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Photography tips for Galapagos

Fremont, California
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35 posts
7 reviews
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Photography tips for Galapagos

I tried to do some research on tips for shooting in Galapagos and found some good ones in multiple sites but thought I would in my two cents as we just recently returned from Galapagos this week.

Here's what I brought:

Canon 7D

28-300L

10-22

18-200 (backup)

Basically, I only used the 28-300L the whole trip. I'll be honest, it was a bit heavy to have to carry around but I found the results worth it. With the crop factor of my camera factored in, this ended up being 44-480. In my opinion, I found nearly nothing worth needed a super wide angle lens. I did find that the extra reach allowed me to get super close to the animals and frequently isolate their heads/faces if I chose to. While several people on our boat had their SLRs, none of them had the reach that I did, hence I earned the name paparazzi for the trip. This came in especially handy when we were following a family of orca's and also when we saw tortoises in the highlands. Because of the muddy conditions from the rain in the morning, we could only get so close to the tortoises but I got some great shots.

I would recommend bringing a polarizing filter if possible. Fortunately for me, it was overcast for many of the days because I discovered that my polarizing lens was broken the day before I left. Also, although I don't have one, a warming filter might give some nice effects. I say this because the sunglasses that I wore had this type of lens and I thought the colors really popped in some areas.

Also, shoot in shutter speed priority mode. This was one mistake that I made a few times. The IS on the 28-300 is pretty good and I didn't catch this because even on my 13" laptop LCD they looked good. However, when I got home and looked on my 27" IPS, I noticed a number of shots that were not tack sharp. I did notice that I didn't always follow the general rule of min shutter speed equal focal length. I shot our chasing of the orca's at 1/1000 and I would say that 99% of those pictures came out fantastic. Nearly all your shots will be during day light hours, which provides plenty of light so I would go with 1/500th at a minimum.

Hope this helps!

Tucson, Arizona
Destination Expert
for Quito, Ecuador
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1. Re: Photography tips for Galapagos

These are good tips. I am glad to be able to justify taking my filters!

Bristol, United...
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2. Re: Photography tips for Galapagos

Thanks for sharing your experiance.

In fact, most bird photographers will use either aperture priority or full manual mode. If you are in shutter priority then apart from ensuring your shutter speed is above the camera shake minimum, you have no artistic control over the photo. If you use aperture priority then you can control the depth of field and determine the trade-off between amount of subject in focus and blurring background objects. Of course you do need to look at the shutter speed the camera selects and if necessary either compromise your aperture setting or adjust your ISO. Increasing ISO allows you to maintain your chosen aperture and have the camera select a higher shutter speed at the expense of a more noisy (grainy) photo.

The reason you may want full manual mode is that a bird may take flight and suddenly be against a bright sky background. This would fool the metering and normally require you use exposure compensation. Of course this is difficult to apply quickly. So if you meter from an average brightness scene and set that as the manual exposure, you have the correct exposure regardless of changing background. The down side is that you have to be more aware of changing lighting conditions and re-meter.

Polarising filters are good for shots with water where you can bring out a subject that may otherwise be lost with reflections. However there is little gain otherwise and you lose half the light. Warming filters were useful with slide film but now we have digital you can exactly replicate them later in Photoshop or similar. You could even change the colour temperature setting of the camera.

When trying any new technique, I recommend practice at home before risking it on the trip of a lifetime.

Tucson, Arizona
Destination Expert
for Quito, Ecuador
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9,875 posts
92 reviews
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3. Re: Photography tips for Galapagos

*ahem* I'm still using Ektachrome, and you're right, the warming filter is indeed useful.

Fremont, California
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35 posts
7 reviews
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4. Re: Photography tips for Galapagos

I definitely agree with many of the points that dpsoftware makes. I'll be honest, I didn't feel confident enough in my abilities to shoot in full manual mode and although shooting animals on the ground is easy, in flight the birds would give you a small time frame to choose your settings and shoot, so do make sure that you know how to use your camera features reasonably well.

Definitely practice before hand - my dog really enjoyed the practice because I took him to the dog park repeatedly to practice catching animals in action!

5. Re: Photography tips for Galapagos

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