This is my photo-indulgent post. I have been pretty restrained up until now, but one of the main reasons I went to the Galapagos was for the wildlife, and the photo-opportunities for this. As a garden photographer it’s not what I’m used to at all, and I missed a lot as I learnt new ways of using my camera. Burst mode – what’s that?! But I also caught some pretty special moments.
So can you get up close and personal like all the websites say you can? Well the short answer is yes, because the animals and birds don’t fear humans; they are protected by a strict code and regulated by the National Parks Service. (This may be as a result of the historical fate of the tortoises, which were severely depleted by pirates and whalers, and even by Darwin’s expedition in the Beagle. Tortoises can live for months without food and water and the seamen used to stack them on deck in piles for a supply of fresh meat during their time at sea.) But I digress.
But should you get as close as you can? I watched one young couple from a different boat walk right up to within touching distance of a pair of blue-footed boobies for their obligatory selfie. Silvia, our guide, remonstrated with them in no uncertain terms. ‘If you do this, do you think the birds will continue to be comfortable around humans? Have some respect and move away!’
Respect is key, I think, and a long lens very helpful. I used a 70-200mm zoom for almost all my wildlife captures. It has a stabiliser which meant I could handhold down to around 1/80sec on a good day. Tripods and boats definitely don’t mix, and neither do tripods and moving tour groups. Apart from in Puerta Ayora in Santa Cruz, landings on the islands are strictly timed, and you must be accompanied by a guide, always. There are pathways or areas of permitted walking which are marked out, and you must stay within these, and keep together as a group.
This was a real challenge for a photographer used to spending unlimited (well it often seems that way) time parked behind a tripod with a macro lens and cable release, waiting for the millisecond when a miscanthus grass or an angel’s fishing rod is perfectly still. All of my captures were handheld, apart from a few before and after the boat trip. Another completely new experience for me.