A trip to Machu Picchu – Part I – an ode to phone cameras.

I never thought I would see the Andes before the Alps or the Himalayas (not counting Simla at the age of 6).  But recently finished a trip to Peru and the one day Inca Trail to Machu Picchu.  Many firsts on this trip – first trip south of the Equator, first trip south of the Rio Grande let alone to Latin America.  Helps to have a fun group to travel with.  Even better when everyone else did most of the heavy lifting in getting the travel agent, hotels etc. taken care of.

With luggage limited and a focus on not bringing stuff to lug in my backpack on the Inca trail my wonderful camera with its 12X Optical Zoom stayed safely at home stateside.  The trusty Google Nexus 4 was used for all the pictures that will appear here.

The reason we visit Inca sites and the reason the Incas moved from being petty Kings of Cuzco to masters of an Empire extending from Equador to Argentina is the reign of one man – Pachacuti Inca Yupanqui (Pachacutec) the ninth Sapa Inca (1438–1471/1472) of the Kingdom of Cuzco.  His military skill started the Inca imperial march thru the Andes and the brief 100 years of Imperial glory until the arrival of the Spanish and small pox.  He appears responsible for encouraging sun worship (Inti) and many of the sites we visit are Solar observatories.  Our visit coincided with the Festival of the Sun (Inti Raymi) a celebration of the Winter Solstice commenced by Pachacutec.

Pachacutec is a national hero in Peru and his statue appears in many places.  A notable one is in Aguas Calientes right next to Machu Picchu – a bit blurred as this for some reason was taken in a hurry.

 Pachacuti Inca Yupanqui at Aguas Calientes, Peru
Pachacuti Inca Yupanqui at Aguas Calientes, Peru

A shiny statue to Pachacutec also stands at the center of the Plaza des Armas in Cuzco.  It also provided a welcome opportunity to muck around with some of the Nexus 4’s camera features and give the picture an “Antique Finish”.

Pachacuti Inca Yupanqui at the Plaza des Armas, Cuzco
Pachacuti Inca Yupanqui at the Plaza des Armas, Cuzco


Pachacuti Inca Yupanqui at the Plaza des Armas, Cuzco (antique finish)
Pachacuti Inca Yupanqui at the Plaza des Armas, Cuzco (antique finish)

However the coolest feature added to the Google Camera in Android 4.2 is Photosphere.  It goes way beyond a normal panorama in stitching together a true 360 degree visual effect.  I discovered the feature only a month before my trip and was lucky to get a great Photosphere of the Plaza des Armas in the morning as Inti Raymi preparations were under way.

However the early success was followed by many failures as I discovered the flaws that can occur when one of the people in the image moves.  A ghost image spoils this shot of Machu Picchu.

However when no people are around it is easy to stitch together a panorama like the inside of this hut at Machu Picchu.

I may use Photosphere more in the future for normal panoramas, though it does seem to suck away a decent amount of battery life.

Not having any pretensions of being a professional photographer, the camera phone did a brilliant job.  These have come a long distance from the feeble thing I remember on my Sony Ericsson candybar phone a decade ago.  As these continue to improve (and particularly if they get optical zooming) they will do to the camera industry what digital cameras did to Kodak.

So I conclude this ode to phone cameras.  It made traveling so much easier.  Pictures came out pretty nice too.

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