Countdown to Peru 2013: Amazon Macaws

The countdown to Peru Workshop 2013 is in full swing and I’m checking in with another post relating to my past Peruvian workshop travels. Last year was my first opportunity to enter the Peruvian Amazon. I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect, but after asking Adam about it all I got was, “Spectacular,” so I knew I was in for something unique.

The Amazon part of the workshop is an extension, so not an official part of the class, but most of our workshop group was able to go. It’s such an intense experience it’s nice to be with people you have gotten to know over the course of a few weeks, a few meals and a few laughs. Flying into Puerto Maldonado you look from the plane window and as far as you can see in all directions is a sea of the most intense green you can imagine. The door opens and the rush of humidity blasts in and the long, slow sweat begins. You realize immediately you are in a place unlike any other.

Getting to and from this spot requires, in our case, plane then bus then boat. The boats are dugouts, thin and relatively fast, but speed isn’t of the essence here. In fact, the slower the better. The hours on the boat are a good time to just take things in, sleep, enjoy the heat, or in our case bust open a bottle of Adam’s favorite Pisco, which I have to say was maybe one of the best packing jobs of all time. Thanks Adam.

Ultimately we ended up at the Tambopata Research Center.

The Tambopata Research Center (TRC) of Rainforest Expeditions is situated in the Tambopata National Reserve on the upper Tambopata River in the center of a large uninhabited track of primary tropical lowland forest, very near to the Bahuaja-Sonene National Park, in the Madre de Dios Region of Peru.
The area hosts a unique forest environment, with the highest concentrations of avian clay licks in the world. A range of animals comes to satisfy their need for salt along the river banks of the region. Sometimes hundreds of macaws can be seen at the Collpa Colorado clay-lick near to the research center.

As you all know, I’m not a landscape photographer and I don’t normally shoot wildlife. I LOVE both of these things but never feel like I ever do them justice. However, when thrust into these places, environments and situations I make my pictures. They might not look like the normal landscape or wildlife images, but they mean something to me and I enjoy making them. The longest lens I had was a 50mm, so not really equipped for this type of heavy lifting, but I think these pictures still work, and the audio file is priceless. Think the jungle is quiet? Think again.

Perhaps the best part of this entire thing was getting up long before sunrise to walk through the muddy jungle, climb into the boat, get out of the boat, walk through more muddy jungle and then wait. I grew up bird hunting, so I was used to the idea of doing all this, but not used to not shooting the birds I’d come looking for. In this case I was glad I wasn’t hunting with anything more than my trusty Leica. If you haven’t been to this region it is well worth the effort. The Peruvians have done a wonderful job of preserving this place, much better than many of the other regions in South America, but human nature requires constant diligence. My motto, if you can go, go now.

Return to Peru

An Introduction to from Adam L. Weintraub on Vimeo.

Last year I was able to visit Peru for the first time. Not only was I visiting I was also teaching, thanks to Adam Weintraub and his PhotoExperience operation. I met Adam a few years ago at the Palm Springs Photo Festival and he asked, “Hey, you think you might want to teach in Peru?” I think I responded with something slick like “Um, ya.” A few short months later we descended through the clouds into Cusco. Adam met us at the gate and within minutes we were submerged in Peruvian life. As many of you know, I’ve taught a fair amount, from semester length classes at the university level, believe it nor not, to weekend workshops. Teaching is a horrendous amount of work, it really is, if you are really going to prepare, but I truly enjoy it, otherwise I would do something else like clean barnacles of the hull of passenger ships. A few months passed and Adam rang me up once again and asked, “Otra vez?” I again said something slick like “Um, ya.” So come December into January, you will find me back in South America, with Adam, and a small crew of searchers as we follow the light, the dust and whatever lies beyond that corner we can’t yet see around.

I’ve included a few of the black and white images from my trip, but to keep things consistent I’m only going to publish the black and white with this particular post. Last year’s workshop was about shooting, editing, sequencing and bookmaking. In essence it was several workshops rolled into one. One of the things I like about Adam’s classes is that we are in country for a good amount of time. You all know my beliefs about time and access, the more the better, and there is no way to substitute. Well, luck maybe, but it’s hard to count on that. We could have easily spent the entire twelve or so days shoot, just shooting and doing nothing other than shoot, edit, critique, but we did far, far more. We edited like crazy people. We sequenced like crazy people and we made books like…well, crazy people. It made for long days, long nights and several glasses of Pisco to keep our hearts pure.

