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Torres del Paine!

The Landscapes and Wildlife
of the southern Andes of Chile

December 1-8, 2018 & December 8-15, 2018

Price: $7195 (double occupancy only)

For the most thorough information on this tripPlease refer to our 2016 Trip Report. It will provide the most thorough and accurate information on what you can expect on this trip.
Refer to our other Trip Reports for more information as well!


Limited to 6 participants

View a Torres del Paine Wildlife and Landscape Portfolio

Anyone familiar with spectacular landscapes knows the name - Torres del Paine, the Towers of Paine. The ruggedness of the mountain landscape and the unsettled, stormy weather conjures up a variety of mental images, no doubt fostering the mistaken belief that the English translation of Torres del Paine is the Towers of Pain! Of course, for anyone who has ever tried climbing the towers, pain might be the best translation.

Like many mountain environments (including Denali), Torres del Paine can have unsettled weather, and it is possible that an entire week, or an entire month, elapses without presenting an opportunity to see or to photograph the mountaintops. Unlike Denali, however, where weather systems may advance from the warm Pacific current and remain for days, most weather systems in the far windier Torres last for hours. From spring through fall it is possible, and not at all unlikely, to experience virtually every type of weather, and season, Torres experiences - in a single day! While snow is unlikely at the elevations we'll be visiting, snow or freezing rain could occur. Just as likely, however, are warm days where a windbreaker or long-sleeved shirt is all that is required.

Last year within an hour's time we went from a beautiful, rosy-colored sunrise with puffy clouds to a totally cloud-obscured mountain with winds that were howling so strongly that Mary and I could literally 'sit' into the wind and be held up by the gale-force blow. As the front came in and snow and rain showers hit the area, single, double and triple rainbows danced across the valleys in front of the mountain. It was a spectacular changing landscape that took every ounce of our strength and concentration to shoot. As the clouds cleared later that day the mountains were covered with fresh snow giving us once again a different look at these impressive rock shrines.
Our trip is planned for the peak of the Austral summer, when wild flowers, verdant vegetation, and wildlife babies will be at peak abundance. Despite the infamy of Torres winds, I did some outstanding wildflower and close up photography on my first visit - it isn't always windy, and there are many sheltered pockets where there is no wind at all. Last year we also had some relatively calm days where macro photography and wide-angle scenics were possible.
December is the birthing and mating season of the camel-like guanacos. Tenacious shooters willing to 'hang in there' with a herd may be treated in witnessing, and filming, a guanaco birth. We missed several by less than 10 minutes on our scouting trip! Baby guanacos are incredibly cute - fuzzy big-eyed critters vaguely resembling a pony - and the animals are curious and tame, making portraits a fairly easy endeavor. Females mate again within a few days of giving birth, so December is prime not only for romantic images of mating guanacos, but also affords the possibility of filming heated fights between males defending territories or squabbling over mates. Young males, anxious to test their strength, fight frequently, and it's fairly common to see these play-fights up close.
Last year we also found a rather tame group of Patagonian gray fox near the one ranger's station. The fox den at this time of year and if we're lucky we could find pups waiting at the den site for their parents to bring back scraps of food. Mary and I found two different dens one of which, with a little patience, produced some great images.
December is the prime month for birds as well, and most species have young or our sitting on nests at this time. Swans (2 species), ducks (several species), grebes (3), coots (2), shorebirds, songbirds, and birds of prey are seen almost daily, although exactly what we'll see or film depends upon the year and our group's luck. But just to get you a little excited on the possibilities, Mary and I spent almost two hours last year photographing black-necked swans with cygnets as close as twenty feet at times. We got shots of the adults feeding their chicks vegetation plucked from beneath the water's surface, of different pairs of adults chasing each other and of cygnets riding the back's of their parents. And all of this while just sitting along the shoreline without a blind!


This trip is a 'tour,' where our daylight hours will be involved in finding, and photographing, subjects. Unlike our workshops where we conduct compositional exercises and offer review quizzes and instruction, we'll be using our daylight hours solely for photography.
That does not imply that we're not available to help you in whatever ways we can. Mary and I will be offering our on-the-spot suggestions on the best way to compose the images before us, as well as suggestions on making the correct exposures, choosing the correct lenses, and obtaining the best perspectives. We're always there for you -- if you have questions, if you'd like an opinion on a composition, if you'd like to see what we're doing, whatever, WE ARE THERE FOR YOU.

On a tour, we too will be shooting but we'll be with you, orchestrating the shoot to provide the best opportunities for our group. We won't disappear and let you to your own luck, although we also won't 'hang around the car' with those less motivated. We'll be there to film, hopefully side by side with all of our participants, and we hope that everyone will share that same enthusiasm to photograph.

