a colorful macaw flies in the amazon

What’s in My Camera Bag – The Amazon

Just uttering the word Amazon conjures a feeling of the unknown…the wild…the immense.  There is a lot correct about that feeling, for the Amazon truly is one of the largest wildernesses on earth, teeming with natural beauty, fascinating animals, and a travel vibe that is often described as unparalleled.

If you’re headed to the wild jungles of the Amazon to photograph the wonders that await you, be sure to have “the right” camera gear for the job.  Read on for a deep dive into our recommendations for camera gear on an epic Amazon adventure.

a dark amazon rainforest

General Purpose Wide Angle

A good quality wide angle lens is going to be a workhorse during this adventure.  I’m talking about your 18-55mm lenses for crop frame sensors, and 24-105mm lenses for full frame. These are your go-to lenses for landscape photos, general travel photos, and even macro photos if you don’t have a macro lens.  I often call this category of lens my “walking around lens” because it’s my go-to lens for all of the above, plus just “walking around.”  It does just about everything.

Whether or not you want to bring an ultra wide angle lens is very much up to personal preference, as well as whether you have one in the first place.  I don’t think the Amazon is the kind of place that you should go out and purchase one (or rent one) just for this trip. However, if you have an ultra-wide angle, like a 10-22mm on crop frame or 16-35mm on full frame, they can be great fun.  In addition, they do quite well capturing and featuring the enormity of landscapes both big and small.  So, not crucial, but a nice-to-have.

the lush jungle of costa rica

Zoom Telephoto Lens

Another workhorse lens, a good zoom telephoto with big range and maximum focal length is going to be crucial for this trip.  Here I’m talking about your 100-400mm, 200-500mm and 200-600mm lenses.  Notice that I’m no longer talking about the once venerable 70-300mm class of lenses—these new “super” telephotos are so commonplace, and affordable, that some version of these should be in every wildlife photographers kit.

For the Amazon, this lens will be used as frequently as your wide angle and is a key component of your camera bag for any Amazon wildlife adventure.  They are as versed at photographing monkeys and birds as they are caiman, giant river otters, and even the rare pink river dolphins that cruise the waterways.

Within this section I also deliberately left out the 70-200mm lens class.  For those that know and love these lenses, you may wish to consider bringing yours along.  For the discerning photographer, having the f/2.8 capabilities can be fantastic.  In addition, the quality that the 70-200mm brings to the table means that these can be excellent landscape lenses, too.  However, this one sits even further lower than the ultra-wide angle in the rankings for me.  This range and maximum reach is just too limited for most wildlife opportunities in the Amazon.

X-Factor Lens

You must know by now that for nearly every adventure I embark on, I consider at least one x-factor lens to bring along with me.  These are the lenses that may only see 5% of the action, but have the potential to get me the shot of the trip.  Or if not the shot-of-the-trip, at least they’ll give me some show-stopping photos for the shockingly limited amount of time I’m using it.

For the Amazon, my first go-to x-factor lens is a macro.  The “life in the undergrowth,” as Attenborough calls it, has captivated me for most of my life and the chance of photographing it in one of the largest concentrations of spectacular biodiversity on earth is downright thrilling.  If you have a macro, I highly suggest bringing this with you.

a macro photo of a small poison arrow frog taken in costa rica

The other x-factor lens I’d consider is one I’ve already mentioned—the ultra-wide angle.  While it may only be helpful for a couple dozen shots total throughout the trip, it could yield one of those images that just stick with you for a lifetime.

A Tripod?

For a destination replete with landscape photo opportunities, you may be surprised to hear me pass on the tripod. While I fully respect those that bring a tripod everywhere (and if that’s you, you should at least considering bringing one to the Amazon) I am just simply not in that camp and aim to go handheld whenever and wherever possible.

What makes the Amazon particularly challenging for tripod photography is that many of your photo opportunities will actually be from a boat or vessel.

For periods each day you’ll likely be cruising on a larger sleep-aboard boat, and while movement on the glassy waters is minimal, long exposures will still be challenging.  And when exploring deep into the tributaries, you are often on skiffs where space is a premium and a tripod wouldn’t work very well.

Finally, when you are indeed on land, you’re often on a boardwalk instead, raised above the flooded soils below, and again space and maneuverability is limited.  It’s not impossible to use a tripod here, but unless you have very specific plans, I’d leave it at home.

a large lizard basks on a tree in the amazon

Extra Batteries and Memory Cards

It goes without saying to double the amount of memory you think you’ll need.  While most folks traveling to the Amazon will have power and space to download photos, a few extra batteries and a bit of extra memory can give you peace of mind.

Rain Protection

This is a big one for the Amazon and it comes in many shapes and sizes.  While some people will prefer a fully waterproof backpack, others will be fine with a set of drybags that help shield your gear from the periodic shower.  The key thing is that you think ahead and have a plan for when mother nature surprises you with a bit of a splash off.

a colorful macaw flies in the amazon

If you’re headed to the Amazon and plan to capture its splendor photographically, you are in for a real treat!  The variety of photos is extraordinary and while you may have to work a bit hard for close-up shots of some of our most revered critters like sloth, monkeys, and some of the cats found in the area (rare), the reward of coming away with a full suite of photos from throughout your adventure is more than worth it.

I hope this helps you plan and prepare and if you are headed there soon I wish you an extraordinary adventure!!


Court Whelan Signature