Photography Fail at the Salar de Uyuni

Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia
I was feeling that backbend for the next week.

“Don’t start in Uyuni,” people told me. “Start in Tupiza. That way you finish with the salt flats, the main attraction.”

There are two main starting points for salt flat tours in Bolivia: Uyuni and Tupiza. Uyuni is closest to the flats, so you visit them on the first day. To some people, it’s like eating dessert before dinner.

That didn’t bother me. What bugged me was people saying I should do it differently, when I was already committed to starting in Uyuni and Tupiza was completely out of my way. We all get the dessert at some point, people. It doesn’t matter.

And the Salar was brilliant. We should all have dessert first.

Salt Pyramids in Uyuni, Bolivia
Probably the cheesiest photo Jared has ever participated in. Not me, though.

Our first encounter with the salar were the salt pyramids. Rows of man-made salt hills were scattered about, all dingy grey from tourists tromping all over them.

“Is this it?” we whispered to each other. “I expected it to be…whiter. And more vast. With less people.”

Luckily, that wasn’t it. Our driver, Hector, sped across the salt to a spot where all of the other tourists faded away. The ground was naturally divided into hexagon-shaped sections of salt, all blindingly white against the solid blue sky.

This is where I was met with a personal conundrum.

The pictures.

You may have seen them. People take these crazy perspective photos on the salt flats – it looks like they’re crawling out of Pringles containers, or crushing their tiny friends, or being attacked by towering dinosaurs.

I wanted these pictures, too, but I lacked the drive to create them.

Initially, I was more enthusiastic. I grabbed the dinosaurs our driver had provided set them on the ground. T-Rex immediately fell over. I picked him up and lay on my stomach with my camera.

“Okay, now you stand behind them,” I told Jared.

“Here?” he asked, from several feet behind the dinosaurs.

“I guess so,” I shouted. I assumed that the magic happened through the camera lens and was not visible to the naked eye. To me, it just looked like Jared was standing behind two plastic dinosaurs.

Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia
Not the effect I was aiming for.

The magic failed to materialize.

“Maybe come closer?” I said.

The T-Rex fell over again.

Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia
That damn dinosaur. Always wrecking the picture.

Finally, I understood.

“Alright, walk back.” I could sense Jared’s patience waning. “Keep going,” I called. “Waaaaay back. Now lay down and do something.”

Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia
When I said “Do something,” this was not what I had in mind.

Well. It wasn’t much, but it was better than nothing.

After lunch I had the energy for one more attempt. I removed one shoe and placed it on the ground.

“I’m going to sit in my shoe,” I explained to Jared, and started walking.

“Okay, there,” he yelled. “Sit down.”

I sat.

“A little to the left.”

I scooted to the left.

“Nope, too far. Go back.”

This went on for way too long.

“It’s not really working,” he said. “Just come back.”

Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia
“It’s not really working” was clearly an understatement.
Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia
It’s a dumb idea, anyway. Even if I was small enough to fit in a shoe, that’s the last place I’d choose to sit.

At this point, I gave up.

Others in our group were more persistent, willing to undergo a process of trial-and-error to achieve exactly the right shots.

Some of them weren’t so successful:

Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia
This just looks like a bad album cover.

Others were almost there, but not quite:

Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia
Don’t mind me. Just walking on a cup.

And then, finally, results:

Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia
Golly, that’s a strong wind-GAH!
Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia
So realistic.
Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia
Because this is what little people do. Gallavant on big people’s shoulders.

Whew. So there you have it: Photography magic doesn’t happen all on its own. It takes patience, common sense, and time.

Oh – and a pinch of salt.

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    1. I should have posted them all – there are about four of Jared lying on his back, and afterwards neither of us could figure out why or how he got there. Some people just aren’t meant to be photographers…or models.

    1. Not even close to easy! The other people on our tour have so many perspective photos, but I just have those because I couldn’t take the failure anymore.

  1. I just found your blog. It made me smile. I wasn’t with a group so keen on getting the good photos but I was able to get us a few goodies! Don’t feel like you are the only one — I have PLENTY of those trial and errors!!

    1. Glad you enjoyed the blog! Sometimes I regret not taking more photos, but then I remember how frustrating it was. At least we both got a few good ones out of our efforts!

  2. This is exactly how we felt. Thanks for giving me a really good laugh and not making me feel like we were the only ones with crappy photos!

    1. It was as if everyone knew some secret to taking the perfect photos, and we didn’t…glad there were other people who had no idea how to make it happen! I have no regrets.

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