This time at the round table we've invited Filipe Frazao, Hel080808, Attila Jandi, Lakhesis.
Let us first tell you how grateful we are for taking the time, between your voyages, to help us with your answers.
In the interview below you'll find plenty of valuable tips and great stories that our photographers got the chance to live, but, most of all, they will reveal a great love: the love for nature. They are the people that look beyond the lenses, they understand what's going on out there and treat nature with respect.
“Rainforests are the lungs of our planet.”
Please enjoy our discussion.
1. What do you take in your bag?
Hel080808: I always have two cameras in my bag. Tropical rainforests have bad conditions for cameras: it’s hot and wet. Water is number one enemy of electronics. I wrap my items in a few large plastic bags with zips. I put the gear in the bag and seal it, so it can warm up. For my lenses I use the special plastic protection you can buy in photographic shops. An important use for them comes when staying in air-conditioned accommodations. That cool air can make your camera and lenses cool, so that when you take them into the damp air of the rain forest, condensation appears all over, and in your camera and lenses. I had this great problem when I went on a trip to Amazon and one of my cameras was not functioning. You can imagine how happy I was to have a second camera in my bag.
Filipe Frazao: Sunscreen, light clothing, however, that protects your body as there are lots of mosquitoes, repellents, sunglasses, backpacks and lots of energy to explore the place.
Attila Jandi: Usually I travel with groups which I lead myself. Travelling light is always a better option, as it gives me freedom to move easily. A backpack is much comfortable than big suitcases. I take only few clothes with me as washing on the way is easy or simply I buy some new stuffs on the spot. A proper pair of shoes is essential, as sometimes walking is needed to get a shot of the animals. Sunglasses, suncream and anti-mosquito repellent is also a must.
Lakhesis: I try to minimize the weight of my backpack to make it compact. Now my set consists of Fujifilm X-T1, Fujinon XF 10-24 mm 1/4 and Fujinon XF 35 mm 1/4 lenses, Sony FDR-AX100 video, Gitzo Travel tripod, polarizing and ND filters, spare memory cards and batteries. If I plan to shoot animals then I take Fujinon XF 55-200
2. What led you to rainforest photography?
Hel080808: I was a teacher for art and I studied the work of great painters. I learned how painters create their works and what they want to show to the viewer of their paintings. From my beginning as a photographer I didn’t want to show only what everyone could see, I liked to capture the special atmosphere and make an allegory of mystical world. But it takes a long time to get the first small step ahead. Now I’m very happy that Dreamstime also accepts photos that are processed. I think it’s the same as producing illustrations. Not to be used by any designer, just only for special orders.
Filipe Frazao: The challenge of exploring a world that usually don't go! And of course have the opportunity to see a nature that has not yet been touched.
Attila Jandi: Loving of nature. I was inspired by the tropics since my childhood. I was dreaming of travelling to nature in Africa and Asia, and when as I was able to do it I started my lifetime adventure. As a kid I wanted to be a zoologist, although my life led me to a different way, it is still a great hobby, which determines my life.
Lakhesis: My own nature. You just need to understand what you like most of all, where you feel free and comfortable, what inspires you, for which place are you ready to go.
3. Your best shot. Please share the story behind it.
Hel080808: We wanted to visit the Iguazu Waterfalls in Argentina. The weather was very nice when we walked through the rainforest to the falls. Suddenly the weather changed very fast and all people run as fast as they could to take shelter under the huge trees.
Filipe Frazao: I will never forget when one day I woke up in the morning and several Blue Macaws were in front of my bedroom window, it was awesome! The shot was amazing.
Attila Jandi: It is difficult to choose one best. I have lots of favorites. I chose this time to show some shots of proboscis monkeys (Nasalis larvatus). The proboscis is endemic to the island of Borneo. It is named after its huge nose, normally the adult males wear. The local people call it Dutch monkey, as when a century or so ago the Dutch arrived to Borneo their noses were much bigger than the locals’. It is not very difficult to find these little guys, although sightings are not guaranteed, you can easily find them in the mangrove forest around Santubong River in Sarawak, about 40 minutes away from Kuching. You have to take the cruise and can enjoy the monkeys from the boat. But it is not easy to take images of them from a moving boat and normally they are at a distance. They are not very active in hot, sunny days, but after rain it is a perfect time to see them. A better option is to go to Bako National Park in Sarawak as well, preferably to stay overnight. If you are lucky you can find them 5-6 meters away and this is the best place to take photos of them. Also they come out from the forest sometimes, so you will have enough light as well.
Lakhesis: Each new journey brings a new best shot. It is difficult to single out one. Now I think these two to be the most successful.
They were taken in Malaysia Mossy Forest and practically on one and the same spot which is amazing. Fog in the morning and sunlight during the day change everything beyond recognition. In one day you can see countless different states of the rainforest.
4. Your favorite place for this type of photography?
Hel080808: Each place has its own unique beauty like a quiet symphony. I want my images should have the feeling of something mystic, unreal or surreal like works of my loved artists Rousseau (The Dream) or Max Ernst (La nature à l’aurore).
