Exploring the Amazon with photographer Jessica Suarez
May 21, 2017
The morning is cool and a rainstorm seems inevitable today as clouds hang low over Villa Carmen Biological Station. Today is one of my last days as an artist-in-residence with Amazon Conservation and I’m anxious to retrieve my camera trap that I left a month ago in a dip in the trail on one of my favorite hikes. Trail nine is steep, gaining several hundred meters of elevation in under a kilometer. As I hike, macaws and parrots keep me company from tree tops, dropping fruit as they eat and chatter. As soon as I reach 800 meters I suddenly realize that I am hiking through clouds. This section of forest with its tall trees cloaked in mist is just magical.
I make my way up to the small mirador and watch as waves of clouds move through the space obscuring and then revealing the bluish-green mountains and the confluence of rivers below. I spend time filming for my 360 video project, attaching the camera to trees hoping to relay the experience of this special scene. My primary project for my artist-in-residency is to pair 360 video with photos, camera trap images, audio and writing to re-create an immersive experience of what it’s like to be in the Amazon rainforest. As David Attenborough says, “No one will protect what they don’t care about; and no will care about what they have not experienced.” My hope is that this project will help others experience a bit of this amazing rainforest that has completely besotted me.
As I sit and spend a few more moments absorbing the beauty of this place, a mixed flock of birds flit between branches above me. I start photographing them and identify stunning Paradise tanagers, and even a Masked tanager, a new bird for me! Finally, I wind my way down from the mirador to the dip to discover what wildlife my camera trap has seen over the past month. I can hardly wait to hike back to the station to see what images will emerge.
As I return to my cabin, the wind has picked up and thunder rumbles nearby. I quickly cover my backpack and pull out my rain jacket and as I descend the trail, the rain arrives refreshing and clean. Halfway down the trail I hear the familiar whimper of capuchin monkeys. One large fellow eyes me warily before disappearing all the while calling out to his troupe.
Later when I put the camera trap card into the computer, I am swept away with pictures of jaguars, margays, pumas, jagarundis, pacas, agoutis, opossums and giant armadillos. While I hope one day to see some of the animals in person, it is enough to know they are out there, walking these same trails I did, protected and safe.