Category Archives: Photography

Patagonia 2013: Trekking the “W” at Torres del Paine

One of a group of posts from an”autumn” trip to Patagonia. 


If you just drive around Torres del Paine National Park in far-southern Chile, you’ll be very impressed.  But you ain’t seen nothin’ unless you’ve hiked deep into the park, where the weather, the trees, the lakes, the peaks — everything — is completely different.  One of the two famous “Treks” around the iconic mountains is called the W; each prong of the W-shaped route probes into one of the valleys of the park.  You start in arid scrub at the edge of the park, go up and down through multiple climate zones and cloud layers, and wind up shivering next to a bright-blue glacier.

It’s a multi-day trek.  We were fortunate enough to get to stay in “refugios” — essentially bunkhouses (with meals!) in the wilderness at the bases of the W — rather than having to camp.  We even met a few new friends along the trail and at the refugios.  All in, it was nearly 30 hours of “trekking” over 4 days, often in rain or wading through creeks and flooded trails.  We got some of the nastiest blisters you’ve ever seen.

The red building (and the one with the rainbow) is the hotel at the far east edge of the W, where the trek began.  The tall granite spires are the actual Torres (towers) del Paine themselves.  The interior shot is at Refugio Cuernos.  The W trek ended at the north end of Lago Grey, near where the Grey Glacier dumps into the lake.  We were able to catch a Glacier boat back to civilization at the end of our trek — saving us several hours of backtracking.  The last shot at the bottom is where we got off that boat.  That’s a real condor circling above near the cliffs.



Patagonia 2013: Argentina’s Mt. Fitz Roy (“El Chalten”)

Part 2 of a series that started here:  Argentina’s Mt. Fitz Roy (“El Chalten”) wasn’t actually the first stop on my Patagonian adventure, but these are some of my favorite pictures, and (unlike the others) I’ve sorted through them and they’re ready to go.  Much more later.


My weeks in Chile and Argentina’s Patagonia region are almost over.  Lots of good pictures – though as always, the perfect image eludes me.  It’s fall here, so the weather is unpredictable and there were lots of gray skies.  The tradeoff is that the leaves are changing, giving us a view of Patagonia most of the ‘summer’ (November – February) tourists never see.  It’s very quiet – the restaurants and the trails are mostly empty.

To get north out of far-southern Chile, you’ve got to go into southwestern Argentina.  Chile is so mountainous there are no Chilean roads that connect its southernmost section with the rest of the country.  Thus as we headed north, we crossed into Argentina for a few days.

The real highlight of the Argentinian section was Mount Fitz Roy (known locally as El Chalten).  Amazingly, you could see El Chalten for over 100 miles as we drove towards it.  All the pictures on this post are of (or around) Mt. Fitz Roy).



The trip into Argentina had other highlights:  A great steak.  Some Argentine wine.  Up-close views of a glacier or two.  Me teaching my friend Mike Short to play craps in a small-town Argentinian casino.   Going 575km between functioning gas stations in a car with a range of 580km (apparently).

Cristina Fernández de Kirchner on the throne

This was the photo on the wall. Argentine President Fernandez. Scepter, sash, lace & throne.

Our introduction to Argentina was driving through immigration and customs at a rural border crossing.  Picture a tiny isolated home, with nothing for miles around, and with half-finished concrete construction work on the front porch and sidewalk.  You just park somewhere out front and walk through the yard to go in.  Inside you’re “welcomed” by Sgt Lopez and by a portrait of Argentine President  Cristina Fernandez.  President Fernandez is literally sitting on a throne, holding a scepter and wearing a sash and a lace dress.  She looks like a sixty-year-old prom queen, shot with a her mom’s cheap cameraphone.  Still, the sign says she welcomes us to Argentina – which is nice.

Lopez is more discriminating about who he welcomes and who he doesn’t.  He’s dressed in full military drab – a green wool uniform probably left over from the 40s, complete with a perfectly round but perfectly flat hat that looks like a green tambourine with a black bill.  Makes me want to call him “Generalissimo” and chat him up about the Falklands War.  The hat sits on the desk as he grumbles his way through our paperwork, including a few disgusted “Aye aye ayes.”  He rummages through a desk drawer to find the proper forms for two Americanos crossing the Chile/Argentine border in a rented SUV.  He finds one – just one – and rips apart the duplicating pages so each of us can fill one out.  He seems to want some sort of “carta” (“letter, card, or document”?) that we clearly do not have.  He shakes his head (“AYE aye aye”) and gets over it.

On the other side of the room is the much friendlier customs guy.  His job, apparently, is to write down in big old-fashioned manual ledger books the license number of our car and the passport number of the driver.  There are stacks of these log books; I’m sure they will never be opened again for any purpose whatsoever.  Behind him is the biggest (and perhaps most important) section of the facility:  the ping pong table.  There are probably some very long lonely stretches between cars out here.

