Capturing High Resolution Images of the Andean Altiplano with the OM-1

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Photographing with the High Res Mode in the Atacama Desert of Chile

 The Andean Altiplano in Chile presents a unique and striking landscape, characterised by its minimalistic scenery rich in texture with rock, salt, and sandy features. Based in San Pedro de Atacama, I recently spent a week photographing the Atacama Desert, and two days above 4500m on the Andean Altiplano, where it feels like you’re walking on another planet.

Volcanoes towering above the plateaus, salt lakes providing a vivid colour palette and a combination of valleys, rocky outcrops and ridges…it’s a landscape I could stare at forever.

Captivated by the area when I visited back in 2019, this time I was excited to have the possibility of shooting with the OM-1 MKII, using the high-res mode to shoot handheld with 50 megapixels.

The feature is available across a number of the OM SYSTEM cameras, and it makes photographing landscapes a dream, adding extra details to work with editing, and also meaning you can avoid lugging a tripod around and still produce high resolution image files. Now, if you’ve been reading The Wandering Lens for a while, you’ll know I rarely travel with a tripod. For a while I used to question if I was just being silly and packed it in my suitcase, but it never came out and just added unnecessary weight to my luggage. The reason for this is because the stability of the OM SYSTEM gear is so superior, innovative and industry-leading that I don’t need one anymore.

If you do happen to carry a tripod with you, you’re actually able to capture up to 80-megapixel images with the high-res mode…so I guess packing it could have its advantages for a special scene.

From my previous trip to the Atacama Desert, I knew capturing the intricate details of this environment was going to be incredible fun, especially because in the years since, I’ve developed quite a fascination with photographing the finer details within a scene.

What is High-Resolution Mode on the OM SYSTEM cameras?

The high-resolution mode on the OM-1 + OM-1 MKII cameras allows you to capture stunningly detailed images by combining multiple shots into one RAW file with a single shutter click.

It’s really easy to access, you can either press the record button and see the high-res icon pop up on the LCD screen to indicate it’s on, or access via the menu system and adjust the settings that way. Oddly, it’s become a habit of mine to go through the menu system to turn it on, even though it takes a few extra steps…I actually enjoy the OM SYSTEM menu and it feels like so many things are possible when browsing through to turn on the high res mode.

There are two options to select from, plus additional settings such as time delay, or resolution size.

  • Hand-Held High-Res Mode: This mode captures 50-megapixel images without the need for a tripod, offering flexibility for photographers on the move.
  • Tripod High-Res Mode: For absolute precision and maximum detail, this mode captures 80-megapixel images, perfect for static scenes and planned shots.

You can see the available settings below.

When to Use High-Mode

Because the camera’s processor combines eight images very quickly, you’ll want the scene and any subjects to be relatively still. A small breeze or a little movement is okay if you also remain steady, but you’ll find it’s tricky to work with trees rustling in strong wind, or fast moving animals/traffic/crowds. Instead, prepare to use high res mode by seeking out landscapes and subjects that will enable you to take advantage of the additional megapixels.

I’ve previously used it in Greenland for stationary icebergs and icy landscapes, whilst photographing the outback of Australia with the red earthy sand and rock features, and of course during my time in Chile, in both Patagonia and the Atacama Desert/Andean Altiplano.

Landscape Photography Tips that work well with High Res Mode

#1 Incorporate Light and Shadows:

The interplay of light and shadows can significantly enhance your images. The sun’s position can create dramatic shadows that add depth and texture to the landscape so look for subjects where the light is hitting, or try to research and be at the right place in the right time for the light to fall across the scene beautifully.

Tip: Shoot during the golden hours—early morning or late afternoon—when the light is soft and shadows are longer, enhancing any visible textures, tones or features within the scene. This time of day provides a warm, diffused light that can make the landscape appear more vibrant and three-dimensional.

#2 Look for Leading Lines and Focal Points:

Leading lines naturally draw the viewer’s eye into the photo. In the Altiplano, you can use features like rock formations, or lines of salt flats to guide the viewer into the image. Leading lines are available almost anywhere though, you just need to move around and assess the scene to find them.

Tip: Position leading lines to draw attention to a unique focal point, such as a distant mountain or a striking rock formation. This can help create a sense of depth and perspective in your image, making it more engaging and visually appealing.

#3 Seek Out Textural Elements:

The Altiplano is rich in textures, from the rugged surfaces of rocks to the fine grains of sand. High-res mode excels at capturing these intricate details.

Tip: Get close to the textural elements and fill the frame to showcase the patterns. This can create abstract images that highlight the beauty of the natural textures. Experiment with different angles and perspectives to find the most interesting and dynamic compositions.

#4 Photographing Wildlife:

While the Altiplano’s wildlife may not be as abundant, it includes unique species like flamingos and vicuñas. Capturing these animals in high resolution requires patience.

Tip: Observe the behaviour of the wildlife and wait for them to remain still. This ensures that the camera can accurately combine the eight images into one sharp, detailed photo. Using a telephoto lens can help you get close without disturbing the animals, allowing you to capture intimate and detailed portraits.

The OM-1 camera’s high-resolution mode is a game-changer for landscape photography, especially in the visually rich environment of the Andean Altiplano and Atacama Desert. I’ll be heading back to Greenland this September and already can’t wait to get snapping again, maybe I’ll even pack my tripod and attempt the 80-megapixel shots too…stay tuned!

Continue Reading with these related articles:

Photographing Details within a Landscape

Gear Talk: The Benefits of Travelling with a Zoom Lens

Photographing the Valley of the Moon in the Atacama Desert


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