Wildlife photography in rainforests can be one of the hardest kinds of photography to master. Not only are you fighting against the lack of light under thick canopies, but you are also dealing with the elements and recalcitrant subjects while you do this. This workshop will provide hands-on training on how to overcome the struggles of photographing in old growth forests abundant in migrating winter birds, awe-inspiring gaur, playful dhole, imposing elephants, elusive leopards, lightning-quick flying squirrels, and even a lizard that glides from tree to tree.
Required fitness level: Medium. The most strenuous part of this workshop is an optional tree-climb to grab views from the rainforest canopy. Though much of the wildlife will approach your cabins closely, you should expect to trek approximately 5 km (3.1 miles) with camera gear at the peak of the workshop.
- Workshop topics
- Food & Lodging
- Program Costs & Student Aid
- Explore the incredible, relatively under-explored, biodiversity hotspot that is the western ghats of India, an area where new species of amphibians are being discovered even as you read these words.
- Shoot in a field site directly in tiger country
- Learn trail-camera operation and placement
- Visit Ranganathittu Bird Sanctuary, famous for its influx in birds during this (winter) period
- Learn in small and intimate groups, including more one-on-one time with the instructor
- Take a safari through an elephant corridor
- Visit and photograph the historical city of Mysore, including India’s oldest zoo, and colorful local markets.
- Learn from professional field guide and photographer Ishaan Raghunandan, who in his spare time assists with disease screening of wild primates in the Peruvian Amazon.
- Basic technical aspects of photography
- Understand different lighting conditions and how they affect a photograph
- Composition and the language of photography
- Phone photography and post production.
- Moonlight/Astro photography
- Artificial lighting and balancing light
- Navigation and tracking techniques
- Ethics of wildlife photography
- Digital post-production
- Image management
- Discussion on Equipment
Ishaan Raghunandan is a documentary and wildlife photographer. He has used his photography extensively in the field of environmental conservation. Some of the projects he has worked on include Amur falcon conservation in Nagaland in east India, elephant-human conflict in Ranchi, and river system conservation in the western ghats. He has also kept the humanitarian side of his profession alive, documenting the lives of pastoralists in North-western India, while going a step further in teaching them photography as a means of communication with the outside world. He has also completed photography projects on the rehabilitation of mistreated sex workers and transgendered individuals for the Government of Karnataka. Outside of India, Ishaan has worked for organisations such as the Swiss Development Corporation and Field Projects International. Each summer, Ishaan co-instructs young conservationists in wildlife mark-recapture methods, going a step beyond photography, and serving as a field manager for FPI’s long-term research in the Peruvian Amazon.
Read his full bio here.
There are a few simple requirements to determine eligibility for this workshop:
- You must be at least 18 years of age at the time of the workshop.
- You must have medical insurance, and provide proof of such insurance to us to complete your reservation.
- We have no citizenship requirements, anyone is welcome to apply. You must obtain visas independently if necessary.
- You do not need any training in biology or photography – our workshop is structured to accommodate people from a variety of backgrounds.
- Tours have a maximum capacity of 7 participants. If you are concerned that you will lose your spot, please contact us to confirm how many spots we have left.
While traveling to the field site, three meals a day will be provided at reputable hotels along the highway. Breakfast in Mysore will be provided at the hotel that we are staying at. Once we have arrived at Fringeford, food quality increases significantly, with three delicious meals featuring Keral cuisine provided each day. These meals are healthy and will fill you up, but this being the middle of the rainforest, don’t expect to get all your food groups represented in the same way you try to eat while you are at home. If you are concerned about this, take a multi-vitamin while at the field station. The station has fabulous cooks who can make tasty dishes with basic and wholesome ingredients. Vegetarians will sometimes get tofu and soy meat substitutes. Being vegan at this workshop can be difficult (but it is not impossible).
You will also have access to cookies, crackers, coffee, and tea, at all times during the day while at camp. If you think you will do better with Cliff or Luna bars (or the like), please bring some for yourself. Any additional treats you bring (including precious chocolate) will be fair game for small rainforest creatures, so bring plenty of ziplock bags in which to place your food. Also avoid leaving wrappers in your rooms containing anything edible because that will attract some curiosity from the local miniature wildlife.
