Trip Leader, Kevin Floerke, gives some insight—and expert photography tips—to fully experience the best of our Bolivia adventure to Salar de Uyuni.

The world is full of beautiful and fascinating places, and as a travel writer, photographer, and Wilderness Travel guide, I have had the privilege of seeing many of the best of them. However, there are few destinations that compel me to invoke the term “otherworldly.” To deserve that title a place must make me feel as though I have been transported through time and space, taken out of the realm of mundane reality and dropped into a place of imagination, where anything might be possible.

Every time I arrive to Bolivia’s Salar de Uyuni, the world’s largest and highest elevation salt flat, a sense of giddy excitement overtakes me. No matter how many times I experience this place the sense of wonder never fades. At 4,000 square miles and nearly 12,000 feet of elevation, it is geographically one of the most unique locations on the planet. Formed when an ancient inland sea evaporated under the intense power of the tropical sun, the Salar is home to a variety of things you simply cannot see elsewhere. Active volcanoes, islands of fossilized coral, and caves full of centuries old intact mummies await the lucky few who brave this place. If you’re lucky, the Salar can even become the world’s largest mirror (more on that later). As a photographer, it offers many unique opportunities for once in a lifetime shots. Here are a few of my favorites from my trips in 2018.

Abondoned train in Bolivia's Salar de Uyuni

Uyuni was once home to a thriving train transport business, bringing goods from the amazon to the coast. Now many of those trains lay abandoned on the eastern edge of the flats. A desolate place, the train graveyard is also home to some of the most unique street art outside of La Paz.

Get the shot

To capture this shot, I used a faint fill flash to light the complex indigenous inspired designs while still capturing the texture of the wispy clouds and mist of this moody morning.

Flamingos in Bolivia's Salar de Uyuni

Just south of the flats lies the Eduardo Avaroa Reserve, home to fantastically colored lagoons populated by flocks of thousands of pink flamingos. It is a scene that seems more likely to appear in a fevered dream than on the frigid high plains of the Andes.

Get the shot

In order to capture these two in flight over the Red Lagoon, I used a fast shutter speed (1/2000 of a second) and attempted to pan at exactly the speed and angle of their flight. A good fast lens with accurate autofocus is also a must in this environment.

Flying above the clouds in Bolivia's Salar de Uyuni

No, this wasn’t shot out of the window of a plane, and that isn’t a sea of clouds below the setting sun, it’s a sea of salt! The Salar is the flattest place in the world, allowing for images with extremely distorted perspectives.

Get the shot

This shot was taken with a wide angle lens positioned less than an inch above the ground just as the sun hit the horizon. The texture of the salt mimics the surface of clouds, and couples with the unusual perspective to create the illusion.

long shadows of group in Bolivia's Salar de Uyuni

Sunset on the Salar casts some of the longest uninterrupted shadows you can see anywhere on earth. Getting the whole group together we lined up for a photograph you cannot replicate most anywhere else. Get the shot: Standing an even distance apart I took the middle position with a wide angle lens. Having everyone spread their legs emphasizes the human shape of our shadows, and making sure the horizon line is flat amplifies the effect.

The Salar at Night

As much fun as I have shooting this surreal landscape in the daytime, as an astrophotographer I feel the true magic of the Salar is revealed after the sun goes down. The relative lack of light pollution coupled with the thin atmosphere makes for incomparable views of the Milky Way galaxy and stars. And if you’re lucky enough to visit after a rain, as our group did in June, the flats become a thin mirror of water that reflects the night sky. This is perhaps the Salar at its most “otherworldy.”

time lapse starry sky photo in Bolivia's Salar de Uyuni

Stepping out of our 4×4 vehicles we stepped into a sea of stars that extended in all directions, above and below. This is the kind of sensation that simply cannot be explained, it must be experienced.

Get the shot

Capturing the Milky Way requires a tripod and a fast wide angled lens. This was shot with a relatively inexpensive 12mm lens with a wide open aperture at F2. The shutter was then left open for 30 seconds, gathering all the light possible without creating star trails. For this shot I aimed for the faint light of the closest town over the horizon to give the composition an anchor.

person standing in in Bolivia's Salar de Uyuni

Playing with light in nightscapes is always fun, but nothing beats it on the Salar. You can play with perspectives and challenge viewers to decide which way is up.

Get the shot

Using the tripod and a remote trigger I set myself up with my headlamp angled toward the Milky Way to create the effect that the galaxy emanates from my light!

group photo at night starry sky in Bolivia's Salar de Uyuni

The only thing better than seeing a mirror for the universe is sharing it with your friends! These intrepid Wilderness Travelers braved the night on the Salar, I hope you’ll join us there soon!

Get the shot

Lining everyone up using a headlamp to balance the composition with the truck I triggered the shot and held the pose—holding still for 30 seconds in the cold is harder than it looks!

Come see all the wonders Bolivia has to offer with me or Wilderness Travel expert guide Andrea Heckmann in 2019! Check out our Bolivia Adventure!

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