TRAVEL TIPS & EXTENSIONS

A Photographer’s Packing List for the Galapagos

AUTHOR Guest

Carol Sheppard, a recent guest and professional photographer, discusses her packing list and what camera equipment she brought while exploring the Galapagos Islands. Leave any comments or questions below on how we can help you pack for your upcoming trip!

packing list for the galapagosNow that you are preparing for your trip to the Galapagos, what equipment should you bring?

I love to travel, and even I find air travel frustrating and exhausting.  Camera equipment should always be packed as a carry-on.  There is no guarantee, however, that the airlines will have space for your carry-on.  Kind of a Catch-22, isn’t it?

My goal here is to help you to minimize the extra equipment that you probably won’t use, while still capturing those once-in-a-lifetime pictures.  The cabins onboard the Ecoventura ships are surprisingly roomy and well-organized.  There are shelves, cabinets, hooks, and all types of cubbies to accommodate your clothing and a reasonable amount of gear.

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Waterproof bags are a necessity, as you will do both dry landings from a Panga (a small motorized tube-raft) and wet landings from a few feet offshore.  If the waves are breaking and you are of moderate height, you will appreciate having your camera in a waterproof bag.  Throughout our travels, the helpful crew of the Flamingo I ensured that we were steady on our feet and that our cameras were well-protected during our ingress and egress from the ship.

Remember, it is essential that you respect the setback requested between you and the animals and delicate plant life.  Despite this, anyone with a lens of 200-400mm focal length will have no problem capturing every facial expression of a land or marine iguana.

I use a Canon 70-200 L-Series lens most of the time, but decided to carry my 100-400 lens for this trip.  In retrospect, I think the 70-200 would have been a much more practical lens and is the same (very heavy) weight as the 100-400.

Many of the newer point-and-shoots can accommodate focal lengths of up to 300 mm through a combination of zoom options.  If you have been thinking about investing in one of the newer, lighter DSLR lenses that offer an extended telephoto range, that would be more-than-ideal.  For serious photographers, a tripod will be cumbersome, but if you can bring a small gorilla-pod or sandbag, you will find many low-angle photographic opportunities.

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It goes without saying that extra cards and batteries are a safe bet.  Although I brought a wide-angle lens, this was used mainly for long vistas of the islands and volcanic terrain.  There are some beautiful panoramas.  The alternative is to shoot a panorama by carefully moving your camera across the terrain with a 30% overlap from image to image and stitching these images together in camera or in post-processing, thereby avoiding the excess weight and field-changing of lenses.

Underwater photography is a must; I recommend that if you are on the fence about investing in that GoPro or other underwater camera, throw caution to the wind on this one.  Only one passenger on our ship had a GoPro, but I would be willing to bet that I’m not the only one who has added it to my Christmas List.  At any rate, you will regret not having an underwater camera for this trip.  There is an amazing variety of underwater life, including several types of very colorful starfish.

packing list for the galapagos

The handiest equipment by far is a good backpack.  Don’t skimp here–it needs to be large enough to be useful in your air travel, while being sturdy and secure enough to pack your camera, lenses and other gear for disembarking by Panga daily.

Also, I feel compelled to stress that you must be MODERATELY fit to do this trip…you will be trekking over periodic slick rocks and uneven terrain, as well as some uphill-hiking.  There are many ladder-style steps involved in moving about, on and off the ship.  One pair of sturdy sandals with a closed toe (available from Clarks, TEVA, and a host of others) and some comfortable shoes for meandering around on the boat, along with a pair of completely closed tennis/walking or hiking shoes with a good hiking sole for traversing trails with sand and small rocks, was sufficient.  The pace itself is easy; there is plenty of time and opportunities to photograph.

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Casual is the word for clothing; bring lightweight clothes that are designed to dry quickly.  For women, I recommend some shells in basic colors along with Columbia quick-dry shirts for layering.  You won’t be expected to dress up, but dinner is elegant and some of our crewmates dressed more along the lines of “business casual” for dinner.

Along with good sunblock, these clothes and a lightweight hiking hat will keep you comfortable in the equatorial sun.  A poncho or jacket with hood is also advisable, as weather conditions can vary from hot and dry to wet and/or rainy as you move from island to island.  Another recommendation is that you carry either Sea-bands, Motion Sickness medication or anti-nausea pills of some kind.  The size of the boat and the time of the year will determine how necessary these are, but we did endure a bit of pitching as we moved from Island to Island.

All in all, I got the pictures I hoped for from this trip.  The Ecoventura crew knows that this is an important part of the experience for passengers, and they do all they can to accommodate this facet of the Galapagos exploration.

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