As Quito turns on its lights, from our vantage high up on the Pichincha volcano, the city gradually transforms from a muted grey to pure golden light filling the Guayllabamba valley to the point of bursting. The days final colours reach across the sky with pink and purple arms from the west, darkening blue fingers grasp at the dusk. Trying to photograph a scene like this with quickly changing light requires making constant changes to your camera settings, but can also be very rewarding, adding some unique images to your travel shots.
An hour before, while the sun was still in the sky, Caroline and I took a cable car to a plateau at 4100m on the Pichincha volcano. We watched as thick clouds rose from the dense coastal jungle up the flanks of Cerro Atacazo to the south in thick billowing pillows. As if held at bay by some unseen force, the clouds lay swirling and mixing, never cresting the ridge, but reflecting the purple light beautifully back into the air. Finding a nice spot a kilometre or so from the cable car, we went to work setting up our gear, finding our own interpretation of the unfolding scene.
Although we were shooting well after dark, there was still a lot of ambient light bouncing around, you just need to be able to collect it. There are a few different combinations in the vast math equation of exposure, but I decided to go for a long shutter speed as my starting point. This allowed me to get really saturated colours and enough sharpness and quality from the grasses in the front to the clouds in the background. I can get a little obsessed taking photos like these and be out for hours.
Casually, Caroline asked - “Was 8:00 the last ride down from the top or when the place closed down all together?”
We just had to look at each other and without a word, began frantically packing up our cameras and raced back to the cable car in the darkness. Neither of us wanted to descend 1200m, trying to negotiate the maze of roads and paths traversing the mountain side in the dark. Luckily, we made the last gondola, but just barely. At the base, we were greeted with by a dark, empty parking lot. With no way to call a cab and busses being long finished by this point, we began the long walk back to the city down the narrow, mountain road in the pitch black.
- February 2015