Amazon Photography Workshop
With special focus on DSLR Camera trapping, macro photography, and night photography
When: Flexible booking for 2017 (2 days minimum within these date ranges):
Session 1: May 7th – June 1st
Session 2: July 1st – July 31st
Where: The Los Amigos Biological Station (aka CICRA) in southeastern Peru.
Price: Daily rate includes lodging and meals at the field station.
Single person = $150/day
Group rate = $100/ day for each person
Pick-up from, and return to, your hotel in Puerto Maldonado (~6 hours) = $125/person.
Workshop Size: 10 people max.
- Navigation on and off trail
- Setting camera traps
- Birding basics: observation and identification
- Primate follows
- Canoeing in oxbow lakes and palm swamp
- Night hikes
- Canopy tower climb
Topics & Skills:
- Camera basics (as necessary)
- DSLR Camera trapping
- Night photography
- Macro photography
- GPS and compass
- Learning to use natural light effectively in the rain forest
- Identification of diverse species
- Ethics of rainforest/wildlife photography
- Communicating conservation themes with photography
- And much more…
Equipment to bring:
- DSLR camera
- A lens reversal ring for your camera and lens combination: they are needed for macro photography, and are not very expensive (we can help with selecting the right one)
- Recommended lens: minimum 200mm if you have a crop frame camera; 300mm on a full frame camera.
- Waterproof storage (we are not responsible for moisture damage)
- Any other equipment you can’t do without
Whether you aim to capture images of a bird in flight, a monkey group darting through the canopy, or a frog camouflaged in the leaf litter, wildlife photography has many challenges. The goal of this workshop extends beyond just the techniques that will enable you to get better shots under tough conditions, but also to convey the natural history of what you are shooting. Photography is a highly evocative art form with immense potential to increase knowledge and appreciation of the world’s incredible biodiversity. Your photos can tell stories when words alone fail, and for this workshop, your stories will be about the complex tropical ecology of the Amazon Basin.
To facilitate your immersion into this unique environment, our instructor is both a professional photographer and an experienced naturalist, well-versed in the flora and fauna of our field site. The workshop is held at an active biological field station in Peru, best known by its Spanish acronym CICRA (
This is a customizable workshop that can be catered to the specific needs and interests of the registered participants. All skill levels are welcome.
About your instructor/guide:
Ishaan Raghunandan is a photographer and naturalist who has spent several field seasons at the Los Amigos Biological Station, gaining intimate knowledge of the landscape, flora, and fauna. He has served as a field manager for our Wildlife Handling program, as well as our Disease Ecology research team, and also served as an instructor for our Tropical Biology and Primatology field courses. In addition, Ishaan has worked with the Wildlife Trust of India, Archilogics Design (a design and architecture firm in Mumbai, India), and Sahjeevan (an NGO that works on natural resources management in Kachch, Gujarat). His work has appeared in Hornbill Magazine, produced by the Bombay Natural History Society, and he is a graduate of the Light and Life Academy, India’s premier school for professional photography. Ishaan has traveled extensively, honing his documentary photography style that is guided by a philosophy of immersion, making intimate connections with the people, places, and wildlife that he encounters. You can visit him on the web at ishaanraghunandan.com.
There are 11 primate species, 6 types of felid (including jaguars, pumas, and ocelots), and 595 different avian species cataloged at this site. In addition, we share the trails with everything from anteaters to tapirs, and you will also find a staggering diversity of herpetofauna along with endless entomological wonders. Located in one of the most bio-diverse regions of the planet, this field station boasts over 5,000 recorded species spanning 31 taxonomic groups, including giant river otters, caiman, and even anacondas.
