1.) Ecuadorian Adventure - The needs of a photographer versus that of a bird watchers\' 2.) Student Scholarship from NANPA-Congratulations Evan Graff! 3.) NANPA: My Demonstration/Presentation 4.) Photo Tips and Equipment 5.) Panama Add-on
What an absolutely beautiful part of our world! I can’t believe I never gave this little piece of paradise any thought until I was invited to visit it by two tour company owners I met during the Titusville Birding Festival; Xavier Munoz of Neblina Forest Tours & Kurt Beate of Nomadtrek Adventure Travel. These two gentlemen went out of their way to insure I got a in-depth look at their country and a couple of the lodges they recommend; Napo Wildlife Center & Tapir Lodge. With Ecuador’s vast array of habitats, it is one of the most “species-rich” nations on earth—being dubbed by ecologists as a “megadiversity hotspot”! It is also a birdwatcher’s paradise, and up until now, a photographer’s dream and nightmare rolled up into one!!! Digressing off the subject of the beauty of Ecuador for a moment, I wish to touch on the subject of the photographer’s needs versus a birdwatcher’s needs while on tours. I bring this up as it is all too apparent to me that birdwatchers rule the ‘eco-tourism business’, or perhaps I should rephrase that and say the eco-tourism business hasn’t fully considered the photographer as a viable business asset and directs most of their attention toward the birdwatcher and other tourists’ needs. ( I have nothing against birdwatchers-- I AM a birdwatcher, as are most of my photographic buddies, tour participants, and students.) This whole revelation became painfully clear to me on my 16-day trip to the Galapagos in October.
I am as big an advocate about preserving our environment as the next guy, and I applaud the Galapagos Park system for their strict rules protecting this world treasure. This is not about them, it is about tour companies that accept the photographers’ money and place unfair restrictions on them either by not providing assistance, care and consideration for their expensive equipment or any of the other needs that go with traveling with photographic equipment and trying to make nice images of the nature and wildlife they are visiting. Everyone of us has horror stories.
Black-capped Donacobius Ecuador Spider
This is why I made it a steadfast rule to never, never, ever take photo tour participants anywhere that I had not scouted out in depth personally myself. (A rule I have never regretted-- except once—that was when I broke it!!). I’ve always felt it was the travel or tour company’s responsibility to provide as much of a service to the photographer as they do for the birdwatcher and/or regular tourist. Fact is, though, a birder usually just has a pair of binoculars and possibly a scope to carry, while a photographer often has enough to weigh down one, two, three or four sherpas!! (At least this photographer does!) Referring to my newsletter #27 where I write about my visit to the Galapagos, and how frustrating and hard it was to shoot there due to restrictions (such as no flash allowed) etc….I received a lovely note back from Tui De Roy, who lived and photographed most of her life on these islands. She stated that it appeared that some of the tour operators were making up their own rules and regulations, which is a shame, as I had decided after only a few days into my trip that I would never bring a group to the Galapagos under these circumstances. I pondered why Arthur was going back. I knew he had power, but certainly not over the Ecuadorian Government!!! Something definitely was ‘amiss’ and I needed to know. When Xavier from Neblina Forest Tours visited me at my booth in Titusville he asked how I enjoyed my Galapagos trip. Now, we all know how shy and retiring I am, and certainly not prone to speak my mind, especially if I think it’s the truth…right?! Well, Xavier got an ear-full!!
Rufous-tailed Hummingbird Red-capped Cardinal
And this is where the story really begins……The Photography Gods are listening. After Xavier visited my booth a number of times expounding on the virtues of his company toward the needs of photographers and the beauty of his country, I all but rudely said “prove it”. Well a two- week trip to alpine grasslands, coastal swamps, Andes mountains, and tropical rainforests-- mostly under his guidance-- proved it! Not only are the scenics & wildlife outstanding photo-opps, he stunned me with his enthusiasm and sincere desire to make it all work more easily for photographers. I know he had his doubts, but he didn’t even grimace when I arrived at his Sachatamia Lodge –noted for its large variety of gorgeous hummingbirds—and proclaimed “all those awful looking red feeders ‘gotta go’ before I even consider shooting one picture”! Immediately one of his young helpers took off like a shot returning quickly with an armful of beautiful flowers that we hung in place of those loathsome feeders! For awhile it was “hummingbird mayhem”!!
