digital photography tips with Digital Photo Mentor Darlene Hildebrandt

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The Peru Incident

My husband and I left for Peru on August 22rd, for what was supposed to be two weeks of vacation, combined with scouting locations for an upcoming photo tour. What happened instead was my husband had emergency surgery, spent five days in ICU, and another nearly two weeks in the hospital in Lima. While it was truly an “adventure”, it was not the one we had in mind.

The Incident and Situation

A while ago you may have seen some images I took in Peru in 2007, and noticed that I was there scouting for a new tour to be held in 2016. Some of you have already expressed interest in that tour.

Dune buggy ride over the giant sand dunes near Huacachina, Peru. One of only two places we saw on our trip.

Well, the ironic part of this story is that when those images went up on the website – my husband was actually in the hospital in Lima (Peru). Let me back up and tell you what happened:

We left Canada Saturday August 22nd for two weeks in Peru to plan the new tour. On Wednesday morning, August 26th when we were in Nazca (7 hours south of the big city of Lima) my husband got out of bed, and almost passed out. I called a doctor who came to our hotel three times that day.

My husband, Rob, had an elevated heart rate, high blood pressure, was at 80% oxygen (very very bad!) and was having a lot of trouble breathing and just staying upright.

The doctor advised that we return to Lima and get him to a hospital. So we did just that. We traded in our bus tickets to continue our journey south, for ones back to the city.

Sunset over the dunes, Monday night on our trip
Sunset over the dunes, Monday night on our trip
Huacachina desert oasis town
Huacachina desert oasis town

We went right to the ER where he got tests done and it was discovered that he had two blood clots in his lungs (pulmonary embolisms) and he was admitted right away and taken to the ICU.

Overnight his condition worsened and he got another clot in his left femoral artery (main one which supplies oxygenated blood to the leg) and it was cutting off all blood flow to his leg. They had to do emergency surgery to save his leg – which thankfully, they were able to do successfully. We were told that 2 more hours without oxygen to the leg and he would have lost it.

We are most grateful to the medical team and staff in Peru for their efforts and care he was given. He ended up being in the ICU for 5 days and another 11 in hospital (16 days total) before he was released and able to fly home.

On September 12th we were taken by ambulance from the hospital in Lima directly to the airport, flown in business class (to keep his leg straight) and taken straight to hospital here in our home city of Edmonton (where we sat in ER for 10 more hours, after 20 hours of travelling).

It was a very scary and stressful experience for me, not one I'm anxious to repeat any time soon. Having a loved one in hospital is hard enough, add on top being in a foreign country, by myself where I don't speak the language fluently, having to change hotels 4 times in 2 weeks (managing both my luggage and his), and taking a taxi twice a day back and forth. I was over the top overwhelmed, felt alone, at times hopeless, and helpless. Many times I had breakdowns. I wanted to get home and never travel ever again (and my dream is doing our photo tours) and I didn't even want to take any photos, or look at the ones I did take. I felt I'd lost all the things I was passionate about. I just wanted it to end.

We did also see penguins on the Balestas Islands
We did also see penguins on the Balestas Islands

What this means for you and Digital Photo Mentor

It was all I could do just to make sure he was okay, and get us home safely. I had to focus all my efforts on that and recovery once we got home. All things business and website related have, unfortunately, had to take a back seat and be put on hold for a while.

So that does not mean I won't be back writing and doing articles – it just means I need to take a break for a little while.

I'm sorry for not writing any articles in the last few weeks as I've obviously had some extenuating circumstances, so I hope you'll forgive me. I'm grateful for the help given by a few guest writers who've provided some articles over the past few weeks, and who I'd like to thank big time:

I do have a few more great guest authors lined up to write some articles so you will still see some good tips coming your way, they just won't be written by me for a little while (a few weeks perhaps).

So watch for articles from Jim Hamel and Mike Moloney – two great photographers – and tell them if you enjoy their articles by commenting as usual.

I'm truly grateful.

Rob's recovery is coming along nicely and he will be fine.

Mine own recovery involves needing to de-stress, take some down time, and take care of myself, first and foremost. I've been sick three times in the lasts four weeks.

To you, the readers, I am really sorry. I feel as if I have let you down. I hope you can forgive me and continue following Digital Photo Mentor.

Sea lions on Balestas Islands
Sea lions on Balestas Islands
Sea lions on Balestas Islands
Sea lions on Balestas Islands

How can you help?

Well there isn't anything you need to do except keep reading and being a subscriber. But if you really want to help me out you could:

  • Contact me if you have a great shot you did recently that really came out as you planned and you'd like to share “How I made this image” with the other readers. Cheryl did, and I was thrilled to share how she used a DIY studio setup to shoot glassware.
  • Purchase one of our online courses if you haven't already (I still need to make a living) or share the website or course links with your friends who also enjoy photography.
  • Let me know if there is a topic you want to know about – be as specific as possible.
  • If you see a great photography tutorial on YouTube let me know – I can share it with the other readers.
  • Comment on, and share the articles and website with your friends.
My apologies if it has seemed like a ghost town (or ship) here recently.
My apologies if it has seemed like a ghost town (or ship) here recently.


Thanks for your time, your support, and for understanding that sometimes life happens. Sometimes you have to take a step back and prioritize things. For Rob and I right now that means simplifying and taking it a bit easy as we get back into some semblance of normal.


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