Octavio Salles Photography

Photo Tours in Brazil

Posts Tagged ‘photo’

A common visit by an uncommon visitor

Posted by campossallesfotografia on 22 de October de 2010

Every year is the same. With the summer approaching and its calm, warm nights, I start to hear a strange and somewhat gosthly whistled song echoying through the calm neighbourhood I live in. For me, this is one of the “songs of summer”, much like warblers are to many north-americans. The song comes from one of the weirdest birds of all, the Potoo.

http://www.xeno-canto.org/embed.php?XC=16810&simple=1
Potoo song recorded by Richard C. Hoyer in Ceará State, Brazil.

During the day this bird remains motionless perched at a branch, trying to resemble a part of the branch itself, or a broken branch. Sometimes they do it so well that it’s hard to actually see the bird, even though you might be looking straight at it! They are active only at night, when they fly from fixed perches to capture large moths, aided by their huge mouths and large eyes, which shows they have excellent eyesight.

This week I found another daytime perch of a Potoo, just a hundred meters from home. I shot some pics, but the background is quite busy, so no great pics here. The bird was there for the last 3 days, he might still be there, I’m gonna check it out later.

A Common Potoo doing that hello there... look.

The eyelids of these birds are quite interesting. During the day they keep their eyes shut most of the time to help with their camouflage against predators. However, even with their eyes shut, they are still seeying everything that is happening around them. Their eyelids have two small peek-through openings. You can see it clearly on the photo below:

Common Potoo and it's peek-through eyelids.

There are 5 known species of potoos in Brazil, however, I and several ornithologists think there might be more just waiting to be discovered in the dense rainforests. Recently in the Pantanal I photographed the Great Potoo, a really huge bird.

A Great Potoo in its daytime perch.

To photograph potoos at night you must use an off camera flash. Someone holding the flash for you from a different angle than the lens, otherwise the light will reflect on the potoo’s eyes directly into the sensor, making it just a bright blown-up area.

Common Potoo photographed at night at Fazenda Barranco Alto in the Pantanal with a local guide holding the flash to the right.

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Jaguar Photo Tour announcement

Posted by campossallesfotografia on 3 de October de 2010

Jaguars of Brazil Photo Tour
September 25 to October 04, 2011
Limited to 10 participants

Join me on this very special photo tour to photograph one of the most elusive big cats in the world, the jaguar. Our destination will be the incredibly wildlife-rich Northern Pantanal, at the Meeting of the Waters State Park, a place growing in popularity today as, hands down, the most dependable place on Earth to see a wild jaguar. As a matter of fact we will very probably encounter several of these almost mythical cats.

Most jaguars are found at rivers shores, either resting or hunting. During a recent scouting trip our only one boat on this trip found 7 jaguars in only 3 1/2 days, photographing 5 of them in different situations/scenery. The most time we spent on a cat was around 3 hours (!!) and we really only left because it was getting dark. Average time with a cat varies a lot, but I’d say an average of 30 minutes to an hour. So what that means? Bring lots of memory cards! LOL

The greatest difference from my photo tour to a few others you will find out there to the same region is, basically, the structure I use. I am a professional photographer and I know the needs of a photographer, but I am also a brazilian, with years of experience in the Pantanal and a naturalist guide. I don’t need a second local guide to tell me what I’m looking at. I know all the birds and the mammals. I am familiar with the environment and I know that there are options. Lets make it clear: all other photo tours are organized by outsiders, people who, despite having good intentions, have been here maybe a few times at best and they don’t know the language nor the options.

But I know there are better options than what they use, is just a matter of planning and knowing where to look. My accomodations are infinitely better – clean spacious rooms with air conditioning, hot private shower, free internet access, great food, cozy living rooms and dining area and even a pool for that midday heat relief. And, most importantly, my boats are years ahead of what they use. I mean, these are stable, 19′ center console boats with good inside space to set the tripods and shoot freely from both sides of the boat without the constant fear of over $15,000 worth of gear falling overboard. Also, we are having a max of 2 photographers per boat (plus a jaguar-experienced boat captain), not 3.

Like the competition, our boats also have radios to communicate of a jaguar sigthing to other boats of the group, thus increasing the odds of everyone, but unlike the competition our boats are equipped with very fast 115hp engines, which means all the difference between getting to the action quickly or spending precious time riding a small unstable boat just to arrive and see that the cat is gone.

But back to our subjects, there are also many other great things to photograph, like family groups of giant otters, the smaller neotropical otter, the huge Jabiru Stork, all 5 South American kingfishers, capybaras, tapir, many hawks, etc. During the first couple of days of the tour we are also staying at a lodge along the famous Transpantaneira road where we will be able to photograph Hyacinth Macaws, toucans, araçaris, parrots and will be on the lookout for a giant anteater. The lodge also has an observation tower right near some trees where tame howler monkeys hang out.

Trip cost: US$ 6,899 per person
Included: Domestic flights, accomodation on dbl occupancy, all meals, ground transport, boat and captain, unlimited boat fuel, park fees, internet access, photo instruction, fully hosted trip.
Not included: International flights, overweight luggage fees, most drinks, phone calls, laundry, tips, trip insurance.

Contact me through my website if you are interested in this trip.

Photo: Milton Stamado

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Back from the Pantanal!

Posted by campossallesfotografia on 23 de September de 2010

Hi guys, I am now back from my 2nd. tour this year to the Pantanal. It was exceptionally dry due to the La Ninã effect in the Pacific Ocean, so for that reason the Rio Negro was very low and some animals that are usually very abundant, like hawks, kingfishers and water birds, were less frequent than usual. But regardless of that we did get some very good shots. In Bonito we made some fantastic shots of the flying Red-and-green Macaws, once again proving that time spent there means several amazing shots.

I am just starting to go through my photos, but so far I really liked this… the motion blur adds life and speed to the image… and believe me, these macaws fly real fast! Where else on Earth do you have the realistic chance of photograhing scenes like this during a short stay? Next years trip is already online.

D700, Nikkor 600mm f/4, 1/80 @ f/10 - ISO 200

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Nocturnal predators

Posted by campossallesfotografia on 24 de August de 2010

If there’s one family of birds that I tend to clearly show more interest than in others (and believe me, that’s a big thing) are the owls. I love them. They all have a lot of character and they show it with facial expressions that we humans can relate to. They silently hunt in the darkness of night, which gives them a sort of mysterious aura.

In many parts of Brazil, and I’d guess in other countries too, owls are associated by more simple people of the interior to bad omen. No wonder you see owls in horror movies, cemetery scenes, etc. They carry that omen all over, even on some of their scientific names, like the Asio stygius, where stygius comes from Styx or River of Styx, a Greek mithological river of the underworld, hence hellish, infernal… “Oaths sworn by it were supremely binding and even the gods feared to break them“. The truth is that owls are only a bad omen to their prey! And humans certainly are NOT in their diet! All owls are carnivorous, feeding on a variety of live prey, from insects taken by the smaller species to fish, crustaceans, rodents and even big birds.

Owls are probably some of the most specialized predators on Earth. Here’s their main virtues:
1) Eyesight – all owls have excellent nocturnal eyesight. Because of the position of the eyes (forward facing), they have great binocular vision, meaning that they can tell distances very accurately. We have binocular vision too, not as precise as an owl, but we do. Do a test, close one eye with a hand and see how you instantly lose the ability to precisely tell the difference between close and far objects. Without it the world essentially becomes 2D, and that’s how non-predator animals see the world.

2) Hearing – owls have an amazing hearing. Experiments with the Barn Owl showed that they can perfectly hear, and locate, the slightest sound produced by a mouse softly walking on a grass field a hundred yards away.

3) Silent flight – special soft feather edging gives all owls an extremelly silent flight. Even the largest of owls makes no sound at all when flapping their broad wings. This helps them approach and attack their wary prey without being noticed.

4) Power – extremelly sharp nails and powerful claws can kill a prey instantly. Sharp beaks help in cutting the flesh.

