National Geographic Daily News

Portillo, Chile

Photograph by Christian Pondella

“We really didn't notice how amazing the ice formations on the lake were when we were shooting,” says Aspen, Colorado-based ski mountaineer Chris Davenport, seen here at Portillo, Chile, overlooking Laguna del Inca. “We knew the snow was amazing, but it wasn't until we looked at the images on the computer that night that we knew we had something special.”

Davenport and photographer Christian Pondella were in-bounds but had hiked about 20 minutes up above the Roca Jack lift into a zone where very few people go. “We had two feet of powder, and then the sun came out and began creating those awesome formations on the lake,” Davenport recalls. “Timing is everything in the mountains, and we timed this shot perfectly.”

Davenport has been hosting events and ski camps at the resort for the past 13 years. "Portillo is truly one of the world's most unique and special ski destinations,” he says. “There is no town there, just a gorgeous, old hotel at the foot of the lake high in the Andes, which caters to all types of skiers and boarders, from families to freeriders. I bring my kids there every season because it's such a kid-friendly mountain—they can't get lost!”

Getting the Shot

“When we first got there, the lake was all open water, then it slowly changed into this abstract formation,” says Pondella, who was in Portillo to ski and shoot with Davenport. “I had photographed in Portillo before, but never had this particular shot in mind. It was not until this trip that we watched the lake transform like it did."

Pondella and Davenport shot the entire day without getting the particular frame they had in mind, due to the terrain. The two had to wrap the shoot in order to catch a bus and make a flight home. “As we were skiing down to the bottom, I looked over and saw this one patch of snow with the lake behind it and shouted to Chris, ‘That’s our shot,’" Pondella says. "This was the last shot of our trip, and for sure the best one as it all came together exactly as I had envisioned earlier in the day."

Pondella photographed with a Canon Mark 1D III and a f/4, 24-105mm lens.

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