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Saturday, July 1, 2017

To Photograph A Galapagos Tortoise, Get Out OF The Race

Photo
“On the last day of my assignment in the Galápagos, I noticed a couple of tortoises on the road that leads from Puerto Ayora to the airport. I asked my driver to stop the car.” CreditFederico Rios Escobar for The New York Times
Times Insider shares insights into how we work at The New York Times. In this piece, the photographer Federico Rios Escobar explains how he drew a particularly large subject out of her proverbial shell at a recent (and spontaneous) shoot for a Travel section cover story on the Galápagos Islands.
The slowness of the tortoise was proportional to the patience of the photographer. I approached with caution and kept my distance, to avoid causing either of us stress. The last thing I wanted was to slip and find myself — or my camera — flattened under one of those monumental animals. With even minimal intimidation, they would hide in their shells and not move for a long time. It was a great test of will.
On the last day of my assignment in the Galápagos, I noticed a couple of tortoises on the road that leads from Puerto Ayora to the airport. I asked my driver to stop the car so I could get out, and I watched one of them slowly advance on the sidewalk as cars and buses passed by. At the sound of each vehicle, the tortoise attempted to hide her head and take refuge. I quietly crouched down next to her. After a while, the tortoise acknowledged me. She knew I was there, lying on the ground in front of her with only a few meters between us, and she no longer seemed to mind my presence. Gradually she started moving again, slowly and heavily. When I finally had the photo I wanted, I got on my feet and found my driver smoking a cigarette outside the car. I had been lying there on the ground for almost 40 minutes without realizing the passage of time, while the tortoise barely moved a few meters. It was an intimate encounter, a special connection, just the tortoise and me, alone. A state of suspended consciousness in which there was no need to rush.
Back in the car, we hit the accelerator hard since it was only minutes before my flight took off. When I arrived at the airport, I sped through the waiting room to the gate. In front of me were the stairs to the plane, empty now. I was the last passenger to board, just seconds from being left behind. I approached with a furiously beating heart, sad to leave the Galápagos and my meditation with the tortoises. It was time to go back to the races.
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