About the Workshop

Based in the Peruvian Amazon region of Madre de Dios, this 11-day workshop will take you through the tried and tested techniques used by photographers to showcase the small end of the natural world in the humid tropics. We will fine focus in natural and flash-based lighting conditions on insects, plants, reptiles, amphibians, and birds, with the aim of safely and respectfully capturing unique and detailed imagery of exotic species at the centimetre and millimetre level.

11 days & 10 nights

US$ 3,500

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What's included in the package?

Lodging, Meals, Transport, Electricity

The tour will take in an upmarket hotel in the city on arrival and before departure, but will primarily be based out of a deep jungle lodge that overlooks a wildlife-rich ox-bow lake. Accommodation includes twin rooms with en-suite bathroom facilities. Single rooms are available for a supplement. All meals are prepared by a professional chef, with all dietary requirements catered for. Transport to and from the lodge is undertaken via 4x4 vehicles and roofed river launches. Electricity for charging batteries is provided via a combination of solar panels and generators as back-up.

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Free equipment and software

Canon macro lenses (EFS 60 mm, EFS 100 mm), ring flashes, tripods, and lightbox equipment will be available for participants to use, at no extra cost. The image editing software that participants will learn to use, include: Helicon Focus, Lightroom, and Photoshop. Participants will cooperate with wildlife researchers in finding macro subjects during daytime and night time searches. Hennessy hammocks are also supplied for those intrepid enough to want to spend a night out under the rainforest canopy.

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Workshop Map Routes

Rainforest Macro Photography Workshop

The workshop will start and end in the jungle town of Puerto Maldonado, the capital of the Madre de Dios region in south-eastern Peru. From here the route takes us by 4x4 all-terrain vehicle to the Las Piedras River, where our boat will then take us upriver to the Amazon Rainforest Conservation Center (ARCC) for the first phase of the workshop, with the Soledad Lake and tree canopy habitats offering great photographic opportunities. The second stage will take place at the rustic Las Piedras Biodiversity Station.

Day 1

Arrive in Puerto Maldonado and transfer to our hotel overlooking the Madre de Dios River. Our workshop leaders will lead a welcome talk and orientation session for participants to help everyone get used to their new surroundings and prepare them for the exciting journey and scheduled activities ahead. We will take a guided walk around the streets of this jungle town, the Biodiversity Capital of Peru no less, with chances to photograph the colourful market area, the thousands of tut-tut taxis, views across the Tambopata and Madre de Dios Rivers, and general street life in this hectic town. After a dinner of typical cuisine, we will turn in early - as we’ll need to be up early the next morning to begin our travels into the deep Amazon. Night in Puerto Maldonado.

Day 2

Up early. After breakfast we will jump on our mini-bus for the 3-hour journey to the small settlement of Lucerna, located on the banks of the Las Piedras River, the longest river in the Madre de Dios department. Here, a boat will be waiting to whisk us upriver for a further 3 hours to the first of the two jungle lodges we will visit, the Amazon Rainforest and Conservation Center (ARCC). On route we will stop off to photograph waterfalls, eat our box lunch, and with luck focus our lenses on caiman, capybara, side-neck turtles, and other riverine wildlife. On arrival, we will be shown to our rooms overlooking the Soledad Lake, after which we will congregate in the main dining room for an introductory talk about the lodge, the lake, and planned activities. The first will be an afternoon lake excursion on a catamaran, followed by a short walk on one of the forest trails that borders the lake. During the walk we will set up a handful of camera traps, which we will pick up and review on Day 6. These are used to document the high species diversity at the site. Expect to see images and video of jaguar, tapir, deer, peccaries, trumpeters, and much more besides. Night at ARCC.

Day 3

After breakfast we will begin our first macro photography tutorial, with theory and practical sessions led by the team of professional photographers. This will introduce the basic principles and techniques that everyone will need to quickly master, with an emphasis on equipment set-up (e.g. tripod manipulation), lighting (natural vs. artificial), focusing, and safe-and-respectful handling of animal and plant subjects. After lunch we will go through the imagery we took and the leaders will give their expert feedback and recommendations on how to improve - with demonstrations as required. We will then go back out into the forest and practice what we have learnt. Before and after dinner we will participate in our first image processing learning session, where our leaders will show us how to use the main software products that we will be using during the workshop. After dinner there will be a scheduled night walk during which the nocturnal photography tutorial will be taught. Some interesting insects will be taken back to the lodge and correctly stored for tomorrow’s morning macro session. After an activity-packed day, we will be glad to get to bed. Night at ARCC.

