Club is wowed by ‘hot and cold’ landscapes

Elephant Seal sunbathing in South Georgia
Elephant Seal sunbathing in South Georgia

On Tuesday, February 28, Morpeth Camera Club staged its Annual Big Event, entitled Hot and Cold, featuring Alan Walker, MPAGB, ARPS, EFIAP, MPSA, and Julie Walker, ARPS, DPAGB, EFIAP, EPSA.

It was a photographic journey from tropical Northern Argentina, through Chile’s Atacama Desert, down to Tierra Del Fuego at the southern tip of South America to Antarctica, continuing on to the Falklands and South Georgia.

The couple, from Ambleside, spoke to a capacity audience of their six-week journey, describing the extremes of arid landscapes of South America to the harsh environments of Antarctica, together with anecdotes and facts related to this amazing part of the world.

Their journey started at the Iguazu Waterfalls — a multitude of waterfalls coloured by silt and sediment from flood water, a third of which is in Brazil and the rest in Argentina, and formed by a volcanic crack, which can be reached by a series of walkways.

Although this is not an ideal environment for photographers due to the 500ft spray, the Walkers witnessed the 400,000 cubic feet per second flow rate, the greatest on the planet, together with the thunderous roar of water, demonstrated by a short soundtrack providing the audience with the scale of volume.

On the more accessible Argentinean side, also accessed by walkways, devil’s throat birds, cormorants, green kingfishers, little blue heron, capuchin monkeys, toucans, great kiskadee and green honeycreeper have formed their habitat.

Their journey continued to Purmamarca village in the Jujuy province of north west Argentina, set in the striking, multi-hued mountain called the Seven Colours Hill; ethereal colours created by mineral deposits over the millennia. With a population of only a few hundred, shots of colourful market stalls selling an inordinate number of hats, pictures of children and street scenes captured life in this remote area.

On their route to Chile, we saw amazing shots of snaking, high altitude roads through the Humahuaca Gorge and listened to tales of the difficult, bureaucratic, time-consuming border crossing.

The Atacama Desert to Bolivia followed, providing Alan and Julie with amazing photo opportunities to capture aquamarine salt pans layered in pastel blues and gold, formed by salt residue. Considered to be the driest place on earth, the rhea, grey fox, tinamou or mountain hen, puna teals and the Andean, Chilean and James species of flamingos can be seen — it is a wonder that wildlife can survive.

We were treated to a series of lovely shots of flamingos forming patterns in flight and ‘walking on water’ before take off. Alan explained that although the dominant vegetation is desert grass, every five to seven years the magic of El Niño transforms the landscape into a carpet of red and violet flowers.

The Boca district in Buenos Aries followed, a dangerous, but photogenic place. We saw colourful photographs of street tango dancers, café culture, graffiti, and street life.

Part two followed with travels to Tierra del Fuego, shared by Argentina and Chile. Due to the position of the Andes, it provides a sub-Antarctic rainforest environment. Above snow-capped, craggy mountains rest dramatic cloud formations, controlled by the huge cold landmass of Antarctica. This region encounters a variety of weather patterns, which were reflected in the Walkers’ beautiful photographs.

Their journey then took them through the Beagle Channel, the gateway to Antarctica and out to the Southern Ocean.

Departing from Ushuaia, their home for the next three weeks was the Akademik Sergey Vavilov, taking them to the Falklands.

Comprising of two main islands and 700 smaller ones, it is home to millions of penguins, brown browed albatross, kelp geese, tussac birds and dolphin gulls. Humourous photographs of rock hopper penguins nest building and squabbling, yet living mostly in harmony with the albatross, followed.

Landing in South Georgia’s St Andrew’s Bay, they were met with 180,000 pairs of king penguins. Happily co-existing are the elephant seals. With 700,000 occupying the territory, the audience saw images of elephant seals fighting over territory, three-tonne males and wrinkly youngsters snoozing.

There were beautiful pictures of penguin life, queuing up to venture into the sea and striking shots of head detail in orange, grey and back. Images of the customary pouring of whisky over Shackleton’s grave, an abandoned whaling ship in monochrome, a whalers’ church whose congregation originated from north west Scotland who came to make their fortune, pintail ducks, fur seals fighting, all set within their wonderful surroundings, followed.

South Shetland, with its mighty glaciers, made for difficult landing in their Zodiac, stepping ashore on to snow and ice, but it was well worth the effort to witness images of the charming gentoo penguins.

In the Southern Ocean, there were gasps from the audience at images of rough seas and giant waves. Enormous almost sculptured icebergs in vibrant blues were taken in temperatures so low that slush slopped about in the well of their Zodiac.

The evening flew past.

Chairman Glyn Trueman thanked Alan and Julie for their excellent landscape and wildlife photography and commentary.