Caiman by Moonlight is a blog post from the Pantanal category.

Caiman by Moonlight

Posted by Will on

We are always on the lookout for original, technically challenging projects. Last year we photographed caiman at night with star trails above. When we returned to the Pantanal earlier this year, one of our harebrained schemes was to photograph caiman by the light of the full moon. There were a few fundamental difficulties that we had to overcome to do this… firstly we had to approach to within a couple of meters of a wild caiman, then set up a camera & tripod beside the reptile, compose the shot in the dark, stay totally still for at least 5 minutes and hope the caiman didn’t move. It was going to be a challenge! Below you can see some of the resulting shots. At first glance the images almost look like they were taken during the day but there are subtle signs that the shots aren’t normal; the stars in the sky, the smooth ethereal water, the eerie lighting…

Moonlit CaimanCaiman Fishing at Night

To take these shots, we spent a whole night, from 10pm to 5am patrolling the banks of the Rio Negro in search of suitable caiman. We decided to split up, each of us taking a camera and tripod in order to double our chances of getting some decent shots. Being alone with the caiman on the dark river bank was a spooky experience!

Whenever we spotted a caiman in a good position, we moved painfully slowly to avoid disturbing it. In order to photograph the caiman as a part of their environment, we tried to get close enough so that we could use a wide-angle lens. The long exposures typically took upwards of 5 minutes. During this time, we had fish nibbling on our feet and mosquitoes sucking our blood. We couldn’t stop them for fear of disturbing the caiman! At one point we noticed a caiman chomping on a freshly caught piranha – the last thing you want to see when you are wading in the river with bare legs and feet!

Caiman at NightCaiman Silhouetted by the Moon

When the Sun’s glow started to light up the sky in the East, we squelched back to our lodge for some breakfast and a flagon of coffee… needless to say, we were totally shattered for the rest of the day!


  1. THREEARK! said: September 30, 2009 at 1:34 am

    Very cool project with some impressive results. Good work!

  2. Martina Rathgens said: September 30, 2009 at 11:29 am

    Fantastic shots, as all others I have seen from you so far. I really enjoy your newsletter and envy you a lot for the great experiences you are making.Thanks for sharing them , take care and what about wearing some rubber boots when wading through Piranha invaded rivers ?
    Regards from Italy,

  3. Dave Wilson said: September 30, 2009 at 3:06 pm

    Outstanding! You definitely went above and beyond the call of duty to get these shots. I’m amazed that the animals sat still enough to remain this sharp in a 5 minute+ exposure. I guess that’s one of the benefits of being cold-blooded 🙂

  4. Lucas Leuzinger said: October 1, 2009 at 1:46 am

    Congratulations !!! I have these animals in my backyard and never even thought of taking such a stunning shot !

  5. Anna Pankiewicz said: February 26, 2010 at 10:08 am

    Hello Guys,

    As awlays brilliant shots and great read from your widle life adventures.
    Thank you for sharing and keep up the good work!

    Best wishes from sunny Bolton 🙂

  6. Mr Christopher said: July 18, 2010 at 12:27 am

    I like this work, because it shows the caimans at one with their natural landscape, when so many images actually serve only to isolate the crocodilians from their habitat, as if the one could exist without the other. But with these pictures, we can look at the landscape, and the caimans in it, in a holistic way, as an ancient unity, and understand more about them by thinking about the landscape they have chosen to inhabit

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