An Update on Brazil’s Pantanal

Young female jaguar in Pantanal.

I’ve traveled to the Brazil’s Pantanal region several times to photograph jaguars, Toco toucans, giant anteaters, and other amazing wildlife. This part of the world reminds me to Tanzania. There’s wildlife at every turn and the photo opportunities are amazing.

During the summer of 2020 we started seeing news reports in the US about the horrible fires in the Pantanal. One especially heartbreaking photo showed a jaguar rescued from the flames in a rehab facility with bandaged paws.

Fellow photographers were sending me links to news reports. So I thought I’d send an email to Charles Munn, founder and owner of SouthWild. SouthWild is the tour company Strabo Photo Tour Collections uses to coordinate all my trips to Pantanal.

Here’s the update Charles Munn sent about the Pantanal:

The pantanal is half the size of California.
It is and always has been a fire-adapted ecosystem, designed to have periodic dry season fires, originally set by lightning prior to humans arriving 12,000 years ago, and then set every year or two or five by humans.
The plants and animals evolved with periodic, widespread fires, for perhaps 100,000 years.
The Pantanal had a longer, drier dry season this year than any time in the last 47 years.  The extra dry year and the fires set by some ranchers here and there have caused about 25% of the Pantanal to burn.  By early October, the fires were done and the first rains have started, thankfully.
“A report from 3 weeks ago from two naturalist guides at different times in different boats ..(the guides who have guided for SouthWild) said that they racked up 18 good Jaguar sightings in a week. That is a high or extra high number of sightings.   Yet another colleague had 11 Jaguar sightings in 2 days.  All of these Jaguar results involved NO assistance from radio calls from other boats, because the pandemic has reduced boats in Jaguarland to the point where there is no radio system this season.
There was a lot of fire in the heart of Jaguarland in August and September, but it is done now, and all of these Jaguar reports have come from AFTER the fires were over.
None of our lodges in the Pantanal has had its birding trails or lodges affected by the fires. There were some fires near SWP lodge, but the fire was kept out of the forests that we use for birding.
As tragic as the fires have been, they now are done, and it would appear that things will look pretty normal normal next year, that is assuming that rains that have started in Oct will intensify in Nov and continue for the normal rainy months of Dec, Jan, Feb, March.

Charles Munn

“One more detail I should make clear:
Most of Pantanal is …seasonally flooded (and then seasonally dried out) grasses..
not forest
for decades, perhaps millennia, the Three Brothers River in the heart of Jaguarland has a thin ribbon of forest along 80% of the riverbank, and just grasses along the remaining 20%.
where there is forest along the riverbank, it averages only 20 meters wide….almost nothing…..
and in many places it is only 10 meters wide
and then all the rest of the habitat behind this narrow gallery forest…for km and km…. is …grass…..
Therefore, the fires were worse this year than in decades, but the Pantanal is designed to survive and bounce back from fire.

Charles Munn

I hope Charles’s information adds to what you’ve read or seen in the US news. My hope is to one day return to the Pantanal and enjoy the fabulous photography and people in that area of the world.

My Photos From Pantanal if you’d like to take a look.

Canon R5 Mirrorless — Focus Stacking

My test of the Canon R5’s Focus Bracketing — or focus stacking — continues.

This is a 10-photo blend of a gulf fritillary butterfly.
A blend of 10 images gives the long-tailed skipper sharp detail throughout.
Here’s a close-up of the image above. Notice that there’s tight detail on the skipper and on the vegetation.

I’ve been working with the Canon R5’s focus bracketing (or focus stacking) since I bought the camera. Overall, I’ve been impressed. Here are my previous blog postings on this topic.

Questions have come up during my tests and in talks with other photographers.

What increment should be used? The Canon R5 comes set at increment 3. That’s a good starting point and what I used on my first tests.

I changed to increment 7 for the purple passionflower blooms. I like 7 now.

How many photos are needed for a good photo stack? Obviously, that depends on how deep the subject is. I used 10 on the long-tailed skipper and 10 on the red passionflower bloom. The skipper is much smaller than the flower.

In my tests, 10 photos seems to be a sweet spot. The Canon R5 takes less than a second to fire off the series of images. Push the shutter button one time and the camera does the rest.

I used Photoshop’s focus stacking and tried 3, 5, or 1o images. The stacks with 10 images were smoother and better aligned.

Where should the focus point be at the start of the stack? Focus should be on the closest point to the camera. That’s a lesson learned.

On the long-tailed skipper, I focused on the wing closest to the camera. In earlier tests, I focused on the head and the wing closest to the camera wasn’t sharp.

On the red passionflower, I focused on the flower in one photo. In the second photo, I focused on the buds in front of the bloom. Notice the difference?

Red passionflower bloom. Focus point at the beginning of the focus stack was on the bloom.
Red passionflower bloom. Focus point at the beginning of the focus stack was on the buds in front of the bloom. NOTE: The fuzzy area to the left of one bud needs a bit of post-processing work.

All photos were taken with the Canon R5, 100-500mm lens, 1.4x extender, f/11, ISO 400.

Questions? What’s been your experience with the R5’s focus bracketing? Does your mirrorless camera have focus bracketing or stacking? Experience?

Here’s my review of the Olympus focus stacking.

Canon R5 Mirrorless — Focus Stacking

Here’s another test of the Canon R5’s focus stacking. My more detailed post on Focus Stacking for Focus Bracketing can be found here.

Blend of 10 images merged together in Photoshop to get the entire set of blooms in focus.

Here’s a view of my menu setting for this series of photos.

Canon, Olympus, and other mirrorless systems have focus stacking. Here’s my review of focus stacking using Olympus.

So far, the Canon R5 has impressed me with its focus bracketing. I can’t wait to get out and work with it on different subjects.

Have you worked with Focus Stacking or Focus Bracketing on your camera? Results? I’d love to hear from you.