International Air Travel: Getting to India from a different country is accomplished primarily by air. We recommend using Kayak, Orbitz or Expedia to book your flights online. Local students can book on Make My Trip. Students must plan to arrive no later than 6 am on January 1st, 2018. If you are arriving earlier than this time, we can provide you with local hotel recommendations.
As with all of our workshops, a comprehensive travel packet that contains information on when and how to book your travel, visas, vaccinations, and packing tips, will be made available to all participants. This packet is provided to participants once they have registered for the workshop.
Please see the FAQs below for initial information on visas and vaccines.
The following equipment will be available at the workshop:
- Trail cameras (Bushnell)
- Gps, Compass
- Dslr cameras for learning purposes during classes(not to be used in the field)
You must bring the following equipment with you:
- Camera of any kind (yes, a phone camera will do)
- Raw editing software
- Rain boots
- Rain protection – for camera gear and person
Having a DSLR is recommended as certain topics will require a fully manual camera to learn. If however you do not own a DSLR, FPI will provide 3 DSLR’s available for students to use in particular classes.
Other optional items:
- Zoom lens
- Tripod (for moonlight photography)
The fee for this tour is TBA, and includes the following:
- Food and lodging for the entire workshop.
- Transportation to and from Bangalore to Mysore including the field sites.
- Experienced instructors and field equipment.
This workshop fee does NOT include:
- International travel to India.
- Travel or health insurance (proof of health insurance is required for workshop attendance).
- Rubber boots, binoculars, flashlight and insect repellent (all of which are required to take this workshop).
- A camera
There are two ways to obtain financial assistance for attending this field workshop. You may participate in both of these programs simultaneously as follows:
- Scholarships: This year, we are offering two scholarships to attend this workshop, one targeting an Indian citizen and the other open to applicants of other nationalities. For the application details please visit our scholarships page.
- Fundraising: FPI can now provide a peer-to-peer crowd funding platform for all field workshop students. You will be able to make your own fundraising page to share with your contacts and social networks. At the end of the fundraising period, FPI will issue a discount code to you for 100% of the funds that you have raised. You would then enter this code as you make your final workshop payment. If you raise enough to cover all (or part) of your initial reservation fee, you would be refunded that portion as well. Please note that funds raised in excess of your program fees will be rolled into our scholarship fund. Also, if you withdraw from the workshop at any time, your donors cannot get a refund. In this case, all of those funds would also roll over into our scholarship fund for other students. To set up this option, please register for a workshop, first, and then contact us at email@example.com to set up your fundraising page.
Please read our cancellation policy carefully before applying to a field workshop/ educational tour:
- $100 of your deposit made during registration is a processing fee that is nonrefundable under any circumstances.
- If you cancel on or before the registration deadline of Friday, December 1st, 2017, we will refund all workshop fees paid in full (except for the processing fee of $100).
- If you cancel your reservation by December 15, 2017, you will be refunded 40% of your workshop fee.
- Workshop fees cannot be refunded for cancellations made after December 15, 2017.
- If FPI has to cancel this workshop due to mitigating reasons, a full refund of all fees paid, including the registration fee, will be made available to all participants.
- Early departures from the field workshop are not entitled to a refund for any reason.
Frequently Asked Questions
If you don’t find the answers you are looking for below, please contact us.
No, this workshop is not offered for credit at any university.
Yes, upon finishing, you will receive a certificate that states that you attended and completed a particular workshop. It will list the techniques you were taught in the workshop.
Apart from the valuable skills, knowledge, and experience you will acquire, FPI encourages alumni to network, support, and collaborate with each other after the workshop is completed. In addition, our staff remains available for academic and career advice.
Other than specific training that will benefit those going into many fields, our workshops also entail pushing yourself beyond your comfort zone and being challenged both mentally and physically. Furthermore, this is a chance to visit a remote research station in one of the most bio-diverse regions of the planet, and to learn about the incredible flora and fauna you will see at every turn.
