Torres del Paine National Park, Chile

At more than a million square kilometers, Patagonia is vast. It straddles Argentina and Chile, and traveling from one part of the region to the other is time-consuming and only possible at certain times of the year. I planned my trip to fall in the warmer months, when the weather would be more agreeable and the roads — hopefully — would be safe for driving.

Panorama of Pehoe Lake and Cuernos Peaks in the Morning, Torres del Paine National Park, Chile
Panorama from 2 horizontal shots, additional exposures for highlights, focal length 24 mm, aperture f/11, shutter speed 1/8, ISO 64, tripod.

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As charmed as I was by what I’d seen of Patagonia in Argentina, I eventually had to make my way across the border into Chile to Torres del Paine National Park. Torres del Paine is undoubtedly one of the world’s most beautiful places, and certainly one of Patagonia’s most famous. Search for images of Patagonia, and chances are, you’ll find photos of this remarkable landscape.

I began my exploration of the park at Pehoe Lake, a turquoise blue expanse of water known for its famously changing moods. At times the lake is placid, its surface as smooth and still as glass; at others, it become terrifying and furious, with almost sea-like waves. Locals told me to expect the latter. I crossed my fingers and hoped for the best.

On my first morning at the lake, I awoke early, hoping to catch some of the delicate frost I’d seen in Argentina. Pehoe Lake, as it happened, was in a tranquil mood. The water was still, with hardly a ripple on its surface, and the surrounding trees and grass were threaded with silvery frost, exquisite as lace. As I watched, low-hanging silver clouds drifted in, hovering over the Cuernos peaks like a veil.

Pehoe Lake is beautiful and would be stunning in any conditions, I’m certain. But I can’t help but feel that I was fortunate enough to capture the lake at a uniquely beautiful moment.

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Mount Fitz Roy and Rio De la Cascada, Patagonia

My first glimpses of Mount Fitz Roy were breathtaking. Seeing the great peak in the early morning light left me invigorated, and the long hike in the darkness was forgotten. I wanted to see more of the mountain before the frost melted, and I was acutely aware of the sun rising higher above me.

Rio De la Cascada and Fitz Roy in the Morning, Los Glaciares National Park, Argentina
Single shot, additional exposures for highlights, focal length 19 mm, aperture f/11, shutter speed 0.5 seconds, ISO 125, tripod.

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This is the kind of place that beckons. The wind was bracing and the temperature was only beginning to rise, but the cold didn’t deter me. I was exhilarated by the environment and the feeling that I had stumbled on an unknown treasure, a secret place laced with silver and hidden away from view. I wanted to capture as much of it as possible before the sun is too high and the light is too harsh for photography.

A river courses through this area, with small cascades breaking over rocks. Following the course of the river, your eyes naturally focus on Mount Fitz Roy, and I wanted photographs that captured this — the icy splendor of Patagonia and the lordly presence of the mountain. I put on rubber boots and waded out into the stream, positioning myself so that Mount Fitz Roy was the focus and stood my tripod in the water. I hardly felt the cold now; I was fixated on the scene before me: the water, the frost, and the jagged peaks of Mount Fitz Roy.

I’ve had this feeling before in my travels, the feeling of seeing a landscape so magical that it might have been the creation of child’s imaginings. I felt it in the dunes and salt pans of Namibia, and now, in a very different environment — a landscape of ice and water — I felt it again.

There was more of Patagonia to explore.

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Mount Fitz Roy in the Morning, Patagonia

Patagonia. A vast expanse of rugged terrain at nearly the bottom of the world, Patagonia has for years loomed large in my imagination. Nearly inaccessible for much of the year, the region beckons adventure travelers and those — like myself – who are drawn by its breathtaking and formidable beauty.

Panorama of Rio De la Cascada and Fitz Roy in the Morning, Los Glaciares National Park, Argentina
Panorama from 5 vertical shots, additional exposures for highlights, focal length 24 mm, aperture f/11, shutter speed 1/5, ISO 80, tripod.

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It’s a massive region roughly three times the size of Germany that extends across the southernmost regions of Argentina and Chile. I began my trip in Argentina’s Los Glaciares National Park, more than half of which is covered in glaciers.

