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Photographing rainforests

Published 19 May 2020 by Steve Parish

Rainforests, perhaps more than most environments, provide a multi-sensory experience, involving touch, sight, smell and hearing. Being in the rainforest is a profound experience for photographers. It envelops the soul, taking you to a peaceful place and creating emotions not easily communicated in a photograph.

Steve's Top Tips for Photographing Rainforests

  1. Research as much information as you can about conditions, distances, scenic and botanical attractions before entering a new rainforest area.
  2. Always pack for a day's outing even if you're planning a half-day. You never know what delights may be encountered.
  3. Pack wet-weather protection for your equipment: it's not called a rainforest for nothing! Take insect repellent, and wear leggings and watertight boots, particularly in the Wet Tropics – or the leeches will get you!
  4. Walk quietly – rainforest animals don't like sudden noises. Pick times when tourists are less likely so that noise is kept to a minimum.
  5. Take a tripod as some of the most appealing images to come out of rainforest are of waterfalls, especially after heavy rain when the fall is exploding with water. To enhance a waterfall photograph, try using slow shutter speed, say 1/15th of a second, and preferably even slower: around 1/15, 1/10 or 1/5 of a second. This effectively blurs the water, giving a sense of movement. You might like to try several shutter speeds then judge the result. 
  6. If the light is too bright to slow down your shutter speed, you can reduce the light level by attaching a neutral density filter. 
  7. To ensure a sharp image, attach your camera to a tripod and use either the delay timer on your camera or a cable release to prevent movement. Check the Apps on your mobile phone you may even have a triggering device already available.
  8. An SLR, wide-angle, close-up lens, flash and medium telephoto lens are great tools. Take them all in a backpack if you're planning a day out. 
  9. Canopy photography can produce great results, so don't forget to look up, and down as well as there are lots of potential images on the forest floor.
  10. Pack a torch: I've been caught out on several occasions. It's easy to wander some distance and then miscalculate the time to walk back to your starting point so your torch might save the day.

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Taking photographs in a rainforest. Taking photographs in a rainforest.
Examples of rainforest photographs that capture the essence of their subjects. Examples of rainforest photographs that capture the essence of their subjects.
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