I spent last weekend guiding a small group of birdwatchers at a private reserve I’m familiar with in the Atlantic Rainforest. On saturday it was a perfect night for owls: clear skies, no wind and a big moon. So as soon as it got dark I started hearing a couple Black-capped Screech-Owls singing. Their song is a level, slow trill up to 18 seconds long. While not particularly rare, this endemic to the Atlantic Rainforest is a difficult bird to photograph, because they always stay inside dense forest. This particular owl was singing just a few meters from me but I wasn’t being able to locate it. Finally after some time I found it, but just for a few seconds. I snapped the (bad) pic below and it flew away not to return again. It just lost interest in my playback.

Black-capped Screech-Owl, dark eyed variation

This night luck wasn’t exactly on my side, but a couple years ago, at the same reserve, I located and photographed an extremely rare species while guiding a couple north-american clients, the Buff-fronted Owl. Very few is known about this small owl and after this photo I never found or heard it again. Who knows, I might never find it again in my lifetime!

Buff-fronted Owl

But I keep on searchiing. My goal is to photograph all brazilian owl species (12 to go, a lot of work!) and then move on to other south american countries.

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Hyacinth Macaws

Posted by campossallesfotografia on 11 de August de 2010

The big Hyacinth Macaw (Anodorhynchus hyacinthinus) is, in my opinion, one of the most (if not THE most) beautiful parrots in the world. Seeying them flying in the wild for the first time is an experience you won’t forget. I remember when I saw my first ones, back in 1990 when I was only 10 years old, it was at the Paraguay River during a fishing trip.

Their native home range goes more or less from the Pantanal or nearby Bolivia all the way to southern Amazonia, passing through central Brazil. However, after many years of intensive bird collecting for the pet trade (a single bird can cost over US$ 20,000!), they have been almost extinct from central Brazil, with separate population in the NE (near Amazonia) and, especially, in the Pantanal. Pet trade collecting does not happen anymore in the Pantanal and so the bird is making a great comeback. In the Pantanal they are already common birds, frequent around the fazendas of the region. They are still considered an endangered species though. Estimates from 2003 say that are at least 5,000 birds in the Pantanal and 2,000 birds elsewhere. There may be more Hyacinth Macaws in captivity throughout the world.

Like other parrots, they often mate for life. Their nests are made in big natural tree holes, especially of the Manduvi tree, where 90% of their nests are found. The macaws may excavate the hole to make it bigger. The same hole may be used in another time by other species, like large owls, Muscovy Duck, hawks, toucans, etc.

They feed almost exclusively of very hard seeds, of the natives Acuri and Bocaiúva palms. These seeds (or small coconuts) are so hard that you will have a hard time trying to brake one with a hammer, but these guys can crack them very easily only using their powerful beaks.

I shot the short video below during our last photo tour to the Pantanal, at Fazenda Barranco Alto, a truly special place. The macaw’s nest is in a Manduvi tree. Also notice the huge Jabiru nest at the same tree!

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Pantanal Photo Tour – August 2011

Posted by campossallesfotografia on 4 de August de 2010

I am now officially announcing our next Pantanal photo tour for next year. This will be again at famous Fazenda Barranco Alto, a huge (and I mean it… 27,000 hectars!!) private property and private reserve located at the heart of Southern Pantanal, in one of the best areas of the country for varied wildlife, including Giant Anteater, Tapir, Marsh Deer, Giant River Otter and the occasional Jaguar or Puma. Birds abound too, with many nesting Hyacinth Macaws (largest parrot in the world!), Jabiru, Raptors, Kingfishers, Owls, you name it…

All of the guests who I have brought here fell immediately at home, as the resident staff is super friendly and you feel at home the minute you step out of the plane.

The group is for a maximum of only 8 photographers, which guarantees that we have the whole small lodge to ourselves and so all the boats and safari open vehicles 100% dedicated to us and our photography. To access the lodge’s private airstrip we are getting 2 chartered airplanes, which will leave us good space for extra baggage… you know what I mean, those “light” 500 and 600mm.

This time there will also be 2 leaders, to split us in groups and so better distribute activities. I will be one of course and the other will be my good friend and great photographer André Goldstein. He’s lived in the US for over 10 years and so speaks perfect english too.