Here, near the border between the two countries, Mount Fitz Roy towers over the massive ice field. The peak is regarded by climbers as one of the most difficult ascents in the world. It isn’t the great peak’s height that makes it challenging, but the ice and wind that are ever-present, even in good weather. Ancient people referred to the mountain as “Chaltén,” which means “smoking mountain.” They believed the mountain to be a volcano because of the heavy veil of clouds at its peak.

To explore Patagonia at all requires planning and stamina, and photographing Mount Fitz Roy was no different. I wanted to photograph the peak at sunrise, which involved a two-hour hike up a steep path before daylight, a challenge in the best conditions. For two days, it rained, making it too risky to climb the path in the dark. On the third day, the weather improved and I packed my gear and headed out into the Patagonian darkness.

I reached my location just at dawn, and gasped at the sight. All of the trees and bushes were dusted with delicate white hoarfrost, and in the early morning light, it glistened like silver and diamonds. It was a magical landscape, and it seemed to me to be a fitting image for Patagonia — a landscape that is challenging and difficult, but one that rewards you with gems of the most incredible beauty.

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Christmas 2018 Sale – 30% off

Dear subscribers and followers, I am happy to offer a special Christmas discount till the end of December 2018!

All my photographs can be purchased as Fine Art Prints to add to the decor of your home or office. I offer Metal Prints and traditional Paper Prints with various finishes. Metal Prints always come framed and ready to hang. For Paper Prints you can choose – to order already matted and framed prints or to frame it yourself. The details and colours of my photographs look fantastic on prints and cannot be adequately reproduced on computer screens.

These prints make great gifts for your friends and family, especially those who love to travel and appreciate the world’s beauty.

Fine Art Prints Christmas sale - 30% off

All my best works from the last 2 years are organised in 7 collections:

• “Silver of Patagonia” — striking fairytale landscapes from Patagonia:
Shop “Silver of Patagonia” Collection >>

• “Realm of Light” — haunting mountain landscapes from the Dolomites in Italy:
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• “Bay of Biscay” — magic seascapes from the Northern Spain:
Shop “Bay of Biscay” Collection >>

• “Isle of Eigg” — moody seascapes from Isle of Eigg in Scotland:
Shop “Isle of Eigg” Collection >>

• “Gems of Namibia” — vibrant and energising landscapes of Namibia:
Shop “Gems of Namibia” Collection >>

• “Inspiring Cities” — photos of the most beautiful European cities:
Shop “Inspiring Cities” Collection >>

• “Romantic Santorini” — views of the most romantic Greece island:
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I offer worldwide shipping, any sizes are available.

As a special Christmas 2018 offer, I will give a discount of 30% through the end of December 2018. Use code XMS2018 at checkout to get the discount.

To make a purchase, simply choose the photo you want, click on its preview. When the preview is open to full screen, click the green “BUY” button at the bottom left corner and follow the instructions from there.

Other Fine Art Collections also eligible for Christmas 30% discount. Use code XMS2018 at checkout to get the discount.

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Refugio Lavaredo, Dolomites

My time in the Dolomites was nearly over. I’d hiked the most well-known trails and photographed the range’s most famous peaks and valleys. The muscles in my legs ached from almost daily climbs, but I was content and deeply satisfied with all that I had seen and done.

Refugio Lavaredo at Sunset, The Tre Cime Natural Park, Sexten Dolomites, Italy
August 2018, single shot, additional exposures for highlights, focal length 70 mm, aperture f/11, shutter speed 0.8 second, ISO 64, tripod.

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On my last day, I again ventured into Tre Cime Natural Park. It’s one of the loveliest places in the Dolomites, and I wanted to see it once more before I packed up to fly back home. It was nearly sunset by the time I reached my destination, a rocky ledge overlooking the Refugio Lavaredo, a lodge near the base of the Tre Cimes.

From that vantage point, looking down a rocky ledge toward the imposing peaks in the distance, the refugio appeared tiny and insignificant, a diminutive bulwark against nature. Though it seemed very far away, I could see lights in the windows of the refugio, and I knew that for a few hours, it would be a home to someone, a place of welcome amid the harsh, rocky terrain of the mountains. It struck me then, looking at the savagely beautiful peaks of the Dolomites, that sometimes this is all we need in life: a small refuge, a place of comfort, in what is sometimes a savage and unforgiving world.

