The clouds furrowed over paradise, signaling an impending storm — and it looked to be a big one.
I hightailed it back to camp on Isla Palenque to wait out the rain so I could continue shooting under clear skies. Pausing on the trail to make sure my bag was zipped up tightly, I noticed something funny in the bushes and stepped in for a closer look. The descending spirals of a minuscule pale green vine delivered the falling rain to the forest floor in a corkscrew trickle: a raindrop waterslide. I prolonged my detour, no longer concerned about getting wet and with my macro lens at the ready.
View the slideshow for my best images from the wake and aftermath of a “ten year storm” that rocked the beautiful island of Isla Palenque, Panama last summer:
After the storm, I noticed new patterns emerging in the activities of the island’s creatures, down to the smallest members. The night sounds changed; different chirps and calls echoed through the forest, and the days showed the appearance of moisture-loving species you won’t see outside green or rainy season in Panama.
I learned that if you wake up early enough after a heavy rain, you can see all the spiders repairing the damage done to their webs in the night. Strand by strand, they reweave their homes still drenched in dew.
Even as you’re en route to more active Panama adventures on Isla Palenque, a moment’s pause will show you there’s plenty going on on the forest floor. Fascinating tiny worlds open up if you’ll only take a second look at the hidden treasures in the undergrowth: jewel-bright bugs, intricate plant life, tiny ferns, and beautiful tendrils. I found copious opportunities to hone my macro photography skills on Isla Palenque.
Here are a couple of takeaways that will prove useful if you want to take a macro view of Isla Palenque’s ecosystems during your island visit:
Macro Photography Tips
Find a patch of sunlight. The closer you get to the specimen, the more your camera eclipses the available light. You’d think that the jungle would afford great lighting, but the shade produced by the thick canopy is actually quite pronounced. And your flash does not always provide a good solution, since they can be too intense for closeups, and your lens can cast a shadow on your subject.
What I found most effective: bringing the subject into a patch of sunlight. Obviously, this situational tip depends on the creature you’re trying to shoot, but this was my Plan A when I found something small I wanted to capture.
Shoot using a tripod and lengthen your shutter speed to let in more light. Trying to shoot handheld with a long exposure time will only result in a blurry picture unless your superpower is the ability to turn to stone, so my tripod was mandatory for cloudy-day macro photo shoots.
Simply sit still for a moment. Many of my favorite pictures from the island were unexpected encounters from pausing to tie my shoe, re-orient myself, or just sip some water and take it all in.