11 November 2012

The Galapagos and Cloud Forest Trip Report

I am writing this as I sit on the plane on my way home from a great trip to the Galapagos Islands and the Ecuadorian cloud forest. As usual I was lucky to have a great group of friendly, fun loving, easy going, photographers, which was good because living on a boat working hard for 14 to 16 hour days can test a person. As on all my trips we worked very hard from dawn to dusk to create great images. Alan and Todd two veteran participants with many of my workshops under their belts knew what they were in for. Everyone else adjust quite nicely to the schedule. We were up for breakfast at 0:dark hundred and on the islands at sunrise every morning, we were able to take our time exploring. Everyone had plenty of time to get excellent images. In fact we spent at least twice as much time on the islands as any of the other groups that were in the areas we visited. If you go to the islands as a photographer I really urge you to get on a tour designed for photographers. I can’t imagine anything more frustrating than being herded past all of the great photo opportunities without having the time to shoot.

As I said we had a great group, a couple of mentions though. The great attitude and all-around good guy award goes to Todd Bielby an excellent photographer who is always helpful with great tips and tricks for his fellow participant. The tough-gal award goes to Diane Bodkin who took a nasty spill on day six and seriously injured her foot. After taking the fall she promptly rolled over to a sitting position and continued shooting not wanting to miss the shot of the Waved Albatross courtship dance, what a trooper! Mary Colliflower gets the eager student award. Mary was relatively new to photography and proved to be a quick study. Her excitement and enthusiasm when she “got the shot” was fun and contagious. Although, I think there were a couple of times she might have wanted to wrap that @%^#% tripod around my neck! I would also like to extend a special note of thanks to Patricia Salano and Glenda Callender whose excellent Spanish speaking skills were hugely appreciated.

We were fortunate to have one of the most knowledgeable and patient guides in all of the Galapagos with us on this trip, I actually set a bounty for anyone who could stump Roberto with a “Galapagos related” question. His great attitude and encyclopedic information were simply amazing and appreciated by all. He was also very patient with us when we would get distracted by “something shiny” that really needed it’s picture taken, right in the middle of him telling us another interesting fact about this amazing place.  But my favorite thing about Roberto was that he started and ended every adventure with a smiiiiile.

After the Galapagos ten of us travelled up to the Tandayapa Bird Lodge in the cloud forest. For a more relaxed time, the main focus at this lodge is the hummingbirds. The feeders are simply swarming with hummingbirds. It really must be seen to be believed. I brought along my high-speed flash system and everyone got to spend some time getting flight shots of these striking jewels of the avian world. We also did a day trip down to see the Andean Cock of the Rock on the lek, and a remarkable local fellow who over the course of 7 years has trained antpittas, which are very elusive birds, to come when he calls. Absolutely amazing!

The final night in Quito started out with Jeff and Glenda sharing some wine with everyone. Jeff is a chef and sommelier and has great taste in wine. Then the whole group went out for a traditional Ecuadorian dinner, where we continued to get our party on, it was a very fun and special night, a perfect ending to a fun and special trip. Thanks to all!

You can see a gallery of some of my favorite images here : http://www.facebook.com/steve.gettle#!/media/set/?set=a.490005754373403.118690.103798062994176&type=1