Finally, we're available to answer all of your questions prior to the trip, and we'll be anxious to assist you in your efforts when we're afield in Torres del Paine.

Our DAILY Schedule

December in southern Chile involves long days. Our trip will end just days before the longest day of the year in the southern hemisphere, and at our southern latitudes true darkness extends from approximately Midnight until 4AM. Our shooting schedule will vary each day, but our sunrise shoots (when sunlight actually reaches the mountain tops and provides light for our subjects) typically begin at around 5:45AM, and late evening shooting in the field extends to 9PM. Our hotel base is located in one of the most scenic locations in the park, and photographers who wish to shoot even later from the hotel's grounds may do so - at least until10PM or so!

Most days, if we're not keeping our eyes on a Puma, we take a post-lunch siesta, returning to the field around 4PM for the remainder of the day.


Unlike many exotic destinations, it is quite easy to 'do' Torres del Paine in a five-day shooting schedule. Even with bad weather (where the mountain tops are obscured), in a five day time frame the likelihood is high that the skies will open up, or the clouds will lift, and the classic Torres del Paine shots will be available.

Day 1. Leave the US in late evening. Flights via American Airlines and Lan Chile depart from Dallas, Miami, and Los Angles.
Day 2. Arrive in the early AM in Santiago, Chile, and after a short lay-over you'll be taking a Lan Chile domestic flight to Punta Arenas. Normally we would suggest staying in Santiago overnight but domestic airlines typically impose luggage weight restrictions that are more limited than allowed for US passengers. By flying non-stop, you'll be under US luggage weight allowances, which are the most generous. Overnight, Hotel Isla del Jorge, Punta Arenas.
Day 3. Depart for Torres del Paine via our land vehicle. We'll stop for gas and lunch in Puerto Natales along the way. The driving time, non-stop, to Torres del Paine is approximately 5 hours, and we'll be arriving at our hotel, the Hosteria del Pehoe, in the center of the park by early evening, in time for a sunset shoot if we desire. As we near the park we'll get our camera gear ready for shooting ops along the way. Overnight: Hostería Pehoe.
Day 4 - Day 8. We're not going to set a definite itinerary for these five days. It was our experience that even the best laid plans never materialized due to the changing weather conditions. Overnights: Hostería Pehoe.
Day 9. We'll be leaving our hosteria at approximately 6:30AM, eating breakfast before we depart and arriving at Punta Arenas by noon. We'll be taking an early afternoon flight back to Santiago and connecting (with a few hour lay-over) with our evening flight back to the US.
Day 10. Arrive at your US airport of arrival in the early morning, connect with your domestic flight for your return home. Depending upon your connections you should be at your final destination (airport, at least) by mid-afternoon.


Your fee includes the tour, all meals, lodging (based on double occupancy), and transportation based from one of several departure points, including Los Angles, Dallas, or Miami. Your fee also includes all tips for the Chilean guide and driver and for the Hostería Pehoe staff.
We strongly advise that you obtain trip/travel insurance if there exists the remotest possibility that you may have to cancel at the last minute or leave the tour before its conclusion on Saturday morning. For those who register for the trip a travel insurance application form will be sent with your acknowledgment letter.

Lodging is included, and is based upon double occupancy. We'll do our best to make roommate matches. Please be aware that if a roommate is unavailable (due to an odd number of males/females or an odd number of registrants) you will be responsible for the single supplement. Roommates will be assigned based on receipt of the registration form and whether it is a male or female registrant. There is anadditional cost for the single rooming supplement.


We'll be forwarding a complete list of equipment and film recommendations to our registered participants. However, this tour offers the wonderful chance to use a variety of different lenses, for telephoto shots of wildlife or for landscape extractions, as well as wide-angles, zooms, and tilt-shift lenses. Panoramic cameras are also useful and fun to use on this trip.
Registered participants will be forwarded a complete list of suggested equipment, film choices, and recommendations.



Weather at the beginning of summer in Torres del Paine can be erratic, ranging from a 'typical summer day' to nearly winter conditions. Regardless, you can expect the mornings to be cool, and gloves and a wool cap are suggested. On my scouting trip I typically layered, with my most important clothing items being a windbreaker (wind is a near constant) and a good pair of broken-in hiking boots. We advise people to wear layers that can be shed as the temperature increases or decreases. Although unlikely, we could have heavy snow flurries, freezing rain, or damp fog, so we advise people to pack for the type of field conditions one might experience in Yellowstone in late September, just in case. Mary will provide participants with a complete list of suggested clothing.


