The Galapagos Islands is one of the best locations in the world for wildlife photographers partly because, as Charles Darwin discovered nearly 200 years ago, some of the species that live there exist nowhere else in the world. Amazingly, the creatures of the Galapagos remain unafraid of humans. They are more relaxed because they have no natural predators. They seem to know they’re being photographed—the giant tortoises, huge land iguanas and blue-footed boobies hold still and pose as if on cue. The Galapagos is truly a one-of-a-kind trip where you'll take unforgettable photos.
The Galapagos Islands, an exotic collection of mostly volcanic islands that seem to be stopped in time, are a destination on most if not all photographers’ bucket lists. They were on mine.
Since my first trip there, I’ve returned four more times to lead small groups of eight aspiring, or, in some cases, tremendously accomplished, photographers on a land-based photo safari. We base out of San Cristobal, one of the populated islands in the Galapagos, and make day trips by boat to different islands—Santa Cruz, Espanola, Punta Pitt and Isla Lobos—each day.
Upon arrival to the modern, new San Cristobal airport, Ron Modra, expedition leader, will meet and coordinate your hotel check-in. After check-in, you will take a bus ride to explore the highlands of San Cristobal.
Lunch will be served at one of the islands’ newest and most scenic restaurants, Otoy, set on the grounds of a sprawling organic farm. Here, every imaginable fruit and vegetable is grown, giving true meaning to a “farm to fork” experience. Enjoy dining al-fresco overlooking the farmland and Pacific Ocean beyond. Otoy has a hiking trail that meanders through its farm and bamboo jungle, with its colorful fruits, vegetables and flowers—and many giant tortoises waiting to greet you.
Grab your underwater camera, it’s time to explore the underwater world of the Galapagos. Lobos Island (Isla Lobos) is inhabited by a large colony of sea lions who love to welcome—and swim alongside—visitors. On this outing, you’ll walk and snorkel around the island, spotting blue-footed boobies, marine iguanas and frigatebirds, as well as rays and sea turtles on the sea’s sandy bottom. Lunch will be provided on the boat.
Wildlife: Blue-footed boobie, frigatebirds, iguanas, and underwater opportunities with sea lions, sea turtles and more. Snorkeling is available on this excursion.
Other Activities: Snorkeling is included as part of the trip.
Journey by ferry boat to Santa Cruz and Reserva el Chato, where the giant Galapagos tortoises roam wild. After a hearty walk through the forest and plenty of up close encounters with these fantastic and docile creatures.
Before catching the ferry back to the ferry, explore the harbor front of Puerto Ayora, the island’s main town and largest in the Galapagos.
Wildlife: Tortoises, tortoises, and more tortoises!
We are going to hike Las Negritas Cliff to spot marine birds and amazing views of the coastal line
Start off early with a magnificent boat ride out to Kicker Rock, a truly spectacular Galapagos landmark consisting of two volcanic rocks towering some 450 feet above the sea. When viewed from the south, the formation looks like a sleeping lion, hence its Spanish name, Leon Dormido. You will have the option to snorkel around Kicker Rock nd through the 19-meter-deep channel that separate the two towers; this is one of the best snorkel sites in the Galapagos. You have a good chance of spotting the native Galapagos Shark, hammerhead sharks, white tip sharks, eagle rays, sea turtles and many species of fish. Snorkel gear will be provided. Lunch will be provided on the boat.
Wildlife: Blue-footed and Nazka boobies as well as sharks, rays, sea turtles and more.
Other Activities: Snorkeling is included. Diving is also available as an add-on, so please contact the travel desk if you are interested in diving Kicker Rock.
Española is on the southernmost and is one of the oldest Islands in the archipelago. Because of its geography, Española has a very dry climate, and despite this, the island is the only known nesting site for the majestic waved Aalbatross (Galapagos albatross) from April to December. From the cliff top of Espanola, at the so-called “Albatross Airport”, the albatross line up single file, march to the edge, spread their wings and take flight. It’s a truly remarkable scene. Blue-footed and Nazca boobies mingle with the albatross, sharing the island with numerous other bird species. You will also find many marine iguanas around Española. Lunch will be provided on the boat.
Wildlife:The only place in Galapagos you will see the albatross. In addition, you will see marine iguanas, masked and blue-footed boobies, and sea lions.
At the northernmost end of San Cristobal, far beyond the end of the island’s limited road system, you will find Punta Pitt, home to all three types of boobies: red, blue, and Nazca. It is also the nesting and breeding grounds of the Galapagos tortoise native to San Cristobal. Only accessible by boat, we’ll journey here riding alongside the shoreline. On arrival, we’ll beach the boat and set off on a hike around Cerro Brujo, the natural Galapaguera.
