The Gaucho Life

Gaucho el Jefe by Sam Dobrow

Back from Patagonia

I just returned from a two week journey to Chili’s Patagonia region and the Torres del Paine National Park, where I captured stunning images of the region’s unique landscape and wildlife. This area is both primitive, undeveloped, and beautifully scenic. Torres del Paine National Park is a Chilean national park encompassing mountains, glaciers, lakes, and rivers in southern Chilean Patagonia. The park is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Chile, and for good reason. The park is home to some of the most stunning scenery in the world, from the towering Torres del Paine mountains to the turquoise waters of Lake Pehoe. Photographers from all over the world flock to Torres del Paine to capture its natural beauty. The park is a paradise for landscape photographers, with its dramatic mountains, glaciers, and lakes. Wildlife photographers can also find plenty of subjects to capture, from guanacos to condors. And for those who want to capture the park’s beauty up close, there are plenty of hiking trails to explore.
Storms Brewing by Sam Dobrow
Part of the beauty of Torres del Paine is its raw climate, not very distant from Antarctica. Hurricane force winds blowing off the glaciers are not uncommon. In winter, the ultraviolet light shining through the ozone hole is very dangerous. Nevertheless, this brutal climate shapes the landscape in a beautiful way that must be experienced to be believed.

Gaucho Ovejero by Sam Dobrow

Gaucho Life

Part of the Patagonia experience is living a primitive lifestyle out on the estancias (ranches) of the Pampas. We stayed in working estancias and were exposed to the daily life of gauchos. Gaucho is a Spanish word that refers to a cowboy or herdsman. Gaucho culture is a traditional way of life that developed in the vast grasslands of Argentina, Uruguay, and southern Brazil. Gaucho culture is characterized by a strong sense of independence, a love of horses and cattle, and a deep connection to the land. Gauchos are typically skilled horsemen and cattle herders. They are also known for their hospitality, their love of music and dance, and their colorful clothing. The “paisano” gauchos we met were the stable, farm working gauchos not the historical wandering cowboys of Argentina. Since estancias are quite large (our ‘s was 7,000 hectares) the life of a gaucho can be very solitary; herding sheep and cattle, driving livestock to market, rounding up horses in the fields, etc. In addition to photographing several gauchos at work, I was invited to photograph inside the home of one gaucho. There, we shared a drink of Bitter Araucano, a traditional liquor that tastes similar to Jagermeister.

Infrared (IR) Photography

In addition to my traditional camera (Canon 5D MkIV), I brought my infrared converted Canon 5D MkII to Patagonia. The infrared camera works best in bright sunlight and high contrast situations which is the worst light for regular photography. IR photography is very unpredictable so I began shooting IR as well as regular photography by carrying both cameras. The light in Patagonia changes rapidly, as does the weather, so there were always times when one or the other camera was a better option. As I began to see what was captured with the IR camera I saw a vintage motif developing around this timeless place. The idea of creating a portfolio to be titled “The Gaucho Life” emerged. The Gaucho Life is still a work in progress; it will be exclusively color IR photographs processed with a vintage sepia tone. The IR imagery, the post processing treatment, and the subject matter come together in a stunning and evocative context to convey life in Patagonia.

Headstone by Sam Dobrow
“Gaucho Life” features infrared photographs of gauchos, landscapes, flora and fauna of the the vast grasslands surrounding Torres del Paine and southern Chile. The modified infrared camera sensor picks up different wavelengths of light than visible light, resulting in images that have a surreal, otherworldly quality. The gauchos are often bathed in a warm, golden light, and their skin and clothing take on a strange, almost alien appearance. The landscapes in the photographs are also transformed, with the grass and trees appearing to glow with an otherworldly intensity. Luminous clouds set against dark skies further transform the landscape into an extraterrestrial scene. These photographs are a unique and beautiful way to capture the lifestyle of gauchos, their land, and their connection to the land. They are a testament to the power of infrared photography to create images that are both visually stunning and emotionally resonant.

Torres del Paine National Park

One of the highlights of my trip was visiting to Torres del Paine National Park. Torres del Paine is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and it is home to some of the most stunning scenery in the world. Because of its iconic beauty, many people consider the park the eighth wonder of the world. I was able to capture some amazing photos of the park’s glaciers, mountains, and lakes. Some of the most photographically beautiful places in Torres del Paine National Park include:

  • The Torres del Paine mountains: These iconic mountains are the park’s most famous feature. They are made up of three granite towers, which rise up to over 2,800 meters (9,200 feet) above sea level in the center of the park.
  • Lake Pehoe: This turquoise lake is one of the most photographed spots in the park. It is surrounded by mountains and glaciers, and on a rare calm day, its waters are perfect for reflection.
  • Grey Glacier: This massive glacier is one of the largest in South America. It is located at the end of Lake Grey, and it is a popular destination for hiking and kayaking.

I’m passionate about photography, and always looking for new ways to capture the beauty of the world around me. My infrared photography project, “The Gaucho Life,” shall unfold on Instagram, Facebook, and blog pages in the coming weeks. Be sure to follow my social media for early looks at my most recent photography. If you would like to own some of my artwork, please reach out on my contact page. Custom sizes and formats available in open editions as well as limited edition prints.