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December 2012: Valdivian Coastal Reserve, Chile

"This image was made deep in the reserve where few people besides the occasional fisherman pass through."

From the Photographer...

Ian Shive

Traveling to Southern Chile in July was a bit disorienting as it meant leaving summer behind at my home in Los Angeles and heading into the middle of winter in the Southern Hemisphere.

While many might not consider the Chilean "off season" to be the most ideal time for photography — cold temperatures and wind punctuated by occasionally heavy rains — it allowed for dramatic skies in an equally dramatic location. I felt incredibly lucky to explore this place, the landscape of which was otherworldly. 

I was sent on assignment to document the Valdivian Coastal Reserve, a stunning stretch of ancient, temperate rainforest that abuts the wild, dark waters of the Atlantic Ocean. This image was made deep in the reserve where few people besides the occasional fisherman pass through. The reserve has roads but almost all are unpaved and many are downright treacherous if not impassable, especially after a heavy rain.

After traveling for an hour over these roads until we could go no further, my team, which comprised of local Nature Conservancy staff and Valdivian park rangers, ventured out on foot. For six hours we crossed a now roadless landscape. We left footprints on hundred foot high sand dunes, explored ancient caves with impressionistic 1200-year old artwork and stopped to examine the old growth rainforest that surrounded us. 

As we returned from our excursion, the light began to drift behind clouds and a breeze began pouring in off the Atlantic, churning the sand, especially along these smaller dunes. I loved the soft light filtering in and stopped to make a landscape photograph when two of my companions walked into frame adding depth and perspective to this photo. 

Photographed with a Canon 5D Mark II, 24-70mm f2.8 lens @ 64mm, ISO 100, 1/50th of a second @ F13. 

Ian Shive is an award-winning conservation photographer, author, educator, film producer and environmental advocate most recently recognize as the recipient of the Sierra Club's 2011 Ansel Adams Award for Conservation Photography. For more information visit You can also follow Ian on Twitter @ianshivephoto.



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