You’re headed to the Amazon for a river cruise, a beautiful and exotic destination teeming with wildlife and photographic opportunities and you want to take some great pictures. Awesome. But take heed, the jungle has its challenges: from a towering canopy to problematic lighting, there are a few things you’ll want to keep in mind when you go. Below are my 7 tips for photographing Amazon Rainforest animals.
Bring a long lens
During a recent river cruise with International Expeditions to the Peruvian Amazon, I learned quickly that 90% of the wildlife I was going to photograph is high in the canopy. Not much happens at eye level. Sloths, monkeys, birds, most of the time they’re above you. Consequently, I recommend bringing the longest lens you can hand-hold comfortably while shooting at a 45-degree angle (or more) for an extended period. I used a Canon 5D Mark 3 with a 100-400mm lens and a 1.4mm extender, giving me a total range of 560mm. I still needed to crop some of my photos.
Sit at the back of the skiff
It may seem counter-intuitive, but it’s easier to photograph animals in the canopy sitting at the back of the skiff—the 10-12 passenger motorized longboat used to navigate the Amazon’s narrow waterways. If you’re in front and the boat floating toward the shoreline, you’re may find yourself underneath your subject. The farther back you are in the boat, the greater chance of capturing your subject at a better angle.
Watch your shutter speed
When you’re in a skiff you’re constantly moving. Even if the motor is off you’re still drifting and subject to the dips and rolls of the current. Watch your shutter speed and bump it up a notch to offset the motion.
Raise the camera to your eye
When you see a subject in the canopy you want to photograph, resist the urge to look down at your camera before you begin to shoot. Instead, keep looking at your subject then raise the camera to your eye. The rainforest canopy, swaying and blowing in the wind can make it difficult to keep track of your subject. If you don’t look away, you won’t lose it.
If you are shooting up and your subject is in a little shadow, be mindful of not using too much exposure compensation to brighten the image, you risk blowing out the background. Rather, adjust the image later while editing by increasing the exposure a tad and bringing up the shadows. That said, if the shadows are too dark, best wait for a better shot.
Be patient with Amazon Rainforest Animals
This is pretty much the case with all types of wildlife photography. Unfortunately, animals never do what we want them to when we want them to do it. Take heart, be patient and wait for the right opportunity.
Bring a flash
Not that a flash will help you with subjects high in the trees, but if you’re on a jungle walk through the rainforest you’ll be plunged into low light. If you find something you want to photograph (a poison dart frog or tarantula, for example) you’ll need a flash.
Bonus tip: Have a water-resistant/waterproof bag handy
Unpredictable is the best way to define an Amazon rainforest climate; it’s likely to live up to its name. To protect your camera, bring a camera bag or a backpack that’s waterproof or at the very least water-resistant. I also recommend bringing a rain poncho so you can slip it over your body and the bag at the same time.
Another story from the Amazon you may like
This Amazon River Cruise Will Make You Want to Hop on a Plane
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36 thoughts on “7 Tips for Photographing Amazon Rainforest Animals”
Great post. Really helpful tips.
So glad you found it helpful!
Thank you so much for these tips!😃🙏🏼
Thank you for taking the time to check it out!
No problem! These tips are very helpful😊
Hey, Amazon is a more than wonderful place for taking hot photos! Thank you for these tips; I’d say the last advice is often overlooked.
Stunning images, Susan and some really good tips! I would add that if you only have a week or two of holiday then be sure to use a guide. It isn’t easy to learn how to find wildlife in a different country in such a short space of time. If you are going to use flash under the canopy then avoid using it for mammals. It does not seem to bother frogs and spiders etc. but larger mammals can be unsettled by it. Finally, aim at the eyes, they need to be sharp.
Really your work is a treat to the eye, precision in detail. Loved it !
Thank you so much!
Angel you’re owsome great tips
Been loving this series about the Amazon. Beautiful work.
I’m so glad you’ve enjoyed it. Thanks for letting me know. 🙂
Liked the photo editing idea.
I don’t know what I love more, your tips or these pictures! They are stunning! <3
You are too kind. Thank you!
Great tips and so helpful! I don’t have an awful lot of experience with wildlife photography so great to read. My longest lens I currently have is 105mm so sounds like I need to get some upgrades before such a trip. I also like your tip on keeping an eye on the subject and then raising the camera up to your eye. Wouldn’t have thought of that one.
Thanks! Very glad you found it useful!
Those are some really great tips. Can’t wait to use these on field. Thank you so much for the amazing post.
Glad you found it useful!
great post , love the pictures!
Great post Susan and easy to implement.
I concur especially with the water-protection suggestions. (If your experience is anything like mine growing up, unexpected downpours were kind of the norm!) Thank you for these inspiring photos and helpful tips.
Thank you for checking out the post. So glad you liked it. 🙂
Super photography. Lovely hints.
Amazing photos!!! Love it!!
Great tips and brilliant post.
Thank you. Glad you found it useful!
Great post and really helpful tips 🙂
These are great tips. May I add some others?
If you can afford it look for a weather sealed/splash-proof camera and lens on your next camera buying outing. That will take care of those rainy days in environments like the Amazon.
Shooting RAW will allow you to make larger exposure adjustments in post-processing. You will need a RAW image processor but many are free.
In the absence of a image stabilized camera there are travel mono-pods that are light and very useful for long exposure images.
In addition to bringing the camera to your eye, lower the camera to meet your subject.
Thanks so much for the thoughtful commentary. I appreciate it. 🙂