In 1831, the HMS Beagle arrived in the Galapagos Islands, an isolated archipelago off the west coast of South America. One crewman, Charles Darwin, meticulously recorded sketches of the island's flora and fauna, his observations forming the basis for his theory of evolution through natural selection. This year, an intrepid group of adventure-seekers followed in Darwin's footsteps, learning to record nature at its most extreme, all while under the tutelage of professional photographers.
When Photographers Without Borders founder and CEO Danielle Da Silva asked Tallie Garey if she would be interested in helping her lead an international photography workshop in Ecuador's Galapagos Islands, Garey could not believe her luck. The professional photographer – who serves as PWB's Curator – admits to barely containing her excitement.
“It had been a dream of mine since childhood,” the self-described ecology enthusiast said.
“Among nature photographers, it is known as the best place to photograph wildlife. The animals have very few predators and have not developed a fear of humans.”
Fast forward a few weeks, and Garey's excitement peaked as she looked down on the Island of San Cristóbal.
'"I know its a cliché,'' Garey said, ''but looking out of the plane as we came in for a landing was like looking at another world – it was breathtaking, wild, and utterly alien.”
The 30-day workshop was the third collaboration between PWB and G Adventures, a world-renowned touring company committed to delivering ethical, authentic, and ecologically-responsible experiences.
“We have really been fortunate to work with G-Adventures,” Da Sliva said. “Our organizations have compatible values.”
“It was breathtaking, wild, and utterly alien.”
Garey was particularly impressed by G-Adventure's decision to involve the local population in the program.
“There's not a lot of economic activity on Floreana Island, so the business that G Adventures brings is tremendously valuable to the locals,” Garey said.
Not only did the group indulge in the islander's exquisite take on ceviche, but they spent a weekend living with local families, as part of the homestay portion of the trip
G-Adventures and PWB sought to blend professional-level training to amateur photographers, into an authentic, ecologically-responsible adventure tour. To that end, Da Silva created a series of lessons designed to deliver professional-level training to all eight participants.
While all the participants were avid photographers, their skill-level, at least at the beginning of the trip, varied between inexperienced to old hand. With Garey's help, the adventurers were tutored in photographic techniques, practiced on-site photographic exercises, and held discussions regarding the ethics of photojournalism.
Beyond the workshop itself, the rest of the itinerary was filled with activities organized by G Adventures.
“It was such a privilege to come face-to-face with such a magnificent species – and a reminder of humanity's duty to protect the world's biodiversity.”
The group journeyed from island-to-island, guided through many of the archipelago's varied ecosystems, including the mangrove, flamingo lagoons and lava fields of San Isabela. On Puerto Ayora, they visited the Charles Darwin Research Station and met with the Island's oldest residents – the Giant Galapagos Tortoise – and heard tales of the buccaneers who used the Archepelago's isolation to escape justice.
They also, of course, did snorkelling through the warm equatorial waters – the trip's highlight for PWB's founder.
“I'll never forget our swim with the threatened Golden Cownose Rays,” says Da Silva. “It was such a privilege to come face-to-face with such a magnificent species – and a reminder of humanity's duty to protect the world's biodiversity."
For Garey, pinning down a favourite moment was more difficult. She does, however, have one regret.
"If only I had packed enough sunscreen.”
Beyond creating the memories of a lifetime, Da Silva believes the real value of PWB's workshops is vested after the journeys' end.
“The discussions and practice assignments give me a new perspective on my work. I am always impressed with the work our participants. In fact, our organization has encouraged several of the program's graduate to participate in our volunteer projects around the world. The first will be embarking this fall.”
This fall, we will be taking participants to Thailand (Nov. 10-20) for the next workshop. For more information, visit http://www.photographerswithoutborders.org/workshops/