Wildlife of Panama

The biological diversity of Panama is the stuff of legend. Standing as a bridge between the Northern and Southern Hemispheres, the isthmus of Panama is a place of immense beauty and a nation where new species are still being discovered every year. Let it suffice to say that there is a very good reason the Smithsonian has no less than 9 different research facilities in this tiny little country. 

Our workshop in Panama will be based on the north coast in an archipelago of islands known as Bocas del Toro. Named “Mouth of the Bull” by Cristopher Columbus upon stumbling across these islands in 1502, the archipelago is a labyrinth of lush islands covered in lowland rainforest surrounded by coral reefs and some of the most beautiful tropical waters you have ever seen. Thanks to the unique geological history of this archipelago, each island plays home to a suite of different species of wildlife – including a virtual rainbow of different colored poison frogs, which will be a key focus of this workshop. The diversity is so extreme here, that the Smithsonian refers to the whole of the place as the Galapagos of the Caribbean. 

Simply getting to our destinations is half the adventure. We will begin this trip in Panama City, Panama before hopping on a prop plane to fly over the mountains and up the coast to our islands. Once we land on Isla Colon, we still have a half hour boat ride to the island that our lodge is based on. From there, each day will be spent traveling by boat to various islands for photography – including a small rock of an island sitting out in the Caribbean that serves as a major nesting rookery for red billed tropic birds and magnificent frigate birds. 

Due to the distance of some of these islands form the mainland, neither jaguars or harpy eagles have reached much of this area. What this means for us is that there is probably no better place on the planet to find and photograph sloths. If you have been to Costa Rica to photograph sloths, nothing you have experienced will have prepared you for the extraordinary abundance of these animals in this archipelago, where we will have not one, but two different species to photograph. 

This workshop will offer multi-flash setups for hummingbirds, extensive macro photography opportunities with poison frogs and various other amphibians and reptiles, intensive training on mastering flash, rainforest bird photography, a virtual shooting gallery at the seabird rookery where you will fill nearly every memory card you bring with you, and much more. If you have ever wanted to learn flash, or if you are ready to finally master the use of flash in nature photography, then this workshop is for you. If you like boats, and adventure, and islands, and tropical paradises in the Caribbean, then this workshop is for you. Oh, and by the way, all accommodations have AC!

Workshop Details

Dates: December 2021

Price: $5000

Deposit: $1000

Optional Add-on:  Date TBA. A full day of photographic instruction in the classroom. Each instructional add on is geared specifically for that workshop, focusing on the technical and creative skills that we will be putting to use in that particular location. For Panama, we will focus heavily on low light photography, macro, flash, and birds during this full day of instruction. This add-on is designed to get you mentally prepared for the week to come by learning new techniques, and sharpening your skills. Participants tell us that these add-on days are immensely helpful, and we notice a huge difference in the field with clients who attend them. 

Price for the Optional Add-on: $500. Lodging is not included during this additional day on instruction. 

Physical Difficulty: Moderate – because of heat and humidity of the tropics

Skill Level: Beginner to Advance

Lodging: Included in Bocas del Toro. 

Meals: Included beginning with the morning we fly to the lodge

Local Flights: Included 

Not Included: Travel to and from Panama, Lodging in Panama City, items of a personal nature, gratuities 

Airport: Tocumen International Airport (PTY)

Sugested Lodging in Panama City: J.W. Mariott Panama City

Lodging in Bocas del Toro: Tranquilo Bay 

What to Expect

  • Multi-Flash hummingbird setups and in-depth instruction on how to do these yourself.
  • Light table photography with various macro subjects for unique high key images
  • Field studio setups for macro photography
  • Extensive training on how to master the use of both single and double flashes in nature photography
  • A day full of bird in flight photography at a red-billed tropic bird and magnificent frigate bird rookery in the Caribbean. 
  • First class lodging both in Panama City and on the Islands
  • Two of the best guides in their field, both of who used to work as biologists for the Smithsonian
  • 5 1/2 days of tropical nature photograph as we explore the various islands of the archipelago 

What about passports and visas?

You will absolutely need a valid passport for this workshop. As for a visa, your standard run of the mill tourist visa which is obtained at customs will be just fine. There are no special visas that you will need for this workshop. 

When should I arrive at the hotel?

We will meet for dinner at 6pm the first night. 

There are multiple airports in Panama City. Which one should I fly into?

