Patagonia Experience

Patagonia Experience

For this new opus of the series It's a Vuarnet Day, we embark with Sara Forrest for a road trip through the extraordinary landscapes of Patagonia. This destination quickly emerged as an obvious for this passionate photographer of adventure also sensitive to the nature that surrounds her. We took advantage of her return to ask some questions about her expedition to South America.

Photo Credit: Sara Forrest

Hi Sara, could you please introduce yourself?

Hi I’m Sara Forrest and I am a lifestyle photographer. I grew up on the great plains of Kansas. There the sky seems to take up more space than the land and the prairies are vast like the ocean. I've romanticized the landscape from where I grew up in recent years, perhaps because I've lived away for so long. Sometimes it takes leaving a place to realize how much of a part of you it is. When I was younger, I moved to NYC to pursue a career in ballet. Eventually, I ended up with a degree in human biology. It was at this time that I discovered an old Nikon in my parent’s basement. I directly feel right at home behind the lens.    

Why did you become a photographer?

I'm always looking to learn about something new or go someplace I've never been. I've spent much of my personal time working on pro bono projects. It feels good to create awareness and calls to action. From covering maternal health issues in Ethiopia to a refugee resettlement farm in Kansas to a struggling fishing industry in New England. It's important to me that the images I create have an element of connection. I want there to be an intimacy to the work no matter where in the world I am shooting. These feelings and energy really transcend continents and transcend language and cultural barriers.

Why did you choose to go in Patagonia? What attracted you on this land?

The reason we chose Patagonia was that we wanted to see these dramatic remote landscapes and experience hiking in the Andean mountains. We're not the type of people who go on trips where you lounge in beach chair all day. Our style is much more hands on and so this type of trip was a perfect fit for us. We also enjoy learning about the ecology of places we visit. Patagonia has so much to offer in terms of exploring different ecosystems. Glaciers and ice fields, mountain formations, thrombolites, unique flora and fauna, the Patagonian steppe, and of course the wildlife. So many guanacos and chulengos!

With who did you make this trip?

I made it with my husband Christian, there is a quote that Christian and I both like so much that I painted it on a plank of wood at our wedding in Colorado last summer, 'We travel not to escape life, but for life not to escape us. ~ Anonymous  

I think it is very relevant, especially in today's world where we are constantly being pushed and pulled in many directions. It's really important to take that time out to reconnect with one another and ourselves. For us, it's getting outside as often as possible. Nature can have this beautiful way of stripping away distractions and bringing yourself closer to the things that really matter most in life. That said, I really think it's important for we who love the outdoors to be aware of park conservation efforts worldwide. Our planet is so precious and fragile and when you grow up you realize it is not really that big after all and it is really important to protect it.

With what kind of landscape are you the most confident?

I feel like every landscape has it's own dialogue. It's like asking, "what's your favorite type of music?" That's nearly impossible to answer when you love all types. Patagonia is so diverse ecologically. The Perito Moreno glacier in Argentina was a spectacular visual. We put on crampons and trekked on the ice one afternoon. It seemed like we were visiting an icy planet like Pluto, but with full sun. The deep glacial crevasses and streams of electric blue water were just stunning to see up close.

What comes to your mind when you discover a country for the first time?

Every new place is an empty slate for my mind and my camera lens. New places give you the opportunity to interact with others and with your environment in a different way, even if that is uncomfortable at times (ie last minute changes, a day taking a different turn, etc.). Traveling is always a great learning experience. Each trip presents a new set of surprises, inspirations, challenges and memories. A new environment can never feel the same, because it is inherently different. I am always looking for people living and doing things a little different than myself. I find that really inspiring and ultimately drives my creative process.  

The big take away from any travel is that we are all human and we are all connected by that. We all feel the same range of emotions...just in another place under a different set of stars.

What is the most striking anecdote of your trip to Patagonia?

You can drink the water straight from the streams. That's right....Patagonia is that pristine.  

Also the unspoiled expanses are so captivating. It's hard to show in a photograph just how vast the landscape is there. You feel so small. In a good way. I think having someone or something in the frame can really help you grasp the scale of the landscape.   There are also, some of the glacial water has a creamy blue tint to it. This water is called "glaicer milk" due the presence of suspended fine sediment in the water. This is produced by the glaciers rubbing against rock. Just a little glacier fun fact.

If you had not had a camera during this trip, how would you describe Patagonia in words?

It's hard to put into words. They say nothing's perfect, but really Patagonia is as close as perfect may get.

It is so remote, yet it is amazing to me that you still see people out in the landscape. Gauchos and their dogs can be seen moving sheep on the horizons of the Patagonian pampas on the estancias. It is like a step back in time. Virtually untouched.   The wind is very powerful, which I think compliments the wildness of the landscape.   The weather is very unpredictable, just like life I suppose. There were a few days where we'd hike 15 miles and it poured for 12 of them. Those days the camera stayed in a plastic bag inside of my pack covered in a rain cover. We got a clear day up at the Fitz Roy so I feel really lucky to have seen that amazing landscape uncovered by clouds. The land has a very beautiful spirit to it. The vast remoteness to it generates a feeling of peace and gratitude.

Finally, can you tell us what is for you the perfect Vuarnet Day?  

I had a couple of them on this trip. A 16 mile hike to the base of the Fitz Roy and back, followed by a beer on a porch in El Chaltén overlooking the town. Add in some new friends, a bright gold sunset and a view of the Torre and Fitz Roy massifs and you have my perfect Vuarnet day. Happy trails!