This is one of those photographs that is the result of sheer opportunity. It was December 2004 and I was in Ecuador with a BMS film team. This was about two thirds of the way through an epic trip.
Ecuador has three distinct geographic regions and climates; the pacific coast, the high Andes and the tropical steamy heat of the Amazonian rainforest. We’d flown in to Guayaquil on the coast after a stop-off at Quito sitting at 9,350 feet in the Andes. We’d shared the flight with the European based players of the Brazil football team who were on their way to a match with Ecuador, which we watched on TV in a little cafe as we ascended the Andes on our way across to the rainforest region. Two days of filming in Guayaquil had seen one vehicle burn out a clutch on a steep slope into a shanty town. The journey up into the Andes was proving too much for our fourth vehicle which pretty much stopped working on a narrow mountain road at night, in the dark and with large lorries trying to get past us as we sat there with no lights. Eventually we made it to a small town where a phone call to an American missionary saved the day as he came to our rescue in his pick-up. Thanks to him we made it to our filming location in the rainforest but it was an arduous, bumpy and rough journey. Sleep over a few days there was a rare and precious thing.
At that time I owned what were my favourite ever sunglasses. One day we set off in small narrow boats with huge and probably overly powerful outboard motors to travel a distance down the Rio Napo to a rural settlement where would spend a day filming. This was deep into the rainforest with resident monkeys. As was my habit, I’d pop the sunglasses on to the top of my head when taking photographs and at the end of the day as we climbed back in to the boat, I reached up to take them off only to find they were missing. To this day I am convinced there is one cool monkey swinging around with my sunglasses on.
After days of arduous travel an filming we arose early to set off from Tena and make the long journey by road up out of the rainforest region to Quito where a couple more days filming would complete our work before flying home from the capital. As we drove, tired and aching, ever upwards out of the rainforest dawn began to break and were greeted by this sight. Three of us simultaneously called for the vehicle to stop as we reached for cameras. This was one of the most atmospheric and beautiful sights I’ve seen and it was so welcome and refreshing after what we’d been through up to then. It’s a sight I’ll never forget and this photo is special to me not only in capturing the sight but as a reminder of the story behind it.