The purity of the Galapagos Islands is spectacular, and for wildlife photographers it is a veritable paradise.
White beaches contrast crystalline, turquoise waters where bright red and orange sally light-foot crabs scamper across shiny black boulders; suns rays dance through unpolluted air, shining on rocky cliffs and sketching a path across the water towards the horizon; and rare endemic wildlife lounges fearlessly across paths, staring curiously into the camera.
Approximately 83% of the terrestrial biosphere is directly under the influence of man. Crops make up more than one third of land biomass, and around 20% of life produced on land every year is harvested for human purposes; in short, there are desperately few places on this earth that remain mostly untouched by humans. The Galapagos Islands are one of those few places. At around 95% of its pre-human biodiversity levels, they are the world’s most biologically intact tropical archipelago.
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Equipment to bring
In total, 97% of the Galapagos Archipelago is protected under Ecuadorian law, meaning that 97% is free from tourist traps, invasive species (for the most part thanks to recent conservation efforts) and human life. With its beautiful scenery and unique animals, it is not difficult to take a good picture in the Galapagos; however, there are a few things you might want to consider. Check out our Packing list
Depending on your level of experience, your equipment may be as simple or complex as you desire; however, keep in mind that the animals are generous with their modeling, and offer wildlife photographers a variety of shots including portrait-like pictures, behavioral pictures, in-flight shots and underwater shots, to name a few. People often recommend a short- or medium-length lens, as it is possible to get quite close to the animals when you are taking a photo. However, a long lens can also be useful to catch animals in action; out of curiosity, it may stop what it is doing when you approach. Also, it is important to keep in mind that visitors are not permitted to leave the paths. In this case, a long lens will allow you to capture a unique scene far from the trail. Nevertheless, it is important to keep in mind that you will likely be walking for several hours and you want to be comfortable. Furthermore, an ultra-wide lens is useful for capturing the full scope of Galapagos scenery. With no buildings or electrical poles to disrupt the beauty, you will want to be able to capture everything the light touches.
Visitors often forget that much of the Galapagos National Park consists of marine life. With one of the largest marine reserves in the world and also some of the richest waters, the Galapagos Marine Reserve supports an extremely varied and beautiful array of life, made all the better thanks to its remarkably clear waters…and you may want an underwater camera to capture it.
We generally recommend that you do your research before heading to the archipelago. Know you animals – which interest you the most, which islands do they inhabit, when are they awake/feed, etc. It is also useful to have a general understanding of the behavior of the animal and how it moves. Although there are excellent naturalist guides to help you with this, the better you understand the animal, the better you will be able to capture its true image.
Learn more about “Galapagos BIG 15”
“It’s quite simple: The more iconic species you see on the Galápagos Islands, the more rewarding and memorable your experience will be!”
Furthermore, as the Galapagos lies on the equator, light plays an important role for wildlife photographers. Sunrises and sunsets are quick but remarkable, providing excellent lighting for landscape and wildlife photographers. Make sure you are ready for dusk when it arrives to best take advantage of these astonishing scenes. On the other hand, the bright midday light creates harsh shadows that can negatively affect your shot; you may wish to avoid shooting during these hours.
Important information for wildlife photographers
Keep in mind that the subject is always more important than the photograph. Strict rules are implemented on the islands to protect their delicately balanced ecosystem, and it is important that all visitors follow the rules, no matter how good the photo potential may be. Below are a few important rules.
- Keep at least 2 meters from the wildlife.
- Do not leave the trail.
- Do not use a flash when taking pictures.
- Watch your step; avoid stepping on any plants.
- Take only photos, leave only footprints
However, most importantly, as you crouch on the ground to capture the gaze of a marine iguana in the golden evening light, remember to step back, take in the scene with your own eyes and breathe in the air of these enchanted islands- a place like none other.