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Bleak Altiplano, Vicunas and El Misti

Bleak Altiplano, Vicunas and El Misti
Photo Information
Copyright: James Parker (Jamesp) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Note Writer [C: 1369 W: 9 N: 6334] (18906)
Genre: Animals
Medium: Color
Date Taken: 2001-07
Categories: Mammals, Desert, Mountain
Camera: Canon EOS 1vHS, Canon 24-70 mm f 2,8 L-USM, Fuji Provia 100
Photo Version: Original Version
Theme(s): High Altitude [view contributor(s)]
Date Submitted: 2008-07-20 5:19
Viewed: 11655
Points: 62
[Note Guidelines] Photographer's Note
I took this shot (a scanned slide) in 2001. It shows the top third of El Misti towering over the bleak altiplano and a small herd of vicunas. This was at around 4,000 meters asl


El Misti also known as Guagua-Putina (5,822 m) is a stratovolcano located in southern Peru near the city of Arequipa. This city, second largest in the country, lies at the foot of El Misti in a fertile valley located 2,400 m above sea level. El Misti has become the city's enduring symbol. Most of the city's colonial buildings were constructed from El Misti's white volcanic stone. The volcano's last eruption was in 1784.

El Misti stands at 5,822 m and lies between the mountain Chachani (6,075 m) and the volcano Pichu-Pichu (5,669 m). These impressive mountains, located northeast of Arequipa, are visible almost year-round, but especially during winter (May-September).

El Misti has three concentric craters. In the inner crater fumarole activity can be seen. Near the inner crater six Inca mummies and rare Inca artifacts were found in 1998 during a month-long excavation directed by the archaeologists Johan Reinhard and Jose Antonio Chavez. The finds are currently stored in the Museo de Santuarios Andinos in Arequipa.


A stratovolcano, also called a composite volcano, is a tall, conical volcano composed of many layers of hardened lava, tephra, and volcanic ash. These kinds of volcanoes are characterized by a steep profile and periodic, explosive eruptions. The lava that flows from them is viscous, and cools and hardens before spreading very far. The source magma of this rock is classified as acidic, having high to intermediate levels of silica (as in rhyolite, dacite, or andesite). This is in contrast to less viscous basic magma that forms shield volcanoes (such as Mauna Loa in Hawaii), which have a wide base and more gently sloping profile.

Although stratovolcanoes are sometimes called composite volcanoes, volcanologists prefer to use the term stratovolcano to distinguish among volcanoes because all volcanoes of any size have a composite (layered) structure — they are built up from sequential outpourings of eruptive materials. Stratovolcanoes are one of the most common types of volcanoes.


The Altiplano (Spanish for high plain), where the Andes are at their widest, is the most extensive area of high plateau on earth outside of Tibet.

In the case of the Andes, it is an area of inland drainage lying in the central Andes, occupying parts of Chile, Argentina, Bolivia, Peru and Ecuador. Its height averages about 3,300 meters (11,000 feet), somewhat less than that of Tibet. Unlike the Tibetan Plateau, however, the Altiplano is dominated by the massive peaks of active volcanoes to the west. The Atacama Desert, the driest area on the whole planet, lies to the southwest of the Altiplano. In contrast, to the east lies the humid Amazon rainforest.

At the end of the Pleistocene epoch, the whole extent of the Altiplano was covered by a vast lake, Ballivián, the present remnants of which are Lake Titicaca, straddling the Peru/Bolivia border, and Poopó, a saline lake which extends south of Oruro, Bolivia. Salar de Uyuni, locally known as "Salar de Tunupa", as well as Salar de Coipasa are two large dry salt flats formed as well after the Altiplano paleolakes dried out.


The vicuña (Vicugna vicugna) is one of two wild South American camelids, along with the guanaco, which live in the high alpineous areas of the Andes. It is a relative of the llama and the alpaca. Vicuñas produce small amounts of extremely fine wool, which is very expensive because the animal can only be shorn every 3 years. When knitted together, the product of the vicuña's fur is very soft and warm. It is understood that the Inca raised vicuñas for their wool, and that it was against the law for any but royalty to wear vicuña garments.