Day 4

The morning activity will involve an introduction to using Lightbox technology, a technique which is frequently used in commercial and scientific macro photography where the objective is to draw attention just to the subject matter and eliminate background distractions. We will use insects kept over from last-night’s walk as our subject matter for this tutorial. With participants split into two groups, we will practice using the two lightbox set-ups in the lodge’s dining room, as well as the photo editing software learnt the day before. Once again, the leaders will provide critical feedback throughout. After lunch, there will be an opportunity to ascend to the canopy platform to marvel at the expanse of forest reaching the horizon and looking down onto the surface of the lake below. Once again, a night walk will be taken with macro lenses and flashes at the ready to capture close-ups of sleeping butterflies, katydids, tree frogs, tarantulas, and so forth. Night at ARCC.

Day 5

Today we will head out on a small adventure, with cameras always at the ready. We will hike light the 5 km-long trail to the Huascar River, our heavier equipment and lunch having made the trip before us by boat. At and around the small camp on the banks of the river we will search out more macro subjects. Tree trunks here will be the place to find lizards, stingless bee colonies, and a variety of cicada species. After lunch we will take a refreshing swim in the river. We will then hop into the boat and float down the river in silence, with outboard motor switched off, with eyes peeled for wildlife. Once we reach the mouth of the river, we will head back up to the lodge, stopping briefly on a white, sandy beach in search of multi-coloured tiger beetles. We will be protecting our equipment whilst on this river trip using numerous air-tight Pelican cases. Back at the lodge we will begin our image editing process, in readiness for image presentation and critique session after dinner. Night at ARCC.

Day 6

Now that we know the area around the lodge quite well, we will have the whole day to concentrate on the macro subjects of our choice, with the leaders available to provide one-on-one assistance when required. To find our ideal subjects, we can walk the trails, use the catamaran and canoes on the lake, climb to the canopy platform, walk along nearby beaches, and reserve time on one of the Lightboxes. Leave enough time to edit your best shots, as these will be presented after dinner, along with the camera trap footage that the leaders will have readied for this event. A night time excursion on the lake will close out our last day at ARCC. Night at ARCC.

Day 7

After breakfast we will pack up, say our goodbyes, and head back to the boat with all our equipment for the 2-hr journey downriver to our next location - the Las Piedras Biodiversity Station, a research station catering to biologists, adventure travellers, and photographers like ourselves. On arrival we will meet the resident researchers and be shown around our new, rustic home. Having settled in, we will head out for an afternoon excursion to get to know the lay-out of the trail network. After dinner, the leaders will present the main activities and objectives to be reached at this location. For the really intrepid amongst us, we have the option of setting up Hennessy hammocks in the forest in readiness for tomorrow morning’s first activity. Night at PIE.

Day 8

Up before dawn, and with a cup of coffee in hand, we will get into place on the bank of the Las Piedras River opposite a parrot and macaw clay-lick, an area of exposed, salt-rich clay on a bluff (cliff) overlooking the river that attracts salt-starved birds and other animals on most mornings. Having captured sufficient images and video of this colourful yet noisy Amazonian spectacle, we will head quietly back to the lodge for a late breakfast. After breakfast we will head back out to site our camera traps, some at the local mammal clay-lick and some overlooking the parrot and macaw clay-lick (the birds having moved off by this time). Whilst at the parrot and macaw clay-lick we will try and pick up some colourful feathers for some macro work later. On the way back for lunch, we will stop off for some macro action in a swamp, where ferns, dragonflies, frogs, spiders and their webs, and many other creatures hang out. In the afternoon, we will cool down with a swim under a waterfall, and return by boat in search of capybara. After dinner there will be an opportunity to return to a swamp neighbouring the one we visited earlier, with the aim of some close-focusing on caiman and snakes. Night at PIE.

Day 9

Now that we know the trail network well, we will be free to wander, almost where we please, in pursuit of our favourite macro shot. We can also tag along with the resident researchers, for instance if close-ups of birds is what you are after. Researchers regularly capture birds in mist nets for short periods as part of population monitoring projects. As before, we will get assistance as required from our leaders, and towards the end of the day we will evaluate and appraise each other’s work. After dinner we will gather for a drink around a small bonfire on the beach as part of our slow farewell to the Las Piedras River, as tomorrow we head back to the city. Night at PIE.

Day 10

After breakfast we will load up the boat once again, say our goodbyes, and then head down river to our awaiting mini-bus - which will take us back to our hotel in Puerto Maldonado. Here there will be an opportunity for more image editing before the leaders collect up the imagery that participants want to share on the workshop’s Dropbox folder. We will join the leaders at a good restaurant in town for a goodbye meal and prize-giving ceremony. Night in Puerto Maldonado.

Day 11

Breakfast, followed by goodbyes and transfer to the Puerto Maldonado airport. End of workshop!