Wildlife:Sea lions, red-footed and blue-footed boobies, tortoises, sea lions
“I signed up for the Galapagos experience solely excited to get the privilege to hang with some renowed photographers. Trust me I wasn’t let down. These guys are not just superstar Lensmen, they are renowned adventurists. Charles Darwin opened the window to the Galapagos Archipelago and now it’s journeys like this led by a elite Jedi photographer like Ron Modra that bring together the culmination of evolution, preservation and pure wonder to the lens of your camera. Magic!”
Workshop Cost: $6500
Deposit: (required to hold your space in the workshop) $1000
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Sometimes circumstances beyond our control force us to alter our plans. Don Smith and Ron Modra Photography cannot be held responsible for any unanticipated circumstances (such as natural disasters, park or road closures, inability to access locations, weather, etc.) that either prevents you from attending or from us altering our location shoots.
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A $1000.00 non-refundable deposit will guarantee your spot in the workshop. Balances are due on or before 90 days prior to the workshop.
Workshop payment refund: Your workshop payment, minus the registration fee ($1000.00), will be refunded if you cancel outside of 91 days prior to the workshop.
No refund will be issued if you cancel 61-90 days prior to the workshop but that amount can be transferred to another workshop.
If you cancel 60 days or less, prior to the start of the workshop, you will forfeit the entire fee unless we can find a replacement. If we do find a replacement, you may transfer the amount to another workshop of your choosing if there are openings.
The $1000.00 deposit is non-refundable regardless of when you made the payment.We realize last-minute emergencies can and do occur and we'll do our best to find a replacement but sometimes we just cannot fill the spot on such short notice.
Failure to pay balances by due date can result in being dropped from workshop with no refund of deposit.
Transportation: Participants are required to have transportation to and from the airport. Since you will be arriving and departing at various days and times, taxis and/or buses are available. Once at the workshop, we will have vans and commercially-licensed drivers handling all transport to shooting locations.
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Travel and other expenses: Under no circumstances will I refund any charge not paid to me, such as (but not limited to) airfare, lodging, car rental, or meals. Though I’ve never had to cancel a workshop, and consider the possibility extremely remote, for your peace of mind I strongly encourage you to purchase travel insurance to cover any losses resulting from a cancelled workshop.
Liability: Don Smith Photography LLC and Ron Modra Photography cannot be held liable for any Park closures or weather-related closures.
If you’re serious about photography, you’re going to agonize about gear for this trip; that’s understandable! I can make it easy. You’ll of course need two cameras (in case of failure).
You will be VERY close to many animals, and then of course there are some you’ll need “reach” for. My recommended kit is as follows:
High megapixel, fast focusing and responsive DSLR: Full-frame recommended.
If you carry the mirrorless with 24-70 equivalent and the DSLR with 80 or 100 to 400mm equivalent, you’ll never miss a shot. Keep in mind, the island visits are all supervised by a Naturalist Guide provided by the Parks Department, hence they are sort of “scripted” and you’ll have to be able to keep up with your guide’s pace.
To be clear: I’m not saying that you can’t use the super long Teles – I’m saying that there are really good alternatives and you’ll be happier with something easier to handle.
So there you have it, as far as camera systems. Focals from 24mm to 400mm (even 600) in two bodies. A fast prime (like 35mm f/1.4) could come in handy for fun shots but isn’t totally necessary when you can shoot f/2.8 on your mirrorless system or DSLR at ISO 1600 or 3200. Other lens options I would consider, but not say are critical, would be something really, really wide. Or, you can get the equivalent super wide for your mirrorless system.
ACCESSORIES - FIRST, THE OBVIOUS: PLENTY OF BATTERIES (AT LEAST TWO FOR EACH CAMERA) AND CHARGERS; LOTS OF SD/CF CARDS (I LIKE TO TRAVEL WITH ENOUGH SD/CF SO THAT I DON’T HAVE TO FORMAT ANY CARDS WHILE TRAVELING); LAPTOP WITH CURRENT SOFTWARE; EXTERNAL HARD DRIVE TO BACK UP YOUR IMAGES (OR ENOUGH DISK SPACE ON THE LAPTOP); LENS CLEANING CLOTHS, AND A ROCKET BLOWER.
Next, filters: you’ll need circular polarizers for your main lenses, and contrary to my general beliefs, a UV filter for protection (water, sand and the big bugger is sea mist). ND filters work best if you intend to try for some slow shutter work on the waves.