Both under the rule of the Inca and today, vicuñas have been protected by law. Before being declared endangered in 1974, only about 6,000 animals were left. Today, the vicuña have recovered to about 125,000 but organizations such as the IUCN and the U.S. Department of the Interior still consider it endangered.

Vicuñas live in the grasslands and plains in the mountain regions at an altitude of 4,000 to 5,500 meters. There are many places they live but one usual place where they can be found is in the grassy plains of the Andes Mountains. In these areas, only nutrient-poor, tough bunch grasses and Festuca grow. The sun's rays are able to penetrate the thin atmosphere producing relatively warm temperatures during the day; however, the temperatures drop down to freezing at night. The vicuña's thick but soft coat is a special adaptation which traps layers of warm air close to its body so it can tolerate the freezing temperatures.

aes_thor, vanderschelden, eqshannon, maurydv, Argus, zulfu, SelenE, boreocypriensis, jaycee, bahadir, Dis. Ac., nglen, Royaldevon, xTauruSx, gerbilratz, CeltickRanger, gracious, uleko, marhowie, Heaven, Ingrid1 has marked this note useful
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Critiques [Translate]

great landscape and vicunas, I wish I was there to enjoy it. TFS Ori

Hi James,

very interesting landscape- like other plant, good colours, very nice composition, it rally must be hard to survive in such conditions.. nice shot


Hello James,
Efficient isolation system these Vicuñas have. Thought these were lamas actually.
An overwhelming vista in which the animals are a reference to give us an idea of the size of El Misti.
Wonderful content and very educational contribution.

Not sure if the island Krakatoa was a strato but that has a familiar ring...which BTW left a ringing in the ears for a generation when the caldera caved...quite the story...your image here in some ways reminds me of the aftermath of St Helens...although quite different...I mean in the life in the fore and the more imposing and looming volcano in the rear...a multi centuries old story! Very nicely done as per your good qualities.

Ciao James,
meraviglioso paesaggio di questo altopiano con l'imponente montagna sullo sfondo, eccellenti POV e composizione, fantastico il contrasto di colori nell'aria tersa che permette questa visione dalla perfetta nitidezza.
Grazie e complimenti.

  • Great 
  • Argus Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 5038 W: 260 N: 15594] (50626)
  • [2008-07-20 7:51]

Hello James,
A great slide, well worth scanning!
The scale ov grandeaur and the perspective provided by the Vicuna herd in the not so near FG, the ridge behind them and the El Misti towering in the blue sky in the BG provide a fine scene.
TFS this fine one from your archives,

  • Great 
  • zulfu Gold Star Critiquer [C: 685 W: 0 N: 2] (43)
  • [2008-07-20 8:33]

Hello James wonderful shot of this beautiful scenery with great details. TFS. Greetings,

  • Great 
  • SelenE Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 2249 W: 65 N: 4205] (13972)
  • [2008-07-20 8:40]

Hi James,
Great landscape, and you captured it very well. Colors, the tone of blue in the sky, light, layers, scene you captured and composition are very good. TFS
All the best,

Hi James,
What a gerat landscape shot containing a small herd of vicunas as well. Great in all aspects my friend!


  • Great 
  • jaycee Gold Star Critiquer/Silver Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 2454 W: 10 N: 8044] (25460)
  • [2008-07-20 10:25]

Hi James,

Are there any countries you haven't visited?? When you said Peru I figured these were llamas. Guess I should never assume. The Vicuna give us a good perspective of the size of El Misti and the vastness of the plains. Beautiful landscape with wonderful colors, clarity, and composition. Notes were excellent as always.


Hello James, Perfect landscape capture of this interesting scene. Thanks...

Hi Jams,

Great landscape with the animals in front of the vulcan.
Exellent pov.


