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SOUTH PANTANAL WILDLIFE PHOTOGRAPHY – I. Introduction
Views: 134089.10.2011 16:19:20
I fly, don't know where… (well that's stupid, but still nice headline)

After many troubles of the last few months I was sitting in a four-seat Cessna plane, my mind still in a state of limited perception and interaction with reality and I was flying over the vast plane of Brazil called Pantanal.

I still didn't know if my decision of coming here and taking some photos, even when I really like to do that, was right. I didn't prepare much for this journey, even if it was against my belief that the photographer should always prepare for wild animals photo shoot, "in order for the photos to be worth anything."

To be honest I didn't have any plan and even any great expectations.

I hadn't flew over a tropical forest before, well not that low over it anyway, to be able to recognize individual trees, and from the one hundred and twenty meters of height I saw that Pantanal really looked, at least at places, like a tropical forest I knew from the documentary films. And there was a bonus too - the river Rio Negro.

South Pantanal. Brazil. Tropical forest during the dry season.


South Pantanal. Brazil. Tropical forest and the river Rio Negro during the dry season.


Originally, I wanted to write "at our fly level of 120m" to make it look more aviatic, but it wouldn't be very precise. The Cessna was tossed up and down, sometimes dropped due to airstreams, sometimes it needed to avoid a circling condor, so we were flying somewhere between 100 and 150 m above ground, which was just enough to see the details as well as to make a overall picture of the place. And actually to take some pictures through the side window because I couldn't see anything from the front window except the sky and far horizon ("...how can they fly it when they can't see outside?").
I sat next to the pilot who seemed quite unconcerned about the fact he couldn't see from the front window and who sat with his chest pressed against the joystick (as some drivers are against their steering wheels) and the GPS he used to navigate would be just a blur to me because I need to have objects at a distance of at least 20 cm from my eyes in order to see them clearly. It was only later when Jirka (Jirka Ruml - participant and our flight and horse-riding instructor, author's note) answered my absent-minded question with an obvious fact: "He's tiny, he couldn't reach the pedals."
The landing was as bumpy as flying, but absolutely safe:




Déjà vu

As soon as we got ourselves from the little plane, we were welcomed by Marina, the co-owner of the Barranco Alto ranch, and approximately five Hyacinth Macaws flying nearby. Ondra (Ondra Prosicky - participant, author's note) was trying to be polite and he was hiding poorly that instead of welcome drink and chatting he would rather snatch his camera and shot off after the Hyacinth Macaws before they were gone. As we were getting our things from the plane and made some small talk with Marina and the pilot (only then I noticed how very small he was) the sun moved closer to horizon. The light begun to draw. On a grassland next to fazenda we saw a pair of Pampas Deer in a warm, dust-made-orange light of the dry season. That was too much for Ondra, he tossed away the last remains of politeness towards his hosts, he drew his camera from a bag and not hearing Marina's words: "...but Pampas Deer...is always here..." he run to take some shots. I heard Marina say understandingly: "OK, then later..." and with a half-sorry gesture I and Jirka were taken away too. Well "...maybe this is our only chance and the one with pictures would be Ondra." "No way!" So we shot Pampas Deers, Caracaras and Burrowing Owls, not to waste the opportunity, which might not come again. And it didn't seem weird that the Deer let us come as close as few steps and the owls stood peacefully by their dens, like they would for every night.
Twenty minutes after sunset, Ondra was still crawling on the grassland opposite the fazenda after a crab-eating fox which came to feed.

I shot Ondra.


Crab-eating fox and Ondra Prosicky in twilight. Ondra waits for the fox, the fox watching...


It was exactly the same as on the
Falkland Islands, when just after arrival we crawled on a local playground in the town centre, not to lose the photos of geese which were absolutely everywhere, as we knew later. To tell the truth I learned this from Ondra (shortened and edited, author's note): "Shoot it when you have a chance." Sometimes this works well and sometimes it doesn't, sometimes you would take the camera from him and...
I won't use most of the photos from that evening, except for the one with crawling Ondra.
The first night, little bit last moment, I summarized what I was doing there, more than 10.000 km away from home, in South Pantanal , South-West Brazil near Paraguay.
And it was not only photography what was in my mind.

How? A little bit different, of course.

Well, at least I'd try, I said to myself. I was there with my favourite camera, so I'd take some pictures. And as I was already there and I had a camera I 'd like, as anybody, to take as good photos as possible, of course. But what are these "best photos"? Photos of rare species which nobody else has? "Fondly made" photos of colourful "standing birds"? Documentary photos of wildlife? Technically challenging photos like "flights"? Or maybe some creative photos in lomo style? The fact I didn't prepare much didn't mean that I hadn't seen photos of different photographers, Czech and foreign, amateurs and professionals from this area. I felt they had many things in common. Not all of them, but most were too descriptive on one side and too "fondly made" on the other. And even "flight pic when in dull environment won't make itself a good photo ," we agreed with Ondra and Jirka. "To make a different point of view" is easy to say but worse to perform. In the number of species and opportunities which Pantanal offered to a photographer, it was difficult to avoid "collector" descriptive and moreover in the morning and evening light which was there every morning and evening, it was difficult to avoid the appealing, but in my opinion a little superficial, "fondly made pics".

I'd see. It was past midnight, the gents were asleep for a long time and we were going to get up at five the next day...

The symbol of Pantanal is Jabiru Crane, but 10 million Caimans that live in that area, that was more than human symbolism.



Bohdan Nemec, Barranco Alto and Pilsen, September/October 2011
Comments on article 'SOUTH PANTANAL WILDLIFE PHOTOGRAPHY – I. Introduction'
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7.2.2012 08:33:10
Roman
Dobrý den, myslím, že úvod se vám povedl:-) Fotka kajmana je dle mne přesně ta, která se odlišuje od těch prvoplánovitě líbivých. Je hodně povedená, taková dramatická! Jinak číst vaše články je skutečně zábava:-) Jen tak dál!
6.11.2011 23:24:03
Bohdan Němec
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