Filipe Frazao: My favorite places are Amazon and Pantanal! It's really awesome. For example, Pantanal is the biggest wetlands in the world.
Attila Jandi: Not exactly jungle, but the plains in Kenya and Tanzania are always a great place to find animals. But if we are speaking of jungles or rainforests, Borneo and the volcanos in Rwanda and Uganda are my favorite places.
Lakhesis: Each forest is different from the other. A common name ‘rainforest’ gives only a general idea of what you can expect. From my experience Thailand has the greatest variety. In the north of the forests are more humid and mossy, on the southern islands there are plants of incredible size which change rapidly depending on the humidity of the season. Besides rivers and waterfalls are also a rainforest. The forest in North Sumatra (Indonesia) is very special. The nature of these forests is more severe and majestic, it is inaccessible and, on the other hand, it is incredibly fragile. There you understand that the life of the inhabitants of the rainforests is not an easy fairy tale but a struggle for existence, which is the basis of evolution. The absolute bonus of such a forest is orangutans which cannot be found elsewhere.
5. Your best adventure.
Hel080808: The mountain rainforest of Uganda was very adventurous. I did the gorilla-trekking two times. At the first day we had heavy rainfall, when we had to climb up the steep slippery mountains without any foothold. It wasn’t easy to see roots under layers of leaves. Branches, small trunks and stones came rolling down. We had to adhere to every branch or vine we could get. Hands were bleeding from thorns, although we were wearing special gloves. And then – after three or four hours we saw the gorillas in the trees above us. It was so steep, that we had to hold fast onto a branch or tree. With the other hand we tried to clear our photo-equipment. It was humid and rainy. And the lens was steamed up and the camera gets wet. It was terrible! It lasted minutes to get the lens clear – but - the gorillas were gone. Contrary to that the second trek was like a cakewalk with sunshine, easy paths and gorillas playing in a nice valley. As result from injuries of the first trekking, not all of us were able to come with us. What a pity!
Filipe Frazao: The best adventure was one day that I took the boat to go to one of biggest wetlands in the world, the nature there was unbelievable.
Attila Jandi: Well, I have quite a few. Visiting Komodo dragon or the mountain gorillas. Running away on foot from a charging rhino was threatening (never ever get out of your car!!!!). Watching a group of hippos moving below our boat and hoping they will not turn us around is also an experience I will not forget. But I think the gorillas would be the best, as I was lucky to see SUSA group in Rwanda, which were studied by Dian Fossey in the 1980s.
Lakhesis: Kayaking with a friend through Sri Lanka's mangrove forests. Nature, lizards looking like prehistoric dinosaurs are incredible and absolutely beautiful. Besides, it was my first kayaking experience and it was fun.
6. Favorite plants and animals?
Hel080808: Favorite plants are the huge Banyan Trees or Ficus Trees. Favorite animals are all kind of apes and monkeys. Most notably gorillas and chimpanzees.
Filipe Frazao: My favorite plant is the Victoria Regia, it's possible to find it in Amazon. And the Blue Macaws are so cute!
Attila Jandi: My favorite shots are of carnivores and monkeys. It is always a delight to find a monkey playing, see the orangutans or gorillas in their natural habitat. Also a lion going after a prey is an unforgettable experience. I use Nikon stuff, at the moment a D7100 with different lenses. In a rainforest you need a good lens because of the lack of light, also you must set your camera ISO up to 800-1000. If you are travelling in the savannah, ISO 100 is good in nice weather, but you need a lens of 3-500 mm to take shots of animals at a distance. Photographing birds at full flight or animals on the move is not easy, as you do not have time to set your camera manually all the time. Normally I set my camera speed at 1000. That is enough to take a shot of a flying bird. Also I shoot multiple times, so I can choose the best shots later.
Lakhesis: Orchids, Aerial roots and creeping vines. Among animal species there are insects and reptiles which always amaze me. Lizards, mantises, beetles, scorpions and a lot of other similar creatures. They are ideal creations of nature which have survived since the time of the primitive forests.
7. What does it take to be a good nature photographer?
Hel080808: Main thing is to see the beauty and variety of nature.
Filipe Frazao: First of all you must plan everything. All the lens you will bring with you, the places you will stay, study a lot the region. In my opinion is the basic of the success.
Attila Jandi: How to be a good nature photographer? Very good question. I am not professional, it is for me a hobby which makes my life happy. If you ask me, well definiately you need a good camera stuff – this is only question of money. But this is just the beginning. You have to search out the best places and best time to find the wanted animal. Respect and love nature and animals. Then patience and patience and patience. Do not forget you want to take a photo of the animal, not that the animal wants to be photographed. Upwind is also essential, so animals can not smell your presence and do not run away. Nature colored clothes and a tent is also useful. But to repeat myself, I am not professional, so sometimes I am lucky, sometimes I am bumped. I was lucky enough to see gorillas in the wild, but I was going after chimpanzees for two days in vain. Sometimes up, sometimes down.
Lakhesis: It is simple. You must fall in love. And then everything will happen naturally. Well, do not rush anywhere. It is important to simply stop and observe, consider the details, move a few steps away from the path, look back, sit down or lift your head up. It is simple but effective. In addition, while editing I try to convey the mood of the place the way I saw it at that moment.