  • Great 
  • nglen Gold Star Critiquer/Silver Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 2883 W: 30 N: 9683] (36145)
  • [2008-07-20 10:52]

Hi James. A very good picture of the EL MIST in the back ground , I like the way the light makes it look blue. With the unusual straight lines in the green area. Thanks for the interesting notes .TFS.

Hello James,

Fabulous clarity!
It is so sharp it doesn't look quite real!
The animals give the shot a little f/g interest before the eyes attempt the assault on the volcano!

Kind regards,
Bev :-)

Hi James.
Very interesting place and beautiful colors...Notes has very good information.. Thanks to share,

Hello James, simply great landcape shot. TFS.

Hi James, I see your mountain images and feel despair!! I used to be a very avid climber until a bike accident put paid to that... I love mountains... this is a cracker of a hill... the lonelyness is superb and emotive... I want to go get to this one... It must have been a sight!!

The clear blue sky just adds to it....

Hello James..
Excellent shot..Fantastic look of mountain, colors too, interesting place and good composition...
Kind regards

I like the boldness of this composition James. It is so abstractly stark and the vicuna add a sense of the huge scale. The depth of focus is super.

Take care,
Evelynn : )

hello James

3 on 1, 3 Categories »»» Mammals, Desert, Mountain,
great shot with lovely luminosity, superb contrast between
foreground's warm colour tones and background's cold colour tones,
and the Mammals of this image change alot the aspect
of this excellent shot, it adds more greatness to thr image,



  • Great 
  • arfer Gold Star Critiquer [C: 2731 W: 0 N: 0] (0)
  • [2008-07-20 19:59]
  • [2]

Hello James

Just marking the post for now


Hello James,
Sorry for my delay, kind of busy lately!
many thanks for sharing such beautiful landscape from Peru, another paradise from another world!
the colour contrast is truly beautiful with a nice group of Vicunas in the centre!
well done
best regards

  • Great 
  • PeterZ Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 5137 W: 166 N: 13121] (49139)
  • [2008-07-21 4:53]

Hello James,
Wonderful landscape in great colours. The contrasts are very beautiful. Good composition.

  • Great 
  • uleko Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 3396 W: 172 N: 3310] (10940)
  • [2008-07-21 6:09]

Hello James,
Fantastic landscape with a beautiful herd of Vicunas at the waterhole in the foreground. Beautiful light and colours and very well composed.
Many thanks, Ulla

Hi James,
Wonderful image..I like this.
I've always greatly appreciated your images from around the world.

  • Great 
  • Heaven Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 996 W: 123 N: 2341] (7912)
  • [2008-07-21 23:42]

Hi James!
It looks somehow absurd and droll, as if we were on another planet... This is a very beautiful, amazing and stunning picture. A "dead" landscape and a couple of lonely animals. The composition with the centered mountain and the animals just below is marvellous.

Congratulations for this outstanding picture!

Kind regards


  • Great 
  • EOSF1 Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 1393 W: 119 N: 5267] (23955)
  • [2008-07-22 21:50]

Hello James, well that's another one of your fantastic shot! Simply amazing my friend, well done again, thanks!


Hi James,
What a very impressive photo. The color of the vulcano is just amazing. The baren landscape gives a feeling of insignificance. The herd of Vicunas add a lot to the photo it gives a good sense of scale and brings a perfect variation to the photo.

Great shot! The colours, composition, pattern of the landscape, and above all the small lamas signifying the vastness of the plains, all look charming.

  • Great 
  • Emiii Silver Note Writer [C: 8 W: 0 N: 30] (103)
  • [2009-04-04 14:05]

Superb desert image, well done

Dear James
We were in this area in the early nineties - and unfortunately our slides perished in the heat of the South Arican Lowveld ( distorted, warped and yellowish

You captured the atmosphere of this countryside perfectly! Congratulations, and I add your work to my theme "high Altitude.

Thanks for sharing,
Take care
Warm greetings from the Tzaneen Dam, Limpopo, South Africa
Ingrid Shaul

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