved the Dalai Lama quote. read it a few years ago when I was on a major wanderlust; needed to read that again! Om mani padme hum!
Hi Sobby – Thanks for stopping by and sorry for the late response here. Hopefully you had a great trip!