Images, Thoughts on Travel, Equipment and Techniques that somehow relate to Nature & Wildlife Photography.

Greetings and Inspiration for you.....

"The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes"... Marcel Proust

Latest

Back up the River

Also known as guatusa in Ecuador, the Black Agouti is common in mature as well as disturbed montane forest and rainforest.

Also known as guatusa in Ecuador, the Black Agouti is common in mature as well as disturbed montane forest and rainforest.

Morning came without the sun, a dim awareness of nights end. The rain started early, slowly, almost like an afterthought.  And it was cool, not quite cold but hardly tropical.  By the time we reached the Napo River the rain was a substantial thing, not a deluge but made us thankful for any article of clothing that was water proof.  The trip up the Napo to Coca was not pleasant.  With the rain, coupled with our speeding boat, it was a cold trip.  Protected by their own rain covers, the camera packs sat on our feet to keep them out of the slowly rising water in the canoe.  Shielded by ponchos, we were mostly dry, but hardly warm.

Driving into the Cosanga Valley, the forest breathes.

Driving into the Cosanga Valley, the forest breathes.

The two hours to Coca took their time in passing and it was with great relief that we disembarked to still, warm air.  Without the speeding boat it was now a pleasant warm rain. All we had to do was find our driver and head for the Cosanga Valley.  Jairo located our guy and his vehicle, which was a relief, sometimes these long distance  arrangements don’t work so well.

Gorgeted Woodstar Hummingbird

Gorgeted Woodstar Hummingbird, rare in these subtropical and humid temperate forests.

Chestnut-Breasted Coronet Hummingbird.  The Coronets leave their wings extended briefly after landing.

Chestnut-Breasted Coronet Hummingbird. The Coronets leave their wings extended briefly after landing.

Speckled Hummingbird

Speckled Hummingbird

The trip of several hours was a revelation of magnificent scenery, dimmed by continual rain.  Waterfalls great and small fell from the steepening mountain slopes, a photographers feast.  Except we made no images, a little rain is not an issue, a lot of rain slows me to a stop. Our destination, Cabanas San Isidro sits at about 6800 feet on the east slope of the Andes in humid, montane forest. 1700 hectares of private reserve, cool and damp with a riot of green and flashes of brilliant color.  That color comes from some of the 300 plus species of birds in the area.  We spent  little time getting moved in to our cabina and started to take a look around, getting located.  Alejandro, the manager made us feel right at home.

Cinnamon Flycatcher, the cutest  flycatcher you will ever see.

Cinnamon Flycatcher, the cutest flycatcher you will ever see.

The humidity got to my camera, I lost the use of the LCD two days into our stay at San Isidro.  Talk about shooting blind, no histogram, no on the fly edit, just like a film camera…the horror.  If that weren’t enough, my flash gave up as well, only it gave up totally.  No flash in the rain forest makes it very difficult to even out the light.  Using flash in the deep shadows of the rainforest is obvious but well controlled flash is also useful in opening up shadows when the sun is blasting through openings in the canopy.  The death of the flash was when I really kicked myself for not bringing a backup.  The camera that Barb brought and her flash (same model as I was using) worked flawlessly.  Back in Colorado, with our high and dry climate the equipment that failed healed themselves, but that was a couple of weeks away. Equipment failure certainly complicates photography but with the myriad of bird species, great food and hot water bottles(!) to warm our bed in the chilly night it was easy to overlook the hassle a bit.  Overlook is maybe a little strong, survive perhaps.

Long-Tailed Sylph Hummingbird.

Long-Tailed Sylph Hummingbird.

Long-Tailed Sylph Hummingbird

Long-Tailed Sylph Hummingbird

The days spent here morph one into the next, a constant reminder of why the tropics are so amazing.  Not just the sheer numbers of species, most of which we never see, but the diversity of the creatures that we do see. Luminously glowing hummingbirds took center stage.  With 32 species on their bird list and an excellent hummingbird garden where else could we go?  Out at night, that’s where.  When the sun gives over to dark in the tropics things can get even more interesting, frogs, snakes and bizarre insects show themselves to the interested observer.  Here, finding an owl that lives nowhere else on the planet and has yet to be described by science becomes the focal point of night roaming.  The “San Isidro Owl” (there is more than one) seems to hang out in the same areas night after night so finding it, while not a given, is pretty straight forward.

San Isidro Owl [Ciccaba sp. ?]

San Isidro Owl [Ciccaba sp. ?]

Turquoise Jay, from the chilly Guango Lodge.

Turquoise Jay, from the chilly Guango Lodge.

Days and nights passed quickly and we headed up toward Papallacta Pass on the way to the western slope of the Andes.  Spent one night at Guango Lodge, higher up the mountain, much cooler and the rain began again.  We whiled away more time in than out but managed to get a few images of the implausible Sword-billed Hummingbird, made the rain and chill far more tolerable.

Sword-billed Hummingbird

Sword-billed Hummingbird

Masked Flowerpiercer

Masked Flowerpiercer

Cloud forest from guango Lodge.

Cloud forest from Guango Lodge.

Collared Inca Hummingbird

Collared Inca Hummingbird

Chestnut-Crowned Antpitta, seldom seen forest floor dweller, whistled out of hiding.

Chestnut-Crowned Antpitta,common, seldom seen forest floor dweller, whistled out of hiding.

Fawn-breasted Brilliant Hummingbird

Fawn-breasted Brilliant Hummingbird

Mountain Wren, with thousands of species, moths are a staple for insect eating birds.