Preparing to travel to India
Download a packing list here. If you have questions, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
The currency in India is the Indian Rupee. We say 1 “rupee” and each rupee contains 100 “paisa”, the equivalent of cents. The currency exchange rate is ~ Rs. 67 to 1 USD, but this can change so be sure to check at this site closer to your travel date. Changing US dollars in India is not a difficult thing to do; we recommend you bring brand new, high-denomination bills, without any blemishes on them, for a bank to exchange them for you. You can find currency exchanges easily in the airport in Bangalore as well as in Bangalore and Mysore cities. However, the easiest way to get money is to use an ATM via a credit or debit card. The closest ATM machine to the field station is at Talapoya village, ~11 km from camp. Mananthavadi, ~19 km from the station, has SBI and HDFC banks which will exchange currency directly as well.
Things to consider: Bring two cards, in case one doesn’t work. Test that your pins work on both of your cards before you come to India. The most you can withdraw in a single day from an ATM is Rs. 10,000 or USD $156. ATM charges can apply, including conversion fees, so check with your bank about that. Withdrawing from an ATM is convenient, and prevents you from carrying around a lot of cash, which is always a much safer way to travel.
Traveler’s checks are entirely a thing of the past – just don’t buy them!
You do not need to have cash on you while at the field station except for possibly Rs.5000 at the very most, for emergencies. There’s nothing to buy, no stores to spend it on; cash, in short, is irrelevant in the rainforest.
However, during our first two days in Mysore, you will indeed want to have money on you to pay for any extras you might buy at a market, or for extra snacks or water for the drives, for example. How much you wish to withdraw will be up to you. See below for the expenses that will be covered by the workshop.
You will require gumboots or knee-high rubber boots for all activities at the field station. You should buy these from home and not count on buying them locally. Select a natural colored or black pair – polka dots would ensure all wildlife running away from you. You will wear these boots every single day while you are in the forest, so if you’re buying them new, break them in if you can. If you have sensitive feet with arch trouble, please bring insoles for your boots.
A pair of sneakers will come in handy during your travels and for use while at camp itself. You will never wear flip-flops at camp, for your own safety. You may however prefer to bring a pair so that you can wear them to or in the shower, or in the earlier period of your stay in Mysore and Bangalore.
Pack in something you can carry on your shoulders if necessary. Suitcases are not very practical at all. We recommend bringing a big duffel bag, or a backpack with most of your things in it. You’ll also need a small daypack when on site to take with you on all your hikes. Make sure that it is large enough to carry a field notebook, small medical kit, and a water bottle or two.
The most important things you need in the forest that this workshop will NOT be providing are your hiking backpack, a water bottle, rubber boots, a head lamp, and a pair of binoculars. Check your packing list for more details on these items. In addition, some things to consider bringing include a penknife (check it in, don’t hand carry – it will get caught), a bandana or hat, and energy bars as an extra snack.
Note: There are no mosquitoes at this site due to the elevation in altitude, so there is no need to use insect repellent while in Fringe Ford. However, it will definitely come in handy in Bangalore and Mysore. However, there are ticks you can pick up during hiking at Fringe Ford, so please bring some repellent that contains DEET for spraying on your clothes alone.
You will need to use a battery-operated headlamp with LEDs at this site. This headlamp will be your best friend and is useful since it is hands-free. If you’re interested in seeing wildlife at night, bring one that is bright and that has a red light option, as the red light doesn’t scare nocturnal animals as much. Headlamps will need batteries and we strongly suggest that you bring rechargeable batteries with you. This means that you must also obtain a small battery charger. If you can’t and have to bring regular batteries please buy energy efficient ones so you use as few as possible, since you will have to take all batteries back with you and recycle them (you cannot leave them at the field station). Please se the see the section on electronics for how to manage voltage issues.
Yes. Make sure that you have something extremely reliable as an alarm clock – whether you use your phone or watch is up to you. Please buy a digital watch with a repeat timer – this last factor is essential in allowing you to collect data while at the workshop. When at the store, please specifically ask if you can set a timer for a specific duration (eg. 1 minute) that will continually beep every minute. That is what we mean by a repeat timer. If in doubt, purchase this watch from Amazon, or something like it.
