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Arid Atacama

Arid Atacama
Photo Information
Copyright: James Parker (Jamesp) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Note Writer [C: 1369 W: 9 N: 6334] (18906)
Genre: Landscapes
Medium: Color
Date Taken: 2001-07
Categories: Desert
Camera: Canon EOS 1vHS, Canon 24-70 mm f 2,8 L-USM, Fuji Provia 100
Photo Version: Original Version
Theme(s): TN Favourites [view contributor(s)]
Date Submitted: 2008-09-08 6:51
Viewed: 9666
Favorites: 1 [view]
Points: 38
[Note Guidelines] Photographer's Note
This was taken a few hundred metres from my last Peru posting "see http://www.treknature.com/viewphotos.php?l=3&p=177018" I deliberately knelt down in this rather featureless landscape to try and convey a sense og the aridity and emtiness. The ripples are caused by eddying wind and have been temporarily filled with lighter material untill the next moderate wind.

The Atacama Desert is a virtually rainless plateau in South America, covering a 966 km (600 mi) strip of land on the Pacific coast of South America, west of the Andes mountains. The rain shadow on the leeward side of the Andes keeps this over 20 million-year-old desert 50 times drier than California's Death Valley. It is the second-driest desert in the world, after the McMurdo Dry Valleys of Antarctica "see http://www.treknature.com/viewphotos.php?l=5&p=126120". The Atacama occupies 181,300 square kilometers (70,000 mi²) in northern Chile, composed mostly of salt basins (salares), sand, and lava flows.

Atacama is one of the driest places on Earth, and is virtually sterile because it is blocked from moisture on both sides by the Andes mountains and by the Chilean Coast Range. The cold Humboldt Current and the anticyclone of the Pacific are essential to keep the dry climate of Atacama Desert. The average rainfall in the Chilean region of Antofagasta is just 1 mm per year. Some weather stations in the Atacama have never received rain. Evidence suggests that the Atacama may not have had any significant rainfall from 1570 to 1971. It is so arid that mountains that reach as high as 6,885 metres (22,590 feet) are completely free of glaciers and, in the southern part from 25°S to 27°S, may have been glacier-free throughout the Quaternary—though permafrost extends down to an altitude of 4,400 metres and is continuous above 5,600 metres. Studies by a group of British scientists have suggested that some river beds have been dry for 120,000 years.

Some locations in the Atacama do receive a marine fog known locally as the Camanchaca, providing sufficient moisture for hypolithic algae, lichens and even some cacti. But in the region that is in the "fog shadow" of the high coastal crest-line, which averages 3,000 m height for about 100 km south of Antofagasta, the soil has been compared to that of Mars. Due to its otherworldly appearance, the Atacama has been used as a location for filming Mars scenes, most notably in the television series Space Odyssey: Voyage to the Planets.

In 2003, a team of researchers published a report in Science magazine titled "Mars-like Soils in the Atacama Desert, Chile, and the Dry Limit of Microbial Life" in which they duplicated the tests used by the Viking 1 and Viking 2 Mars landers to detect life, and were unable to detect any signs in Atacama Desert soil. The region may be unique on Earth in this regard and is being used by NASA to test instruments for future Mars missions. In 2008, the Phoenix Mars Lander detected perchlorates on the surface of Mars at the same site where water was first discovered. Perchlorates are also found in the Atacama and associated nitrate deposits have contained organics, leading to speculation that signs of life on Mars are not incompatible with percholates. Alonso de Ercilla described the desert in La Araucana, published in 1569: "Towards Atacama, near the deserted coast, you see a land without men, where there is not a bird, not a beast, nor a tree, nor any vegetation" (quoted Braudel 1984 p 388).

eqshannon, haraprasan, nglen, jaycee, gracious, Heaven, horia, degani, boreocypriensis, gannu, SelenE, mohaiminawang has marked this note useful
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Critiques [Translate]

Keen James! I saw a lot of sand images on my journey into my picture boxes yesterday but none fine as this. It is sweeping and yet close...how dramatic..and how appropriate we are at least close today in images on gallery...I have something as this but it would not scan...I had other things...and besides when it comes to some things....such as this..I am not up to the standards you have set...this is superb!

