Thursday, September 12, 2013
I've decided to introduce a recurring feature on my blog called "Story of the Photo." Quite literally, the entry will feature single photos from my past assignments, the stories behind them and a bit of technical photo geek info.
Now, on to the first photo!
This picture was taken for a New York Times Travel Section assignment about the Parque Nacional del Cocuy, a remote mountain park in Colombia's Boyaca province. I had already fallen in love with Colombia by the time this photo was taken, had spent lots of time in the country and spoke a wierd mix of gringo and Medellin-accented Spanish. I also love the outdoors, so this was a dream assignment for me!
The town of El Cocuy, gateway to the park, is a grueling 12 hour drive from Bogota. I convinced my city-slicker girlfriend Karen to come along (now she's Mrs. Drenner!) and we took an overnight bus which wound its way through the mountains, around countless hairpin turns and over deep pot holes (which would at times send me flying out out of my seat). Fortunately, the worst part of the trip was in the dark, so we couldn't see the precipitous drops along the roadside. Ignorance is bliss.
We arrived in the morning, groggy but happy at the sight of the quaint colonial town ringed by snowcapped peaks. Anxious to get to work, I hired a local boy with a couple of sturdy mountain ponies to get us and my gear into the mountains. By midafternoon we arrived at a place called Laguna Grande-- the rubble-strewn plateau you see in the photo above. Our guide hiked back home wearing nothing but rubber boots, and we set up camp.
I was eager to make a decent image before nightfall, and framed up the photo above using a mini-tripod balanced on a small rock pile. For my exposure I chose a combination of a long shutter speed, maybe 2-3 seconds, and a small aperture, something like f/22. This gave me lots of depth of field to keep everything from the closest to the furthest rocks in focus, and more importantly gave us time to light up the tent. Karen was inside with a small headlamp which she would wave furiously around the inside of the tent everytime I yelled "Go!" After a couple of attempts, I had the photo you see above.
After that, we made dinner and I drank too much tea, something which I regretted later when I had to repeatedly crawl out of our warm cocoon for late night trips to the bathroom.