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The Andes Mountains and the Catatumbo Lightning

Dates: October 19th, 2014 to October 24th, 2014

Photo Tour Locations: El Vigia, Laka Maracaibo, Catatumbo, Ologa, Culata National Park, Andes Mountains

Attendees: a few spots are still available

Fitness Level: Minimal physical activity involved in most of the photo tour.

Price: $2775 USD, balance due 60 days before travel

Exclusions: International Airfare, your overnight stays in Caracas if needed, travel insurance, anything not identified as "included" in the itinerary below

Deposit Required to secure spot: $750 deposit

Pro Photographer On This Trip: Kevin Pepper and Tim Vollmer

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.

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 action!

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

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Your International flight will arrive in Caracas in the afternoon of October 19th, 2014. 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 10:30am on October 20th, 2014.

It is here in El Vigia where our trip 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 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 21st, 2014 - The next day we will stay close to Ologa. Here there are two principal attractions; the 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)

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October 22nd, 2014 - The return to the port goes back across the Maracaibo lake and again through the tropical forest. The beautiful morning light will allow us to get more shots of wildlife and scenery. Leaving the marvels of the Catatumbo region, the road takes us up the Andes, with stops at waterfalls, coffee farms, villages and a drive through the impressive cloudforest of the Culata National Park. Our destination is a exclusive guesthouse where surprising luxury lays within the mist of high mountain forest. With an ETA of 4.00pm,we have a couple of hours to photograph the hoards of humming birds around the grounds, including the amazing Long Tailed Sylph.

After midnight there´s an option to leave our cozy rooms and drive to a lookout point to, once again capture the lightning from a vantage point that few local photographers attempt because of the 50 degree Fahrenheit temperatures... but us North Americans will have no problem braving what the locals consider frigid. This vantage point is from cloud level. If the persistant storm co-operates, your vantage point will produce images few ever take.

Overnight in La Bravera in the cloud forest (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)

An 8am start will on the 23rd will give us a couple of hours to take shots of the bird and plant life before heading to yet another eco-system. Instead of driving back the same way,we head south to the cactus valleys of the Chama valley. There,a dry microclimate contrasts with the massive humidity of the cloud forest. Along with scenes of cactus and deep valleys, we can enter antique factories of raw sugar and tabacco. The latter is a product called Chimo, which was produced by the precolumbian indians centuries before the Spaniards ever came. These factories are a photographer´s delight. This interesting day allows for an easy arrival at the El Vigia Airport before 3.00pm where we end our short, but event filled 4 days.

You will stay the night at a hotel in Caracas of your choice. From there you will catch your next morning flight home on October 24th, 2014.

Contact Information

To Book your spot on this photography tour please contact the tour company in Venezuela that arranged this trip for us. Their contact information is as follows:

Alan Highton

Phone Number: 0414 7562575

Email Address: [email protected]

To get your questions answered in regards to the photographic details please contact:

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 on each of the 3 nights we are there.