Photography in the Galapagos Islands
Capturing your Galapagos experience in stunning pictures is a great way to remember your Galapagos journey and share it with friends and family back home. But if you’re a rookie photographer who’s never really had much experience, you’ll want to practice before you leave so that you’re ready when your Galapagos adventure begins!
What kind of pictures will I be taking?
While in the Galapagos Islands, there are so many things to snap that you’re only limited by your memory card capacity!
- Landscapes (make sure to have the wide angle lenses for this)
- Animals (close up or zoom lenses are ideal)
- Action shots (GoPro cameras are great for snorkeling and biking adventures)
Myth: You need an expensive camera with a bunch of equipment to capture great pictures in the Galapagos Islands.
Truth: If you know how to use the lenses, filters, and camera settings, then a quality camera with good equipment can make a huge difference in your photo quality; however, a good photographer can make a picture look good on any camera with the right technique. Ideally, take a DSLR camera when you visit the Galapagos, but if you only have a point-and-shoot, or a modern smartphone, you’ll still get some amazing pictures, because photography is about the subject, not the camera.
If you’re ready to commit to taking your photography skills from amateur to pro, here’s a list of the equipment you should consider…
- Waterproof case: You will be getting in and out of your cruise boat and zodiac as you disembark on the islands and to snorkel. Take some extra plastic ziplock bags that your camera fits in. Or, better yet, a waterproof “dry bag” or Pelican case to thoroughly protect your equipment.
- Camera: If you want to capture the Galapagos Islands in all of their high resolution beauty, you’ll need a DSLR camera. While these have been around for years, recent models are better than ever before, and cameras that take excellent quality photos can be found for less than $1000 – after you fill up a few memory cards with stunning pictures, the camera pays for itself! Nikon and Canon dominate the DSLR market.
- Tripod: A collapsible, lightweight tripod is a good choice for the hikes and excursions on Galapagos trips.
- Multiple lenses: Wildlife photography in the Galapagos is different than nearly anywhere else in the world, as megafauna are not afraid of humans, and you can approach as close as 1 meter (3 feet) to wildlife according to National Park rules. So, you won’t always need a telephoto lens to get amazing wildlife photos.
- Telephoto Lens (70-200mm): Best for capturing most wildlife, especially when in a zodiac or from longer distances.
- Standard Lens (35-70mm): Very good for wildlife as well due to their fearlessness of humans
- Wide Angle Lens (24-35mm): Good for capturing the sweeping lava-meets-sea vistas in the Galapagos.
- Lens Filters: A good filter can make a huge difference when there is a lot of light or reflection – especially in the Galapagos, where the Equatorial sun is bright in the sky and casts a sharp glare on the water. Note that different lenses have different filter sizes, so make sure you get the correct size for each lens you’ll be using.
- High Capacity Memory Cards: Make sure you have multiple memory cards and a safe place to store each one. The minimum size you should have is 32GB, which can be found for around $15. If you know you’re going to be taking video or a lot of pictures, then consider buying some memory cards with higher capacities, like 64GB or 128GB.
- Cleaning kit: Microfiber lens cloths, brushes, solution, and tissue paper are a must for Galapagos Islands photographers, since you’ll be in an environment of water and sand, which could scratch or damage your lenses and camera if you don’t take proper care of it.
- Extra Battery Packs, Chargers & Backups: Always have a minimum of two batteries on hand (one in the camera and another charged), a charger that works with 110V USA-style electricity outlet, and consider a portable backup disk drive (and SD card adapter) to keep a backup of photos. Most cruise boats have a computer to aid in viewing and backing up photos onboard.
Snorkeling and Underwater Photography
By far, the most popular cameras for snorkeling are the GoPro type cameras which are designed to be water resistant and come with all kinds of casings and accessories to help you capture every exciting moment, from snorkeling to diving.
While virtual reality is a relatively new technology, if you’re looking for the next innovative way to capture the environment, this is it! When purchasing a 360 camera, those that film in 4k are the best options. Here are some of the top 2018 choices:
Photography is a hobby that takes a lifetime to perfect, so the terms here defined in the most basic way to help novice photographers understand their camera and its capabilities a bit better.
- Aperture: The size of the opening of the lens – it determines an image’s exposure and how much is in focus.
- Aspect Ratio: The measure of height to width; this is expressed as 4:3 or 16:9, for example.
- Burst Mode: In this mode, the camera will keep snapping pics as long as you hold the shutter button down.
- Depth of Field: How much of the image is in focus – the camera finds the focus and everything that is around that in focus is the depth of field; beyond the depth of field, the picture seems blurry.
- Exposure: How light or dark a picture is (controlled by shutter speed, aperture, and ISO)
- ISO: How sensitive your camera is to light – low ISOs are good for daylight shots, while low ISOs help in low light settings (sacrificing a bit of quality and definition).
- Manual mode: When the user adjusts the settings. Auto mode is great for beginners but it doesn’t always focus on what you want to capture, so knowing how to use manual mode can help a lot.
- Rule of Thirds: The idea that a photo is broken into a 3×3 grid and the most interesting shots place the subject on the intersection points of those “thirds” rather than in the direct center.
- Shutter speed: How long the camera lets in light before the shutter closes; in slower shutter speeds, anything that moves in the frame will be blurred, which can be either artistic or awful.
- White balance: The setting that controls how the camera interprets colors, based on its calibration to the color white. Usually the auto white balance is fairly accurate, but if your pictures seem blue or yellow, then you might need to adjust your white balance.