November 23, 2021
Photographer Timothy Dhalleine on how Covid times have turned his most intimate passion into a need to share the breathtaking beauty of Torres del Paine with as many people as possible, in hopes of helping others establish a deep relationship with the natural world.
Back in 2020, I had spent the last 7 years living in a one of the most spectacular national parks on Earth, Torres del Paine. Some call this area “the crown jewel of Patagonia” and it is easy to understand why. With its pristine landscapes that mix granite spires, ice fields, windy plains and an abundant wildlife, Torres del Paine is heaven on Earth. My definition of heaven, at least.
Then came the pandemic. All hotels were evacuated within just a couple of days, including the Eco lodge I work at, EcoCamp Patagonia. Some travelers had to leave the country soon after they had landed. On March 18th, 2020, Torres del Paine National Park was closed and so were the borders of Chile. The shocking truth was hard to assume. All of us were asked to stay home, and for most of us it was even impossible to leave the city. Lockdowns quickly started and lasted for roughly a year and a half.
For everyone like me who is in permanent contact with nature, being forced to stay home was a tremendous challenge. As a nature photographer, it was the first time I had to pack my lenses for such a long period.
At the same time, If there is one good thing to highlight with the Covid-19 crisis, it’s definitely the time it gave us to step back and think about the way we live on the planet. These months of quarantines were probably the best opportunity to remember the importance of the word “solidarity”. And while solidarity is a word that can apply towards both human beings and nature in general, I am convinced the upcoming years may be even more complex if we humans do not adapt ourselves to minimize our impact on the only planet we inhabit.
As a content creator for EcoCamp Patagonia, I couldn’t imagine a life that wouldn’t involve filmmaking and photography. I knew patience was crucial, but I also knew I had to do something to keep inspiring people during the pandemic, even virtually. So I organized the content I had been creating for the past 7 years, and started re-editing and re-posting some of my favorite shots of Patagonia. I was convinced now more than ever was the time to reconnect with nature. People needed to travel to wild places, even from home. I had to share my passion for the southernmost region on Earth I am proud to call “home”.
And then I decided I would shoot a new video.
In September 2020, just a few days before the worst COVID wave hit Puerto Natales (the city I inhabit and the entrance door to Torres del Paine), I shot “A Path”. This short film features the story of Jorge Canales Helmer, a local that founded an archeological route near Puerto Natales. To sum it up, the participation of only 2 persons allowed this video to exist. 100% of it was shot outdoors - at Laguna Sofia, one of the most beautiful spots you will find between Puerto Natales and Torres del Paine National Park. And if you watch the video until the end, you’ll get why I think this pandemic is the best opportunity to rethink the way we value natural places.
If – like me – you’ve locked yourself at home because of the COVID-19 outbreak, you know what missing being outside means. Nature is not only beautiful; it matters to all humans. The benefits of the immersion in nature have been proven by science. Nature benefits our health, and the health of nature directly impacts our quality of life. Nature is where we all come from.
Patagonia may just be the best place on Earth to immerse in nature. However, planet Earth is full of natural places, whether close or far from where you live.
I know there will be a “before” and an “after” COVID, and I hope humans will value wild places even more. We all need to cultivate our sense of wonder towards nature, and it is the aim of all nature photographers and filmmakers to help people doing so.
Because whenever we wonder at something, we want to protect it.
Timothy Dhalleine is Content Creator at Ecocamp Patagonia, a preferred partner of Earthtones in Chile. Ready to plan your next adventure?