When I was there in December of 2004, I traveled with a Leica M6 and a Hasselblad, no problems.
I did the Inca trail from Cuzco to Machu Picchu with a group and had porters. With such a short time there, and the altitude that I would be going into the pass, I could not manage the camera gear and backpack and have enough strength to keep my head up to enjoy the area or think creatively. In retrospect I had a standard lens for the Blad and 35mm for the Leica and I found that the landscapes could accommodate wide lenses easily. Very narrow valleys compared to the Canadian Rockies by far. You don't seem to have to reach for mountains (optically) there are very tight.
I happened to be traveling with a stills photographer that did the store front ads for the GAP and Versace, and he had the latest wizzbang digital camera. To his dismay the mositure and/or altitude made his battery life fail rapidly. He did not have enough power for the end of the trail. I'm not sure if this problem has been rectified with the camera or it is inherent with these conditions (to be honest I did not care..its film nothing), his last words on the trail to me was "damn you and your negatives". I had no problems with my meters.
When photographing locals I shoot with a smile and a pocket full of change. One or both offer opportunities take images.
If you can hike the Inca trail to Machu Picchu I would encourage it. Lots of interesting historic sites along the way..and most importantly to me was the last train to Cuzco departs before the park closes. Therefore most of the clumps of tourists in your wide shoots are gone, and your are more likely to get the site clean.
Good Luck. Have Fun! Try the Inca Cola
I loved my trip to Peru when I travelled there with a friend in 2004. The people are very friendly and helpful. I found Miraflores (& the centre of Lima) to be safe, I experienced no problems. There is a nightly market in the square in Miraflores where artists sell their paintings etc. This is worth seeing as the paintings are stunningly beautiful. There are also people selling other crafts and antiques. I even saw a few old folding cameras that a guy was selling.
Allow a few days for Cusco and its surrounding areas which are full of old ruins etc. There is lots to see in the Sacred Valley. We rented a taxi for a half day trip to see sites such as Ollantaytambo.
We spent two half days in Machu Picchu. First day we got the bus from the nearby town of Agues Caliantes and entered the site in the afternoon and we were the last people to leave after the sun had set. We walked the 8km back to Aguas Caliantes with only the stars to light our way. Next morning we were the first in before the sun came over the mountains and lit up the site, stunning.
Climb all or part of Huayna Picchu for an aerial view of the site. Another good but more difficult climb is the Machu Picchu mountain itself. Not a climb for the faint hearted though. Each climb takes about an hour.
The town of Puno at lake Titicaca is not really worth staying in but the floating islands are worth seeing even if they are over commercialized. I was only passing through Puno so maybe there is more to see and do.
I’d recommend you ask permission before photographing anyone. I never encountered any who objected although it usually meant handing over a few coins in return.
Get yourself a copy of the Lonely Planet Peru guide book.
I should be a great trip, enjoy.
We visited Peru in August and september of the year 2006.
Clearly we did not notice any problem with people, except in the area between Nazca and Lima. A very unsecure area.
But we made a trip lone between cuzco and arequipa, passing by puno, titicaca lake, canon de colca, macchu picchu... We had a great time.
I was holding my Mamiya 7II , and my dynax 7 and never had any problem. On the contrary, the Mamiya 7II was intriguous for people, and hey asked me a lot to make portraits of them (you can see on my website).
I made the choice to shoot only in black and white , and my M7II was charged with TXP320 in 220 rolls, or with the last rolls of PX125 in 220 too. I shot also a few BRF 100 with pleasure, and one Rollei pan 25 for Macchu Picchu.
In 135, I chose mostly FP4+.
Very happy with this trip.
Have a look at the Peru section of Jeffrey Becom's website www.jeffreybecom.com and note that in many cases he identifies the locations, and these will give a good indication of the villages around Cuzco in which you'll find good colourful architecture
I spent over a year in Peru and still did not get to see everything I wanted. Lonely Planet put out a great guide book, informative and fun to read. Conquest of the Incas by Hemmings is also a great read. Definatly take all the film you will use. Altitude sickness can get you down for 24 hours or so, more if you are not particularly healthy. Pulmonary or Cardiac conditions are exacerbated by the thin air. Take it easy, drink lots of coco tea and you should be okay. In a year I never had one thing stolen, but you need to be on alert, particularly in tourist towns like Cuzco.
The people are kind and gracious, and the book I mentioned by Hemming will give you great insight the turmoil the county has been through, and how many are still very much affected by its recent history.
Its a shame you don't have time to walk the Inca Trail, but then you need to save something for the next trip.
Oh I see you are in Ica, a flight over the Nazca lines is essential.
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Thanks for all the feedback and suggestions folks! After reviewing some of Jeffrey Becom's photos...well, I was going to shoot B&W but, now, I see it would be terrible sin to not shoot some color also! Thanks for the link David.