Mountain Wren, with thousands of species in the tropics, moths are a staple for insect-eating birds.

A Living, Breathing, Emerald World

Several species of parrots throng to clay and mineral banks, this one on the Napo River in Yasuni National Park. Eating clay helps with digesting the toxins found in some of the seeds eaten.

Several species of parrots throng to clay and mineral banks, this one on the Napo River in Yasuni National Park. Eating clay helps with digesting the toxins found in some of the seeds eaten.

We view a spare and thinning land, spare in the sense of unmolested space, we have left precious little of the planet to live on its own terms.  All of the wild places on this planet are refugia.  Refuge for us from the onslaught of the modern age, refuge for the others that share our blue and green earth.  In the case of Yasuni National Park, Ecuador, this refuge is not quite 4,000 square miles but is one of the most biologically diverse places on earth.  Two hectares in Yasuni has at least 655 tree species, that is more than the number of native trees in the US and Canada, over 600 species of birds (North America has about 700), about 60,000 species of insects per hectare and 2 uncontacted (voluntary) indigenous tribes.  It also contains about 850 million barrels of oil.  And so with Ecuador now allowing oil drilling in the national park, that diversity is under assault.  Illegal drilling roads have begun to snake into the park.  With that, deforestation expands, illegal hunting, illegal logging and with other encroachment this brilliant beacon of life will begin to dim.  It’s certainly not spare in what it embraces, life is exploding all around us, much of it unseen.  Species beyond counting, uncountable colors of green that surround and engulf the visual senses to the point of a form of blindness.  We are surrounded by green, a living, breathing, emerald world. The green retreats a little when the sky is reflected in water, moving or still.  The sun’s light is diffuse here (the sun’s power is not), mostly a softer light struggling through the humidity, the reflected sky is not really blue.  It rains a lot in the Amazon so the reflected sky is often of the clouds that bulge down, swollen with rain.

Whip Spiders are far more ferocious looking than dangerous (unless you are a small insect).

Whip Spiders are far more ferocious looking than dangerous (unless you are a small insect).

Meeting this mass of life on its own terms overwhelms and comforts at the same time. Our guides have senses that, in us, have lain dormant or are little used.  Jairo, English speaker and, with his family, owner of a small eco reserve in the Tandayapa Valley and Vladimir, a Kichwa hunter turned guide, see, hear and interpret the forest for us.  Sounds become parrots, a thrashing in the trees becomes a troop of monkeys, a silhouette in the canopy becomes a Wooly Monkey, bats roost under a tree branch, unseen if not for Vladimir or Jairo.

Ecuadorian Poison Frog

Ecuadorian Poison Frog

Amazon Forest Dragon

Amazon Forest Dragon

Amazon Forest Dragon, we aren't the only things beset with mosquitoes.

Amazon Forest Dragon, we aren’t the only things beset with mosquitoes.

They bring the canoe quietly and slowly to the edge of the lagoon.  A hiss, full of intent, issues from the lady guarding her nest.  Many cubic feet of plant debris, piled just so, protects and helps to incubate her eggs, had hidden her from view.  She stood up on her arguably short legs and moved forward into sight.  Short legs would not be the measure that mattered here, 15 feet of Black Caiman with a mouth full of large triangular teeth and an attitude can focus your attention.  Standing in the canoe to get a better angle didn’t seem like a bad idea as long as the caiman only hissed her displeasure and didn’t try to upend us.  She didn’t, we remained dry, in the canoe and managed to get a few images.

Female Black Caiman, guarding nest.

Female Black Caiman, guarding nest.

There is always (or there should be) a tension between the photographer and the subject.  I feel that tension at all times, the want to simply appreciate whatever was happening in front of me.  Could be a hummingbird, or cloud scattered light crossing the landscape.  Take the image or absorb the scene, doing both sometimes seems impossible.  Many times I have savored a scene as the image and not the experience.  The camera is a magnificent tool to use for sharing with people who haven’t the opportunity to see that bit of the world in front of the photographer.  Shouldn’t the experience come before technology?  I have no real answer.  The image is the reason for the experience, so maybe I do have an answer, for me.

Cobalt-Winged Parakeet [Brotogeris cyanoptera]

Cobalt-Winged Parakeets gather at mineral seep in Yasuni National Park.

Cobalt-Winged Parakeets gather at mineral seep in Yasuni National Park.

Perfect camouflage blown by territorial display. Anolis ortonii.

Perfect camouflage blown by territorial display. Anolis ortonii.

Black-Capped Donacobius clings to stream side foliage.

Black-Capped Donacobius clings to stream side foliage.

Crested Forest Toad, one of many amphibian and reptile species seen in Yasuni.

Crested Forest Toad, one of many amphibian and reptile species seen in Yasuni.

Smokey Forest Frog

Smokey Forest Frog

Rufescent Tiger-Heron along blackwater creek, Yasuni.

Rufescent Tiger-Heron along blackwater creek, Yasuni.

Amazon Dreaming

Looking across the rainforest canopy from the tower at the Napo Wildlife Center as mist rises, Yasuni National Park.

Looking across the rainforest canopy from the tower at the Napo Wildlife Center as mist rises, Yasuni National Park.

The Amazon of Ecuador is the Amazon of dreams, filled with uncounted and uncountable numbers of species.  This is the attraction, the unknown, the continual sense of surprise at the unfolding of each wonder. Read the rest of this page »

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 66 other followers

%d bloggers like this: