My “recon” trip to the Pantanal was an absolute HOME RUN!!! After arriving at our lodge mid-day and having a sumptuous lunch and short ‘siesta’, we went off on an afternoon game drive. I knew we were in for an unbelievable photo experience after the first hour (on this our first day!)…..as I had already shot three (3) ‘one-gig’ cards of eleven different species. It was at this point I made the announcement that I was not going to shoot one more Crested Caracara for the rest of my trip in Brazil!! They were like mosquitoes in the Everglades in the summertime! Caimans (alligator-like) and Capybaras (large rodent-like mammal) were also everywhere and great subjects. A few of the species I shot that first afternoon were the Jabiru (world ’s largest stork) and Maguari Stork, four different species of Ibis (White-faced, Green, Buff-necked, & Plumbeous), three species of Kingfisher (Amazon, Green, & Ringed). On one road alone within less than ¼ of a mile I shot seven (7) species of Hawks (Roadside, Sharp-shinned, Great Black, Savannah, Grey, Black-collared, & Crane). A few days later I added the Tiny Hawk to my collection. By the end of my seventeen-day shooting spree, I had shot 129 different species of critter---about 6,500 images!!! It was like “shooting fish in a barrel”. I must insert here that our guide, Alyson (I nicknamed him Alioop), Marcos, our Bonito guide, and driver Edimar (whom I called Eddie to be original) were solely responsible for most of this success. There were even times I couldn’t see what they were pointing out to me so they would look through my viewfinder finding the subject, lock the camera in place and all but put my finger on the trigger and tell me to shoot!!! Nightfall comes early, so we were done by 6:00, and freshening up for dinner which was usually served by 7:00 as the night game drives start about 8:00 p.m. The night drives usually guarantee
you great views of the odd-looking Anteater (at first I couldn’t tell if he was coming or going until I got used to which was the front and which was the back of his body), the Nightjars (they lay in the road and fly up in front of the truck at the last minute --- one flew up and landed in my lap, which was unnerving, but Alioop saved the day and pried the poor little critter free from his death-grip on my jacket), Crab-eating Foxes, and numerous species of owls. That first night we came upon a young Barn Owl on a wonderful perch. Having never seen one up close before and never having one ever cooperate and just hang out waiting for me to take its picture justified the 70 plus images I made. The guides cannot guarantee 100% that we’ll see Ocelot, Jaguars, Pumas and/or Tapirs, but we did and so did everyone else staying at the lodges. Nighttime shooting is difficult but not impossible. Here is where I realized that I, too, still get overly excited when the unusual occurs and forget to put the camera on the correct setting. As I’ve written and taught on field trips and in classrooms over and over again, “When in doubt, set the camera on PROGRAM MODE”. We spotted a Jaguar and I panicked. We spotted an Ocelot and I panicked. We spotted a lone Tapir and I panicked. Let’s leave it that I’m suggesting that you “do what I say, not what I do”! When in doubt, Program Mode, especially at night shooting wildlife.
By the end of the fifth day I was sold on the Pantanal as a very special, unique part of the world, and had booked my guide, and made tentative arrangements with two of the lodges for my first Joanne Williams Pantanal Photo tour. Actually, as of this writing, there are three people already signed up for this very special trip. Nothing is ‘written in ink’ yet, but dates we are talking about are June 3 rd through June 16 th. I don’t even have the final costs yet, but that will be announced very soon. Believe me when I state that this is a utopian experience for the trigger-happy wildlife photographer, point and shooter, birder, or just a wildlife lover.
Facts: The Pantanal is the largest inland wetland in the world. It is about 68,000 square miles which is ten times the size of the Florida Everglades. Interestingly, 98% of this immense alluvial plain is privately owned, mostly by farmers and ranchers. Due to the seasonal flooding and drying out, food for the wildlife is abundant. Please visit my website\'s Pantanal Gallery and see just a small example of some of the various species I was lucky enough to photograph.
Photo Researchers, Editors, and Publishers:
As stated in previous newsletters, at no obligation to you, send me a “want list” of images you are looking for that may coincide with a trip I’m about to take, or have recently taken, and I’ll do my very best to seek out that subject and shoot it with your request in mind. This may save you some expense, give me a specific mission and possibly a sale of that image. It’s a ‘win, win situation’!
A quick reminder that my library of 35mm original slides houses approximately 75,000 images, and my digital library presently holds over 41,000 (and growing-hourly)!