- Emperor tamarins
- Squirrel monkeys
- Rainbow boas
- Poison dart frogs
- Titi monkeys
- Dwarf caiman
- Saddleback tamarins
- Brown capuchins
- Pale-winged trumpeters
- Spider monkeys
- Saki monkeys
- Jaguars and pumas
- Black caiman
- Giant river otters
- Howler monkeys
- Night monkeys
- Bush dogs
- Ocelots and Margays
- The cost for the workshop is $150/day (individuals) or $100/day for each person when booking two or more
- Local pick-up from hotel and transportation to field station (~6 hours one way) = $125/person
- All prices are listed in USD.
The course fee covers the following:
- Transportation to and from the field station from your hostel or hotel in Puerto Maldonado (once per participant). This will include a local contact who will take you to the nearby town of Laberinto (~1 hour), then help you board a boat to the field station (~5 hours).
- Lodging and meals at the field station.
- Training and activities related to the workshop provided by experienced instructors.
- Access to the internet while at the field station, although it is slow and dependent on the weather.
The course fee does not cover the following:
- Travel from your home to Puerto Maldonado in Perú
- Lodging in Puerto Maldonado (we recommend Tambopata Hostel, Hostal Peru Amazonico, or Wasai Lodge)
- Medical insurance, which is required
- Food in Puerto Maldonado ($5-10 per meal average)
- Costs related to exigent circumstances under which a participant requires an early departure from the field station
- Medications and medical costs of any kind, for any reason
- Camera and equipment – each participant should try to bring their own DSLR camera
- Field boots, headlamp/flashlight and other personal effects required for the workshop
- $100 of the fee is nonrefundable under any circumstances, unless FPI cancels the workshop.
- If you cancel 3 weeks before your start date, we will refund all fees paid (minus for $100).
- No fees will be refunded less than 3 weeks prior to start date.
- If we cancel the workshop due to mitigating circumstances, a full refund of all fees paid will be made available to all participants.
There are a few simple requirements to determine eligibility for this course:
- You must be at least 18 years of age at the time of the course.
- 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 advanced camera knowledge – we will accommodate people from a variety of backgrounds.
- Workshops have a maximum capacity of 10 participants. If you are concerned about booking, please contact us to confirm how many spots we have left.
- This is a remote field site, only accessible by boat, with basic accommodation. Make sure that you are aware of the lifestyle changes you need to make when living in the rainforest.
- All participants must sign standard liability waivers for our program and for the field station.
- Please read our cancellation policy carefully, as no exceptions can be made after the deadlines mentioned.
- Since most activities are conducted outdoors, our exact schedule is weather dependent.
We offer accommodation in basic concrete dorms (2 people/room) that have en suite bathrooms. There is the possibility of upgrading one of the private cabins on site, which has solar electricity. If you are interested in this option, please contact us for pricing.
This workshop is designed to be flexible to your dates and interests. You will want to arrive in Puerto Maldonado at least one day prior to your workshop booking, and leave at least one day after returning to Puerto Maldonado.
Your workshop is 2 nights minimum at our field site. These can be booked any time between May 7th and June 1st, or July 1st and July 30th, 2017.
Little to no photography experience is required; any skill level will benefit from learning to use their camera to its fullest potential. Must have a love for wildlife and the outdoors, as well as be willing to learn off-trail navigation skills. Even experiences photographers will find new challenges and opportunities to shoot in this enormously biodiverse region, while beginners will receive refreshers for camera basics before advancing their knowledge.
It is preferred that everyone bring a DSLR camera. In addition, a lens reversal ring (for macro photography) fitting your camera and lens combination is highly recommended. They are not very expensive, and we can help you figure out what best fits your needs. Next, you will want a zoom lens: 200mm minimum on a crop frame camera, and 300mm minimum on a full frame camera. Without a zoom lens, bird photography is impossible, and even primate images will be very difficult to capture. Lastly, you will need something waterproof to carry and store your camera and equipment; we are not responsible for water damage to your belongings.