Hi James,
A nice capture of this beautiful desert landscape. Very well composed with a nice view. Thanks a lot for sharing.

  • Great 
  • nglen Gold Star Critiquer/Silver Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 2883 W: 30 N: 9683] (36145)
  • [2008-09-08 8:58]

Hi James.Your low POV gives us some idea of how dry this place is. You have captured the paterns in the fine sand. Once again i fine your notes very intersting to read so thanks for taking the time . TFS.

  • Great 
  • jaycee Gold Star Critiquer/Silver Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 2454 W: 10 N: 8044] (25460)
  • [2008-09-08 9:44]

Hi James,

Yes, this looks as arid as can be. I love the pov - the patterns and textures of the sand are marvelous. Wonderful colors and a simple composition that is very beautiful.


Hello James,
Great shot and a real good one!
super depth of pov in showing the ripples of sands and the vastness of land!
good colour contrast between the land and the blue sky
many thanks for the notes as well

  • Great 
  • Heaven Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 996 W: 123 N: 2341] (7912)
  • [2008-09-08 11:20]

Hi James!

As if the ripples would show us the way to the horizon or even more afar. You create a great effect and impact with nothing but sand... Well seen and done!

Kind regards


  • Great 
  • horia Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 2158 W: 224 N: 4749] (16656)
  • [2008-09-08 11:45]

Hi James

You completely done what you set out for.
The sense of the aridity and emtiness is exactly the message that this picture sends me and the way you composed it makes it very beautiful, too.
The ripples on the sand create some amazing lead-in lines and just absorb the viewer's eyes into the shot.
Wonderful work, my friend!

Bravo and TFS

  • Great 
  • degani Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Note Writer [C: 130 W: 0 N: 322] (2607)
  • [2008-09-08 11:57]

hi James,
what a wonderful image, great landscape with intense colours, this is an interesting place I did not know and you have photographed it very well, thank you for the explanation too
kind regards

Beautiful pic, James.
I was thinking about rotating it a bit CCW?
Most interesting content and note.

amazing, I did not konw Peru can be so arid, TFS Ori

  • Great 
  • EOSF1 Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 1393 W: 119 N: 5267] (23955)
  • [2008-09-08 17:04]

Hello James! Fantastic light and textures in his great landscape shot! A beauty, thanks!


Hi My friend james, wonderful landscape capture of this arid biotope with nice superficial waves on the sand. Great composition.
TFS and cheers,


  • Great 
  • joey Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 1739 W: 224 N: 6872] (24909)
  • [2008-09-09 2:07]

Superb capture of this super-dry place.
I did a kind of case study on the Atacama when I was in year 5 at primary school, a fascinating place but wouldn't want to live there! ;-)
I love the wiggling ridges of sand and they lead the eye straight into the photo.
Great sense of frying, dryness too :-)

Very well done,


  • Great 
  • gannu Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Note Writer [C: 988 W: 4 N: 3277] (14761)
  • [2008-09-09 9:30]

Hello James, Excellent shot and wonderful image. Superb clarity and great focus. Well done Ganesh

  • Great 
  • SelenE Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 2249 W: 65 N: 4205] (13972)
  • [2008-09-09 13:18]

Hi James,
Patterns and textures on the sand are very attractive, they draw me right into the photo... Nice POV, colors, composition and DOF. TFS

Note bien détaillée, bonne texture.
Bonne journée.

Hi James,

Wonderful wild landscape shot.Low POV generate semi abstract scene.Nice texture and colour.TFS.


  • Great 
  • Loro Silver Note Writer [C: 8 W: 0 N: 42] (557)
  • [2008-09-16 0:13]

It is beautiful. Another mesmerizing landscape. Beautiful light, great depth of view.

Hi James,
Somehow I always seem to miss a lot of your uploads. I need to make myself a note to pay more attention. I love the effect on the sand in this photo. Your low POV really gave made it the main subject and showed us the details. I am really drawn into the composition. The sky does look a little grainy.

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