Above all else, this is a landscape trip. Mountain scenes will be dominant, although the park affords so many more opportunities than merely mountains. There are great beech forests, fairylands of goatsbeard lichen, wonderfully patterned, lichen covered boulders, water falls, lake scenes, ponds and reflections, and broad landscapes that shows the interplay of light and shadow.
Our trip will coincide with the peak of the wild flowers, and the flowers, and pillow-like clumps of Mata Barrosa make great foreground for mountain landscapes.
Wildlife is limited, compared to our trips to Africa or to western US parks like Denali or Yellowstone. While we're almost certainly going to film guanacos, a possibly a captive Andean condor, our success with other species will depend on both luck and your own efforts.Above all else, this is a landscape trip. Mountain scenes will be dominant, although the park affords so many more opportunities than merely mountains. Gray''s Lake and lagoon has a spectacular assortment of stranded glaciers. Ever changing weather makes each mountain scene unique.
There are great beech forests, fairylands of goatsbeard lichen, wonderfully patterned, lichen covered boulders, water falls, lake scenes, ponds and reflections, and broad landscapes that shows the interplay of light and shadow. One can easily film landscapes continuously here.



Location: Punta Arenas and Torres del Paine National Park, Chile.
Accommodations: Lodging is included. In Torres del Paine National Park we'll be based at the most centrally located lodge, just outside the park. Lodging is based on double occupancy with a possible option for single accommodations in Punta Arenas pending availability.
Photo Tour Duration: Our trip begins with our departure from our US port of embarkation for Chile on Friday, Day One, and continues until your return to our US arrival on Sunday, Day Ten.
Transportation: Included, upon arrival in Punta Arenas, based upon the itinerary.
Costs: $TBA, including all meals in Chile, lodging (based upon double occupancy), transportation, tips and all handouts. For our cancellation and payment schedule, please see our registration sheet detailing it.
Participation: Limited to 6 participants.
Liability Release: Our release form must be signed prior to participation.Location: Punta Arenas and Torres del Paine National Park, Chile.
Accommodations: Lodging is included. In Torres del Paine National Park we'll be based at the most centrally located hotel, the Hostería Pehoe, inside the park. Lodging is based on double occupancy with a possible option for single accommodations in Punta Arenas pending availability.

About Your Leaders

Both Mary and I are photographers, and I'd hope you've seen our credits. These include Audubon, National Geographic, National Wildlife, Ranger Rick, Natural History, Living Bird, Birder's World, Wildlife Conservation, and most nature/wildlife calendars.
We've won numerous times in the prestigious BBC Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition, 15 places in all. In 2013 Joe had a first place in Mammal Behavior, and a few years earlier came in second, behind the disqualified first place winner in Animal Portraits. In 1994 Mary Ann won two first place awards in the prestigious BBC Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition, in Endangered Species and in Bird Behavior. In 1998 she had three highly commended images published in the BBC competition, ALL THREE from Kenya! She won first place in the Cemex/Nature's Best photo contest in the Humor Division for Professional Photographers. In 2003 she won first place in Mammal Behavior in the Agfa All Africa photo competition with a dust bathing bull elephant from Samburu. Mary has written a number of children's books, including Leopards, Grizzly Bears, Woodpeckers, Flying Squirrels, Sunflowers, Cobras, Jupiter, Boas, Garter Snakes, Pythons, Rattlesnakes, Ducks, Chickens, Horses, and Cows, and a coffee table book, Out of the Past: Amish Tradition and Faith.
I've written several how-to wildlife photography books -- A Practical Guide to Photographing American Wildlife, The Wildlife Photographer's Field Manual, The Complete Guide to Wildlife Photography, Designing Wildlife Photographs, Photographing on Safari, A Field Guide to Photographing in East Africa, and The New Complete Guide to Wildlife Photography. In 1999 Todtri published African Wildlife, and in 1999 we produced our first instructional video, A Video Guide to Photographing on Safari with Joe and Mary Ann McDonald. The video has received rave reviews, and it is the definitive guide for preparing yourself for a safari. I've won several times for highly commended images in both the Cemex/Nature's Best and the Agfa all Africa photo competitions. In 2003 I won 2nd place in the World in Our Hands category in the BBC competition with an image from Africa. In 2013 I won 1st place in Mammal Behavior.
Mary and I were featured in the book, the World's Best Wildlife Photographers, and we write regularly. Previously, Joe wrote columns in Outdoor Photographer magazine and presently writes a regular feature for Nature Photographer magazine, and in several web magazines. One of our books, Digital Nature Photography, From Capture to Output, is a PDF file that covers EVERYTHING you need to know about digital nature photography, including workflow, file management, RAW conversion, and maximizing the digital image. It is available directly through our office.
Joe's two latest books, Creatures of the Night, and Deadly Creatures, deal with the natural history of nocturnal animals and with wildlife that is potentially dangerous to man.

If interested, please inquire at our office regarding space availability.
We hope we'll see you there!

View a brief Chile-Argentina Portfolio

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Phone: 717-543-6423

Or FAX us at: (717) 543-5342

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