A Patagonia Photo Safari: Springtime in the Andes
Part 1: Unknown Patagonia, Nov. 30—Dec. 6 – $4,295
Part 2: Torres del Paine, Dec. 6—14 – $4,495
With Bill Ellzey and Chilean Outfitter-Guides, Salvaje Corizon
It’s hard to imagine better eye candy for a landscape photographer than springtime in Patagonia. Chochos, giant lupine, fill mountain valleys like carpets and throw rugs. Condors, the largest birds in the world soar above their nests. In Part 1 the stunning and mysterious marble caves are on the itinerary. And those mountains! The famed Andes laden with perennial glaciers and fresh winter snows tower upwards of 14,000 feet—from near sea level! These are but a few of the visuals that await the adventuresome photographer in the Patagonian spring.
This is the season of new beginnings, rebirth of tender life after winter’s harsh cover. And it’s your chance to flip the season to spring again, as winter begins to set in on the northern hemisphere.
This is also the season when, in part 2 of the trip, the sun is far enough north for warm, orange sunrise light to skim the faces of the Curenos del Paine for one of the most breathtaking mountain light shows on the planet.
If these dates conflict with your Thanksgiving weekend let us know. When we know early enough we may be able to make changes with the lodges and our support personnel and shift our departure to Dec. 2, 3 or 4.
Thanks to my neighbor and photo colleague, Linde Waidhofer, whose photographs grace this web page (and her’s: western eye.com) you can see what’s in store for participants in this trip of a lifetime.
Part 1 — Unknown Patagonia — Nov. 30 to Dec. 7
Day 1: November 30, Monday
You’ll be met at the Balmaceda airport in the little village of the same name. It was the first contemporary settlement in the region. The trip to Coyhaique, about 45 minutes away, takes us through the steppe ecosystem characterized by long extensions of grasslands and blue rivers, the home for big population of Magellan goose (Chloephaga picts). We’ll help you check in to the hotel and have a gala welcome dinner in the evening.
Day 2: December 1, Tuesday
You can sleep in (a little) to rest up from yesterday’s long journey. It is a bit of a shake down day as we jump right into photography, checking out equipment, reviewing camera settings and sharing photography pointers in the field. After breakfast we’ll drive along Simpson River Valley, with blooming wildflowers above the river’s cascades. Destination is the small village of Manihuales who’s surroundings have a super high density of Patagonia’s Chochos (giant lupine). Dinner and night in Coyhaique.
Day 3: December 2, Wednesday
We’re up early this morning headed east, to EstanciaPunta del Monte, a typical sheep ranch, located in the transition zone from deciduous forest to the Patagonian steppe. This important area is where we will find the largest flying bird in the world, the Andean Condor. Practice your camera settings for focus tracking as there are big opportunities for seeing these giants flying close by in sunrise light. Dinner and night in Coyhaique.
Day 4: December 3, Thursday
With another early start we depart Coyhaique heading south on the Carretera Austral into “Unknown Patagonia.” On the pass we cross the Cerro Castillo National Reserve, one of the protected areas for conservation of the Huemul, a species of deer endemic to Patagonia. It’s believed that the total population between Chile and Argentina numbers only 2,000. One of our most spectacular picnic lunch spots is along this road. We’ll be shooting the majestic Cerro Castillo peak, wildflowers, native forests, and river views along this road. The closer we get to Puerto Tranquillo, more and more yellow Chochos begin to appear. Dinner and night in El Puesto, Puerto Río Tranquilo.
Day 5: December 4, Friday
The sunrise shoot is just a short walk from the hotel to Lago Caarrera, the 2nd largest lake in South America. After breakfast we board small boats and motor to the intriguing and intricate marble caves. These unique geological formations of caves, tunnels and pillars were formed by wave action over the past 6,000 years. From Puerto Tranquillo we continue along the caraterra which hugs the shoreline and offers plenty of shooting on our way to the Green Baker Lodge. From the lodge at river’s edge we can hike upstream making photographs of the stunning, turquoise water and fleeting white waves through the thick foliage. Dinner and night at Green Baker Lodge.
Day 6: December 5, Saturday
Sometimes mist rises from the river in the early morning light offering mystery to one’s photographs. After breakfast we depart for the Chacabuco Valley. The wide valley of grassland and guanacos (of the llama family) is destined to become the Patagonia National Park. It’s broad speciousness sprinkled with guanacos is the foreground of snow covered peaks. There are also lagoons that occasionally host flocks of flamingos. Returning to Baker Lodge in the afternoon/evening we stop at the confluence of Rio Baker and Rio Nef where the power of the rivers coming together is most dramatic. One can hike down to the cascades and photograph and feel the thundering water passing by. Dinner and night at Green Baker Lodge.
Day 7: December 6, Sunday
We check out of Green Baker Lodge and head north on the east side of Lago Carerra, drop our bags at Terra Luna, and proceed along the lake toward Chile Chico (though not all the way). We’ll shoot the Maqui waterfall which will be in grand flow from the spring runoff. Bring a neutral density filters if you have them. Continuing along photography to the west is low and high views of Lago Carerra and San Valentin, the highest peak in Chilean Patagonia. To the east is the Jenimeni Range whose drama can also be seen from the Marble Caves side of the lake. Night and dinner in Terra Luna Lodge, just outside of Puerto Guadal.
