Into the wild Guatemala style. Wakeup call 0400 hours for a 0500 (predawn) departure time. We had booked a 2-hour photo excursion down the river and into the mangrove swamps of Monterrico. I was still yawning (no coffee) while I readied my camera gear: my venerable Canon EOS 5D Mark II with its Canon EF 400 5.6L USM Super Telephoto lens, and my Canon PowerShot G15 backup shooter. We met our guide at the appointed time, and began our walk through town (in the dark) to the river’s edge to board our small boat—just the three of us in the still predawn hours. No motor on this boat, just a long pole to propel us through the water in a stealthy fashion. We were fortified against the expected mosquitoes: long-sleeved shirt, long pants, socks and boots, hat and plenty of mosquito repellant.
Shooting critters in the wild is a tough proposition at any time. Shooting in the early morning hours, with its beautiful but dim light doesn’t make it any easier. I would have to shoot wide open at f/5.6 using a high shutter speed of 1/2000s to compensate for action blur and camera shake—we were on a very small boat moving down river, so I had to account for both the downriver motion and the natural tipsiness of the boat itself—not to mention any action the critters themselves might introduce into the equation. Obviously all shots would be taken handheld (no tripod would be used in this situation). My ISO would be high, probably in the range of 2000 to 3200. Digital noise (graininess) could be a problem, but my full frame (22MP) camera handles digital noise pretty well.
In my opinion, birds-in-flight (BIF) photography is some of the most difficult photography to execute properly, with the possible exception of moving monkeys in the dark jungle canopy (I’ve written about monkey photography in previous posts—they’re a real pain the ass). The morning went well, and I am fairly pleased with some of the images I captured. The pinkish morning light was splendid, the digital noise was kept to a minimum and the images are pretty sharp and crisp. An added blessing was the acceptable level of mosquito bites (since my bout with Dengue Fever a couple of years ago I am very wary of mosquitoes).