Thursday’s Picture of the Week: Machu Picchu

Photo of Smithsonian Magazine CoverBehind the scenes: It’s 2002 and Jeffrey is photographing on assignment for Smithsonian. His job is to capture the mystique of Machu Picchu, Peru’s famous ancient Inca ruins.

The name Machu Picchu, or Old Mountain, comes from the Quechua Indian term for the 9,060-foot peak looming over the site.

Renowned author, Fergus Bordewich, the writer for this story, describes it like this:

“Although I had seen many images of Machu Picchu, nothing prepared me for the real thing. Stretching along the crest of a narrow ridge lay the mesmerizing embodiment of the Inca Empire, a civilization brought to an abrupt and bloody end by the Spanish conquest of the 1500s. On either side of the ruins, sheer mountainsides drop away to the foaming waters of the Urubamba River more than a thousand feet below. Surrounding the site, the Andes rise in a stupendous natural amphitheater, cloud-shrouded, jagged and streaked with snow, as if the entire landscape had exploded. It is hard to believe that human beings had built such a place.”

Jeffrey, after five days of walking every angle of this massive site, climbing slippery mountainsides with his heavy camera fannypack, meeting with archaeologists, trying to scope out unique views of this much-photographed destination, realizes he still isn’t satisfied that he’s created a cover photograph.

On the last day of his assignment, he’s up at sunrise once again trying to capture the best light. While standing at a common overlook, where most tourists go, he gets his bearings for the day and begins fiddling with his camera, choosing a lens, making sure his equipment is set properly.

When light hits the ruins he shoots a few frames right where he’s standing. He’s so focused on the composition that he jumps when something suddenly enters his viewfinder. Our of nowhere, a llama has walked into his photograph.

Photo of a girl in Cuzco, PeruIt’s like a gift, a quirky detail of Machu Picchu that brings the ancient ruins to life. Jeffrey does not move, and is able to shoot three or four frames before the llama walks away. Fortunately, Jeffrey knows he has just nailed the cover–especially before a gaggle of tourists rushes over, trying to create the same photograph.

As he ponders the luck of that moment, and thinks back to how hard he has worked over the past five days, he knows his credo couldn’t be more true:

“The harder you work, the luckier you become.”

This photograph was created with a Canon EOS 1V camera, a Canon 20mm lens, and Fuji Velvia film.

To read Fergus Bordewich’s mesmerizing and extensive article about Machu Picchu, click on this link: Smithsonian Magazine—“Winter Palace.”

I’d also love to hear from you! If you’ve been to Machu Picchu, drop me a comment and tell me your most memorable moment. And if you haven’t, would you ever like to go? It’s now in the running as one of the NEW Seven Wonders of the World.

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20 thoughts on “Thursday’s Picture of the Week: Machu Picchu

  1. Machu Picchu is on my bucket list to hike! I would love to do the whole 7 day hike to Machu Picchu and then up to the ruins. These pictures just make it all the more inspiring to make the plan and do it!!! Fabulous images as always. I am in awe of Jeffrey and you for the magical way you have found to share it all with us, thank you.

    • Leigh, I’m so glad you were inspired! Sounds like you need to make it next on your bucket list. As always, thanks for your nice comments, and for taking the time to let me know you’re out there enjoying the blog.

    • Ann, so glad you enjoyed this image. When it was first published we received many a lot of calls from people wanting to buy prints. Several had been to that exact spot in Machu Picchu, and had snapped a bucket load of pictures, but couldn’t ever create one like this. It’s fun to share all these photographs with you!

  2. Becky to be honest, Forget seeing I did not even heard about this place before. But After seeing this photograph, i would love to go there. Its name is also sounding unique.

    Your posts always give me a feeling that, “is this really the same world we are living?”. Thanks for making us feel that, yes the world is not big enough!

    • Arindam, your comments always make me smile. Thanks for being such a loyal follower. I’m glad you are enjoying learning about new places. I’m sure there are many in your part of the world just as exquisite, and ones we should all know about too. Just like some of the people you have written about.

  3. Becky, every time I click on your blog I am transported to a world I’ve never known, and I find it infinitely fascinating. Yes. After reading your story, I would love to go to Machu Picchu. That picture is absolutely amazing. As is the narration you shared from the author’s quote. Breathtaking, both.

    You and your husband are a fountain of talent. I am so glad you’ve started a blog, and I feel honored to read your stories.

    • Thank you, Melissa. Blogs give us a place to share our passions, and to connect with others who can appreciate them. It’s gratifying to know that you feel transported with each new post. So glad to have you along on this adventure!

  4. Big Big Big OMG . . . . Back in the days when I worked for a travel trade publication, there was one place I discovered that I wanted to go to more than any other. Yes, Machu Picchu. Did I get there? You better believe I did. Truly one of the most magnificent, mysterious places I’ve ever been. Don’t ask me to recall the year . . . suffice it to say it was back when the only way you could spend the night was if you got a room in the very small inn at the the site (yes, I was one of the lucky ones). Most tourists had to satisfy themselves with the day trip from Cuzco. It seems that you and I (and Jeffrey) have even more in common than we thought.

  5. We were there on the Solstice 2009 (December) and had rain, misty clouds, fog, then parting clouds. Around mid-morning I was standing further to the left of where Jeffrey stood and a llama (different one) walked by while grazing. When it heard the shutter, it raised its head and stared at me while chewing. I was accused by friends of hiring the llama to pose. It was a nice photo, but without the sun to bring color and depth to the scene, it lacks the pop of Jeffrey’s fine photo.

  6. Commenting on Jeffrey’s credo–I think it is less luck and more that he is completely ‘in line’ with what he is supposed to be doing in this world. At what age did he know he wanted to be a photographer?

  7. First and foremost – he has captured a brilliant shot! Well done and congrats on the reward for all the hard work!
    I have been to Machu Picchu – was filled with memorable moments! I certainly wish I had worked harder to capture some of them! For me, the quintessential moment was the morning I arrived. After hiking for 3 full days, we got up in the dark, headlamps lighting the way, to get to the site for sunrise. After many beautiful days in Peru, we (the group I was with) unfortunately woke up to a less than perfect morning. There wasn’t the perfect sun rise as we entered the site. I had hoped for that gorgeous sunrise moment – but instead entered in a misty morning. The mystique of the site was enhanced by the conditions. While I didn’t get the sunrise picture I was looking for, and couldn’t capture the mystique of the misty morning, I will always remember when Machu Picchu first came into sight.

    • Thanks, Anita. I will pass your kinds words on to Jeffrey. I love your story. Mist-shrouded Machu Picchu sounds magical, even if it wasn’t what you were hoping for. Sometimes our memories are just as powerful, if not more powerful, than capturing a moment on film (or memory card). Thanks for stopping by my blog and sharing your story!

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