One of the first things I love to do in a place I've never been before is get out on the street and roam around, especially at night. Seeing a place dressed up at night is like seeing it all over again with new eyes and a brand new view around each corner. When street lights turn on and the day comes to an end, there's a certain magical quality you don't see in the light of day. I've been mezmerized at night before in Positano, and it happened to me again in Chile - a very different culture, but the same peaceful feeling to the night.
In the north of Chile in the high altiplano desert of the Atacama lies the small adobe town of San Pedro de Atacama. With sandy streets and a distinct Andean feel, travelers come here to see the arid, lush, salty, and volcanic wonders that all occupy the same landscape.
And man, is it ever D. U. S. T. Y. After a week here, my nose and throat were raw and dry as a bone, mostly from dust clouds churned up by passing vehicles.
But the same desert rock that makes the dust that makes you sneeze glows so beautifully in the streetlight, reflecting a whole new desert palette of warm ambers and burnt siennas throughout the town.
As people head home for the night, the opportunists sit and watch it all... waiting for their dinner meal.
San Pedro is a walk and bike town - you'll see more of the town on two legs or wheels. For those with a car, there's just one gas station in town and finding it (with any petrol left) is truly a feat of endurance!
The Church of San Pedro de Atacama sits at the center of town on the square, its significance overshadowing most everything around it.
The high elevation of the Atacama desert makes it a perfect place to view and photograph the night sky. There's no shortage of good views, but for truly spectacular shots, head out of town away from any ambient light.
A musician plays the last few strands for the crowd and packs it in for the night.
All around the town, there's no shortage of secret gardens and peaceful little spots in San Pedro de Atacama. People sit at all hours of the day and night, chatting with friends, cuddling with lovers. Life here is lived in the street.
And last - my favorite night image of all, below. The beautiful Spanish-colonial Catholic church of San Pedro de Atacama (Pin it for later).
A funny thing happened as we headed down this street for one last look. And I have a witness. This street light in the middle of the street fizzled out right after I took this photo, as we walked down the street toward the church. The very moment we passed it again, the light came back on as if on cue.
A sign. Perhaps a silent "Good Night and Thanks for Coming" from the universe.
Do you love night photography as much as I do? Is San Pedro de Atacama on your bucket list?