I was in the mountains just west of Argentina’s San Juan City when my camera decided it wasn’t up to the job.
IT WAS THE CLASSIC dilemma of landscape photography. The raw material was there, the iron-streaked crags of the Tontal range around me and the Andes on the other side of the valley. It was a tremendous landscape, sierra set against scrub desert and cloudless sky.
Yet every time the shutter clicked, all I got were bits and pieces, a couple of mountains or a scrap of valley. I felt tremendously unsatisfied.
Some terrain is just made on too grand of a scale to be boxed into a snapshot; I would never capture San Juan with such a narrow point of view. I cranked my camera into panorama mode, and watched the landscape open up.
1. Just west of San Juan's provincial capital, La Quebrada del Zonda opens a path through the mountains separating San Juan City from the much higher Andes range. The area gets its name from the Zonda, a strong and very regular wind that buffets the mountains in the afternoon.
2.Looking down on Zonda itself. As San Juan receives practically no rain, fields have to be irrigated artificially with water drawn from nearby dams.
3.It takes six hours by car or days on foot to reach the town of Barreal, located on the other side of the precordillera. The peaks just east of town have a great view of the Andes on the other side of the valley, including giants like Cerro Mercedario (22,047 ft.).
4.The greenery of Barreal ends abruptly near the western edge of the precordillera, giving way to scrub and hills streaked with rust-red iron deposits.
5. About 20 minutes south of Barreal is the Pampa del Leoncito, a flat clay plain that is famous as one of the world's best spots for the sport of carrovelismo, or wind-karting. The park hosts an annual championship that draws drivers from all around Argentina and surrounding countries.