Day 8: December 7, Monday
Before breakfast, in sunrise light there are spectacular views of the San Valentin range with the Lago Carerra in the foreground. On this, our last morning of Part 1 of the workshop-safari, before heading back to Coyhaique (and a sumptuous going away dinner) we retrace our steps back through Puerto Tranquillo. If our departure from Terra Luna is early enough we could have one more chance to photograph a less-visited group of marble caves further out in the lake. Their coloration is darker than the previous ones. Night and Dinner at Coyhaique.
Day 9: December 8, Tuesday
Depart for home (for those taking only Part 1) OR continue to Part 2.
Part 2 Torres del Paine
Day 9: December 8, Tuesday
Basically a transportation and arrival day. Some participants from Part One may be heading home, Those joining us for both parts of this Patagonian adventure will fly on south with us, to Punta Arenas, the capital of Chile’s 12th region right the Strait of Magellan. On a clear day you can see Tierra del Fuego across the strait. And those photographers who are only participating in this second segment, will join us in the evening in Punta Arenas.
Day 10: December 9, Wednesday
From Punta Arenas we drive north by van, pausing for a fresh seafood lunch in Puerto Natales, to arrive at the Torres del Paine in the afternoon. Check into the Hosteria Pehoe, a classic hotel on a small island (reached by a footbridge) in Lago Pehoe, directly beneath the famous Cuernos del Paine (“Horns” of Paine).
Day 11: December 10, Thursday
Our day begins with a dawn shoot of the Horns or Cuernos, directly across the lake from our hotel. After breakfast, we head off by van to explore the center of the national park. We will spend a second night at the Hosteria Pehoe.
Day 12: December 11, Friday
Another day devoted to the spectacular peaks and lakes near Lago Pehoe. In the evening we drive to a new inn, the Hosteria Grey on the shores of Lago Grey.
Day 13: December 12, Saturday
We focus on the floating icebergs or “témpanos” in Lago Grey; a boat excursion to the face of the giant glacier feeding this lake takes us right beneath the blue cliffs of thousand-year-old ice. We spend a second night at the Hosteria Grey.
Day 14: December 13, Sunday
Today, we once more change our base of operations, moving to the other side of the park, an area well known for its wildlife, especially guanacos and foxes that often seem to want to pose just beneath the most dramatic peaks. We spend the night at the Hosteria Los Torres.
Day 15: December 14, Monday
After a final dawn shoot, we pack up and head for Punta Arenas. An all-day trip to be sure, with more opportunities to photograph on the shores of Bitter Lake (Lago Amargo) as well as abundant wildlife, birds and dramatic beech forests en route to Punta Arenas.
Day 16: December 14, Tuesday
Departure by air to Santiago from Punta Arenas.
These Patagonia photo safaris are limited to eight photographer participants. Every year it seems, one or two participants have to drop out at the last minute for pressing family or personal reasons. Therefore we’ve set our target number at from 6 to 8 participants — with a maximum of 8. (Other photo tours to this part of the world typically set their group size at 14, 16 or more). The only downside of limiting the size of our group is that we will need at least four participants for each segment to cover expenses.
Although we welcome film shooters along with digital, digital makes it possible to have real image critiquing, editing and instruction during the workshop. Bring your laptop if you’ve got one, or at least some storage device on which to download your images at day’s end. I’ll be using Lightroom for tutorials and critiquing since it is so easy to demonstrate importing, editing, catalogging and the most fun of all, making necessary adjustments to the images.
Participants will be responsible for arranging their own flights from the US to Santiago Chile. The in-country flights from Santiago south and back to Santiago are part of the cost of the workshop and will be arranged by Salvaje Corizon, our expert outfitter and guide service. In this age of escalating fuel prices it makes sense to purchase your flights well in advance to avoid fuel-related travel costs increases. We strongly advise purchasing travel insurance.
Once in Patagonia, all your in country flights and expenses on the ground are included (alcohol however is extra). Since the price of this Photo Safari is based on double-occupancy rooms; To guarantee a single room, we need to charge a single-room supplement of $400 for Part One (Central Ptagonia, the Aisén region) and $624 for Part Two (the Torres del Paine). Because this Patagonia Photo Safari is such a major commitment, I’d like to encourage any interested photographers to contact me directly, by phone, or by email for more detailed information. (see the contact info and links at the bottom of the page).
In case I am traveling and temporarily out of contact, you can also email our terrific guide/outfitters in Chile at Salvaje Corazon. email@example.com
To sign up for this trip, please call or email me and send a check for your trip deposit of $600 to:
We always ask for final trip payment 90 days before the trip starts.
Our cancellation policy is standard for the travel and photo-travel industry. If for any reason you need to withdraw from this Photo Safari, please notify us at least 60 days before the start of the trip. At that time we will refund your deposit, less a $250 cancellation fee. But if notification of cancellation is made between 30 and 60 days before the start of the trip, we must retain the whole $600 deposit. If notification of cancellation is made less than 30 days before the start of the workshop there will be no refund.
Bill Ellzey Photographs