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March 2012: Fly-Fishing in Patagonia

"After noticing the sun setting over the Andes, I spotted this fly-fisher in the river casting his troubles away."

From the Photographer...

Tim Boucher 

After a long, hot day of measuring and sampling the Patagonian grasslands, we all needed some downtime. For my Nature Conservancy colleagues, Carlos Fernandez and Jerry Touval, it came in the form of fly-fishing; for me it was birding and photography. The two of them quickly found their favorite spots on the Rio Lamay located on the Fortin Chacabuco ranch near Bariloche, Argentina, while I scouted for birds and subjects to photograph. As the sun was slowly setting on this beautiful, quiet evening, mayflies where exploding in a breeding frenzy on the banks of the Rio Lamay, and the fish were jumping in the cold, fast-flowing river. After walking around for awhile, and noticing the sun setting over the Andes, I returned to the river and spotted Carlos in the distance, oblivious to the frigid water, casting his troubles away.


In addition to providing spots for spectacular fly-fishing, the Fortin ranch is also a partner in a sustainable sheep ranching program. Sheep have grazed ranches like Fortin for over a century, mainly to produce wool for export. While highly profitable, this activity sometimes results in overgrazing, and in some cases — when combined with the regions dry climate, strong winds and cold winters — desertification. Only a small portion of these grasslands have been protected, and The Nature Conservancy is now working with partners such as OVIS XXI and Patagonia Inc. to provide the tools, technology and science to apply best practices in sustainable grazing


The photograph was taken with a Canon D50 and a 15-85mm IS lens. Shot at 1/125 to capture the action, f8 to give it depth and focus, and ISO 100 to keep the grain low in the shadows. Low light conditions demand a steady hand, but in this case I set the camera shutter speed a little faster (1/3 to 1/2 stop) which will deepen the reds at sunset. The zoom lens was set at 22mm — not too wide that the fisherman is very small, but wide enough to capture the glorious sunset.

To silhouette the fisherman, I made sure that Carlos was surrounded by water with a reflection. I had to wait for the moment when his hand was outstretched so that the pose was easy to recognize, and there was not a lot of movement to minimize blur. 

Tim Boucher is a senior conservation geographer at The Nature Conservancy, where his work ranges from complex spatial analyses to extensive field studies, focusing on ecosystem services and linkages between human well-being and conservation. He is also an avid birder and amateur photographer.

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