Punta Arenas Cemetery – Antarctic 2020 Part 1

The city of Punta Arenas

How the world has changed. From February 12-25 I made a trip to Antarctica. It was a different time. While we were aware of COVID-19, we were not aware of what was about to happen and how much it would change the world. This trip would turn out to be the last trip that I’ll remember when the world was a different place.

Punta Arenas Shipwreck
Punta Arenas Shipwreck

The trip I was leading was to Antarctica for my other company, Rockhopper Workshops. My teaching partners were Art Wolfe and Michael Door along with 29 workshop attendees. The trip itself was a flyover of the Drake to Antarctica expedition. This flyover trip allows us to bypass 5 days at sea crossing the Drake Passage, which can be a hellacious trip. It is the only area in the world where there is no land blocking the whole latitude. The seas can be as smooth as a lake or some of the most violent in the world.

Another shipwreck, seems to be a few of them around Punta Arenas
Another shipwreck, seems to be a few of them around Punta Arenas
Lots of stray cats and dogs

I have made 20 plus trips to Antarctica and a good number of them across the Drake. While the passage itself gives you some bragging rights, I know a few people who would have certainly given away those bragging rights to get rid of the terrible seasickness many suffered. With the flyover

A stray German Shepard
A stray German Shepard

trip we are able to leave Punta Arenas, Chile, and be in Antarctica in a little over two hours.

I will cover this trip in three parts. The first segment (this one) will be about our short stay in Punta Arenas. The second segment will be a much larger one highlighting the Antarctica segment, and finally our visit on the way home to Valparaiso, Chile. Along with the photographs I will share, there will be videos made by Michael Durr. Together, I hope they will give you a chance to be at least an armchair visitor with us to this most amazing place on the planet. Also, when the world opens up again I hope it will give you some incentive to join us on this adventure and experience this.

Changing of the colors in the center of Punta Arenas

The Punta Arenas Cemetery

On this visit to Punta Arenas, we experienced a very eerie city. Chile is a country that has been experiencing countrywide demonstrations and protests against the government. Many of these demonstrations have been violent, with numerous citizens arrested and killed. You can read more about these protests on the Wikipedia page. Storefronts, restaurants, and banks were all boarded up or outright closed. It was all a bit strange. Luckily for us, we arrived in the last month of summer vacation, and thus many of these protests were on hold. From what I have read they picked up again with lots of violence throughout March. I do hope they can work the differences out for the good of the citizens.

Fishing boats on the beach
Fishing boats on the beach

My experience in my many trips to Chile proved that Chileans were some of the most friendly people I have ever met. They go out of their way to be friendly and outgoing. I have made numerous Chilean friends on my travels, and I know they all feel the same way about the leadership of their country.

So, rather than spend a lot of time wandering the colorful streets of Punta Arenas, I chose to visit the Punta Arenas Cemetery. Now, I know that sounds kind of strange, but the cemetery is one of the most beautiful cemeteries in the world. You can read about it on the Wikipedia site. A number of the attendees that arrived in town early for the trip accompanied me, and it was a beautiful day to take photos.

Gear I Used

I decided to travel light for this walk. I used my PacSafe shoulder bag and loaded it with a few batteries along with a Sony 24-70mm G Master (B&H, Roberts), and on my camera was the Sony 100-400mm G-Master. My camera was the Sony a7R IV (B&H, Roberts). Because I have the battery grip for the camera, I took it off so it was lighter. Chances were pretty good that I wouldn’t have to change the battery.

I find the one lens I use most is the 100-400mm lens. It is by far my favorite lens. Using this lens gives me the ability to find the picture in the picture. It also allows separation from the background. The 24-70mm allowed me to explore the area where I needed a wider angle.

The Video

While I was busy walking paths and exploring, Michael Durr was documenting his experience with video. Below is the video that Michael produced, and I think it is incredible and really shows what this beautiful cemetery is all about.

My Photographs

Below are more images that I took on this visit. I have visited this cemetery numerous times and I am now working on combining the best of all the images I have made and will be making a book. Stay tuned for the results of this project.

Throughout the series of images below, I’ll show some examples of the same image converted to Black and White.  In the above image, you can swipe back and forth to see the differences.  The day we were there we had a great blue sky and fast-moving puffy clouds.  It certainly contributes to some great B&W conversions.

Flowers in the wrapper placed on a mausoleum door
Flowers in the wrapper placed on a mausoleum door
Cemetery plot
Cemetery plot
Cemetery plot
Cemetery plot

Unlike cemeteries, many of us are familiar with where graves are marked by headstones, in this cemetery graves are marked by a plot that is fully utilized to honor the person(s) that are buried there.  Pictures and stories of the deceased, as well as flowers (many are plastic), tell the story.

Above is another example of Color vs. black and white.  The 100-400mm puts an interesting perspective on this image.

For those that can't afford plots there are these.
For those that can’t afford plots, there are these.

Many of these are decorated in very personal and different ways.
Each of these graves tells a story. Some have been put behind glass and haven’t seen attention for years
Trinkets galore another are no names so you need to see the story. I think the padlock is special.
So, one must wonder, what happened to the occupant of this space?


The images above show some of the flowers that adorn many of the graves.  Some are plastic and others are real and exotic.  These flowers are just a small part of the intrigue of this place.

The only domed mausoleum in the cemetery
One of the Mausoleums that was vandalized as part of the ongoing demonstrations and protests in Chile.
One of the Mausoleums that was vandalized as part of the ongoing demonstrations and protests in Chile.

Thie above image if one of my favorites and I really like the black and white version.  The dark sky and the contrast of the image really make it stand out.

This is the sight you are greeted with when entering the cemetery main entrance
This is the view you are greeted with when entering the cemetery main entrance

The Final Word

The world has changed. I’ll have a lot to say about this in a future article. When it was obvious we were going to be—for lack of better words—on lockdown, I made a list. I looked at my business both at PXL and Rockhopper Workshops and wrote down ideas for articles and projects as well as how we could keep our readers and viewers interested in photography, and give them something to look forward to in the future.

So, this is the first of—I hope—a number of articles about the travels I have made to various locations around our planet. I do this to share images with you about how I photographed these trips, but also hopefully to inspire you to get out and try something like this in your future travels.

The Punta Arenas Cemetery is the first of three articles I will share on our recent Antarctica visit. We were very fortunate to complete this trip and return home right before the madness started. Next will be Antarctica and the images and videos made on that trip. This will be followed by our trip to Valparaiso, Chile.

After that, I will return to the archives to share other past trips. I hope you have enjoyed these photos and videos.

Please stay safe and healthy.

As you can see the cemetery takes up a large part of Punta Arenas

Kevin Raber
April 2020
Kevin Raber
Indianapolis, IN

Photography is my passion and has been for 50 plus years. My career in photography has allowed me to travel the world, meet some of the most interesting people on the planet and see things I could never have dreamed of. My goal is to share the passion of picture taking through photographs and teaching with as many people as I can, hoping it brings them as much joy and happiness as it has me. I do this through photoPXL.com, this site, as well as Rockhopper Workshops, and other projects, as well as teaching as Artist In Residence at the Indianapolis Art Center.

Article Type: News, Columns, Videos, MISC

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