Never are we even asked if we had weapons, drugs, passengers, diseased fruits and vegetables, or anything else. (We did not, fyi).

We make it through.  Critically:  At no time during this process did I bust out laughing.  But I wanted to.






“State Champion Grace Parker” and the Fort Gibson Lady Tigers

In Oklahoma high school basketball lingo, a trip to the Big House means a trip to the State Fair Arena in Oklahoma City for the State Championships.  Saturday night, the Fort Gibson Lady Tigers once again made their mark there  — ending the evening as Class 4A State Champs.

The beautiful blonde  you see in several of the pictures — #23 with a pinkish headband — is my niece, Grace Parker.   I got to hear them announce her as “State Champion Grace Parker” at the end of the game during a very-quick trip to Oklahoma last weekend.  Grace is a defensive terror — her prodigiously tenacious talent for harrassing, vexing and frustrating her foes was honed back in Fort Gibson, growing up as Caitlin and Tyler’s baby sister.   Of course those two were on hand to share the night.

The enemy?  The vicious vixen of Mount St. Mary’s.  Maybe being Popeless had thrown them off their game.  They looked like a great bunch of girls:  their warmup shirts didn’t have their last names on them; instead they had words like “Courage”, “Heart”, and “Strength.”  But the Lady Tigers showed little “Mercy” — erasing a halftime deficit and storming back to make it look easy down the stretch.

The darker-haired #12 in several of the pictures (holding the trophy in a few) is Grace’s best bud, Allie Glover.  Allie has roundball sharpshooting in her blood (her mom, Liz, was an All-American at OSU; her dad, Derald, twice coached state championship teams (allegedly)).  Grace has basketball in her blood, too, I guess:  Tyler was captain of an NAIA National Championship team at OBU.  That may have come from the Parker side of the family.  Maybe.

I had to stay behind the rails, so my pictures of the game itself aren’t all that good or interesting.  Happily there was ample opportunity to get some fun shorts during the celebration afterward.  Cousins, grandparents, and everyone else showed up to cheer and get their picture taken with the evening’s celebrities.

Forgive me for focusing on Grace and Allie — but Grace is family to me, and Allie might as well be family to the Parkers.  I hope everybody on the team has an uncle somewhere proudly bragging and posting pictures of them on the internet.  They all surely deserve it.  Congratulations, Lady Tigers!










Paris 2012: Endless Louvre

It started as a 12th Century fort, and became the royal residence and seat of the French monarchy until Louis XIV moved his throne and his wig collection out to Versailles in the 1680s.  Since then, the Louvre has been (mostly) a museum housing (mostly) pre-19th Century art.  Its most recognizable residents, of course, are Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa, and the armless Venus de Milo.  But it’s a bit of a mystery to me why these two pieces (as opposed to some of the thousands of other options in the Louvre) are so famously iconic.


The building itself is surely as impressive as any of its holdings.  It’s U-shaped, with half-mile long legs paralleling the Seine River.  The 1980s glass pyramid looks a little odd amid the 16th Century architecture, but the contrast makes for some interesting pictures.

I wandered the grounds late one night after the crowd had gone home to get some shots in the interesting light.  The girl in red is my neice, Caitlin.

For fellow photo nerds:  The night shots are all hand-held, with existing light.  Mostly around 1/15th second, ISO 4000 or so, with the D800 and the 24-120mm f4 lens, presumably testing the limits of Nikon’s “VR” and high-ISO capabilities.



Paris 2012: Eiffel Tower

For a while, it was the tallest manmade structure in the world.  Built in the 1880s by Gustav Eiffel (the bridge-building engineer who had recently built the framework for the Statue of Liberty), the Eiffel Tower was intended as a temporary entryway for the 1889 World’s Fair.  (Apparently World’s Fairs were a big deal back in those days).   The plan was to take it down 20 years later, but by then the radio had been invented, and having a very tall tower for radio antennas came in pretty handy, so it stayed up.  The rest is history — literally.  The French at least cut the elevator cables on the tower before the Germans took over Paris in 1940, so Hitler never got to the top when he visited Paris.

Since it went up in the late 19th Century, the Tower has been visited by about 250 million people — now including my sister Jana Parker, and my niece Caitlin.  I was lucky enough last week to get to take Jana and Caitlin to Paris for a few days of post-Christmas sightseeing.  Here’s the first batch of pictures — all of these are shots of, including, and/or from the Eiffel Tower.  Thanks to Caitlin for some nice, impromptu work as a Parisian model.  More pictures from Paris still to come when I get organized.