Machu Picchu-Photography

A Mystical Morning at Machu Picchu


isiting Machu Picchu may have been the crown jewel of my trip to Peru last month! However, working spiritually with shamans and their plant medicines in the Amazon jungle during the first 15 days of the trip was pretty cray cray in its’ own way! There’s too much to tell about that right now, so more to come, with photos from the jungle, in future blog posts.

This one is about Machu Picchu and the Sacred Valley of the Incas.

Since I have very little left brain functionality, my organization skills with respect to posting photos is a bit random. Some go to Facebook, a few more go to 500px, most go to my Google+ stream and all the best ones go into the master collection safely up in my SmugMug account.

As new Machu Picchu photos are processed, they’ll always go to my master collection first. You can access that via the button below.

Acclimating in the 2-mile high city of Cusco

Following those 15 days in the jungle at virtual sea level, angels swooped us over a rainbow, more than two miles high, above the clouds to Cusco, Peru.

At an elevation of 11,200 ft (3400 meters) the air in Cusco is rather thin for us gringos. So, they sell coca leaves everywhere for about 50 cents a bag.  Make a tea or stuff a plug between your inner cheek and lower gum. They say it helps with altitude sickness.

Two days acclimating to the altitude in Cusco. Sight seeing, shopping, eating fabulous Peruvian food, chewing coca leaves, photographing!  What fun times! Then it’s time to start heading towards Machu Picchu.

Sights of the Sacred Valley

Machu Picchu is accessed from Cusco through the Sacred Valley. Gone are the days for me doing the high altitude four-day backpacking trek on the Inca Trail to get to Machu Picchu. So, we hired a driver to haul the five of us half way up the Sacred Valley to Ollantaytambo and then took the comfortable and speedy train to Aguas Calientes where a super comfortable hotel, with masseuse and dramatic view of the Urubamba river (almost rhymes with Obama), was secured.


Urubama River from my hotel room at Aguas Calientes, Peru. Machu Picchu is just a 20 minute bus ride ziz-zagging up the steep mountainside. This is a 1 second handheld exposure at ISO 200, f 5.6 and an 8x ND filter.

On the way to Ollantaytambo, our driver showed us some of the cool high spots; the crop circles of Moray, the salt mines of Maras, and the ancient Inca ruins at Ollantaytambo. As I finish those photos, they’ll go into the master collection. If you follow me on social media, especially Google+, you’ll know when there’s a new one.

A few words about camera performance

The photo below is a handheld panoramic, HDR (-2, 0, +2). My Olympus EM-1 handled it with ease.  Thank you again Olympus for the great image stabilization! My decision to leave the tripod back in Cusco didn’t negatively impact my photography at all. Not having to carry it all over Machu Picchu turned out to be literally, a life saver!

Dramatic Rescue of Gringos on Waynapicchu

You may have seen on social media, the account of our awkward ascent and subsequent lost journey up and down into nowhere on Waynapicchu, that dome shaped mountain in almost all photos you’ve ever seen of Machu Picchu.  We were dazed & confused over 6 hours on that hideous mountain! We ran out of water and barely struggled to get back down.  The rangers, or whatever those officials with the walkie talkies are, had to help Mai & Gergorio the final few hundred meters.  With a tripod to carry, they would be rescuing me too. Seriously, I barely made it back and have to thank Kimberly and Dan who got emergency water for me as I staggered through the checkout station and across the finish line..

So, what I’m finding out is that tripods aren’t all that important anymore. Image stabilization is SO good in the new Olympus line! The Olympus EM-1 gives me four extra stops and with the EM-5 MkII, which I took as a backup, I can get five extra stops!  However, if I want to use the 40 mb RAW file mode on the EM-5 MkII, then the tripod is necessary.

Even in the very low light on this very foggy morning at Machu Picchu, my Olympus EM-1, handheld on a sling strap over my shoulder, not on an awkward tripod, got me all my shots. I almost didn’t even have to raise my ISO above the default 200.

Occasionally, when shooting a three shot HDR, the long exposure wouldn’t be tack sharp. Trying it again usually got the results I wanted. There were a couple of times I needed to kick up the ISO to 800. Using Topaz DeNoise, the low amount of noise at ISO 800 is a snap to clean up.

I’m still keeping my tripod though.  There are lots of times, especially on my road trips, where I’m shooting in blue hour or nighttime.


This panoramic HDR of Waynapicchu was processed pretty much the way I do most of my work these days. Photos are merged in Lightroom using the Perfect HDR Workflow. Then I jump into Topaz PhotoFXlab where my go-to filters make quick work of getting my final image.

I rely heavily on Topaz Clarity for 98.6% of my work. Other heavy hitters, for me, are Topaz DeNoise, Topaz ReStyle, and Topaz Glow.

Remember how good the legendary Topaz Adjust was? Well, now I don’t use it much at all really. The newer Topaz filter technology just gives me much better results very quickly.

If you ever decide to try any of the Topaz goodness, they gave me a promo code to pass along to you for a 15% saving anytime. PERFECTHDR is the secret code that’ll save you some bucks.

Back into my Man Cave

There’s much more photo processing to do!  Other than the adventures and experiences from all my travels, processing, in artful ways, the photos I take along the way, is my happy place.

If you like my photos of Machu Picchu, it would be really great if you’d take a second to share this post with your network!  Cheers!

Showing 3 comments

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Contact Captain Photo

Want to get in touch? I love hearing from my readers.. Cheers!

Sea Stacks at Sunset-Bandon Beach