Amazing Amazonian wildlife captured on camera during a biology student’s gap year
These images are from my time spent staying at a remote biological research station in the Peruvian Amazon rainforest. I had taken a gap year between finishing school and going to Durham University to study Biology, and wanted to photograph somewhere I had never been before. After some research, I came across aset of three research stations run by the Amazon Conservation Association, where I could stay and photograph the wildlife in the surrounding forest, as well as the work being carried out at the station.
I was there for two months, and I took pictures every day. Wildlife activity peaks at dawn in the rainforest, so after an early breakfast at 6am, Iwould set out on the network of trails through the forest. During the day I also photographed invertebrates and amphibians in a portable studio that allowed me to capture clean images with white backgrounds. I would then head into the forest again in the afternoon, until sunset, at around 6pm.
I had to work hard to find the wildlife, particularly mammals and birds. If they moved away from the trail into the forest I had little-to-no chance of following them, so it was important to move slowly and quietly. Fortunately, many of the primates were curious and relatively tolerant of me photographing them. The birds were a different story, however.
The tree canopy is very thick and light levels are low, so I generally had to use high ISOs. Even then, shutter speeds were frequently below 1/100 sec. It was hard to get sharp images with a 600mm lens at these speeds.
I had a selection of kit with me, but the set-up that got the most use was my Nikon D800 and 600mm f/4 AF-S II lens, mounted on a Wimberley gimbal head. With the low light levels I sometimes used an SB700 flash. The detail in images from the D800 was superb, and the high megapixel count meant that Icould crop images more than Iwas used to doing with my previous camera [the 12-megapixel D300s]. The 600mm f/4 boasts lightning-fast autofocus, and is one of the sharpest lenses I’ve used, while the wide maximum aperture was vital for ensuring fast shutter speeds.
A group of Peruvian spider monkeys in a tree is my favourite image, as it is the one that brings back the most memories. I spent several evenings up on the research station’s canopy tower, as the light was superb if the sky was clear. One evening I spotted a couple of black blobs in the top of this tree, which was some distance from where I was. After a while, I noticed that there were several more monkeys in the tree, so I switched my attention to them.
It was my first time in a proper rainforest and I was just completely stunned by the incredible biodiversity that could be found in such a small area. One morning I could be watching atroop of spider monkeys feeding no more than 40 metres from me, and the same evening I could be watching spectacular blueand-yellow macaws flying past me to roost.
Many of these images were donated to the Amazon Conservation Association to use in their work protecting the rainforest. It has been three years since I was there, but I am very keen to get back after I have finished university. On future trips I will have more experience that should help me obtain strong images. There are a couple of projects that I’d like to do in forests, but I am starting a master’s degree in October, so they will have to wait until after that is finished. Watch this space!
See more of Oscar’s portfolio at www.oscardewhurst.com
Fortunately, many of the primates were curious and relatively tolerant of me photographing them. The birds were a different story, however
2 BRANCHI NG OUT Oscar’s shot of Peruvian spider monkeys is his favourite because of the light and the inclusion of some habitat, but mainly because it reminds him of his time there: “I have it printed very large on my wall at home.” 1 Sky high It had been a dream of Oscar’s to go to the Amazon. He was based for two months at the Los Amigos Research Station. A canopy tower stretched 60m into the sky above the forest, giving panoramic views in every direction. 1