Just like last year, we will finish our trip at a huge natural crater south of the Pantanal where gorgeous Red-and-green Macaws nest and fly around, providing amazing photo opportunities like the one below. August will be the peak of activity there, so we can expect a lot of birds flying (like every couple minutes or so).

To see more details please visit this link: http://www.octaviosalles.com.br/pantanal2011.html

Red-and-green Macaws playing in mid-air

Giant Anteater

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Wild Atlantic Rainforest

Posted by campossallesfotografia on 2 de August de 2010

I spent entire last week guiding a photographer to my favorite place in the Atlantic Rainforest, the private reserve Parque do Zizo, located in southern São Paulo State, about 3 hours from my home. The region is where the largest piece of Atlantic Rainforest remains. This is many thousands os square miles of intact, primary rainforest habitat. The private reserve borders a state reserve, which in turn borders another state reserve and so forth, so the whole area is well protected. It’s not unusual at all to see many tracks of large mammals on the trails, like tapirs and even jaguars or pumas, a sure sign that the place is helthy.

On previous visits I have seen and photographed some extremelly rare birds here, just behind the lodge, like the Buff-fronted Owl. This time we didn’t see any real rarity (although we did hear a Pavonine Cuckoo, a new bird to the reserve), but we more than compensated it with some great photos. We did see a huge Black Hawk-Eagle attacking something just behind the lodge, a great scene, but just to fast to be photographed.

One of the waterfalls of the reserve, surrounded by lush vegetation.

This pano was made with 4 images taken with my D700 and Nikkor 24mm f/2.8. It was stitched together by Photoshop CS5, which did and amazing job considering I wasn’t using a pano head (a regular ball head instead).

Olive-green Tanagers

The Olive-green Tanager is a bird always seen high up in the trees, in big monospecific groups. This time however they were coming to the feeder and I was able to set up different perches for them.

Yellow-fronted Woodpecker

Not your usual woodpecker! Besides being amazingly colorful, these guys eat mainly fruits instead of the usual insect larvae and such.

White-necked Thrush

These attractive thrushes are forest inhabitants, never venturing far from it. They are also quite wary, more wary and elusive than the common Rufous-bellied Thrush.

I will post more photos during the week.

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Photography workshop in the Atlantic Rainforest

Posted by campossallesfotografia on 22 de July de 2010

I just got back from a 3-day workshop at the Atlantic Rainforest of SE Brazil, near the town of Ubatuba, at the same place where we are going to for the extension tour of our Pantanal tour next September.

This was a post-processing workshop, focused on Lightroom 3 and Photoshop CS5, but of course we put a lot of photography in-between the classes. The weather was, quite frankly, horrible. It was drizzling constantly and very cold. At night I think temps got down to around 45º F (7º C). I know… that’s almost pleasant for you guys way up north, but for us tropical creatures, it’s nearly freezing.

But, everything has its positive sides. With the cloudy sky the light was just the way I like for rainforest photography: diffuse, even. Plants were nice and wet and even the drizzle made for interesting shots. This time of the year there is also a shortage of fruit in the forest, so several different species were coming to the feeders to feed on banana, papaya or guava. A banana wouldn’t last more than 15 minutes. So I set-up some natural-looking perches near the covered veranda of our lodge and we all had a very good time photographing these birds (and we kept dry!).

I have ventured into video editing just for fun and made this short clip. The footage was done by a client with a Canon 7D through a 300mm f/2.8 lens, while the photos are mine with my trusty Nikon D700 and Nikkor 600mm f/4 AF-S (some with a 1.4x TC).

Golden-winged Cacique

Cinnamon Tanager


This attractive species almost never visits feeders, so getting a good shot of one is difficult. This time however things were different and we all got good shots.

Brassy-breasted Tanager


This gorgeous little guy (a brazilian endemic) is another bird that never visits feeders. I guess food shortage in the forest is pretty bad this winter, because this guy was coming in all the time.

Blue Dacnis


If you live in a rainforest you just gotta get used with rain.

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Great travel deal! Jaguars in the Pantanal!

