The incredible wildlife of South America is a reason in itself to visit this wonderful continent, and with a little work, it’s possible to get some amazing wildlife photos from your trip. Follow these ten handy tips and you’ll be taking wildlife photos like a pro in no time!
♦ The Gear Matters, But Not As Much As You Think
- The best camera doesn’t necessarily mean the best shots. An expert with an iPhone can take a better wildlife photo than someone with a DSLR they don’t know how to use. By all means take a high-end camera on your South America trip, but get plenty of practice with it before you go. If you’re more comfortable with a good compact or point and shoot camera with a reasonable zoom, it’s fine to use that instead.
- If you’re buying a lens to take with you, opt for a multi-purpose zoom like a 70-200mm or 120-300mm. There’s little need to carry super-long lenses – they’re expensive, heavy, bulky and for most photographers, unnecessary. You’ll be shooting in a variety of conditions, so flexibility and good low-light ability is more important.
- Speaking of flexibility, it’s worth carrying a smartphone or small point and shoot alongside your main camera. You never know where the next shot is coming from, and don’t want to miss out on the monkey that appears three feet in front of you just because you’re set up to take photos of the bird a hundred yards away.
♦ Stabilize Yourself
- It’s important to keep yourself and your camera as stable as possible when shooting, especially in low light or when zoomed in. Pack a tripod or monopod, and don’t be afraid to use it. Even a small beanbag can be propped up on a car window or side of a small Amazon boat to dampen vibrations.
♦ What to do About Storage
- Don’t skimp on the number, capacity or quality of your camera’s SD cards – the last thing you want is to run out of space, or return home with a bunch of corrupted photos. Buy more, higher-capacity cards than you think you’ll need, from a well-known manufacturer.
- Once you’ve taken your perfect wildlife photo, look after it. That means keeping your SD cards in a plastic case when not in use, and backing up every night. You can use a smartphone, tablet or laptop to do this, or carry a hard drive with an SD slot.
♦ Protect Your Equipment
- It’s easy to get excited when you see amazing wildlife surrounding you, but it’s not so thrilling to see your camera breaking or falling to the bottom of the ocean when you drop it off the side of your Galapagos boat. Always keep the strap around your neck when your camera is out of its bag – it’s a simple approach, and it works.
- Speaking of bags, keep your camera and lenses in a proper padded bag or case when not in use. If you’re near water, keep the case in a large drybag as well — better safe than sorry in wet conditions!
- Changing lenses in bad weather exposes the internals of your camera to dust, dirt and water that will quickly damage it. Try to find shelter before unscrewing the lens, and make the changeover as quick as possible.
- You don’t want dirt and smears on your photos, so pick up some lens wipes before you leave – they’re more effective than your shirt, and far less likely to scratch that valuable piece of glass.
Do you have any wildlife photography tips? Share them in the comments below!