8. What’s the essence of a rainforest?
Hel080808: I love forests and especially rainforest because you can find amazing colors, unusual forms and shapes and other exotic attractions. And some day I would like to make transfer that what I see in what’s beyond belief.
Filipe Frazao: Tropical rainforests are characterized by a warm and wet climate with no substantial dry season. So you must decide if you want to go in dry season or the wet season. On the dry season you will see much more animals and the water from wetlands will be dry. The wet season will be the opposite.
Attila Jandi: Rainforests are the lungs of our planet. Destroying them will lead us an irreversible natural disaster. We can experience how climate is changing. Totally unknown diseases can appear from the deep of the jungle or our irresponsible behavior can take animal species to extinction. Orangutans in Borneo are in high danger for example, as we use palm oil daily (we might not even know about it) and the demand leads the local companies to destroy the jungle to plant oil palm trees. If we do not change it right now, our grandchildren will have no chance to see these beautiful creatures in the wild at all.
Lakhesis: It is difficult to say for sure. I think the thing is that the forest is not just a set of plants and animals but their interaction. This is all one living and rapidly changing organism with its own cycles.
9. Is it safe? What precautions do you take when photographing rainforests?
Hel080808: Very important are good and grippy shoes. In some areas you should have to take a guide for your safety. He will help you find the right way and has the knowledge about domestic wild animals.
Filipe Frazao: It depends. Many areas are not safe! So one tip is don't forget a zoom lens, most animals you will see far away from you. And plan well where you will be staying. This makes a lot of difference about what you are going to see!
Attila Jandi: Some people are frightened to go to the jungle. Yes, jungle, savannah can be dangerous if you do not respect the animals. Do not forget, it is their home and we are just guests there. Do not go too close to the animal, never ever touch them. Do not feed them and if you see any mother with a babe take special care, moms can be aggressive in order to protect their little ones. Always follow the instructions of your leader. Try to enjoy every moment, never start thinking of what you did not see, but be happy of what you have seen. For some places you need injections before leaving, yellow fever is the most important, as it can be fatal. Malaria is also a risk. There is no injection against it, you have to take pills. Unfortunately some pills have side effects, also can damage your liver. Also malaria has quite a few varieties, so there is no 100 percent protection. I got malaria in Kenya during rainy season while taking the pills. So personally I recommend to take the pills, but I do not do it for a while, as do not want to damage my liver. For an average person it is OK, as they go once or twice a year to a place which is affected by malaria, but I go so frequently, that it would harm my health. The most important is to see a doctor in case of fever in the next couple of months after your trip, and ask for a malaria test. If it is caught in time, it is curable. If you neglect it, it can have very serious consequences. If you have fever see a doctor on the spot as soon as possible. Do not wait until you reach home. Malaria can kill in 48 hours! Some simple rules and your trip will be safe and a lifetime experience.
Lakhesis: This is dangerous if you allow yourself to be careless. If you doubt yourself, take a guide. But in most cases it is safe when you follow the basic rules.
- Equipment protection. Unfortunately, I am not very careful in this respect, especially when I am too engaged in photographing. My cameras fell, they soaked in the rain and got dirty in sticky mud, filters broke and blends were lost. I take it as a necessary "sacrifice" to the pictures. I have wet wipes and a small dry towel. A classic technique of protecting the camera from rain is a few shower caps. A rainproof cover for the backpack.
- Clothes, shoes and personal protection. Almost always it will be slippery and I am likely to walk on water. I love light trekking sandals. They are not slippery and dry quickly. Light clothing with long sleeves and pants will protect from mosquitoes and scratches. Many plants have sharp spines or edges. It is better not to touch them. An anti-mosquito repellent, a plaster, a raincoat, water. Animals try not to cross their paths with humans so just look under your feet. Actually that is all. From a rainforest you in most cases will go out wet, dirty and hopefully satisfied.
10. What’s next?
Hel080808: I’d like to think that I can go to Costa Rica. I can very well imagine enjoying the great nature and the biological diversity.
Filipe Frazao: I will go to Africa! Safari.
Attila Jandi: My next destination is a forever favorite Tanzania. Next week I am off to Serengeti and Ngorongoro. I expect to see prides of lions, hopefully leopard and cheetah. Elephants, giraffes are abundant and the grazers and browsers have their little calves at this time.
Lakhesis: Three weeks ago I returned from a 4 month trip. I have many new shots, including of the rainforest ones. A lot of work is to be done and I hope soon my portfolio will be filled up with new photos and videos.
Nice idea for sharing interview.
Interesting blog ! Amazing location .Thanks for sharing :)
Wonderful blog. thanks for sharing.
Wonderful blog.Thanks for sharing.
Wow, amazing blog, so much information. Thanks for sharing.
Photographs to save the planet! :)
A wonderful blog and so much to learn from. Even if you don't go to Borneo or other exotic locations, lessons to be learned about the discipline of a good shoot.
Wonderful blog. So much detail and so many things to learn from. Even if you don't go to Borneo or other exotic locations, learning about the discipline of good shoot is important.