Machu Picchu, Inspired by Bruce Barnbaum

"Good artists copy, great artists steal." - Pablo Picasso


A few years ago I took a workshop with Bruce Barnbaum. During the workshop Bruce showed a lot of his prints and talked about the art of seeing and creating. My photo, Machu Picchu, Clouds and Birds, was inspired by a print Bruce showed from his first Machu Picchu trip. It has stuck in my mind ever since, and I occasionally go to his website to view it. What captivated me about his photo were the mountains peeking through the clouds and how he used the wall to anchor the scene.

The thought occurred to me that I am stealing Bruce's idea, that the image is his vision, not mine. In a way, it's true. I probably would not have thought of taking this particular photo had I not seen his. But the two photos are different. I chose to shoot the wall straight on, while Bruce's wall is angled slightly. I remember trying to capture the birds flying up in the clouds and around the ruins. Using a handheld camera, I was able to take several shots in the hope of capturing a bird swooping around the ruins. I believe Bruce was shooting with his 4x5 view camera, so it would not have been practical for him to include flying birds. And, of course, clouds are never the same.

Machu Picchu at 6:00 AM

I spent two days in Machu Picchu this past May, and I have to say it surpassed all expectations. It is bigger and more spectacular than I imagined. By the time I entered the citadel on the first day it was already late morning. There were clouds, but it was mostly sunny—not my favorite lighting. Nevertheless, there were plenty of photographic opportunities. The photo above is one I especially liked from that first day.

On day 2 I woke up at 5 am so I could be at the park when it opened at 6. What a difference! When I arrived at the gate, along with a hundred or so other people, it had just stopped raining. Clouds and fog surrounded the lost city. Occasionally the mountains would peek through for a moment and then disappear.  When the gates opened, people headed off in all directions. It was easy to get away and be alone to experience Machu Picchu in silence and let its spiritual presence and the fog surround me. This is what I came for, and I was not disappointed. Many of the photos I like were taken before 8 am. Here are some pictures from that day. You can see the full Machu Picchu gallery on my website.