During our latest photo-adventure to Peru, there were 3 main places I really wanted to photograph. The number one of course being, Machu Picchu; shooting some of the Andean Condors with their 3m wingspan and last but not least, the Maras Salt mines in the Sacred valley a couple of hours outside Cusco.

These salt pools date back to the Wari civilization (500-1000 AD), more than 1000 years ago, but it was especially the Inca's in the 14th century that took the salt exploitation to the next level. There are several thousand salt pools at Maras, placed delicately on a mountain slope. Most (if not all) belong to families living in the two neighboring villages; the number of pools being carefully shared based on the size of the family. Once harvested, the salt is sold on site as well as in local markets and is known for its high nutrition quality. 

Normally salt pools are found in coastal plains. Placed at 3400 m in the Andes mountains far away from the sea, this side is of course very different. A natural spring feeds a salt rich stream that flows into the pools which are opened and dammed by the owners of the individual pools. Once the pool is filled, the water is closed off and allowed to evaporate. A few weeks later the salt is then being scraped off. All of it is done with manual hard labour; mostly early morning or just before sunset. 

Until last summer, tourists were allowed to walk along the top ridge of the pools. As some of the salt was being contaminated, this is no longer allowed. A shame on the tourists again!

Even though, there are still some interesting viewpoints over the pools, including a wooden viewing point that is "close enough". I do recommend using a longer lens; around 200 mm full frame equivalent, for those higher impact photos.

I shot a few hundred images at the pools; making it the most photogenic place of our Peru Photo-adventure. The one below I particularly like as the three people working on the left hand side, gives it the extra bit of scale. 

Image details:
  • Fujifilm X-T3 with XF50-140mm f2.8 lens 
  • ISO 400, 1/500s, f11, 135mm
  • RAW development in Lightroom CC using Velvia Color Profile
  • DxO Nik ColorEfex Pro4 for optimal contrast
The above image is definitively one that will be printed large as part of my Aerial collection. More images shot at Maras as well as all over Peru can be found here

Remember: "Don't always thrust what you see. Even salt looks like sugar".