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Lost Tombs
of Peru

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Lost Tombs of Peru
Photograph by Gordon Wiltsie

Suspended 700 feet (213 meters) above the canyon floor, Peter Lerche confirms that the White House contains an intact mummy, its coffin wrapped in rope and perched on the lip of the tomb. Other mummy bundles lie within. Lerche and the Geographic team plan to return with officials from the National Institute of Culture in Lima to protect the tomb and record its contents.

Camera: Nikon 8008s
Film Type: Fuji Velvia 50
Lens: 15mm rectilinear
Speed and F Stop: 125 @ f/5.6
Weather Conditions: Slight overcast
Time of Day: 1 p.m.
Lighting Techniques: Natural light

This was an extremely difficult shot because I was hanging on a rope and spinning around in space. To get it, I had to jump away from the cliff and as I reached the apogee of my leap, I would fire several frames with my motor drive. My biggest problem was that because the field of view of the lens was so wide my feet kept swinging into the picture. I also kept spinning, so my ideal version of the picture could not be guaranteed. I also tried to keep my own rope out of the frame, but this did not work. It took at least 20 jumps to get this right. I had a very clear picture of what I wanted to shoot, but nothing like a tripod to compose it carefully. I just had to think and shoot quickly as I spun on the swinging rope. I realized at the time that this would likely be the lead picture of the story. In subsequent nights I lost sleep worrying whether my relatively slow shutter speed of 1/125 second (which I needed to use to get a high enough f/stop to keep everything in focus) would make the picture blurred. Some frames were, but this one turned out just as I planned.

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