There is a reason why self-taught Italian photographer, Marco Grassi has travelled repeatedly to Patagonia. "When you fly in, you can see the mountains directly below. It then quickly became my dream to fly just above those mountains in a small Cessna plane and take photographs through an open window."
After failed attempts due to pilots not showing up, broken airplane radio systems, and even a plane needing a new propeller, in 2019, Marco's dream of taking those shots was finally realised.
The issue that day was that the sky was full of lenticular clouds. There was a lot of turbulence, and I’m scared of flying. But I got up there, put the Alpha 7R III camera to my eye, and tried to forget about my fears. The turbulence was crazy, but it paid off because the conditions were amazing with uniquely formed clouds spread across the peaks of the mountains.”
Being able to take images in perfect conditions is what Marco lives for, as he says, "light is absolutely crucial. Every time I witness incredible light, that moment inspires me as a photographer.”
One of these moments of inspiration on this flight was when Marco flew over the mountain region's huge ice fields for the first time. “When I saw them, I knew I had to get down there,” says Marco.
Fast forward four years, Marco took his Sony Alpha 1 and made his second visit to the ice field earlier this year. The foothills of the Andes mountains presented a number of challenging conditions, but with his camera upgrade, Marco was undeterred, shooting in winds of up to 120km/h with fierce snow. "I often say it is not whether the camera will survive the conditions, but whether the camera can survive being with me!"
It isn't just the robust build of the Alpha 1 that makes it Marco's camera of choice; it is the all-around performance and image quality.
"I like the Sony Alpha 1 for its speed. Everything is fast, from bracketing settings to the shooting rate and focusing system. I may not need that speed when shooting landscapes, but it is great when flying, on the move or shooting wildlife. Then there is the dynamic range and low noise levels. Years ago, I always had noise issues, but since I switched to Sony, I've been blown away by the quality of the large prints I can make with the images from it.”
Hiking through the foothills of the Andes to the glacier is highly challenging. "The main challenge is getting to the glacier in the first place. The entire approach is rocky terrain, and you must respect the weather. You must get out as early as possible if it is really bad. We needed to pack everything for a multiple-day hike. I had to keep my camera gear to a minimum.”
Like many other travel and adventure photographers, Marco keeps his bag as light as possible by using the Sony FE 24-105mm f/4 G OSS lens. “It offers me flexibility. I need that flexibility when shooting from a plane or helicopter or exploring a new location when I don't know what I will encounter.”
Another essential lens for Marco is the FE 12-24mm f/2.8 G Master lens. “The 12-24mm lens allows me to explore the scene's foreground and create images that you simply cannot see with your vision,” says Marco. Finally, when there is a specific need to take a telephoto lens, Marco will take the FE 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 G Master lens. “Unless I am sure it is needed, I won't take it with me on a multi-day adventure as although it is lightweight, it is essential that I only take what I need; every gram counts.”
Marco took one of his favourite images with the Sony Alpha 1 and 12-24mm f/2.8 G Master lens. "I had been shooting all morning and were just about to leave when I spotted the plant on the floor against the spectacular light and backdrop,” describes Marco. "I was in a hurry, so I shot a series of focus bracketed shots at 12mm, handheld. I took three images, one in the foreground, one in the middle, and one in the background. When editing, I merged them so everything is sharp from front to back."
With Marco's desire to constantly take shots that people haven't seen before, it won't be long before he is back in Patagonia, taking on the mountain trails with his Sony kit in tow.
"What drives me to make the images is to visit a famous location and come back with something unique, something different. It keeps me motivated to keep exploring in different directions.”