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Torre di Toblin, Dolomites

My family and I had spent several days hiking through the Dolomites and it was near the end of our trip. We’d undoubtedly hiked many miles, but it seemed that we’d barely begun to explore the region. It was rich with history and natural beauty and I felt that I could have stayed and wandered its winding paths for months without ever seeing everything the mountains had to reveal.

Torre di Toblin (Toblinger Knoten), Sexten Dolomites (Sesto Dolomites), Italy
August 2018, single shot, additional exposures for highlights, focal length 14 mm, aperture f/11, shutter speed 1/24, ISO 64, tripod.

You can buy this photo as Fine Art Print >>

We weren’t the only ones who were fascinated by the region. For most of the trip, we shared hiking trails with travelers from around the world who explored just as eagerly as we did. You get used to the crowds as a travel photographer — after all, they’re drawn by the same beauty that attracted me.

But towards the end of our trip, I found myself alone on a hike to the Torre di Toblin. It was early in the day, so perhaps most people were not awake yet, but I had the area to myself. It’s a stark, desolate expanse, devoid even of plant life. I had the sense that I was the only living being in that part of the Dolomites, witnessing the earth before the creation of life. And it wasn’t a distressing thought; it was oddly peaceful to look out over the world as it might have appeared before it was populated with all of the earth’s creatures.

The sun rose higher and far below the peaks of the Torre di Toblin, life began to stir.

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Cinque Torri, Dolomites

It’s a beautiful place, this part of Italy. It’s easy to forget yourself here. You can become so entranced by the spectacular natural beauty off far-off peaks that you miss things close at hand. You don’t see them at first, the strange gouges that pockmark many of the trees. In other places, hikers occasionally kick up bullet casings and bits of barbed wire among the wildflowers.

Cinque Torri at Sunset, Dolomites, Italy
August 2018, single shot, additional exposures for highlights, focal length 17 mm, aperture f/11, shutter speed 1/13, ISO 64, tripod.

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They are grim reminders of a dark part of the region’s history. From 1914 to 1918, a bitter — if little-known — battle raged here between the forces of Italy and Austria-Hungary. The terrain itself — marked by soaring, 3000 meter peaks — was treacherous, as was the weather, and men died of hypothermia as easily as they died from gunfire. The casualties were enormous — Italy alone lost more than half a million men among the craggy spires of the Dolomites.

Few people remember that fighting now, a century later. A popular spot for hikers, Cinque Torri is now lined with trails and signs pointing in one direction or another. Looking out over the Dolomites on a summer day, it’s almost impossible to imagine the horror that once took place here. The only sounds are birds and the voices of fellow hikers, and wildflowers bloom from a land once scarred by battle. It’s hard to imagine that that the region was ever anything other than surpassingly lovely.

I call this photograph the Valley of Peace. I chose that name because now – one hundred years after the guns fell silent – it’s a place of serenity. Once, countries fought over this land. Now, people from around the world come here for the sole purpose of admiring its beauty. This particular spot is a reminder to me that for all of the harm that humans may sometimes do, we still possess the ability to be deeply moved by the natural world and to look out over creation with a profound sense of wonder.

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Brunecker Turm, Dolomites

As a travel photographer, my work is often strictly planned. I research locales and book trips months in advance. I plan my itineraries well before I leave for a trip, so that I’m sure to include all of the well-known sites and scenic spots that I want to photograph. My travels take me to beautiful, historic, and beloved places, but I sometimes wonder if I spend so much time focused on work that I don’t get to fully appreciate the places I visits. I’m a lifelong traveler, but I sometimes forget to simply wander.

Winding path led up to Brunecker Turm mountain peak in Passo Gardena, Trentino Alto Adige, Italy
August 2018, panorama from 3 vertical shots, additional exposures for highlights, focal length 16 mm, aperture f/14, shutter speed 30 seconds, ISO 31, tripod, ND 5-stop filter.

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On my recent trip to the Dolomites with my family, I decided to spend less time focused on work. My family was with me, after all, and it was their holiday as much as it was mine. I resolved to spend more time simply enjoying the place and taking in the natural beauty of the region than being focused on getting a great photograph. I decided I would wander.

This part of Italy almost compels you to wander. From the lovely Val Gardena Valley to the jagged peaks and spires of the Dolomites themselves, the region begs to be explored. So I put my itinerary aside and my family and I took to the trails and ski lifts. In winter, the area is a popular ski resort, but in warmer months, when the mountainsides are green and dotted with wildflowers, the lifts are full with hikers and explorers.