You will want to fly into Tocumen International Airport (PTY). This is a big and very modern airport that is regularly serviced by all major airlines. 

Will I need flash?

Absolutely! This workshop will be a masterclass on flash photography. Not familiar with using flash? No problem! That is exactly why you should sign up for workshops. You will only need 1 flash for this workshops, but 2 is even better. Jared will provide the flashes that are used for the multi-flash hummingbird setups. 

What kind of lenses will I need?

This workshop will focus heavily on both macro and bird photography. Therefore, you will need to bring both a dedicated macro lens and a telephoto lens. For your macro, we recommend something between 100 and 180. For a telephoto lens, you will want something reaches at least 400mm. 

If you do not own one of these lenses, do not feel like you need to rush out and purchase them. Renting lenses is a better option for a workshop, and we can provide you with a discount from www.lensrentals.com

What about tripods?

Yes you will! Tripods are crucially important in wildlife photography and on this workshop you will need one. Though there may be times that we hand hold our lenses, in most instances we will want to properly stabilize our equipment. 

For wildlife photographers, as a general rule of thumb, you want a tripod with a load capacity that is twice the amount of weight that you will put on it. So, you were to estimate that the tripod head weights 5lbs, your camera body weighs 5lbs, you biggest lens weighs 12 lbs, this is 22 lbs total. And therefore, we recommend you have a tripod that can hold a minimum of 44lbs. Most likely you will need to round up to 50lbs for this. 

Another rule of thumb for wildlife photographers is to work with a tripod that DOES NOT come with a center column. There are thousands of reasons you will want to get lower with your gear. But, there is rarely any reason you want to get taller. Thus, a tripod without a center column will allow you to get your camera all the way down to the ground – which is critically important in many situations. 

For more information about Jared’s suggestion for tripods, click this link: TRIPOD PRIMER

For more information about Jared’s suggestion for heads, click this link: TRIPOD HEAD PRIMER

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    Please do not hesitate to contact us if you have any questions regarding this or any other workshop that we offer. To the left, you will find a simple contact form in place to make this process as simple as possible for you. We realize however that sometimes these sorts of onsite forms are difficult to work with when more lengthy questions and comments are necessary. Therefore, below you will also find the appropriate email, phone number, and even facebook account that you can contact us with if you would prefer.

    e: jared at jaredlloydphoto dot com

    c: 406-600-2047

    Travel insurance

    Fact: flights get canceled, airlines overbook, snow storms shut down airports, family members get sick, doctors occasionally deliver unexpected news. Life is what happens as we are busy making plans. John Lennon said that, and it’s about as true of a statement that can be made when it comes to travel.

    The recent loss of power to Delta’s systems that led to the grounding and cancellation of thousands of flights drives home this point. With so many variables and possibilities out there that cannot be foreseen or planned for, we highly recommend purchasing trip insurance for this workshop. The costs are surprisingly low and well worth the small expense. Trip insurance gives you peace of mind and allows you to know that if one of those little inevitabilities in life happens to pop up, you will not lose your money spent on your workshop and flights.

    CSA and Travel Guard are the two big ones out there. But you can get instant comparative quotes through www.insuremytrip.com

    We are committed to conservation. This the driving force behind Jared Lloyd’s work as a wildlife photographer. As with all of our workshops, a percentage of our profits from each trip goes directly to conservation organizations working on the ground in those areas where we conduct workshops.

    When you sign up for the Wildlife of Panama photo workshop, we donate money to the Panama Amphibian Rescue and Conservation Project. 

    Of all the animals on Earth, amphibians currently face the greatest threat of extinction. There are myriad reasons for this right now, but the one that gets the most attention is an invasive species of fungus that has been spread around the world thanks to the medical industry. Amphibians all across the neotropics have been hard hit by a unique disease caused by the Chytrid fungus which has caused unprecedented population declines and the complete extinction of many different species of frogs. This fungus was introduced to the Americas with the importation of the African Claw Frog. For decades, the African Claw Frog was used in human pregnancy tests which led to the wide spread international trade of live specimens. As these frogs began to show up all across the Western Hemisphere and Australia, so to did the Chytrid fungus and the current amphibian apocalypse. 

    The Panama Amphibian Rescue and Conservation Project is working to rescue species of frogs across Panama that are in imminent danger of extinction – such as the Panamanian Golden Frog – by both rescuing and reintroducing populations of these species where they have otherwise been completely destroyed. The Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute works closely with this organization as they race against time to save these species from extinction.