To the Amazon/Photographic Equipment

To the Amazon/Photographic Equipment

The excitement is growing! On September 3, Cristian and I head off to the Ecuadorian Amazon. Our last trip to the Amazon was in 2014 two years ago. We haven’t been on an insect photography adventure since then. I wish that I could do more of these trips but, unfortunately, there are financial limitations. In any case, we know how to use our time well and all of our trips have been very productive in terms of the fantastic insects that we have found.

Our destination for this trip will be the same as it was two years ago. We will return to the Napo River area in north-eastern Ecuador. We fly from our home base in Cali, Colombia to Bogota and then on to Quito, Ecuador the same day. The following day we will fly to Coca which is in the province of Napo, and then board a motorized launch which will take us east on the Napo for approximately four hours until we reach the Sani Lodge where we will stay for ten days. Then we head west to La Selva Eco-Lodge for another ten days. La Selva is a famous place in my mind because in our two previous trips there we were fortunate to find and photograph several insects probably new to science and also several which had never been photographed as live creatures before.

I am full of positive anticipation about our upcoming visits to both Sani and La Selva. Besides having with me an amazing insect hunter, Cristian Fernando Lopez, I will be carrying an updated collection of superb photographic equipment which will cover three types of photography. Our primary activity will be the macro photography of insects. The lenses to be utilized here are the Canon MP-E 65mm f/2.8 1-5x and the Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 IS. These are outstanding macro lenses, the former is most suitable with insects that are between 1mm and 2cm(20mm) long while the 100 lens is best used with insects that are more than 2cm long. I have found the Canon MR-14EX II Macro Ring Lite to be an excellent light source for up-close work while I rely, when needed, on the Speedlite 600EX-RT flash for “over-the-top” illumination and backlighting. In the accompanying photo, I am holding my Canon EOS-1D X camera with the MP-E 65mm lens and the macro ring lite.

In the Amazon there are not too many opportunities for 180 degree panoramic shots due to the density of the forest but beautiful scenes do appear and it’s best to be prepared. I have found small clearings at the base of gigantic trees such as ancient Ceibas and wonderfully convoluted Strangler Figs. The available space can be quite limited but with a 24mm lens I have been able to get unobstructed 180 degree views. 


Santa Claus did come for me this year as you can see in the attached photo. The long lens is a Canon EF 600mm f/4L IS II which is perfect for birds and distant animals. Combined with an Extender EF 1.4x III, that will give me a total focal length of 840mm. Under normal circumstances, I wouldn’t take this lens to the Amazon. It weighs only 8.6 lbs but coupled with a Wimberley head and a tripod this equipment still needs to be “planted.” The good news is that both the Sani and La Selva lodges have observation towers which, at about 35 meters tall, overlook the canopy. In respect to long lens photography, I couldn’t ask for anything more! If I were to get lucky and capture a photo of a magnificient harpy eagle, you know who would be celebrating with a pisco sour!


The last item on the new equipment list is the Canon EOS 5DS R DSLR camera. I anticipate using this camera with the MP-E 65mm macro lens. Why? So that the tiniest of insects can be seen in larger prints and with more detail. Also, this cameras 50.6 MP sensor should help in improving the depth of field with such tiny creatures. How so? I can pull the camera back which will create more distance and a smaller image in the frame, then do more cropping than normal and still have an image of sufficient size.


I never know what we will find on these trips to the Amazon. I hope that our destinations are still in pristine environmental conditions and if that is the case, I know that we will find wonderful creatures. Stay tuned in October for what we have brought back from the cradle of biodiversity.

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