Canopy Lodge, Panama
The Canopy Family has a number of properties across Panama. I tossed up between spending a few days at either Canopy Tower, an old-restored radar tower fairly close to Panama City, or the slightly more salubrious Canopy Lodge, 2 hours south west. I was mainly interested in photographing birds and, after canvassing views from birders and photographers, opted for the Lodge. Although Canopy Tower offers amazing tree level views, the feedback I received suggested the Lodge would offer better photographic opportunities, especially since they have a number of fruit feeders (due to potential issues with Coatis, at the Tower they only have hummingbird feeders).
The Lodge and staff are wonderful, and I certainly wasn't disappointed. There's also the option to take in good bird sites within an hour's drive (as is the case for the Tower). I ended up doing a mix of birding and photography during a 4 day visit in early December. I would have liked to visit the Tower too, but that will have to wait for a future visit.
The following is a list of the species that. with a bit of perseverance, you should be able to get shots of in the Canopy Lodge grounds, with an indication of how often they presented themselves in a good photographic setting (common/several times daily, unless stated otherwise):
There's also ever present Red-tailed Squirrel and Agouti.
The feeders are great for drawing in the birds, but present a less than pleasing setting for shots.
But guide Tino was a great help with getting a very simple set-up established away from the feeder stations, making for a much more natural look. Simply, a single bannana on a stick, with nearby perches. With more time (and experience) I may have been tempted to erect something more pleasing, but this was adequate for my needs. On the far side of the stream the distant foliage was often in sun-light, while the closer birds were in gentle shade - perfect for a kiss of fill-flash, being careful to retain a little natural shadow on the under-side of the subject - one of many Glenn Bartley flash tips I adopted. In the tropics, where you often have to shoot in low light situations, flash is your friend, and Glenn Bartley's Flash Simplified - A Guide for Nature Photographers was my go to reference - an excellent read, full of clear guidance and great tips, and highly recommended.
These are my favs from the trip, especially this Tropical Screech Owl that caused a very welcome interruption to dinner proceedings on the first evening.
The Lodge is set in lush grounds, the rooms are very comfortable, there's plenty of good food at every meal, and all in the company of happy guests and helpful staff (esp. the guides I was with during my stay, Tino and Danilo) - recommended.
Further details about the Canopy Lodge and their other properties can be found on their web site: http://www.canopytower.com/
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