A Taste of Photography in the Tropics Part I

by Mayra Thompson

After the Rain
After the Rain

My camera is my companion when I venture into the tropical jungle. Sometimes, I am so
enchanted with my surroundings that I stretch deeper into the landscape, photographing insects,
plants, trees.. As the day progresses, I hardly notice that morning passed and it’s now mid
afternoon,. The leaves on the trees are still, not a blade of grass moves. There is just the hint of a
breeze, the heat is suffocating and my body feels as if I had been transported to a sauna bath,
except that I cannot reach for a towel and leave the room. I seem to be caught out of time.
Suddenly, I hear a rumble, thunder and I remember the song I knew as a child: Down, down, down
falls the rain, listen to the sound of the falling rain... I am soaked .


Just as quickly as it came, the rain stops, the humidity rises along with the heat, the insects
start to come out from their hiding places and I need to keep moving to avoid their vengeance. I
don’t wish to be caught too late in the jungle, so, I double back anxious to look at the
photographs, anxious to see if I captured that moment in time; the excitement of seeing that rare
plant, flower, insect; the awe of all things beautiful in nature.
Safely home and exhilarating in a cold shower, I start downloading the photographs Then, with
a Pina Colada with, family and friends, I sit outside until nightfall where a different orchestra
begins to play, frogs, crickets and I hear night life awakening.

 Bird in the Papaya Tree
Bird in the Papaya Tree

Photography under these conditions are difficult, but the returns are well worth the discomfort.
It just takes a bit of planning, precaution and patience.
High humidity and heat seems to be the most challenging problems for photographers in the
tropics. Humidity can reach up to 90%. The next aggravating challenge is rain. It can be sunny
with blue skies and 5 minutes later, there is a torrential rainstorm (rainy season). Vengeful
insects, thorny bushes and trees, and the list goes on. However, no matter, the challenges, Panama
boasts about 10,000 plant species; approximately 1,200 varieties of orchids; a staggering array of
wildlife, insects and spiders, reptiles and amphibians, mammals such as bats, jaguars, pumas,
monkeys and what say you to marine life.

Beautiul Sunset
Beautiul Sunset

The landscape is extraordinary with beautiful sunrises
and sunsets and this list goes on. But what truly amazes me is, well... as Russel Wallace so very
eloquently points out in his Tropical Nature:
“If the traveler notices a particular species and wishes to find more like it, he may often turn its eyes in
vain in every direction. Trees of varied forms, dimensions and colours are well around him, but rarely
sees any of them repeated. Time after time, he goes to a tree which looks like the one he seeks but a
closer examination shows it to be distinct. He may at length, perhaps meet with a second specimen a
half mile off, or he may fail altogether, till on another occasion he stumbles on one by accident.”

The River
The River

Thisis just the case whenever I walk a trail in the jungle, or, as we sometimes refer to as, "the bush," I will
notice that virtually every tree I walk by will be a different species. It never ceases to amaze me how, when
I turn and look in every direction, each species is so diverse and so different from one another ; this
differentiation, is the focal point of what characterizes the tropical rain forest. It is certainly a challenging
place to photograph.