- Rubber boots (can be purchased in Puerto Maldonado)
- Watch or alarm clock
- Water bottle
- Ziplock bags (and optional silica gels) large enough for elctronics
- DEET-based repellent (40% or more recommended)
- Fast-drying clothes
- Long-sleeved shirts
- Trousers for hiking
- Extra socks and underwear
- Spare towel (quick-drying recommended)
- Shampoo/soap/body wash
- Day pack
- First-aid kit
- Contact lenses/eyeglasses
- Inhalers & other medications (if needed)
The currency in Peru is the Peruvian Nueve Sol. We say 1 “sol” and many “soles”. The currency exchange rate is ~ 2.7 soles to 1 USD. Changing US dollars in Peru is a difficult thing to do; you will need to 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 Lima as well as in Lima city. In Puerto Maldonado you will have to change currency at a bank (so keep in mind bank working hours). Thus, the easiest way to get money is to use an ATM via a credit or debit card.
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 Peru. You can use an ATM in Lima and Puerto Maldonado very easily. The most you can withdraw in a single day from an ATM is 700 soles or ~$260. 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 at the station except for possibly 100-200 soles 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. You only need enough to allow you to return back to town in comfort.
You will require gumboots or knee-high rubber boots for all activities at the field station. You can buy these from home or in Puerto Maldonado. If you have unusually large feet for your gender, don’t risk it and please buy your boots from home. You will wear these boots every single day while you are in the forest, so if you’re buying them from home, 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.
While the weather at the station is typically warm and pleasant (~24C or 75F), we do get moments of cold weather coming in from the Andes during the months of May to July. We call these friajes and they can last anywhere from a day to a week. At these times, temperatures can drop as low as 8C (~46F), but mostly tend to be around 12C (~54F). Now a lot of you have definitely experienced temperatures a lot worse than this, but experiencing this type of weather in the rainforest is quite different from anything you have been through. Since the station is designed to keep people cool for most of the year, all the buildings are made of wood and wire mesh (to keep bugs out). Unfortunately, this lets the cold weather right in, so you have to be prepared for this to happen. Bring at least one pair of warm socks, a pair of light gloves and a hoody and some thick sweatpants. If you tend to feel colder than most, bring a little more warm clothing than listed above.
We cannot promise you a friaje but they occur often from May to July, so you have to be prepared for one to happen! The station will provide you with a thick blanket should a friaje come around.
The field station and the course 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 flavored 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 okay
- Camphorated alcohol – a local anti-itch/disinfecting method that we highly recommend (can be purchased in Puerto Maldonado)
- Antacids to comfort your stomach
- Band aids, tweezers
- An Epipen if you are at risk of severe allergic reactions
- Extra inhalers if you have asthma
- Antihistamines to be taken in case of mild allergies (something like Claritin/ Zyrtec)
No visa is required for a visit of up to 90 days for an American citizen. You can get a stamp in your passport at the Lima airport. If you are staying for over a month make sure to ask for the full 90 days or they give you the default of 30 days.
Visa requirements for citizens of all other countries can be found here.
Begin the application process early. You will need an airline ticket before you can apply. If you live in a city with an embassy then it should take about 3 days to get your visa. If you mail it in it should take a week. Be aware of possible transit visas for countries you may visit en route to Peru.
You will have to provide proof of a normal vaccination record (as listed here by the CDC). For travel to Peru, we require that you also get the following vaccines: Typhoid (oral or injectable), Yellow Fever, and Tetanus. If you have the flu shot for the year, all the better.
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 downriver to town in a matter of three hours, where they can be treated or evacuated to Lima for treatment.
It is advisable for participants to sign up for medivac insurance, as neither the field station nor FPI/PrimatesPeru will be responsible for costs associated with medical emergencies.
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 courses or research programs.
Participants will also sign a sexual harrassment policy upon arrival at the field station, stemming from recent coverage of this serious matter at field sites across the world. We take the safety of our participants extremely seriously and as such, will enforce safety policies for students of all genders. If you’d like to see this policy in advance, please do contact us.