Passports are valuable items that you want to protect from mold in the rainforest. There’s only one way to do this and that is to put them in small ziplock bags (double-bag them) and then leave them entirely alone. I would do the same with any cash you bring with you also. Paper gets moldy very quickly.
The weather at the station in January is typically warm and pleasant (from 23C to 28C or 73F to 90F) during the day, but you might feel a bit chilly at night when it goes down to 9C (or 48F). So, bring a jacket or sweater and something warm to wear to sleep in as well. If you tend to feel colder than most, bring a little more warm clothing than listed above. Remember that it is better to be over prepared than under prepared in this regard – there will be no way to go out and purchase additional clothing if you are missing anything.
The field station and the workshop do not provide any medications to students. As such, they must bring a small medical kit for minor issues:
– A course of broad-spectrum antibiotics (ciprofloxacin is a common and effective one)
– A course of antibiotics for digestive trouble, and a small number of pills of immodium (to be used in emergencies only)
– Electrolyte/rehydration packs (hint: the juice flavoured ones are much nicer than the medical ones)
– Anti-fungal cream/powder (effective on yeast), particularly if you are prone to these infections
– Anti-itch medication: over-the counter lotions are ok
– Antacids to comfort your stomach
– Band aids, tweezers
– An Epi pen if you are allergic to anything at all
– Antihistamines to be taken in case of mild allergies (something like Claritin/ Zyrtec)
– A venom extraction kit: don’t worry, we don’t get snake bites, but these are useful in case of wasp or bee stings.
You will have to provide proof of a normal vaccination record (as listed here by the CDC). For travel to India, we require that you also get the following vaccines: Typhoid (oral or injectable) and Hepatitis A. It is additionally recommended to speak with your doctor or a travel clinic about the Japanese encephalitis vaccine, and to follow their expert advice in this matter. If you have the current flu shot for the year as well, all the better. Find a travel clinic and get your shots EARLY.
You may consider taking malaria prophylaxis if you like, particularly for your stay in Mysore and Bangalore. There are no mosquitoes at the field station so the risk of catching malaria while there is minimal. Please follow your health care provider’s recommendations in this regard.
The CDC’s recommendations for travelers to India may be found here.
We take the health and safety of all participants very seriously at this site. We look out for each other and take care of our team. The field site has stringent protocols on safety procedures in the case of an emergency that we are obliged to follow. If anyone should need medical help, they can be transported by car to town in a matter of 30 minutes, where they can be treated or evacuated to Mysore or Bangalore for treatment.
It is advisable for participants to sign up for medivac insurance, as neither the field station nor FPI will be responsible for costs associated with medical emergencies, however dire.
Before being accepted to the program, applicants must submit a medical history evaluation. This is not meant to discriminate against people, but instead to protect them from being in a situation where they are at a serious or life-threatening disadvantage. All participants must sign a participation contract, without which applicants cannot participate in our workshops, courses or research programs.
We make special references to an alcohol policy in our participation contract – we have a zero tolerance policy at this particular field station. You will also sign a sexual and gender-based misconduct contract (and so will your supervisors). This is not to suggest that this issue is a problem at this field site in particular. However, there has been a large amount of reporting on these matters in the press of late, and we want to assure you that we take any such violations extremely seriously. We want our students to be as safe and comfortable as possible.
Field Station Amenities
We strongly encourage you to bring your laptops to the field station, as well as your cell phones. They will come in handy for data entry, entertainment, and for completing assignments. Electronics have to be treated differently in the rainforest than you would anywhere else. Do not bother to bring a soft sleeve for the laptop with you, because it will suck up moisture from the air and will envelope your laptop in it, which is bad news. We find that simple plastic ziplock bags work better than sports dry bags. We recommend that you purchase at least two ziplock bags that are large enough to fit your computer. You can also purchase silicon gel packages online (Amazon or Jake’s Silica Gel are good places to try, along with local stores like REI). Put a couple of 5 gram packets inside the ziplock with your computer and bring at least 2 more packets with you.
