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Clip on International Jaguar Day

Here’s a quick video clip filmed by us during 2019. Images by Larissa Pantanal. Enjoy!

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Puma photo trips – what to expect during the Winter?

 

South Patagonia, Chile, during the winter. What to expect? I have just finished another photo tour there and thought it would be nice to write a blog post on what to expect during the winter.

Weather is known to be harsh in Patagonia, and that is usually the truth, specially to someone more used to the tropics like me. Even during the warmer months it can still be very cold in certain conditions and very, very windy, but is it super cold during the winter? To my surprise, NO! It was actually quite alright, colder than other times of the year, of course, but not that much colder. On average during this trip made in mid July 2019 we had temperatures ranging from -3ºC to 5ºC (26º to 41°F). Truth be told, locals said that temperatures were abnormally high, it’s usually somewhat colder. The wind was mostly calm during the day, only a few times we found some wind, but much less than October, for example, which made things quite comfortable actually. It’s still quite cold, so wearing proper clothing is essential. Be specially aware of your feet and hands.

Light in Patagonia is great year round, this was one of the magic mornings we had there. The time of this photo was around 10:00 AM

Light in Patagonia is great year round, this was one of the magic mornings we had there. The time of this photo was around 10:00 AM

Climate was sunny with periods of cloudy skies on the eastern parts of the park and on the estancias just outside of it, which are the areas we look for pumas. The western sector was always more overcast though, with ocasional light rain.

What about snow? That’s the main reason someone goes to South Patagonia to photograph pumas during the winter right? Get them on the snow. Well, the places we search for pumas in Torres del Paine region are mostly just below the snow line. This means that there is no constant snow on the ground there, even at the peak of the winter. To get snow in those areas you need recent snowfall. Two or three days without snow and it melts away. So, while you have a good chance to get snow there, it’s not 100% guaranteed. We got snowfall on our first morning and snow on the ground for the next couple days, but afterwards it completely melted away, except at the higher parts, where you still had some snow.

We got the shots, as you can see here, but it depends on snowfall. Below are two shots at the same place:

Puma photographed on July 20 after snowfall during the night and morning

Puma photographed on July 20 after snowfall during the night and morning

 

Same place of the photo above, from July 25th

Same place of the photo above, from July 25th

Wintertime proved excellent for Pumas, as other times of the year. On this trip we saw 14 or 15 different individuals. For birds winter is poorer though, as most migrate away. You do find a few species of ducks, grebes, flamingos, raptors and some smaller birds, but not many. Some lakes even go completely frozen, as this one below, so that means less open water available for water birds.

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In short, winter is amazing at Patagonia. We got incredible results and my clients went back home super satisfied and with hard disks full of photos. But it’s not 100% guaranteed for snow, we got it this time, but we could have missed it for a few days. Of course, if you want photos of pumas in the snow, it’s the only time to go.

Hand baggage policies in Brazil

Hand baggage policies update

I have completed a couple trips to the Pantanal on this new 2019 season and thought it would be nice to post an update on the “new” hand baggage policies, posted earlier on this blog.

Contrary to what was said in the media, on none of these trips no one checked the weight or the measurements of my bags, although they were under the new limits, so I wasn’t nervous about that. I didn’t see any other people having their bags weighted either. It feels to me that they will notice much more a bag well over the size and obviously extremelly heavy, otherwise you should be fine, even if you are slightly above the weight limit.

Here’s what I was carrying as hand baggage on these flights:

Hand baggage policies in Brazil

One Lowepro Flipside 400AW II backpack with the following contents, weighting in right under the 10 kg limit:

  • One DSLR camera body and a 300mm f/2.8
  • 24-70mm lens
  • Teleconverter
  • SB-910 speedlight
  • 10×42 binocular
  • 14″ notebook
  • Bluetooth speaker
  • Two Pocket Wizard remote controls
  • Miscellaneous items like spare batteries, small flashlight, memory cards, etc.

Hand baggage policies in Brazil

I was also carrying a second smaller side bag, pictured above, with a small pocket camera, chargers, backup portable hard drive, cables, two handset radios, etc. This side bag could also be used to carry, for example, a second camera body and/or another lens. This bag was weighting approximately 3 kg.

On my main bag I was carrying my clothes, personal items, a tripod, tripod ball head, other chargers, etc. My main bag weighted around 15 kg.

I hope this clarifies the situation and helps you when choosing what to bring and how. As always, contact me if you have doubts and want my opinion.

 

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Hand baggage policies in Brazil

From now on all airlines at the major airports (including São Paulo Int’l) will strictly measure and weight the hand bags from all passengers. While the rules are the same as before (international standards), now it seems that they will enforce it more. Here are the rules, pay attention to see if your hand bags are ok, otherwise they will probably have to be checked in (for an extra fee).

Here’s what is allowed per passenger:

  • One hand bag of 10kg max, with the measurements below:hand bags
  • One smaller backpack, notebook bag or purse with personal items, with the measurements below. While they don’t mention a specific maximum weight of this second bag, it’s wise to avoid it from being too heavy, say over 5 kg:

mochila_es

I know it can be difficult to meet these demands with heavy photo equipment, but try to bring the essential on the hand bag (like cameras and lenses) and other equipment not so sensitive can go on the checked bag. Also, if you read my past blog posts, you will find a series of recommendations on what to bring and in what quantities. Most people end up bringing way too much stuff that they will never use. Don’t hesitate to contact me if you have any doubts! A succesful photo trip starts with the planning beforehand.

 

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Good news regarding tourist visa to Brazil

The Brazilian government has issued a decree that says that starting in June 17, citizens from the USA, Canada, Japan and Australia no long need a tourist visa to enter Brazil. All that is needed is a valid passport. They now join citizens from other parts of the world who already had the same benefit, like all of Europe, other South American countries, Mexico, Central American countries, New Zealand and some others.

