Pantanal, Land of Jaguars. By Ossian Lindholm

The Jaguar, feared and admired by American cultures, protected by biologist and conservancy groups, hated by stockbreeders, threatened by the loss of territory, trophy of hunters, and sought after by the photographers. The Jaguar, Yaguareté or American Tiger (Panthera Onca), is the largest feline on the American continents and the third largest in the world. Until just over a century ago its distribution was very extensive, from the South of the United States of America to the North of Patagonia. But its population currently is dangerously reduced and confined to certain spaces of difficult advance for civilization.

Jaguar, Yaguareté or Tigre Americano (Panthera Onca).
Nikon D4 + Sigma 150-600mm f/6.3 1/1250 ISO3200 @600mm

Pantanal, Land of Jaguars

To photograph Jaguars, the most suitable place is the Pantanal, the largest tropical wetland in the world. Since a few years ago, it went from being a popular fishing region, to being a favorite destination for wildlife photographers and particularly those chasing the big feline. There, navigating the Cuiabá River and tributary rivers that make up an important aquatic network with numerous islands is where the Jaguar is observed from the safety that the boat provides. The alligators are its main food that it seeks by walking along the banks of the wetland.

The habitat of a jaguar is always associated with the presence of water. They can live in different environments, but have a preference for jungles and forests of dense vegetation with the presence of rivers and swamps.

 

The importance of choosing a good boat

The Jaguar is photographed from boats that have a capacity of 4 to 12 people. The boats are piloted by expert helmsmen who are also guides able to locate the feline in the thickness of the jungle. Therefore, the choice with whom to search is essential to achieve success, since the coat of the jaguar is extraordinarily well adapted to the environment, and if it were not for the keen eye of the guides, it is difficult to discover.

There are times that you can spend a whole day navigating without finding one, but others it is possible to observe several specimens on the same day.

The fantastic part of the experience, is that while sailing looking for the Jaguar, we have the opportunity to be enthralled by the important biodiversity of Pantanal; observing an enormous amount of aquatic birds, three different species of monkeys, giant otters, capybaras and tapirs.

So, as a photographer we must be prepared for everything, hunting for what walks, swims, or flies.

Amazon Kingfisher

Giant River Otter

Photography equipment

Cameras:

For action photography it is advisable to have a camera that shoots a lot of photos per second. In this way, when the action happens we can shoot a burst of photos to not miss anything that has happened. In addition, they must have a fast autofocus, and the more focus points, the greater the ability to keep focus on a subject that moves.

The reflex cameras (DSLR) are for me, so far, the favorites over the mirrorless type when we are called to action. If we choose a reflex called a crop sensor (APS-C), we have an advantage over the large sensor; this is the crop factor that we talked about in previous newsletters. Read this newsletter for more information.

In practice it means that if we have an APS-C type sensor a 600mm lens will behave as if it was 900mm. This brings an advantage in terms of weight and price: with less money we are getting closer to the subject and carrying less weight than if we wanted to carry a 900mm lens. But the cameras with a large sensor, called Full Frame, have great behavior in the face of digital noise that makes them unbeatable in low light and high ISO conditions.

There are 2 particularly interesting models with APS-C type sensor to enter the world of wildlife photography: Nikon D500 and Canon 7D Mark II. They are distinguished by their great speed of focus and shoot up to 10 photos per second.

Lens:

With respect to the lens for Pantanal the ideal is to have one that reaches an effective focal length (EFL) of about 900 mm. how we can do that? I can be with a 600 mm lens mounted on a camera with APS-C sensor, or a 600mm plus a 1.4 x teleconverter assembled on a Full Frame camera. Although we will not always need this focal distance, once we have the jaguar located in the forest or on the shore/banks, of course we are going to want to achieve the maximum detail of the animal. Without knowing the optical high quality that has a fixed-focus lens, in Pantanal the zoom lens is preferable because of the versatility that it gives us, the uncertainty of not knowing how far from the boat the action will occur and to the different scenarios in which it can occur. While we are sailing, we can have a giant otter at 3 meters from the boat, a monkey in a tree at 50 meters, or a bird flying relatively close to the boat. The lenses recommended for their price quality ratio are: Sigma 150-600 (contemporary), Tamron 150-600, Nikon 200-500, and Canon 100-400.

 

PANTANAL’S LANDSCAPES

Even though Pantanal is a wildlife destination, we need to be preparing to photograph landscapes because there are very interesting opportunities. Therefore we should be thinking to bring a wide-angle type lens to take advantage of such situations that may occur during the day. I use a wide angled effective focal length 14-28 mm mounted on my Lumix GX8 and a Sigma Art 24mm lens for use in a Nikon Full Frame.

 

CAMERA CONFIGURATION

The configuration of the camera will be different if it is landscape or wildlife photography. As we saw in previous newsletter my favorite configuration for this activity is:

Autofocus (AF): AF-C in Nikon, AI Servo in Canon.

Focus Area:

Nikon: Single-Point AF and Dynamic Area AF. Also you can do well with group-area AF for the cases where the cameras are provided with this system.

Canon: Single-point AF and AF Point Expansion (expansion of focus points).

 

I recommend reading this Blog to review focus systems and focus area.
Shooting modes: High speed.
Light measurement: Weighted to the Center.

Recommended Exposure Mode: It is essential to use high shutter speeds because we are shooting action. But it can happen that there are times that we have the animal very close to oneself, and in that case the depth of field happens to have a prominence in our photo. In that case the shutter-priority mode can play a dirty trick on us and result in photos with part of the animal n focus and the rest out of focus. Then we will see that we have other modes of exposure to work.

Shutter Speed Priority: choosing a high shutter speed: 1/1000 ó 1/2000
Aperture Priority: When we are concerned about the depth of field to achieve.
Manual ISO sensitivity: Some cameras have this configuration.

To read more about this topic I recommend this Blog: Exposure mode for fauna photography.

It is amazing to see how the Jaguar blends with its surroundings. It is very likely that we will not see it until an expert points it out

Jaguar vs. Leopard

The Jaguar inhabits the American continent (left) and the leopard (right) is found in Africa and Asia. Both belong to the same genus and are the most spectacular felines to observe. The jaguar is Panthera onca  and the leopard is Panthera pardus. They look similar, but the jaguar is stockier and more muscular than the leopard with compact body broader head and powerfull jaws. The jaguars tail is shorter. Though jaguars and leopards both have coats that feature rosette patterns, a jaguar’s rosettes have spots inside them. Both jaguars and leopards can have either golden colored fur or appear black, which is called melanistic.

 

Join us in Pantanal from September 16 until September 23, 2018.  http://travelvisionjourneys.com/tour/pantanal-explorer/

 

 

 

 

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