The Atacama Desert is, to me, one of the most spectacular places on Earth. Snow-topped Andean peaks, vast sandy plains, mirror-like salt pools, one of the best spots in the world for stargazing. But it is one of those mysterious places which is somehow more than the sum of its parts – there was something about it which spoke directly to my soul.
This #FriFotos theme is Shadows – and the Atacama was the obvious choice. Out in the desert, the interplay of light and shadow is magnified, more theatrical and impressive than anywhere else. The sun is truly King here.
When I took this picture, it was early evening; the sun was just beginning to dip below the horizon and I was deep in the desert, having visited some salt flats. I was taking photos of the dramatic shadows thrown across the plain by the rocks and mountains, when I caught sight of my own shadow, crazily lengthened, almost stretching to the mountains, or so it seemed to me.
Both day and night in the desert surprised me. Of course, I know deserts are places of extremes, but I wasn’t prepared for how sweltering it is during the day, how dazzling the sun is; or how freezing and absolutely black it is at night. There are no hazy shadows as your eyes adjust to the dark; it is like staring into black ink. But my favourite time of day was sunset. Of course, it is the ‘golden hour’ for all photographers, whether in the city or the wilds, anywhere in the world. But in the Atacama Desert, the sun and moon put on one of their greatest shows as one sets and the other rises, painting the sky and casting shadows.
I spent hours in the desert, just watching and photographing as the sun, moon and stars put on their show. I haven’t seen anything quite like it before or since, and with the distance of time, I wonder more and more – did I dream it? I think it’s a sign that I need to go back.