The Galapagos is just one of Wildside Nature Tours’ worldwide destinations, and having led 33 tours to the Galapagos, I can say that this happens every time. I expect it and actually enjoy witnessing this sense of discovery! The snapshot effect has taken over. I let them get it out of their system for a while and take a look around to see what else I can find. A well camouflaged Lava Heron was passed by, so I pointed it out, reminding them to be patient, watch and wait a bit until it catches a fish.
Sea lions attracted others, so I offer a quick reminder to not approach them too close but to get down low, to their eye level for more intimate shots. Swallow-tailed Gulls and Red-footed Boobies offered birds-in-flight against the morning sky. Sally Lightfoot Crabs and Yellow Warblers offered a splash of color!
A dream destination, the Galapagos Islands are a once-in-a-lifetime trip for most, the first landing, full of wildlife and wonder, becomes an invitation to be overwhelmed and revert to taking snapshots of everything! Everyone is having fun and we let them get their fill, but we remind them to watch their background, which can change from sand, to black lava rock, to dark ocean, to white cloud-filled sky as they explore their surroundings. Reigning them in we discuss composition, exposure and technique, beginning the learning experience and helping them to see and create.
PREPARING FOR YOUR GALAPAGOS ADVENTURE
Study other photographers’ images
Looking through other photographer’s eyes will help you recognize the common wildlife and popular landscapes. Study their compositions and conceptualize how you would have composed that image to make it more engaging. Seeing these possibilities form in your mind will certainly give you a head start.
Practice with your cameras and lenses
Most photographers automatically grab their big lens when they go out to shoot wildlife, while landscape photographers grab a wide-angle. However, since the wildlife on the Galapagos is so cooperative and often approaches your lens unafraid, play with wide-angle compositions, low to the ground, to get ideas for new perspectives. I’m not saying don’t use your big lens, but rather, expand your horizons a bit.
Understanding light and shadow is certainly key, but being able to quickly operate the controls of your camera to obtain the settings you need is just as important. The Galapagos will offer many lighting challenges with harsh, equatorial sun often changing in a matter of minutes to heavy overcast skies. Black lava rock surrounded by bright sand and blue water mixed with this difficult lighting can be a nightmare. Add a white subject moving across the scene and you need to be ready with the cameras settings in the correct positions! Practice!
Learn about the wildlife
In my opinion, this is the most important factor in getting great images: Research the wildlife you expect to see. Not every island has the same birds, reptiles or mammals. Studying the wildlife is more than just learning about what lives on each island, but also about their habits, diet and behaviors. Learn the identifying marks such as beak shape and feather markings.
Light and Timing
Know that most standard tours do not spend much time on the islands they visit, nor do these tours make an effort to put you on shore during the best light. There is a huge difference between the typical Galapagos tour and a true photography tour or workshop. Wildside Nature Tours understands the rules and guidelines of the National Park, as well as the light and weather conditions we’ll typically find. We get you onto the islands during the best light and for a longer period of time (the maximum allowed) than most other tours.
Wildside Nature Tours is celebrating 25 years and owner, Kevin Loughlin, joins every Galapagos trip. Kevin has had a camera in his hands for more than 50 years and has led 33 tours to the Galapagos. He is currently working on two Galapagos book projects. Some of Kevin’s upcoming guest co-leaders for 2019 include author John Kricher (Galapagos: A Natural History), author Scott Weidensaul (Living on the Wind) and photographer, Chas Glatzer, a Canon Explorer of Light.