The Most Amazing iPhone Photography in Atacama

The Atacama Desert in Chile is the driest place on Earth. On a recent trip with Yampu Tours and Awasi Atacama, I explored some of the most amazing landscapes I had ever seen. While Atacama is a photographer’s dream destination, its breathtaking beauty can be captured with no special equipment too. From parched deserts, expansive salt fields, and star studies skies, to local wildlife, here are some of the unedited photos I took with my iPhone 6.

Valle de la Luna AtacamaThat’s me overlooking Valle de la Luna (Moon Valley) in Atacama. There was nothing but rocks and sand as far as my eyes can see. The soil here is rich in gypsum and clay, which gives it red-orange colors.

Atacama salt fieldsMy guide from Awasi Atacama took me to off the tourist paths in the Moon Valley, where we could see giant crystals of salt intact. They looked like snowflakes but when I got closer, they were rock solid!

Atacama desertThis is to give you an idea of how dry the land actually is, allowing nothing but a few bushes of Rica Rica to grow. The locals use leaves from this bush to make tea and desserts.

Atacama vegetationIn a land where nothing grows, there are 17 agricultural oasis such as these. The water is diverted through a canal/ drip system. I saw trees of oranges, lemons, quince, and pomegranate sustaining few people and their livestock in these areas.

Atacama sunset

A beautiful sunset in the high plateau of the Atacama desert, located close to Laskar (5th most active in Chile). The colors of the sky changed from blue to orange, yellow, pink, red, blue and then black, as temperatures dropped from 60s to 0F in just matter of minutes.

Atacama petrocliffsDriving up to see the petroglyphs from 10,000 years ago at Yerbas Buenas. I hiked down into the valley to find over a thousand prehistoric petroglyphs well intact depicting llamas and people.

Atacama salt fields

Salar de Atacama (salt fields) located an hour away from San Pedro. There are lots of lagunas (lakes) in the area where you can see salt and flamingoes, with the background of mountains and picture perfect sunsets.

Atacama sunsetBecause of the thin atmosphere and high UV rays, the cloud cover in the Atacama is an ever changing dance show. This one looks like a UFO, doesn’t it?

San Pedro De AtacamaThe village of San Pedro De Atacama has a population of 2,500 but is the main spot for tourists to stay, eat, and book tours from in this area. It is centrally located to major attractions, while still offering a small desert town feel.

Atacama llama

While I saw many llamas all over Chile, this one stood out. He wanted to come very close to my camera, while his mom photobombed the portrait. Taken at the town of Toconao, in the background is the famous Laskar volcano.

Got some iPhone photography tips? Do share below…

Portrait of Life on Himeshima

Himeshima meaning “Princess Island” is a village island located in Ōita Prefecture of southwest Japan. The sleepy little town of 7 kms is easily accessible by Imi Port. From here you can get nice views of Kyushu, Honshu and Shikoku mountains, where we had been trekking for the past few days.

The island has its own laws, under which village employees earn about a third less pay than public servants elsewhere in Japan, though they work the same hours. This has allowed the village to create more jobs: it now directly or indirectly employs a fifth of all working islanders. The main occupations on the island are fishing and shrimp farming. To keep things balanced, prices of goods are also considerably less than mainland.

Every August, there is a Shinto religious ceremony, Kitsune matsuri (Fox Dance festival) featuring dancers dressed as foxes that attracts many visitors. Otherwise, people from mainland Japan come here to get away from the hustle and bustle of city life. The best way to explore the area is on a bike or on foot.

Here are a few snapshots of life around the island.

The lighthouse on the eastern tip is a good spot to get a picture perfect view of the island. himeshima lighthouse

A crescent shape beach looks exceptionally clean, but there are no people here on a sunny afternoon. The Japanese people only hit the beach during auspicious 3 weeks in the summer.

himeshima beach

One can wander through the maze of streets, looking at well kept homes that have traditional Japanese gardens, shrines and vegetable plots.

himeshima homes

The streets are quiet all times of the day. You wonder where the 2k inhabitants are!

himeshima streets

Himeshima’s most famous product is the kuruma ebi (tiger prawn) that is exported to restaurants across Japan. It is fresh and delicious, as you can see the shrimp farms all over. October is the main season for the prawns and in that month the island also hosts a kuruma ebi festival. Traditionally, it is eaten alive!

himeshima shrimp farms

The most scenic spot the island has to offer is in the north east. Here you will need to climb a hill to reach Sennin-do – a tiny temple building that sits on a rock looking out over the sea, and wind-bent pines gripping the obsidian stones right next to it.

himeshima temple

We pause at an old post office in ruins, as we make our way to the oldest mayor’s home. This is now a open house museum where visitors can see traditional floors, kitchen equipment, and the ancient life.

himeshima house

The people in Himeshima are very friendly and the island has a certain relaxed charm about it. You can walk around the entire place in less than a day, but if you want to sit back and do nothing, come for as long as you want.

Himeshima was one of our stops during the Kinisaki Trek with Walk Japan tours.