On as­sign­ment

Amaz­ing Ama­zo­nian wildlife cap­tured on cam­era dur­ing a bi­ol­ogy stu­dent’s gap year

NPhoto - - Contents -

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.

Mon­key­ing around

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

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