Behind the Scenes of this Photo
Taken from somewhere in the Atacama Desert, Chile, on April 7th, 2017.
The Atacama Desert is one of the most surreal, entrancing landscapes I’ve visited. It’s incredibly stark and dry, and in some areas there is literally zero plant life. In many ways the folded earth and giant salt pans vividly remind me of Death Valley in California. But just when it starts to feel familiar the Atacama will throw you for a loop.
First off is the elevation. Instead of being low and hot like Death Valley, the Atacama is high and cold, with elevations ranging from 7,000 to 19,000 feet. There are brightly-colored flamingos that inhabit mineral-rich lakes that are toxic to humans. And of course, there are the volcanoes. A chain of enormous volcanoes runs north-south, roughly along the Chile-Bolivia border. Each of them is snow-capped, hulking, and surrounded by a landscape that is inhospitable to all but the hardiest plants and animals.
One of the mightiest of these is Miñiques, which towers above the landscape at nearly 19,400′. It’s an enormous complex of peaks, craters, lava domes and lakes that is visible for miles in any direction. While out exploring the landscape south of the town of San Pedro de Atacama I spent the afternoon wandering around the attraction of Las Piedras Rojas (the Red Rocks). But getting on toward sunset I spied lenticular clouds forming on the lee side of the Miñiques volcano and knew it could make for an interesting photo.
Gunning the rental sedan down the rough and bumpy road I drove to a vantage point where I could get the volcano, the clouds, the moon, and the scrubby landscape all in one frame. As the sun dropped below the horizon it lit up the lenticulars a gorgeous shade of fuchsia and I was able to capture this photo.
See more beautiful Chile photos here.