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Discovering Machu Picchu

posted Jun 7, 2016, 1:25 PM by Prewitt Gallery   [ updated Jun 27, 2016, 2:48 PM ]

Machu Picchu - The Seventh Wonder of the World

I have been very fortunate during my life to have traveled and photographed some incredible places all over the world. However, to be honest, there have been very few that have truly taken my breath away.  Some of those include the awe-inspiring glaciers, mountain ranges, lakes and rivers of Patagonia, the inhospitable but jaw dropping beauty of the Antarctic and, now, magical Machu Picchu.

We were excited to embark on our first adventure for 2016 to the Incan city of Machu Picchu, actually the Seventh Wonders of the World.  Machu Picchu is an Incan citadel set high in the Andes Mountains in Peru, above the Urubamba River valley, 7,950 ft above sea level.  Built in the 15th century and later abandoned, it’s renowned for its sophisticated dry-stone walls that fuse huge blocks without the use of mortar, intriguing buildings that play on astronomical alignments, and panoramic views.  Machu Picchu is an absolute masterpiece of architecture and a unique testimony to the Inca civilization.  

A 15th-century stone city tucked into a mountain-ringed valley high in the Andes, Machu Picchu is about 50 miles from Cusco, the Inca capital. We opted for the easier route to reach the city by a four-hour train ride.  It was just a few more miles of winding mountain roads before we arrived at this magnificent site.   Then there are some more adventurous that opt for a three-to six-day hike along the famed Inca Trail.  

One of the first sites we encountered was the semicircular Temple of the Sun offering up commanding views of the Sacred Valley below. One of the most unique characteristics of this Incan civilization is that during the summer solstice, the sun shines through a temple window and aligns with both the boulder within and the tip of a nearby mountain peak.  The 700-plus ancient terraces at Machu Picchu preserved soil, promoted agriculture, and served as part of an extensive water-distribution system that conserved water and limited erosion on the steep slopes.

The Inca ruins lie on a high ridge, surrounded on three sides by the windy, turbulent Urubamba River some 2,000 feet below. When Hiram Bingham first saw the maze of terraces and walls rising out of the thick undergrowth in 1911, he found himself in a ghost town that had been hidden from the outside world for nearly 400 years. "It seemed like an unbelievable dream," he later wrote. "What could this place be?"  He believed he had found the Lost City of the Inca.  

Llamas abound at Machu Picchu, wandering wherever they wish for the most part.  The key to a good llama photo is to shoot with the sun at your back and, if possible, the city in the background.  The best time of day to photograph Machu Picchu is early morning, preferable before sunrise.  You may even be lucky to capture the fog rolling in over the city.  

Machu Picchu is one of the most breathtaking locations on earth and whilst it may seem that every shot has been covered before, there are many locations within the ruins, each opening up a new photographic possibility. But most importantly, even I take time to put my camera down and enjoy this magical place for what it is.  

We will soon be adding many of these images to Prewitt Gallery so be sure to stop in and check out the Machu Picchu collection.