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Photography In Ecuador

Anyone with even a passing interest in photography will love Ecuador. It is one of the most scenic countries in the world, with several places—Galápagos, the Otavalo market, the waterfalls near Baños, to name a few—being truly exceptional and unique places to take photos. Take care with your cameras: They are one of the items most stolen from visitors.

For any camera, make sure you have extra batteries. They can be difficult to find in Ecuador unless they're a common type like AA. If you use rechargeable ones, be sure to bring your battery recharger. Bring filters if you use them, as lighting and weather conditions in Ecuador can often be extreme. Talk to an expert at the local photo shop about filters if you don’t know much about them. Tell him or her that you’ll be going to a place with very strong sunlight. A waterproof camera bag is a must, as is camera cleaning equipment.

If you use print film, it is possible to purchase it fairly easily in Ecuador. Common 35mm film is easy to find. The best prices are usually at the little photo developing shops that you'll find almost everywhere. Prices for decent 100, 200, and 400 speed film are a little bit higher than in the States, but the quality is the same and the convenience factor probably makes it worth it to purchase film in Ecuador, especially when you consider that you won't have to pass your film through several x-ray machines as you go through airport security. Specialized film, such as 160 speed film for portraits, black-and-white film or any film that is not 35mm, may be difficult to find. If you run out and you're at a tourist destination like Mitad del Mundo, film will be easy to find but more expensive.

It is possible to develop your print film in Ecuador, but many visitors complain about quality. Stories of lost photos, botched developing and scratched negatives are common enough for concern. Black-and-white processing is nearly impossible. Of the various developing chains in Ecuador, Ecuacolor (URL: seems to have the most satisfied customers. There are several Ecuacolor branches in Quito, and they are easily identified by their bright yellow color scheme. Ask about special deals. Most photo places offer daily specials such as two rolls for the price of one, a free new roll of film with developing, etc.

If you use a digital camera, be sure to have more than one memory chip. You’ll take a lot of photos, and downloading them to a disc or computer may be difficult. If your chip is full, internet cafés may be able to put all of your photos on a disc for you for a minimal price. Many of the high-end tourist places, such as the nicer hotels and Galápagos cruise ships, also offer this service. Before you go, be absolutely sure to bring all appropriate cables, chargers and other accessories. Do not expect any computer places to have them. Spare batteries is also a good idea, as you may be away from a wall socket for a while.

If you're planning on downloading your photos somehow before returning home, be aware that the CDs themselves can be sometimes difficult to find. You may want to pack one or two just in case. Photo shops in Quito and Guayaquil will be able to make prints for you if you can't wait to get home.

If you use a video camcorder, bring as many tapes or mini DVDs as you think you're going to need, as it may be hard to find them in Ecuador. Assume that you will not be able to download the tapes onto any disc or DVD until you get home, although some of the better internet cafés might be able to do it.

Underwater photography: Galápagos is a fantastic place to take underwater photos, as the water is often clear, there are many opportunities to dive and snorkel, and there are species of marine life found nowhere else in the world. Plan on bringing all of your own equipment, though. Dive shops in the Galápagos tend to be very basic and probably won’t be able to lend you any gear.

It is a good idea to bring along one or two disposable cameras. If you're going out with friends to dance and drink, they're perfect: small, handy and replaceable if stolen. Disposable cameras are available in the larger cities and in photo shops, but they're more expensive than they are in the States: a decent one with flash will cost you around $15-20 in Ecuador. Semi-waterproof cameras are also a good idea: they're fun to bring on rafting trips and while snorkeling in Galápagos (tip: get close or the picture won’t work). Disposable water cameras are available in Quito, but a little bit expensive.

Cultural note: Some Ecuadorians are uncomfortable having their photo taken, particularly the indigenous people from the highlands and rain forests. It is always polite to ask before you take someone's photo. In common tourist places like Otavalo and Baños, locals (particularly children) sometimes dress up for the express purpose of letting visitors take their picture: in this case, they'll expect to be paid. Again, the best way is to ask first. If the photo is worth fifty cents or a dollar to you and you don't mind encouraging the money-for-photo attitude, go ahead. One good way to get photos in Otavalo is to make a purchase first at a particular stall. The local’s attitude toward a photo may change very quickly if you're a paying customer! Powerful zoom lenses can also let you take some excellent photos of people without making them uncomfortable. If you're taking a general photo, such as a market street, it is not necessary to ask anyone first.

Also, it may be illegal to take photos in certain areas. Be careful when taking photos near any sort of official or military installation. If there is a soldier or policeman nearby, it is best to ask first if photography is permitted.

Here are some related tips to help plan your trip to Ecuador: Playas, Around Guayaquil, Flora and Fauna in Ecuador , Lava Lizard, Travel Agencies and Tourist Information, When to Go, Getting to and away from Misahuallí, Fish in the Galápagos, When to Go and Galápagos Health & Safety.

By Christopher Minster
I am a writer and editor at V!VA Travel guides here in Quito, where I specialize in adding quality content to the site and also in spooky things like...
07 Sep 2012

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