This year we are going to change things up a bit. You see Peru was a shock for me, in a good way. I was surprised by the cuisine, the culture and the landscape. Now don’t get me wrong, I’d been to South America before and I’d been to the Andes before, but Peru STILL surprised me. I realized it was enough for me to simply EXIST in the culture, quietly studying what was in my immediate vicinity, watching the light, waiting for the light, moving myself to find the composition that felt right. I also shot color on this trip, square format, portraits, and there are many I like, but at the ESSENCE of this trip, like many of the others I take, was the idea of wandering with one small camera, experiencing the food, the people and the culture while quietly making pictures. For this reason I stuck with the black and white representative of this concept. All shot Leica by the way.

This year our trip takes on a different shape. This year we have “Sketches of Perú: A Photographic Exploration with Cultural and Culinary Highlights” If it sounds fancy and slightly outside the bounds of the traditional all photo, all the time workshop…well good because it is. Just to give you a taste…..

Sketches of Perú: A Photographic Exploration with Cultural and Culinary Highlights

Date: December 23rd 2011 – January 3rd, 2012
Fee: $3950
Instructors: Daniel Milnor and Adam L. Weintraub
Amazon Rainforest Extension through January 7th, 2012; $1750

Highlighted by New Year’s celebrations in Machu Picchu, photographers Daniel Milnor and Adam L. Weintraub invite you on a Peruvian travel odyssey set against the backdrop of one of Latin America’s most spectacular cultures. The trip will begin in modern Lima where the world- class flavor of Peru allows a first taste of the Andean way of life and cuisine. From Lima we will venture to the Colonial City of Arequipa where the terraced, white-rock volcanic landscape reveals the life of rural Peru: villages, condors and hot springs in a magical terrain. Next on our path will be the anthropologically rich areas of Cusco and Machu Picchu where participants will walk the well-worn stone paths of the ancient Incan Empire. Finally, our journey will end on the banks of the Peruvian Amazon, along the Bolivian border.

Not bad right……..

As you can see, this year we are going to be on the move more than we were last year, which for me is pretty darn exciting. I’m already looking at maps of the places I’ve not been, secretly studying where I think I can make pictures. I know what will happen. I will do this research and then Adam will say, “Yes, we’re going there.” Adam has been living in Peru for at least 5000 years and seems to know every nook and cranny. And, his secret weapon…he is a photographer too, so when he tells me something is good, I don’t show up and see a plaque with concrete footprints saying, “Tourist area, please stand in the footprints, make your image and move along.” Just to give you an example, during last year’s workshop I found myself near the edge of a lake in the middle of nowhere, in a photo-archive looking at 8×10 glass plates and on my knees in mud trying to get the right angle at a neighborhood cockfight. There were times last year, when the time and location and ingredients were right, Adam and I looked at each other in that way that photographers do when things are good. Nothing was said, just bulging eye contact. That is what a workshop is all about.

Travel is perhaps the absolute best way to learn about many of the most important things in life. Photography, to me at least, is a very important secondary aspect of travel. This class is going to be about more than photography. Yes we will shoot, edit, sequence and design books, but we will first walk through the riches of Peruvian culture, taking visual notes, engaging with those we come across and taking time to just take in one of the most breathtaking places on Earth. I would view this opportunity to travel to this remote land with like-minded people, all sharing their love of photography, travel, cuisine, culture and life. If you have any questions, want to see or know more, please drop me a line. Hope to see you there.

Peru In Book Form 2010+2011

Hey Kids,
Wanted to check in with you and let you know I’m gearing up for year two in Peru. We are looking at “Peru In book Form: Portrait in the Andes” so if you have a hankering for travel, for photography and for getting out and searching the great world then think about heading south to explore the Andes. This book is the result of last year’s workshop, so I envision building on this for next year, and also adding in more portraits. Turn your sound on and have a look.


So, if any of this looks or sounds good, keep your eye peeled to the “workshops” tab for more details. We are looking at late April. More details to follow.