Sani Lodge Pt.3 – The Plants
A number of friends have “challenged” me to return from this trip with pictures of plants. They know all to well that I burn myself out chasing and photographing the animals – specifically the reptiles and amphibians. I’ll admit that I’ve seen some really cool things and much of it is not shot. As much as I would like to devote these trips to shooting everything around me, my well-laid plans fail quickly. In part this because of the nature of herping. I need to be mobile and agile if I hope to catch wary snakes. Hiking through the days and nights gets tiring, especially if I’m lugging gear around. And taking even decent shots requires a slow eye and patience to frame and capture the image. One of my plant only outings I was scanning for subjects around me, which can be quite different from where I would look for herps. After a couple hours of slow meandering and occasional shooting I saw a small snake slithering away from me. However, I was slow to recognize it (because I was in plant mode). By the time I put down my tripod and gear it was too late. I lost the little brown guy in the leaf litter. I was not doing as well as I’d hoped for snakes so this was an especially frustrating event.
Also, this is a vacation. I am not shooting for an assignment. It is not my job. And I am accepting that I will be returning to other forests some day. So I am learning to relax and take my time. This means that I don’t feel so guilty sitting around and reading a book when I should be out chasing images. What I really need are companions with me. I think this would force me to push harder, shoot more, and challenge myself. For most people a visit to the Amazon is a once or twice in a lifetime event, if at all. They are likely not going to want to spend the time sitting around in hammocks reading books. I know having the extra sets of hands are crucial to most shots. You have no idea how hard it is to finally get a frog or snake calmed down only to have it bolt the second I pick up the camera. Spending 30 or 60 minutes trying to get just a few half-ass frames of an animal can easily wipe you out for the day. Or to have an idea for a shoot but getting lights moved around, settings changed, and all that sort of thing eat an afternoon for a couple frames. Most of the time I am solo so it is not easy.
Tree falls are an important factor in rainforest ecology. The death of the tree creates a light gap which allows free competition for light and new emergent growth. This shows forests to be far from stable systems but an ever changing dynamic struggle amongst plants.
But plants do offer the simplicity of staying put. I still have the problem of composition and lighting. And in a busy forest filled with plants of every nature I knew this would be a tough challenge. Compressing that dark busy place into 2 dimensions and making it interesting was going to be work and I complained that to my friends. They were undaunted by MY problems. But I also know my library is woefully short of plants so I tried. Like my previous post stated, Ecuador is an extremely diverse country. This applies to it’s flora as well. Over 25,000 species of plants are known in the country. I likely couldn’t identify more than a dozen. I could guess at a few families. I know a fig from a palm, aroids from gingers, and pipers from mosses, but not much else.