You will be provided with three meals at the field station each day – breakfast (6 – 7 am), lunch (12-1 pm) and dinner (6:30 – 7:30 pm). 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, take a multi-vitamin while at the field station. Every single thing you eat has to be brought in by boat, so there are limitations on what will make the journey. That having been said, the station has excellent cooking staff who can make delicious dishes with even basic and wholesome ingredients.
Vegetarians frequently get tofu and soy meat substitutes, and being vegan at this field site is not recommended (though it has been done). You will also have access to cookies, crackers, coffee, tea and hot chocolate, at all times during the day (while you are at camp). If you think you will do better with cliff bars, please bring some for yourself. Any additional treats you bring (like energy bars or chocolate) will be fair game for a lot of small rainforest creatures, so bring plenty of ziplock bags in which to place your food. Also, avoid leaving wrappers in your rooms containing anything at all edible because that will attract some curiosity from miniature wildlife.
Yes, the station will provide you with sheets and towels during your stay. However, we encourage you to bring a spare towel for use while your other one is in the wash or drying. You do not have to worry about bringing a mosquito net, the station will provide you with one.
We strongly encourage you to bring your laptops to the field station, as well as your cell phones. Electronics have to be treated differently in the rainforest than you would anywhere else. Do not bother to bring a soft sleeve for your laptop or other electronics with you, because it will suck up moisture from the air and will envelope your computer/electronics 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 to put in the bags with your electronics.
Peru 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 Peru (see here for a full explanation). The Peruvian system uses 220 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 Peru. 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 consider bringing a three-to=two modifier (such as this) for your electronics.
Electricity at the field station will be provided via a generator from 6 pm to 9 pm each night, during which you will charge your electronics as and when needed. You may certainly bring solar chargers if you like. 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.
Yes. Internet access at the field station is available through a wireless network, but be prepared for this to be slow. When the station is full, or the weather bad, the network will not be able to support good connections. That we have access to the internet from the middle of the rainforest is in itself somewhat of a technological miracle – so please be patient with it, and request that your family do so as well. You may also connect using your cell phone or any other wireless device.
Yes, and the best way to stay in touch with home is through your phone. The phone network accessible at the field site is called “Claro.” Contact your cell service provider and make sure that you can pick up Claro service while in Peru. 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 as needed.
If your stay is only one week, this may not be much of a concern. Nevertheless, everyone does their own laundry at the field station (by hand), so you will want to bring (preferably) biodegradable laundry detergent from the US with you. You can also purchase non biodegradable detergent as well as clothes pins in the Puerto Maldonado market.
There is no minimum, although bookings of two or more people receive a price break. We will not book more than 6 people per session. If you have a larger group, however, please contact us; we may be able to accommodate by bringing on a second instructor.
The reasons for keeping groups small are twofold: we want each participant to receive individual attention and support, and we also know that large, noisy groups are much less successful in finding and photographing wildlife.
This is the Amazon 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 staff 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 Puerto Maldonado. As such, the choice to take malaria prophylactics is entirely personal – if you feel better about it, take the medication.
In recent years, there have been a few cases of dengue at this site, although it is hard to verify if researchers have contracted it in town or at Los Amigos. There is no vaccine, but there are cures.
Leishmaniasis is the one tropical disease that is found at this site, although it is quite rare. It is not a painful disease, but it can be unpleasant if left untreated. As such, if any student or researcher receives a bite that does not heal in a week, we advise them to get tested locally. This has worked for everybody in preventing leishmaniasis, and will be the rule for our team at this field site. In short, any misgivings you may have about using high concentration DEET are significantly outweighed by the unpleasantness of leishmaniasis. Treatment for leishmaniasis can be obtained in Peru or abroad at a travel/CDC clinic.
The recent Zika outbreak is of concern in much of Latin America, although a great deal is still not known about this virus. Since Aedes aegypti and Aedes Albopictus mosquitoes are the primary vector of the virus, we again recommend DEET to prevent bites. Please consult your doctor or a travel clinic for advice, as well as stay up-to-date on new developments.