India uses a different set of plugs than the US or England. The project will have extension cords and power strips that will accept US plugs; however, if you want to plug things in while you travel, you should consider picking up a small converter for your electronics that will fit plugs in India (see here for a full explanation). The Indian system uses 220 – 240 volts, instead of 120/140 volts as in the US. Please CHECK your electronics to make sure they are compatible before plugging them in at the station or anywhere in India. If they don’t work at both voltages, you will need to bring a step up converter such as this one. Also note that you will not find three-pronged sockets in most places, so definitely at least bring a three to two modifier (such as this) for your electronics.
Electricity at the field station is available all day around, technically speaking. However, power failures can occur, so expect to spend some nights in candle light. You may certainly bring solar chargers if you feel the need to, but most of the day you will not be using your electronics at all.
Do not bring a hair dryer, electric razor, or electric toothbrush because those are very much considered an unnecessary luxury at this site. We will prioritize charging absolutely everything else over those items.
Wireless internet is simply not available at this site, so please do not count on sending daily email updates. We will provide for a trip to town midway to the workshop during which you can make phone calls and check email, but please do not expect to have internet connectivity in Fringe Ford. You will have internet connectivity in Bangalore and Mysore, however.
Phone signals are available through most of India – but the field station is in a steep valley and thus, has found a blind spot. This actually really adds to the charm of the experience. In an emergency, we can drive a couple of kilometers away to catch a signal but do not count on having it at the field station itself. Also, during some of your hikes that take you up the hills nearby, you can catch cell phone signals for all the Indian providers.
In Bangalore and Mysore, you can get connected to the main network “Airtel” from anywhere. Contact your cell service provider and make sure that you can pick up this network’s service while in India. Then, purchase an international calling plan, pre-paid minutes, or some kind of international texting plan. This will allow you to communicate with your family at home, during those first few days, or in the middle and end of the workshop when we return to town.
If you have a smartphone, download Viber and Whatsap – both apps will allow you to stay connected with instructors while negotiating airport pickups, etc.
There is a small but functional washing machine on site that you can use to do your laundry on site. If you have any special needs in terms of detergent, please bring something different with you but basic detergent is provided at the site. Your clothes will be dried on the line on the property.
This is the south Indian rainforest, and as with all tropical areas, there are disease risks. Unlike towns, however, this field station does not hold enough people to serve as constant reservoirs for many diseases.
As such, malaria is not found at this site, and no one on our team takes malaria prophylactics. Your travel doctor will most likely disagree because their information is about the region in general, and it is true that malaria can be contracted in Mananthavadi, Mysore and Bangalore. As such, the choice to take malaria prophylactics is entirely personal – if you feel better about it, take the medication.
Leeches are of slight concern at this site, only in that they make hiking somewhat more of an adventure. You will be wearing high boots during hikes, and the field station will provide you with leech socks that do not allow leeches to come into contact with your skin. You will also hike with a salt container to gently dislodge leeches from your boots if they climb too high. However unnerving this sounds remember the following facts: a) leeches are not known to carry any diseases at all, b) they form a large food source for a variety of animals and are an integral part of the ecosystem in these forests, c) if you do get bitten, you will not even notice for they are completely painless and once a leech feeds, it will drop off naturally, and d) as policy, we will not be harming leeches at this site.
Travel in Bangalore
Visas are required for travel to India for citizens of many countries. To apply for a visa, use the following websites or contact us for more information if you can’t locate it online: Travisa or Cox and Kings
You can get an e-tourist visa as a US citizen applying for an Indian visa, which is a quick way to get a visa upon arrival in India by acquiring prior electronically generated approval in the US. The final stamp in your passport happens when you land in India, after biometrics are taken at the airport. Note: You must not apply earlier than 34 days before you travel to India, processing time is ~3 business days, and it costs $49 with Travisa. You have to provide a valid passport and confirmed round-trip flight tickets to apply. It will only allow you to enter the country once, for a total duration of 30 days. You cannot leave to visit any other neighboring country and return back to India to catch a flight to the US with this visa i.e. this is a single-entry and NOT a multiple-entry visa. You also can only have 2 such visas in a 12-month.
