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                         THE CIVILIZED EXPLORER

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Hiking and Photography in a Jungle

the rain

If you spend any time at all in a rain forest, it will rain on you at least some of the time. A poncho or windbreaker will provide some protection, but you still should expect to get wet. You might want a broad brimmed weatherproof hat or a cap with a long bill to keep the rain off your face. You will need a fanny pack or back pack to carry gear and water. Before you leave home, find the right size plastic trash bag to cover your pack and bring a couple with you.

Although you will be walking on muddy trails with loose rocks, you will not need "official" hiking or climbing shoes. Any sturdy shoes with high ankles, flat heels, and gripping soles will do. Running shoes may not be comfortable if they have high heels to absorb shock. High heels may cause problems for your calf muscles and Achilles tendons when you walk up and down the volcano. Aerobic shoes and cross training shoes with flat soles are fine. Shoes that lace up to the ankle are preferred. The trails are wet, rocky, sometimes steep, and you want to prevent twisting your ankle. Remember your shoes will get wet. If they are waterproof, so much the better; if not, be sure your shoes dry quickly or bring two pairs.

Bring a canteen or water bottle. You will sweat profusely, and you must replace the water.

Use a large self-sealing food bag to cover your camera when taking pictures in the rain. Cut a hole for the lens, and use your lens hood both to secure the bag around the lens and to shield the lens from falling rain. (And bring two or three extra bags.) You may want a haze or skylight filter to provide further protection. Keep a towel in a waterproof bag to dry your hands before handling your camera.

the film

Film is available all over the island, but it's imported and very expensive. Buy before you leave. You may want film for two different kinds of light. In the rain forest with its heavy cloud cover, you will want film with a speed of 100 or 200. It can be difficult holding the camera steady with slower films at the slower shutter speeds required because of lower light levels. If you shoot wide open, you'll lose your depth of field.

You will want a film with a speed of 50 or 64 for the rest of the time, especially on the beaches when sun is reflected off sand and water.

If you don't know what film speed is, just ask where you buy your film. If you don't want to be bothered about what film to use, film rated at 100 is a good compromise.

For the serious picture-takers: The light in the rainforest is cool because of the clouds and green foliage. You may want warming filters, the new warmer films, and a flash to bring out the colors of the flowers. Although you should be prepared for rain, it doesn't pour all the time, and you will have many beautiful settings for your work. For the sunny times, you may want to use a polarizing filter to bring out the blue in the sky and to reduce glare from water and sand. Many professional films require refrigeration; there are refrigerators in the rooms, but not on the trails. A day in the heat may have no effect on the film, but you should hand carry pro films on board the plane, because cargo holds become quite hot at the tropical airports.

Because of the low light levels in the rain forest, you may want to consider a tripod or monopod. But before you pack one in your luggage and then pack it up the volcano, try mounting your camera on it in the pouring rain and taking pictures. A tripod may not be worth the aggravation, and you may want a faster film in spite of the graininess. If you choose to bring a tripod or monopod, be sure you try it out in the rain before you go. Some designs collect water in the legs. Aside from the extra weight of the water, you don't want to drain the 'pod inadvertently onto your camera, film, and other items in your formerly dry pack.

The French West Indies

The Civilized Explorer.

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