Posted by campossallesfotografia on 20 de July de 2010

On next September I’m doing a scouting trip to what is, without a doubt, the single best place on Earth to almost surely photograph a wild Jaguar. This is a great opportunity to photograph at this place with a very special deal, but it’s for ONE person only! You won’t find this kind of price and conditions again, especially considering that the prices being charged are well below the usual for this operator.

Itinerary:
August 30: we get a flight from Sao Paulo Int’l Airport at 10:10 AM towards Cuiabá. There I will rent a car and drive us to one of their lodges along the Transpantaneira, the Pantanal Wildlife Center. We can start photographing along the way (mainly birds, raptors, caimans). We sleep there this night only.

August 31: early morning transfer to Porto Jofre and boat transfer to our “mothership”. They are not using camp tents anymore (as in the video), so we are staying at a big motherboat with air-conditioned cabins. Almost full day searching for jaguars on our own exclusive boat – this is huge, we won’t be sharing the boat with anyone else so we can focus entirely in our photography! Our guide has a radio to communicate with others in search of jaguars. Success rate for a 3-day stay is 99%, very often with several different Jaguar sightings.

September 01: full day photographing Jaguars.

September 02: full day photographing Jaguars.

September 03: morning transfer back to Cuiabá with photography on the way along the Transpantaneira. We take a flight at 06:30 PM back to São Paulo Int’l Airport.

Cost:
Because this is a scouting trip, I won’t be charging anything for my services. The cost of the trip is charged in Reais (brazilian currency) and so is subject to small variations according to exchange rate fluctuations. It is around R$ 5,300.00, or around US$ 2,900.00. The price includes domestic air fare, ground transportation, all lodging (full catering, except drinks), single occupancy on air conditioned rooms and exclusive boat. Price does not include int’l air fare, over-weight luggage fees, tips, meals while on the road, side trips.

Trips to this place usually cost over USD 7,000.00 and that is sharing the boat with other photographers. You don’t want to miss this deal.

Possibility of seeying a Jaguar:
First off, I have neber been to this exact place, so I can’t personally offer any guarantees, that’s why this is a scouting trip. But quoting a document from them: “Guests who stay for 3 nights have a 99.5% chance of seeying 1 or more Jaguars by day“. September is considered the best month for observations.

The Jaguars are located at the riverbanks, where they rest or hunt. They are used to boats and will allow a good approach without running away. This means hours of shooting Jaguars, always from the safety of a boat.

If you have interest please contact me ASAP at phototrips@octaviosalles.com.br

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No fisherman’s tale!

Posted by campossallesfotografia on 5 de July de 2010

Kingfishers are amazing birds. Like their name suggest, no other bird can catch fish so effectively. In the rich waters of the Pantanal we can find all 5 species of neotropical kingfishers. During our last trip we had a good time photographing these guys from a boat. Kingfishers are usually wary birds, but if you silently approach them from a boat they will let you get very close. So close in fact that sometimes I just could not focus with my 600mm!

The video below shows one of these moments, with a client taking some shots of a Ringed Kingfisher. We use silent electric engines on the boat, so that we can approach and position the boat at the best angles without scaring the bird.

Ringed Kingfisher, female


The Ringed Kingfisher is the largest one. Normally they are very aggressive to intruders, and that includes competition from other kingfishers, but since there are so many fish in the Pantanal rivers they will tolerate other kingfishers around during the dry season.

Amazon Kingfisher, female


The Amazon Kingfisher is a bit smaller and also very common. We saw this whole sequence: the bird dived in the water and caught a small Pacu, a fish far too wide for its throat. It first hit the fish hard against the branch several times to kill it, you can see the fish scales at the branch. Then it proceed to try to fit the fish and swallow it. I thought it wasn’t going to make it but eventually it literally folded the fish in 2 with its powerfull bill and swallowed it whole. A big meal for sure!

Green Kingfisher, male


This one is a much smaller kingfisher, very cute. Comparing to the huge Ringed ones, these guys are tiny. A good way to tell them apart from the Amazon Kingfisher, besides the obvious size difference, are the small white spots on the wing.

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