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Pantanal clothing checklist

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One of the main doubts of my first-time clients for a trip to the Pantanal is which clothes and equipment to bring. Most bring a whole lot more than what is needed, and a lot of things just go completely unused during the trip. So I will make 2 blog posts with a checklist of what I recommend. Travelling light is always more comfortable and important for our chartered flights. So here are my recommendations based on my longest itinerary, the Complete Pantanal Tour with the optional extension to the Atlantic Rainforest:

  • SHIRTS

Today I have a clear preference for the thin quick dry t-shirts used originally for sports but becoming more and more popular for outdoor use. They are very light and breathable, sometimes it feels like you are not wearing a shirt at all, and you can pack quite a bunch without adding any considerable weight or space to your bag. Plus they dry very fast so it’s quick to wash them. Get the long-sleeved ones and avoid very bright colors.  Since they are so light you can pack around 7 or 8 of them.

t-shirt

It’s also good to bring 2 quick dry shirts of the kind pictured below, and carry this in your camera bag somewhere during our field trips. Here’s the explanation: although the t-shirts recommended above are great they have one drawback – because they are so thin and tend to have a tight fit mosquitoes sometimes can bite through them. During our Pantanal trips in the dry season mosquitoes tend to be a problem only in late afternoon, at other times they are largely absent. When they become a nuisance just pull over this thicker layer and you will be fine. For constant day-to-day use I find this kind of shirt much warmer though.

shirt

  • JACKET AND FLEECE

Although the Pantanal is generally regarded as a warm place, it can get quite cold during cold fronts, with temperatures even dropping to around 10ºC some mornings! This is specially true for early season trips, so early morning boat rides can get really chilly! Pack 1 fleece and 1 good insulated jacket or warm windbreaker. For later season trips (mid-September and onwards) you might prefer a lighter windbreaker plus a fleece, if not coming to the Atlantic Rainforest as well.

fleece jacket

  • RAIN JACKET

Early dry season, from June to early September, rains are usually completely absent from the Pantanal. In any case, you might want to bring 1 light rain jacket in any time of the year. This is specially recommended for the Atlantic Rainforest, where we will find a much more wet weather. If your warm jacket mentioned above is water resistant than you should be fine with just that.

rain jacket

  • PANTS

Any good quality light weight pants will do. Bring 2 or 3.

pants

  • SHORTS

During the heat of the day and/or in our hotels you might want to wear a shorts. Bring 1 or 2.

shorts

  • SHOES

We won’t be doing any difficult trails during the trip, so most people will do perfectly fine with a normal mid hiking boots. Prefer water resistant ones. If possible travel wearing it, so it won’t weight on your bag. Also bring 1 lighter shoe to use in the hotel or even during our boat rides or even a sandal or flip, which is great to wear at lunch break. You can also wear a sandal in the boat, but then we reccommend to bring a pair of socks along for when mosquitoes show up.

boot   shoe  sandal

  • HATS

A regular light weight cap is the most common. Bring 2 in case you loose one. Some people prefer a booney, which offers more sun protection.

cap  booney

  • GAITER AND BEANIE

A light neck gaiter is a must have, as it offers great protection from the sun, covering most of the face and neck, bring 2. Also bring 1 wool or fleece beanie, for the chilly early morning boat rides.

gaiter  beanie

  • SUN GLOVES

Bring 1 pair of sun gloves, specially for lighter skin.

gloves

 

And this is what I recommend for field use during my Pantanal trips. On the next post we will talk about photo equipment, stay tuned!

 

 

 

 

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Pantanal: Giant Otters paradise

The Pantanal is famous for its Jaguar sightings, and rightfully so, but another great animal is also easy to photograph there, and offer (much) better opportunities than anywhere else in its range: the Giant Otter.

Giant Otter

Giant Otter feeding on a Pike Cichlid. This one is from the Rio Negro of South Pantanal.

In the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s the Giant Otter was highly endangered due to poaching for the pelt market. It was, in fact, extinguished from most of its range. It persists in many areas of the Amazon and elsewhere, with strongholds in reserves and now, specially, in the Pantanal. Here they have grown used to people and boats, and will usually allow a very close approach.

It is aptly named, as it is the largest member of the Mustelidae family, comprising all of the otters and weasels. They reach 1.7m (5.6ft) in lenght and feed almost exclusively on fish, with the occasional crab here and there, or even baby caimans! Atypical of mustelids, the Giant Otter is a social species, and we often see them in family groups of 6 or more. It’s very fun to photograph them when they are hunting and feeding or playing in the water in front of their dens.

Giant Otter

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Photographing Red-and-green Macaws

One of the highlights of my Complete Pantanal Photo Tour is the part where we shoot Red-and-green Macaws. This is a private reserve with a big natural sinkhole, which is basically a cave whose ceiling has collapsed. Hundreds of macaws nest on the vertical sandstone walls of this sinkhole, providing incredible opportunities to shoot these amazing birds in flight.

Red-and-green Macaw Toco Toucan

The time of the day influences on how the macaws behave and the light too, of course. There is a period in the afternoon where it’s possible to shoot them in the sunlight but with the background in deep shade, creating a completely black background and the bird very highlighted in the foreground, a photo that everybody loves. I also like to shoot in the morning when they tend to fly underneath the platforms, so we shoot downwards to get those incredible colors of their upperwings and spread open tails. Other birds inhabit the hole and the surrounding forest, like Amazonian Motmot, Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl, Spectacled Owl, Plush-crested Jay, Toco Toucan and many more.

Click here to check more details of this trip, where we also visit South and North Pantanal! We are going in 2019, from September 27 to October 09. And make sure to check the video below!