The jungle can be a mysterious and frightening place. It is a place where strange animals roam without inhibition, where the humidity can be nearly unbearable, and where Mother Nature reigns supreme. It is a domain where humans often feel we have no control.
However, as daunting as the jungle may seem, it is a place where you can photograph rarely seen animal and plant life. It is also the home of fascinating hunter-gatherer tribes who still depend on tropical forests for sustenance. As such, the dark and foreboding jungle presents a wonderful photographic experience for those willing to venture into the sea of trees and foliage.
Here are seven tips for shooting in this environment:
1. Get geared up. In the jungle, you obviously don’t have the convenience of stopping at a supermarket or a mall to get supplies. Therefore, be sure to be fully equipped before venturing out. Make sure you have everything you need: rations, first aid kit, compass or GPS system, spare batteries, memory cards, portable storage devices, etc. Consult an experienced outdoorsman for a complete list and advice.
2. Know where you’re going, and what to expect when you get there. Be sure you know where you are headed when going on your jungle adventure. Know when and where you want to take your photographs and hire a guide who knows the area well. It helps to choose a person who has good knowledge of the terrain and the animals that are present in the area. Also, create a contingency plan in case something should go wrong.
3. Carry only what you need. We as photographers tend to carry everything in our packs except the kitchen sink, but a heavy load will take its toll on you as your trek progresses in this humid, claustrophobic environment. The last thing you want to do is to slow down your group. You also must be mobile enough to react when facing animals or other potential dangers. When it comes to bringing lenses and accessories, you’re going to have to make compromises to ensure a safe and successful trip.
4. Be alert at all times. Many people seem to think that if they are physically fit, they are ready to face the challenges of the jungle. You have to remember that a tropical forest is a completely foreign environment for city dwellers. We are so used to modern conveniences that we are not frequently exposed to the raw element of danger in the jungle. Yes, the danger is very real — be it an encounter with a poisonous snake, or a slip off a treacherous ridge. When an accident happens, you have to deal with the possibility that there is no cell-phone signal to call for help. My best advice is to be alert — and humble — when entering the jungle. Respect every slope, every river and every hill you encounter.
5. Don’t provoke the animals. When shooting photographs, take extra precautions not to provoke the animals. Animals can be very protective of their territory, and any perceived threat will make them agitated and defensive. As such, be prepared for low-light conditions by avoiding flashes and using a fast lens instead. Also, turn off the sound of your camera.
6. Be friendly — and patient — with tribespeople. If you are visiting a tribe, do not barge unexpectedly into their settlement with your camera. This might upset some people, especially the children — as there is a possibility they don’t encounter outsiders very often. Observe their customs and respect them. Researching the tribe beforehand can help you to understand their culture. Getting a local guide who is able to act as translator helps a lot. But most importantly, nothing breaks the ice better than a huge, friendly smile. When the tribe is comfortable with your presence, you may introduce your camera and begin, gradually, to photograph them.
7. Protect your gear. Jungle humidity can cause severe damage to your equipment. To protect your gear from moisture, be sure to bring along these items: waterproof sacks, a nylon poncho and anti-humidity packets. Waterproof sacks are tightly-knit nylon pouches that, when properly sealed, will prevent their contents from getting wet when submerged in water. When it is raining, a nylon poncho is your best protection; wear this over yourself and your bags to guard against splashes. Anti-humidity packets are designed to absorb moisture. Place these in your equipment bag and waterproof sacks to keep your gear dry.
And finally, the most important tip of all: enjoy your adventure!
[tags]photojournalism, photographer safety[/tags]