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December 2011: Parque Nacional Llanganates, Ecuador

From the Photographer...

Erika Nortemann

I was getting fidgety, sitting there in the backseat. The best light of the day was slipping quickly away into the late afternoon hours as we drove around getting lost. When are we just going to be there already? 

“There” was the western zone of Parque Nacional Llanganates in Ecuador’s Tungurahua Province. The photo subject? The beautiful páramo.

Páramo is a high mountain grassland ecosystem found mostly in the Andean tropics between 3000m and 5000m. It has the capacity to retain a tremendous amount of water, providing natural water regulation to the landscapes (and people) below.

The Nature Conservancy has partnered with FONAG and USAID to support their Fondo de Páramos Tungurahua y Lucha Contra la Pobreza (Tungurahua Páramo Fund and Fight Against Poverty) which aims to protect, preserve and recover the páramo ecosystem to improve the water quality and quantity of the Ambato and Pastaza river basins.

That’s why I was there — in that backseat of agony and impatience — to photograph the work being done to protect this valuable ecosystem.

We finally reached the park entrance, picked up a park ranger and set off to drive even further. When we drove past a scene of vast páramo, with the sun still striking the landscape, I called “Pare! Por Favor!” (Stop! Please!). The sun had already dipped past the perfect lighting, but it was still a beautiful scene, and I just couldn’t pass this location without making some photos.

This shot was one of many I fired off here with a 11-16mm Tokina lens (my most favorite lens in my kit). I had my Canon 7D mounted on a tripod (a hybrid of Gitzo legs and a Really Right Stuff quick-release ball head). While I would have liked to be here a little earlier to see how the sun and the clouds changed the landscape, I still consider this one of my favorite images of the day.

By the time we reached our intended destination within the park, the sun had completely set behind the mountains and while I fired off a few more shots of the warm colors that still remained in the sky, the dramatic light was done. While the landscape was nice enough, this view of the páramo was much better.

Sometimes as a photographer you have to take advantage of the scene in front of you and stop worrying about what’s around the corner.

Sometimes you just have to know when to cry: “Pare!

Erika Nortemann is the photography archive manager and photo editor for The Nature Conservancy.


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