You can also apply for a traditional tourist visa, which can take a little longer to process and which involves sending your passport to an agency and getting it returned. You can, however, get a ten-year multiple entry tourist visa for ~$125 with a 6-10 business day turnaround, depending on where you live in the US and which consulate you approach. This visa should allow you to enter and leave the country freely during your stay, facilitating any additional travel in the region if you so desire.
If you are not a U.S. citizen, Travisa is probably a good agency to use since it does offer some global services. Otherwise, contact your local Indian consulate and ask them for help. In many countries, it’s possible to walk-in your papers to the consulate in-person and get a visa both quickly and independent of any agency. In some others, you have to go through an agency. This will vary by country.
IMPORTANT: If you are Indian by origin, or have recently switched from Indian to other citizenship, you have somewhat of a longer road ahead of you, so begin the visa process quickly for it can take ~2 months to complete.
As a matter of routine, the field station will follow its own protocol to register all visiting foreigners with the local police department. In order to do this, all students must carry the following to the field station:
- Two photocopies of your passport
- Two passport sized photographs
Please note: This rule applies to people with OCI or PIO cards (equivalents of Indian green cards).
If you have arrive before the workshop begins, you can take a bus or train from another city in India to Bangalore. We cannot advise you on where to visit – the country is enormous and full of things to see – but we recommend purchasing a Lonely Planet guide and working from there. If you arrive in Bangalore on an earlier date or via a mode of transportation other than plane, we cannot offer you a pick up. However, given that you have been in the country already, we can assist you with arranging for a cab to bring you to your hotel.
When you leave the field station, we will provide transport back to Bangalore to the airport. We cannot change routes to drop you elsewhere, so please be considerate of this fact. If you choose to travel from Manathavadi (the nearest town to Fringe Ford) on your own, we can drop you in town before the group leaves at the end of the workshop. The rest of your trip will be your own responsibility.
Step One: You will be taken to a meeting point for the group from the airport from which we will depart by road for Mysore. The drive will take approximately 4 hours, with a stop for lunch along the way. Please bring medication with you if you tend to get car sickness. We hope to be in Mysore soon after lunch, where you will be checked in to a hotel along with the rest of the group. That afternoon, we will visit the oldest zoo in the nation (opened in the late 1800s)
Step Two: We will then spend a night in Mysore, acclimatizing to jet lag, new food, the culture, and immersing ourselves in both natural and historical sights in the city. We will visit Ranganthittu Bird Sanctuary on the morning and in the evening of the 2nd of January. During the day we will practice shooting live human subjects, architecture and stills at the Mysore Palace and local markets.
Step Three: Next, we will drive to the field station using a slow route, on the morning of the 3rd of January. The idea is to spend time viewing wildlife in the forests as we go, and to arrive at the field station by dinner time. Fringe Ford is located in Kerala, one state over from Karnataka, of which Bangalore is the capital. The closest town to Fringe Ford is Mananthavadi.
Our Return: At the end of the workshop, we will go by road directly from Fringe Ford to Bangalore, leaving soon after breakfast and arriving before rush hour that evening. This is sufficiently early for you to catch a flight out back to your home that very night, but please make sure your flight leaves well after 8 pm if you can. The return journey should take ~7 hours to complete.
When all students at the workshop have submitted their travel information form (see above), we will collate this information and send you an Arrival Plan. This document will let you know if others are traveling on the same flight/bus as you and provide you with their email addresses so you can get in touch in advance (if you want to). You will also receive exact instructions on what to do when you land, and an image of your instructors so you can look out for us at the airport/bus station. More importantly, we will provide you with instructions on what to do if you find out that you have been delayed. The Arrival Plan will also include local contact information for your instructors so that you can get in touch with them if needed to let them know if your travel plans were forced to change for some reason.
Please do not panic about being picked up at an airport or not knowing who will do this until you receive the Arrival Plan. That plan will contain all the information you need. Expect it to arrive electronically just before Christmas.