Rufous-Tailed Jacamar Nightjar (find the bird!)
I shot three gigs in just a few hours. Well, now we have another wonderful destination besides Panama for a whole different species of hummingbirds, not to mention other bird species, mammals and scenics. When I told him how hard it was for me to hand-hold my 500mm lens and feel safe moving around in the man-made dug-out canoe, he actually asked me what I needed….I told him a bigger canoe and specially-designed-by-me oversized bean bags for everyone one of my tour-participants and no more than two photographers per canoe. His answer was; “done! Anything else?” Now, I ask you fellow photo-tour leaders, freelance photographers, tour participants etc., when was the last time you heard that said? To make a longish story shorter, I am pleased to announce that I have agreed to join the team of Neblina- Forest Tours as their personal photography tour leader. In no way will this take me away from my own Joanne Williams Photo Safaris, but it will expand our horizons of travel to include Peru, Bolivia, and Brazil (The Pantanal!).
Jacana - immature Hoatzin "Stinky Turkey"
One major deciding factor for me joining this group was meeting and working with the incredibly knowledgeable, and people “savvy” guides. In late June early July I will be going on a lengthy “recon” mission to the Pantanal, which is truly the ultimate in wildlife and nature viewing---I will see how it will be for photography and report in. I’m hoping for a June 2007 trip so you might want to pencil that on your calendar. Visit their web site: www.neblinaforest.com Hopefully, the Ecuador Gallery will be up and running on my website soon: www.joannewilliamsphoto.com
Blue-Winged Tanager Caracara
NANPA: (North American Nature Photography Assoc.) Summit
NANPA is the only organization of its kind for wildlife and nature photographers on the planet. This is where we all come together once a year and share ideas, successes, failures, new & old techniques, learn about equipment, meet old friends and make new ones. One of my joys is working with and watching the growth of young people interested in this crazy business. Last winter I met a young man photographing with his Dad on the boardwalk of Wakodahatchee Wetlands in Delray Beach, Fla. I never like to let an opportunity go by without encouraging a young person that shows any interest at all in nature, plus someone who has a camera in their hands, is a ‘sitting duck’ for me to offer free, worldly advice---whether you want it or not!! In the days that followed, I had the opportunity to talk to Evan about the Youth Program that NANPA offered, giving him a brochure and more words of wisdom. Recently I got a note from Evan telling me that because of my urging, he is now a Youth Scholarship winner! Lord, it’s rewarding when someone actually listens!! Good going Evan & keep up the good work!! See you at the Summit meeting.
On Thursday, February 9th at 1:30, I will be joining Xavier Munoz of Neblina-Forest Tours in giving a demonstration and slide presentation on the ‘Wonders of Ecuador’, which will also include images from the Galapagos Islands. Please come and join us. However, if you cannot, do stop by the booth for a visit, more information, and sign up for a free gift. You’ll be glad you did!
PHOTO TIP AND EQUIPMENT:
Many of you have purchased your Better Beamers from me, but I’m feeling remiss that I may not have warned you about the dangers of starting a fire or burning a hole through your flash component if it is angled at the sun. Remember your Boy or Girl Scout days (or when you were a juvenile delinquent)? when you learned to start a fire with a magnifying glass pointed at the sun? I burned up my parents front yard! (Didn’t get a badge that year!) Well, same thing. Be warned and Be Careful. Placing it in a car and forgetting to cover the fresnal (clear plastic part)—well, oops!
AT LAST!! The new, lighter-weight WH200 Whimberley ball heads are arriving. I\'m almost sold out already!! I have a few (three to be exact) left, so if you are interested let me know immediately and send me a check for $595.00.
I have a great, fun group signed up for this photo-tour-adventure!. For one thing, it’s going to be “old home week” for a few of us!! The photography “opps” at El Valle are going to be stupendous, as my natural feeders and gardens are being well maintained. The Panama Canal Zone is an ‘add-on’, but now a new event has happened. One of my tour participants has a friend/connection that is going to get us a special entrance pass into the ‘inner-workings’ of Canal locks. Not only are we going to have fun, take great pictures, we’re going to get smarter!! Doesn’t get any better than this!!
Rufous Mot-Mot White-eared Jacamar
"Keep Your Aperature Your Priorty"
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