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BugShot/Belize 2014 – September 7-14, 2014, Belize

$3185/$3295 Suites/Bungalow lodging, capacity: 20 [register online] - 2 spaces remaining; registration closes August 4

Join an all-star cast of professional photographers on an 8-day, 7-night tropical insect safari in Belize!

[Click for a preview] | [Click for BugShot/Belize 2013 participant photos]

Instructors: Alex Wild, Piotr Naskrecki, John Abbott, and Thomas Shahan

Venue: We are lucky to be hosted by Caves Branch Lodge, one of Belize’s oldest and best appointed jungle lodges. Caves Branch Lodge sits on 50,000 acres along the “Hummingbird Highway” and provides ready access to high quality tropical habitat, including forests, rivers, caves, and a botanical garden that holds the country’s largest orchid collection. You will also enjoy the lodge’s comfortable accommodation and excellent food. We have included an open day in the schedule if you wish to tour local Mayan ruins or partake in some of the lodge’s cave adventures.

Schedule:

Day 1. Attendees arrive at Caves Branch lodge from the Belize City airport (1.5 hour drive) in time for a late afternoon social and dinner. In the evening we introduce the workshop and blacklight for insects around the lodge.

Day 2. We cover the basics of macrophotography equipment and lighting via hands-on practice in the botanical garden. In the afternoon, we hold an introduction to studio photography. An after-dinner presentation will introduce insect biology, after which we’ll take a walk through the forest to spot katydids, net-casting spiders, army ants, stick insects, and other nocturnal animals.

Day 3. We divide into smaller groups for trips away from the lodge. One group will visit Footprints cave to photograph amblypygids, cave crickets, and predaceous fungus gnats. The cave also holds Mayan relics.

The second group will travel to Green Hills Butterfly Ranch to hone photo technique amid swirling clouds of domesticated butterflies, including longwings, glasswings, morphos, and swallowtails.

In evening, we reunite for a natural history talk by one of the instructors. As usual, the blacklight will be running to attract night-flying insects.

Day 4. A morning visit to the Caves Branch River will supply us with aquatic insects, including diving beetles and dragonfly nymphs, to practice photographing in studio aquaria. After lunch we’ll hear the instructors introduce the natural history of their favorite arthropod groups, followed by afternoon walks through the open habitats on Caves Branch’s extended grounds. In the evening, we’ll have a natural history session followed by blacklighting.

Day 5. The group that traveled to the cave on Day 3 will now visit the Butterfly ranch, and vice versa.

In the evening, back at the lodge, we’ll have a presentation on the science of rain forest ecology, followed by photo-sharing.

Day 6 is unscheduled until dinner. During this free day you are welcome to sign up for one of Caves Branch’s many adventure tours, visit Mayan ruins, continue shooting in the forest, or just lounge by the pool. The instructors will be on hand all day to offer one-on-one sessions. We’ll have photo-sharing and a night walk after dinner.

Day 7. We remain on Caves Branch trails to practice our photographic skills on fascinating subjects like orchid bees, dung beetles, and acacia-ants. The day also includes sessions on how to find and collect insects and an open Q & A discussion. We have a closing social event planned for the evening.

Day 8. After breakfast and workshop closure we depart for the airport.

Throughout the event, indoor insect studios and aquaria will be available for general use, and the blacklight/mercury vapor lamp will run every evening.

Lodging: Spacious 2-person ($3295) and 4-person ($3185) cabins are the default accommodations included with registration, but upgrades to extra-luxurious Tree Houses may be possible at additional cost, pending availability. Contact Caves Branch ASAP if you are interested in upgrading your accommodation- the lodge is a popular destination and the cabins fill quickly. [lodging preview]

Required Equipment: At a minimum you will need a camera and lenses capable of close-in photographs, as well as an off-camera flash. We recommend an SLR camera with a 1:1 or greater macro lens. Alternately, suitable magnification is possible with a set of extension tubes, bellows, or a reverse-mounted lens kit. A good point-and-shoot camera with a Raynox filter and an external flash mount is also suitable.

Price includes: All scheduled course activities, lodging, meals, and transportation to/from the airport.

Price does not include: drinks/snacks from the bar, laundry service, tours taken during the unscheduled day

If you wish to bring a non-participating friend or spouse, they are welcome to stay at the lodge during the course pending availability. Contact Caves Branch for arrangements.

Registration by mail: Offline registrations are welcome! Contact Alex (alwild [at] myrmecos.net) ASAP to reserve your place and arrange alternate payment.

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