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Page 9 Glenn Bartley

Written By onci on Sunday, September 27, 2009 | 5:22 PM

Tips For Nature Photography in The Tropics (Part 1 of 3) by Glenn Bartley

For many nature photographers there are few places on earth that can captivate the imagination and inspire us to get “out there” like the tropics. The biological riches of these exciting destinations are unparalleled and these regions are rife with opportunities for nature photography. Consider for example that tiny countries such as Costa Rica host more species of birds than all of North America. Or that in just one square mile of rainforest there may be as many as 50,000 species of insects. The biodiversity is truly incredible!
The reality however, is that many of these species can be difficult to find and nature photography in the tropics often presents special challenges that residents from temperate latitudes may be unfamiliar with. Tropical countries tend to be hot, humid and rainy. The animals are often not used to human presence and are reclusive. Information may be scarce about where or how to find certain species. And it is often the case that the areas where these treasures can be found are under towering forest canopies where slow shutter speeds are the norm. As a result, capturing pleasing images of the natural world in these places presents a challenge to even the most experienced nature photographers. The tips below represent a few of the lessons that I have learned during my time spent pursuing images in the tropics.

Tip #1 - Do your research:

It may be the case that you are going to a tropical country with a general goal of photographing any and all of the fantastic things that you happen to encounter. However, many of us nature photographers have a favourite subject or certain targets in mind before we set out. For example, on my recent trip to Ecuador my primary goal was to photograph as many of the 130 species of resident hummingbirds as possible. If you do indeed have a specific goal in mind I believe it is very important to do as much research as you can before you plan your trip.
In the tropics, certain species are highly localized and furthermore may only be present for portions of the year. The weather patterns should definitely be known and there are absolutely places that are more promising for photography than others. Luckily, the internet has placed all of this information at our fingertips and there are numerous resources out there to help you plan your trip. Bird photographers can consult trip reports from past tour groups and obtain a good idea of where certain species can be found. Browsing through your favourite search engine’s image database for a given species may reveal where other photographers have had success.
I strongly believe that preparation is the key to successful nature photography in the tropics and it all starts before you board the airplane.

Tip #2 - Expect the best, prepare for the worst:

I have been on three major trips to the tropics. They have all been unbelievable experiences. Yet on every single trip something has gone wrong with my equipment. Before venturing off to a far away land I strongly recommend preparing for the likelihood that something undesirable might happen to your camera gear. The first, and perhaps most important consideration, is to make sure that all of your equipment is insured against theft and damage. A second precaution is to pack your gear very carefully when traveling from place to place (in my experience this is when most problems occur). Additionally, I personally cannot imagine going on a nature photography trip without taking at least two camera bodies. And finally, I would suggest putting together a small repair kit to take with you. This might include items such as duct tape, twist ties, super glue and a lens cleaning kit.

Stay tuned for future issues of NIOM where I will share more tips for nature photography in the tropics (coming soon)...

Glenn Bartley is a professional nature photographer who focuses on photographing birds in their natural habitat. He resides in Victoria, British Columbia on Canada’s West Coast. Glenn is the co-owner of the nature photography tour company: www.naturesphotoadventures.com

To see more of Glenn’s images visit: www.glennbartley.com
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