Mario Testino’s Traditional Peru

I recently read an article on BBC News about fashion photographer Mario Testino’s return to his cultural ancestry in Peru. For anyone wishing to see the article, there is a link to it here. As fashion and photography are both subjects that I have studied and practiced, I was already familiar with some of his famous photographs of Kate Moss, Madonna and Princess Diana. This collection was different. Named Alta Moda, or High Fashion, the photographs document the incredible traditional dress of the indigenous populations surrounding Cusco, high in the Andean mountains. Indigenous dress is something that we have seen a lot of while in South America, from the Guatemalan Mayan population, to the Kuna in the San Blas and the many varieties of Peruvian and Ecuadorian dress. It is colourful, individual and of course highly practical. While traditional clothing is often mimicked, or serves as inspiration for fashion designers and high street stores (not that this is a bad thing, I own many mock Aztec print dresses and my backpack is currently bulging with textile prints and accessories inspired by traditional designs), I think it is fantastic that Mario Testino has photographed from the source – indigenous Peruvians wearing their own traditional dress. There is pride, honesty, beauty in every one of his photographs.

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Galápagos for the Poor: Isla de la Plata and the Islas Ballestras

Since the Galápagos Islands’ arrival into the ranks of tourist must-sees and eco-destinations in the 1960s, a number of “poor man’s” alternatives have sprung up. Ecuador, Peru and Chile all boast a budget version of the famous isles, each in turn offering a number of different animals to photograph, depending on your wildlife leanings. We of course wanted to see them all: blue-footed boobies, penguins, sea lions, turtles… Being the third of June, we were officially three days into Ecuador’s whale season. We just hoped they’d received the memo.

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The blue footed booby

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Ecuadorian Landscapes

From the beautiful cloud forest town of Mindo, to the surprisingly arid Isla de la Plata, you can’t deny that Ecuador has variety. We had no idea what to expect of this country, and yet it has been one of our favourites of the trip so far. Friendly and conversational locals, cheap bus fares and a fantastic mix of things to see and do… Ecuador is stunning.

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Inca Baths at the Peguche waterfall

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Spot the Toucan

Although I love my camera, there are times when a 40mm pancake lens is useless, and one of those times was today. I booked a birdwatching tour through my hostel in the cloud forest town of Mindo, in Ecuador. Ecuador is one of the most biodiverse countries on the planet and home to an extraordinarily large bird population. Around Mindo alone are over 1500 different species. I was desperate to see a toucan, and thanks to a pair of powerful binoculars,  I saw seven, including a few toucanets, or toucanitos in Spanish. Unfortunately my lens didn’t feel the need to share toucan photos with the world, so instead, why not turn the images into a game? Welcome to Spot the Toucan. A reminder to always, always take a zoom lens.

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Falling in Love with Colombia: The Zocalos of Guatapé

I recently wrote a post on the beautiful art of Cartagena.

I had yet to see Guatapé.

A miniscule town nestled in the mountains outside of Medellín, it is known primarily for its location on the edge of Colombia’s largest lake and the rock which soars above the town, domineering the skyline and offering incredible views over the lake and its islands. 649 stone steps lead you up the sheer rock face, twisting right and left, criss-crossing with the staircase down and thankfully offering a few wider steps on which to pause, wait for your heartrate to return to normal and admire the view. Once at the top, it is the incredible beauty that catches the breath in your throat and makes your heart pound.

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Attempt at a whimsical pre-climb shot

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K is for… Kayaking

Our trip to Costa Rica’s Sloth Sanctuary (original post here) included a relaxing boat ride up the river, and the opportunity to spot some animals in the wild. I had loved that experience, and so dragged Jo along on an adventure kayaking trip through the rainforest. What I hadn’t banked on was the rain. Within minutes we were drenched through: we had waded into the river, dragged our canoes across a fallen tree and nearly fallen over countless times. For future reference, when the woman selling you the tour assures you that flip-flops will be fine, don’t believe her. 

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