I had already learned about what locals call the ‘Bolivian Winter’ during my first visit to the chilean Altiplano. Back then my hopes of doing some nighttime photography in San Pedro de Atacama were crushed by clouds and rain. One day we were even caught in a hail storm on a tour over to the bolivian side. High up in the Andes – February and March are the wettest months I was told.

The second time around I was prepared. I had lowered my expectations for clear nights and instead of relying on tours and public transport to get around, we had rented a 4×4 pick up truck. While I don’t mind sharing my ride with others, tour schedules hardly ever coincide with landscape photographers’ plans. And having to watch the most beautiful light through the rear window of a tour van was a hard lesson to learn. As you can imagine I was quite a bit happier this time, being able to drive around freely – and even more so to stay wherever I wanted.

Sunset over Salar de Surire

The End Of All Light

We spent our time re-visiting many locations that previously I had only had a quick glance on. We passed our nights mostly on dead ends of dirt roads, the car parked slightly uphill so that sleeping on the front seat became almost comfortable. This particular night we were supposed to be happy campers alongside the hot springs of Salar de Surire called Termas de Polloqere. But first – we were greeted by thunder and lightning.

It’s common knowledge that a car is a relatively safe space during a thunderstorm – but since we were caught in a heavy storm at around 4.200m above sea level and with 40 liters of fuel on the cargo bed, I have to admit that we still got a bit nervous. We sat there for hours. Watching the rain and lightning. Waiting for the next clap of thunder.

And then – all of a sudden. It ceased to rain. And while the storm clouds were slowly dissolving and moving east, the sun broke through, bathing the whole scenery in some of the best light I had ever seen.

Monumento Natural Salar de Surire
Reserva Nacional Las Vicuñas

Canon EOS 5D Mark III
Nikon 14-24mm AFS f/2.8 G ED @ 14mm
ISO 100, f/8, 1/80 second
Gitzo GT1541T

26. February 2015