Tropical Field Photography

Students on canopy platform.web


Tree Climber Coalition,  PMB 43

6625 Highway 53 East, Suite 410

Dawsonville, GA 30534

Telephone (Home) 706-216-2402, (Cell) 706-531-4516,

email:, web:

Specialties:, Field photography, photojournalism, tropical canopy access for research.

COURSE DESCRIPTION: This course is designed to provide students with a basic understanding of photography and how photography can be used to document field activities in the tropical environment.  The approach will be photojournalistic in nature.  After the introductory phase of the course, involving acquainting students with basic photographic principles and skills, students will advance into areas involving the use of photography as a tool for tropical field research and for documenting activities that take place in the rainforest environment. Photographers will have the opportunity to observe, photograph, and participate in activities involving the research of other students in other courses. There will also be opportunities for students in this course to participate in, and document, a number of high adventure activities such as canopy exploration in the rainforest treetops, sea kayaking, and cave exploration. Opportunities for documenting the indigenous cultures of the region will also be included.  Lectures from other faculty members present will introduce photographic students to the importance of photography as it can be applied to their various research disciplines.  It must be emphasized that this is a field research course and consequently much time will be spent outdoors in the tropical environment and that many of the activities can be quite strenuous. Participants should be in good physical shape and be willing to be involved in challenging physical activities that can sometimes become quite adventurous in nature.  Because we are at a field station in a tropical environment, darkroom work will not be included in this course. The approach to photography in this course will involve the use of digital cameras; critiques and presentations will be done through the use of computers.

Course Structure:
The first week will consist of an introduction to basic photographic theory and basic photographic skills as applied to the use of digital cameras. Frequent visits to the rain forest and coral reefs during this period will allow students to visualize the photographic possibilites in the region. During these excursions, photos will be taken in order to insure that all equipment is working properly and that students understand how to use their gear under field conditions.

Waterfall sunbeam.webWeek two will take students to a higher level and course participants will begin to put their skills to work. From this point forward, all photography will be presented and critiqued during evening sessions in ITEC classroom. One-on-one instructor/ student sessions will be conducted to help students in their selection of subject ideas for photo story projects to be done during the final 10 days of the session. The week will include introduction to a variety of adventure activities including caving, kayaking, and canopy exploration and the skills necessary to perform as a photographer within such environments. Lectures will include talks from faculty representing the various disciplines being taught in other areas during this session and will provide potential photographic subject matter.  Philosophical discussions will cover such topics as photojournalistic ethics, proper means of interfacing with unfamiliar cultures, the photographer as a participant in an activity rather than as mere documentarian, and other subjects relevant to photography in the field.

Following the Boquete cloud forest trip, the third and fourth week of the session will consist of student’s working on their personal photographic projects. All manner of options are available in the selection of personal projects to be worked upon. Projects must have been approved by the instructor and should be relevant to the occasion. Students will be expected to produce two groups of photographs during this period, representing different topics, and these projects are to be arranged in the form of “picture stories”; collections of photographs quite similar to those found in magazines and documenting an activity or subject and telling a story visually through the medium of photography.  Projects will be presented as PowerPoint presentations during the final two days of the session.


Students are expected to attend all field activities, classroom meetings, lectures, and critiques.

Students will be expected to maintain a portfolio containing a representative sample of all of the photos that were made during the course. This portfolio is to be recorded and kept on a CD/ jumpdrive, or external hard drive. For each photograph kept in the portfolio or presented as part of a “picture story” there will be an explanation of how the photograph was made and all data pertinent to the creation of the image. Presentation of student’s portfolios, picture stories, and the accompanying data will take place at the end of the course.

WHAT TO BRINGCloudforest view.web

Elsewhere on this website is a list of recommended equipment for students.  In addition to that equipment there are a few items of gear needed specifically for this course.

  1. Digital camera—any digital camera will do. While a digital SLR camera would be preferable, smaller digital cameras are acceptable. The camera should have manual operational capability.
  2. The instruction book that came with your camera. All cameras are different and the manual is sometimes necessary in order to understand the workings of a particular brand or model of camera.
  3. Whatever hardware and software that is necessary to mate your camera or its recording device (flash card, cords, memory stick, whatever) with a computer.
  4. Several blank CDs.
  5. Laptop computer with Photoshop or similar program installed.
  6. Carrying case/bag for camera and a supply of waterproof trash bags, Ziploc bags, or other materials for waterproofing your camera.
  7. Backpack or large book bag.
  8. Headlamp (not just a flashlight!) and extra bulbs and batteries (additional batteries can be purchased locally)
  9. A water-proof field notebook will be required in the course.  The field book will contain all data related to photos taken and photo projects.  The field book should also contain all other incidental observations such as photo locations, conditions pertinent to photography (weather, light),animal encounters, etc.