In this exclusive interview Adrián Soria, landscape photographer and biologist, he tells us which are the best places to take photos in Ecuador. Dare to leave your comfort zone, take your backpack and go on an adventure!
Tell us about your photography project “Caminante de Montes” (Mountain Walker). How did it start? What do you seek to transmit?
Caminante de Montes is more than a photography project, it is a life project that seeks to combine my two greatest passions: photography and biology. Through the lens of Caminante de Montes I want to share the beauty of our Andean landscapes and mountains, and raise awareness about the ecologic reason they serve in our ecosystem (for example, giving us drinking water and water for irrigation, generating electricity, regulating climate, etc.). I want people to turn to nature and leave the digital world aside, I want them to forget about social media and streaming services and put down their screens to admire the view of a landscape. I wish to create consciousness about the function of key ecological elements that allow us to live every day, by capturing the beauty of nature.
How did you venture into the field of photography? What inspired you to be a photographer?
Photography for me started as a complement to biology. I spent over 5 year studying the birds of the high andes, and I would alway take my camera with me in order to take pictures of them and include these pictures as a record for my reports. But there was a moment when I realized that aside from keeping a record of bird species, I had captured incredible landscapes in my photographs. From then on, mountains and landscapes slowly captivated my mind and I began to photograph them, and show these pictures to people. Everyone told me: “Wow, how beautiful! You should take us there.” And then I knew that photography was not only a tool for my research but a channel, a medium that could connect people with nature again, and help them appreciate it, inspiring us to preserve it.
Could you share your top 5 places in Ecuador for landscape photography?
That’s a difficult question… Ecuador is a country that has so many places for landscape photography but if you ask me to choose it would be:
- The Tungurahua volcano seen from the Patate canton. Without hesitation this area is the best viewpoint of the volcano.
- The natural viewpoint of the Northern Andes from Mojanda.
- The Llanganates National Park: It is a magical place where you can appreciate different perspectives of the Andes mountain range.
- The Chaupi moorlands: Definitely one of the best places to photograph Cotopaxi, Ilinizas and Corazón.
- Abraspungo: You’ll have stunning views of Chimborazo and Carihuairazo.
Which trip in Ecuador do you recommend for someone wishing to try landscape photography?
The landscape route I recommend the most is a drive along the Panamericana Highway that stretches from Riobamba to Ibarra. Along the road you can see more than 20 snow capped mountains and volcanoes! The variety of landscapes is just incredible…just picture beautiful sights of Lake San Pablo and Imbabura, the sunset in front of Cayambe, dusk in Urbina, the panoramic views from the Chaupi moorlands. It is undoubtedly the top landscape photography trip!
However, I also recommend Cotopaxi National Park (the road from Limpiopungo, through Santo Domingo and towards Quilindaña) or Ambato-Pinllo-Quisapincha route that offers privileged views of Tungurahua, El Altar, the Llanganates Mountain Chain, Carihuairazo and Chimborazo.
Which places in Ecuador would you like to capture with your camera, that you haven’t photographed before?
I would very much like to go on a photography expedition in the Amazon, where I can photograph volcanoes such as Reventador, Sangay and Sumaco. These lesser known giants are not photographed as often as the more popular volcanoes of the Sierra, but they rise beautifully above the Amazon rainforest.
Your name (Caminante de Montes or Mountain Walker) implies that you spend a lot of time searching for a specific place to photograph. Do you find it easy to find these routes in Ecuador? How do you manage to find these strategic points?
In Ecuador it is quite difficult to find sites with an easy access to photograph the mountains. I often have to find the perfect spot by taking secondary or even third order roads and then walking up a mountain, where I’ll follow small chaquiñanes (very narrow trails) until I reach these unique sites. Here I take advantage of my experience as a biologist since I had previously explored these sites when doing my research on birds.
How long does it take you to find a good spot to take photos from different angles?
It is a constant search. Sometimes I use some help from tools such as Google Earth or Photo Pills to explore potential sites but you always have to travel down long paths, walk quite a lot, and then return to these potential sites again and again until you get the image you are looking for. I can visit a good spot up to 10 times before taking the picture I’m looking for.
What tips would you give to photographers interested in the world of landscape photography?
First, I would recommend not to place the tripod in the first place you find. Once arriving to a site, I suggest to look around and explore different points of view before taking a picture. You have to look for close ups that complement the composition of an image. That’s the key! Then, you place the tripod and take the picture. The composition of the photograph is what makes it special.
You have to be careful when changing a lense in cold climates or high winds. It is relatively easy for dust to settle in the sensor or for the lense and sensor to experience a temperature shock in the case of cold climate.
Finally, I would say: always carry a pair of extra batteries for your camera. You have to consider that the temperature in the High Andes is very low (especially at night) and battery life is considerably shorter. It is important that you keep the extra batteries inside your jacket or sweater instead of your bag, this way you can protect their charge optimally.
Why do you think Ecuador is a unique destination for photographers around the world?
With over 80 volcanoes and impressive glaciers where rivers are born, with waterfalls on the slopes of cloud forests and rainforests, and a mountain range so unique it was baptized by Humboldt in 1802 as The Avenue of Volcanoes, Ecuador is undoubtedly a triple A destination for landscape photography. I believe we have the geographic potential to compete with places such as Iceland and Patagonia…we just need more support from government entities. We need them to value our landscapes, work on conservation projects and most of all, invest in spaces related to tourism, such as viewpoints and safe places for tourists (which are key to the development of landscape photography tourism).
This year, are you working on new projects?
In Ecuador my project “Hijos de las Montañas” or Sons of the Mountains” showcases the direct relationship of mountains and cities, demonstrating that all of us, who live among its valleys, are the result. This project is accompanied by a series of lectures that raise awareness about the importance of mountains in the daily life of Ecuadorians.
In addition, since 2019, I have been working on a project named “La Belleza que se nos va” or “The beauty that is leaving us,” a journey through the main mountainous regions in América, from Alaska to the Patagonia, with the objective of showing all the beauty that is being lost due to climate change. It shows the effects mining and the expansion of the agricultural frontier, which we are currently experiencing. Right now I am finishing the tour through 5 national parks in the United States.