In April of 2010 we made a trip to Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands. Hopefully I will write about that trip another day. What I do want to do now, though, is share some tips on photography in the Galapagos. I had already published this on TripAdvisor
, so you can click the link and go to the TripAdvisor website where you can see the original post as well as the comments that followed.
For your convenience, I am going to repeat it all, in full, below, and add some additional information to tip 7 on condensation:
“Galapagos Photography - Tips & Lessons Learned ”
May 08, 2010, 9:51 AM - TripAdvisor
We recently returned from a memorable trip to the Galapagos, most of the time on the M/Y Samba, a small but very enjoyable ship. As with most things, we all approach vacation photography in our own personal ways, but these are tips I would have liked to have received before I went on the trip:
1. Have some way to back up your photos. On the Samba we had one person lose a camera into the water (with all her photos), one person with spare SD card that was stuck in the “locked” position so she couldn’t store pictures to it and one couple who had an SD card suddenly go blank on them. This meant that four people out of fourteen (28.5%!)(MISSING) had issues and real or potentially lost pictures. I was the only one the ship with a computer (a Dell Mini 10v) and fortunately I was able to help out at least two of these people so they had no lost pictures or only had partial loses. I also backed up pictures for some people from their SD cards to thumb drives. If you don’t want to bring a computer, there are other devices that will download and back up your pictures, but they do tend to be expensive. Another option is to bring an external hard drive or thumb drive, and hope to meet a friendly person with a computer.
2. If you are going to do any snorkeling, either bring a waterproof camera or a waterproof housing for one of your cameras. I have a Canon SD700 IS with a waterproof case and got some remarkable photos.
3. If you have an SLR or a camera that will support a Polarizing filter, you should consider using one. While riding or touring in a Panga (small boat) you will have opportunities to photograph animals such as rays, turtles, sea lions and penguins in the water. A polarizing filter will help you cut the glare and see into the water.
4. The lighting in the Galapagos can be challenging. It can be very stark with a lot of contrast. You have to select your angles carefully when shooting things such as a dark sea lion on a white beach with a bright sun overhead. I wish I had brought along a neutral density filter to play with.
5. Bring a spare camera. If you only have one camera, and you lose it or it breaks, you are out of luck. I had a fairly large SLR (Canon 7D) and my Canon SD700 IS point-and-shoot (which is about the size of a pack of cards). My wife also had a camera, so we were well covered.
6. If you bring an SLR think carefully about lenses. I quickly found that swapping lenses was frequently not practical. It was not uncommon that I quickly wanted to change from wide angle for a landscape to telephoto (say for an animal). In the end, I primarily used my Tamron 18-270 mm lens instead of my somewhat better Canon 70-300 mm lens. I still carried the Canon lens and used it a couple of times, but when you are moving with a group, swapping lenses can be difficult. Having said all that, I did always carry my 70-300 mm and did swap out the lenses a few times.
7. Condensation can be a large issue as you move your camera from the cool (sometimes cold) environment of your cabin to the hot, humid air outside. Before doing any shooting you need to let your camera to warm up and acclimate. If you just wipe the condensation off a cold camera or lens, it will come right back. I frequently brought my camera up to our dining hall, which was a bit warmer and damper, and then actually had it sit in the sunlight for a while. For some other tips, check out this article by Bob Krist, Along the Amazon
, in the March 2, 2010 edition of Outdoor Photographer (). Another approach to take is place your camera in a tightly fitting plastic bag before leaving the air conditioned spaces; the plastic bag should pick up all the condensation as your camera warms up inside (I have not yet personally tested this approach).
8. If your trip is like mine, you will be making a lot of small boat transfers, some with dry landings and some with wet landings. We never had anyone’s equipment get wet during a transfer, a landing or when getting back in the boat, but the possibility is always out there. It is a good idea to buy some dry bags for your equipment, just to be safe. They are not very expensive. I would have my camera(s) and equipment in dry bags in my daypack, and would take out what I needed once we had safely landed or were back on the Samba.
9. Unless you are on a land-based tour with a lot of like-minded people, I would not recommend bringing a tripod; you will have limited opportunities to use it. The only times I could see using one is for sunrise/sunset pictures when moored for the night/morning, and photographing sea lions on Espanola. Otherwise, you will be with a constantly moving group of people and not have the time required to set up a good tripod shot. I brought along a Gorillapod, ended up leaving it with some checked luggage in Quito, and never missed it.
10. I brought a long a couple of small microfiber cloths that I could use for wiping down my lenses and LCD displays. I also brought a bulb for blowing dust off the sensor of my SLR. Even though it has a “self-cleaning” sensor, sometimes it just can’t move some dust. I actually had to use this once to get rid of a fairly large dust mote that was putting a large black dot on all my pictures.
I hope this can help you in some way, and enjoy your trip.
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