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Venezuela: Andes Mountains and the Floating City of Ologa

Dates: October 9, 2013 to October 15, 2013

Photo Tour Locations: El Vigia, Laka Maracaibo, Catatumbo, Ologa, Andes Mountains, Merida, La Chorrera National Park, Mucuchies, Mucubaji Lake

Attendees: Maximum of 10 photographers (Two spots booked)

Fitness Level: Minimal physical activity involved in this photo tour. However, we will be 13,000 ft up in the Andes Mountains. You should be in good physical shape with good lung capacity to be able to be at 13,000 feet for a period of time.

Price: $2775 USD

Exclusions: International Airfare, your overnight stays in Caracas if needed, travel insurance, $120 domestic flights between Caracas and el Vigia, anything not identified as "included" in the itinerary below

Included: All meals, accomodation, transportation while at the workshop, english and spanish speaking guides.

Deposit Required to secure spot: $750 deposit

Photo tour attendee to PRO Photographer ratio: maximum of 5-1

Pro Photographer Guide: Kevin Pepper and Len Silvester

Our goal is to answer all of your questions while we spend our time together in Venezuela. But because of the nature of this photography safari, the key learning opportunities will be on:

Apertures & Shutter Speeds: We will discuss the different modes on your camera and the effect your aperture and shutter setting have on your images.

Composition: Learn how to improve your photography by applying ‘rules’ of composition to your landscape photos.

Long Exposure: With signifigant time spent shooting night scenes and waterfalls; we are sure that you will come home understanding the principles of long exposure photography.

Autofocus & Techniques: Here you learn how to keep the focus on your subject whether taking a landscape image or photographing the birding action!

Digital Darkroom: A Photographers Lounge photo tour is the perfect opportunity for any photographer to refine their post processing skills.

Your International flight will arrive in Caracas in the afternoon of October 9th, 2013. After a nights rest in Caracas you will depart on your domestic flight to El Vigia early the next morning so that you arrive by early on in the day on October 10th, 2013.

It is here in El Vigia where your photography tour with us will start. After a 90 minute drive where you can catch a quick siesta, we will then transfer to a boat. From this moment on you should have your camera ready. We will travel through a flooded forest where you are sure to see howler monkeys in the trees lining the waterways, iguanas, butterflies and lots of local birds that you are used to only seeing in your local pet stores back home.

From the shelter of the flooded forest we emerge and cross the 50km of the Maracaibo Lake. Lake Maracaibo is the largest in South America. You can expect to see dolphins swimming and coastal birds like Osprey, Terns and other various water birds resident to the western mountain region of Venezuela. We stop and have lunch and will pick up dinner, fresh from a fisherman on the lake before we head to our first destination, Ologa.

It is here where we will prepare for your first experience of the natural phenomenon of the Catatumbo lightning*. This natural phenomenon has existed for centuries, yet many of us have never heard of it. The first written mention of the was in the 1597 poem "La Dragontea" by Lope de Vega, which recounts the defeat of Sir Francis Drake.

Imagine the most intense thunderstorm you may have witnessed in North America... now imagine increasing that intensity for 6 hours of a lightening show. During the first and second night you are positioned to witness massive, arching strikes that can exceed 250 times an hour. Your view will be over a pristine tropical lagoon that offers calm reflections of the action in the skies.

You lounge at water's edge under the palm trees having a BBQ of steak and soft shelled crab that you picked up from local fisherman on the boat ride that very day. The camera sits on the tripod and the remote in your hand... If you want, you simply compose, set the camera controls and capture the exact same scene that our tour leader has taken with his camera night after night after night... his photos have now been published in National Geographic and featured in numerous other magazines and an ABC News Primetime special. (video above)

Overnight in a stilt house in Ologa. A basic building on stilts where we will sleep on a combination of bunk beds inside the building or covered hammocks with mosquito nets. (Lunch, Dinner)

October 11, 2013 - The next day we will stay close to Ologa. Here there are three principal attractions; the wildlife, tropical forest and the water villages. In the morning we will go early into the forest by boat to view more local wildlife and butterflies for some exotic photo opportunities of golden morning light breaking through the trees of this flooded area. We usually rest around lunch, maybe a quick siesta; then cruise to the village of Congo by boat. This village is on stilts and exists on the lake. There are no cars here and the villagers spend their lives living on the water. There is so much to shoot; the culture, the people and the visually unusual scenes. A wooden church on water for instance... To a lens it is amazing.

That night again is spent in observation of the lightning for the second straight night.

Overnight in a stilt house in Ologa (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)

On the morning of October 12th we will take advantage of the low light to capture some more wildlife photo opportunities. As we leave the Catatumbo´s marvels our trip takes us inland along the Panamerican Highway and up back roads. Into the Andes Mountains we will go. Waterfalls, forest, circling birds and mountains decorate the scenery. Our goal is a hidden posada, a private and only reserved for exclusive guests at 8,000ft. Our ETA is mid afternoon. It is the paradise of the hummingbird. With patience up to 12 species can be seen up close in a protected, pleasant environment of a 10 degree C. temperature.

We will overnight at the cloudforest guest house bed and breakfast (Breakfast, Dinner) http://www.estancialabravera.com/ This is a very well regarded hotel in the mountains.

After breakfast on October 13th we continue to the City of Merida, first passing yet another small national park, La Chorrera. This is where Alan, our local tour guide and a butterfly specialist can show you some more beautiful butterflies, exotic birds and other creatures native to this part of the world. With an early afternoon arrival in Merida; this gives us time to explore the city and, if it's open, even try an ice-cream at the Guinness Record ice-cream parlor with 1,000 flavors. Garlic ice-cream anyone? Merida is a university town with some of the best scenery in the country. Just another hour's drive takes us to Mucuchies, the highest main village in the country at 10,000ft. An ETA of late afternoon gives us the chance to explore the village and enjoy the mountain mist as it comes down over the Andes.

Overnight at a private antique house in Mucuchies (Breakfast, Dinner)

For our last day, it's an extra early start at 5:30am on October 14th. (Water, Juice, Energy bars, fruit for a quick breakfast on the go) Our goal is to get you to 13,000ft up in the Andes to catch the sun rise and golden hour around the Mucubaji lake, mountain villages and stunning vistas. With an agreeable sunrise these scenes will be engrained in your memories for a lifetime. From literally the high point of this exclusive journey we head down to Merida for a final group lunch with new found friends... but before we get to lunch there will no doubt be a few stops along the way for a few photo ops.

And with that, all good things must come to an end; your tour with Alan and Kevin ends at the airport in El Vigia on October 14th. We will drop you off at the airport before 3pm local time. This will give you plenty of time to catch your domestic flight to Caracas on one of the domestic airlines. Flights depart at 5pm and later depending on the airline your travel agent or online flight booking was able to arrange for you. We will take care of these arrangements for you.

You will stay the night at a hotel in Caracas of your choice. (we have deals at hotels in Caracas and will forward you the informatino) From there you will catch your next morning flight home on October 15th, 2013.

Contact Information

To Book your spot on this photography tour please contact Kevin Pepper or alan Highton to make arrangements for this trip for us. Their contact information is as follows:

Alan Highton

Phone Number: 0414 7562575

Email Address: [email protected]

Kevin Pepper

Phone Number: 519 620 9185

Email Address: [email protected]

Photos courtesy of my good friend, our man on the ground and our resident expert, Alan Highton. :-)

* the lightning is never guaranteed. However we are travelling in October when the lightning is in full season. We have a 95% chance of seeing lightning storms while we are there.