Urubamba market

I’ve been busy scanning old film again. I whizzed through Peru, Chile and Bolivia in a couple of weeks when I still had the Nikon Coolscan. I only used Elements at the time and knew nothing about adjustment layers or anything else for that matter. I could process one image while the next one was being scanned. My entire trip was digitised in half the time it took to do the travelling and I’ve been living with the results of my errors ever since.

I’m not sure I know that much more these days, but I have at least progressed to CS5, smart objects and Nik filters. I no longer believe it is good practice to snip the histogram at either end to achieve contrast and I accept that my zoom lens at the time was the first of its kind and maybe not always that sharp. (To quote one of my favourite photographers – sharpness is a bourgeois concept). The Coolscan started playing up a couple of years ago and my long-suffering husband was kind enough to buy a replacement. It is a different make and I have struggled with the software. When I began making progress with some old black and white film, the next roll was an unknown brand and I couldn’t find a preset that worked. The scanner gathered dust until I realised that if I didn’t make a start on my back log soon, I would never reach the end.

So it was dragged out a few months ago and I did some more black and white. This time from the front of my ring binder so I would know exactly what type of film I used. I’ve been pleased with the results, but the whole process is so very slow. The film was developed at a series of laboratories until I found one that did a good job. It means that I have a load of negatives with drying marks and scratches which can take an age to repair. By the time I had reached the third sheet I was bored and started looking around for something different. Colour slides seemed to be the answer and before I launched into my trip to Mongolia (see my earlier blog post), I picked a few of my favourites from South America and did them yet again.

I don’t regret the decision, but now I feel as though I am running out of time. Some of the slides are very dirty around the edges and I can’t help but wonder if this is deterioration due to age. I do file my slides in double glass sided mounts, but there has been a delay with that too and my precious holiday photographs have sat for decades in their original cardboard mounts and plastic boxes. So far I have been able to fix the problems, but I’m wary of what lies hidden in the other boxes and I have just promised myself to increase the rate of scanning, even if the images don’t get processed until much later.

These were taken in the market at Urubamba – the largest town in the sacred valley of the Incas. The previous day we got up well before dawn to take the train to Macchu Picchu. It turned out to be an interesting journey as we shared a carriage with a group of hang gliders who were in the area for a competition. The view from the train was stunning, but they decided to get a closer look by climbing outside and on to the roof! It was as they slipped back in through the open window that they told us of their intention to do some hang gliding at the ruins and I was offered the chance to pair up with one of their team on a tandem. How glad I was that I declined politely. Several hours later I was taking photographs alone on the far side of the ruins and I spotted them climbing a nearby peak. The first one to take off was soon in trouble, probably due to the strong thermals, although he eventually managed to land safely. The rest made their way back down on foot and we didn’t see them again that day. They must have taken the afternoon train back to Cusco, while we spent the night at the ruins. Imagine my surprise when we took a coach the next day to see this wonderful old market, only to spot them hang gliding along the valley.

The market was large and intended for locals only. As ever, I struggled with the strong contrast between the bright sun and deep shadows, but these images serve as a reminder of a wonderful trip.

Urubamba Market

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