It was during our ambling through the countryside that I found a beautiful peak, which I later learned was called Brunecker Turm. I found it by accident during a day spent hiking with my family. It was one of those fortuitous accidents that happen sometimes when you travel, especially if you simply allow yourself to wander. You turn a corner or hike to the top of a hill and you’re greeted with one of the most beautiful things you’ve ever seen.

As it happened, a winding path led up to Brunecker Turm. I hadn’t planned on making photographs that day, but the scene was so picturesque and evocative that I couldn’t resist. That winding path up to a Dolomite peak seemed to me to represent not only my meandering path that day, but the varied paths that each of us takes through life. On that day, an early summer morning in Italy, I was profoundly grateful that mine took me where it did.

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Cinque Torri at Sunset, Dolomites

Sometimes beauty is deceiving. I’ve often found myself drawn to a particular place because photos and descriptions of it highlighted its beauty, only to find that reaching the place came with certain difficulties or even dangers. I’ve found myself perched on the edge of cliffs to capture a perfect image of the sea or traveling into the remote reaches of the desert, far away from civilization, to photograph a long-abandoned city.

5 torri, Dolomites, Alps mountains, Veneto, Italy
August 2018, panorama from 3 horizontal shots, focus stacking for foreground, additional exposures for highlights, focal length 14 mm, aperture f/11, shutter speed 1/10, ISO 64, tripod.

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In the Dolomites, I was once again drawn to a deceptively beautiful and serene location. Cinque Torri, another of the range’s famously scenic locations, was my next destination during my family vacation this summer. Cinque Torri didn’t even require a lengthy hike — it was accessible via a ski lift, and I sailed up over the mountain terrain, gear in hand, ready to photograph another remarkable Dolomite landscape.

The view from Cinque Torri was as beautiful as I anticipated. Some of the peaks in this region soar to more than 10,000 feet before plunging down into rocky valleys lined with wildflowers.

But the stunning views from Cinque Torri also revealed a dark and violent history. It was here, during World War I, that the forces of Italy and the Austro-Hungarian Empire clashed in some of the fiercest fighting of the war. A short distance from the peaks that enchanted me were trenches, tunnels, and barbed wire where fighting once raged. These remnants of war are now an open-air museum, completely harmless, but they felt ominous to me, reminders of the terrible atrocities that humans can inflict on one another.

I settled on a location to photograph, with the great peaks in the background. In the foreground, I focused on the vivid purple wolfsbane flowers that grow in the Dolomites. Like Cinque Torri, the flower is beautiful but deceiving; they are lovely to look at but they harbor a deadly poison, and it struck me that the flowers were a perfect metaphor for Cinque Torri. I got my photographs and started back down the trails, pondering the nature of beauty.

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Lago di Sorapis, Dolomites

The Dolomites continued to charm me. My family and I spent days in the mountains, and each day revealed more enchanting, tucked away places. After a few days in the mountains, I found what must be one of the most ethereally beautiful places in the entire range, the Lago di Sorapis.

Sorapis Lake Dolomites Italy
August 2018, additional exposures for highlights, focal length 14 mm, aperture f/11, shutter speed 1/15, ISO 64, tripod.

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Getting to Sorapis requires a three- or four-hour hike from the parking lot all the way to the lake. It’s not particularly difficult, but there are places along the way where the drop is quite steep and the view — while beautiful — might be a bit too vertiginous for some. But these places are few and for most of the hike, I was too distracted by the incredible views to give much thought to falling.

It’s a spectacular place — I was surrounded by mountains for virtually the entire hike and the air was crisp with the scent of evergreen. I wouldn’t call it untraveled, but the hike to Lago di Sorapis is generally less populated than some of the other trails in the Dolomites. Surrounded by the region’s natural beauty and having the trail virtually to ourselves gave the hike a serene quality and I was in no hurry to leave.

At the end of the long hike, we reached our reward: the mystical blue waters of Lago di Sorapis. The lake is a milky, powdery blue, and its color, combined with its relatively remote location, makes you feel that you’ve wandered into a setting from a child’s storybook. I timed the hike to that I would arrive at the lake shortly before sunset, and the dimming sunlight gave the lake an even more magical quality. Though the hike had been long and I was tired, seeing the otherworldly beauty of the lake left me invigorated and I was grateful for the experience.

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