Panama wildlife photo workshop


Panama, known primarily for its famous canal, is also a marvel of rich biodiversity.  As the land bridge connecting the South and North American continents, featuring a wide variety of habitat types including lowland rainforest, mangroves, tropical dry and cloud forests, Panama is home to an amazing biological diversity. Almost 1000 species of birds, approximately 250 mammal species, and almost  10.000  different plants, can be found in an area slightly smaller than South Carolina.

For a photographer interested in natural history, Panama is a paradise. A mere 45 minute drive from the international airport, a visitor can immerse him or herself in a primary lowland rain forest. The rain forests surrounding (and supporting the water supply of) the Panama Canal are a fantastic place to get to know the dazzling tropical diversity in a safe and logistically comfortable setting.  Just a 50 minute local flight west, we will find ourselves in the middle of amazing cloud forests with huge tropical trees covered in epiphytes resembling a setting straight out of a fairy tale. 

In this workshop, I aim to introduce participants to photography in a tropical rain forest environment, and to share some of the special and unique aspects about it.  We will have opportunities to photograph the spectacular rain forest bird life of Panama, explore the rainforest landscape, and seek out interesting tropical plants and wildlife. During the workshop, we will spend 3 days in Central Panama, including 2 days on the Smithsonia´s famous field station Barro Colorado Island.  The remaining 3 days will be spent in the cloud forests of Western Panama´s Chiriqui province.  

Photographic themes will include long lens photography, macro, landscape and animal in context techniques, as well as the use of polarizing filters and fill flash.  We also will learn the importance of knowing your subject matter, preparing your shoot, and the art of story telling in images.  In this workshop, I will also work with each participant individually to reach specific photographic goals and advance everyone´s photographic vision.    I am delighted to invite a photo workshop to the country that has been my home for the last 12 years and share some of the places and species that I have been working with over these years for various assignments and personal projects.

Christian Ziegler 

Trip highlights 


  • 8 Nights / 9 Days 
  • Immerse your selves into the rich biodiversity of Panama, from lowland rain forest and mangroves to the dry and cloud forests and photograph thousands of bird species and plants as well as hundreds of different mammal specie
  • Spend 2 days in the Smithsonian Field Station of Barro Colorado Island, a site not accessible to the general public
  • Stay in one of the World's Top Eco-Lodges according to National Geographic Magazine, a former Radar Tower: The Canopy Tower Lodge
  • Experience what being on assignment means for a Nature Photographer 


DAY 1: Arrival

Arrival to Panama City International Airport. You will be picked up and taken to Soberanía National Park where the hotel is located. The group will meet for a welcome dinner at this very unique hotel situated in the forest canopy.

Canopy Tower   (D)

DAY 2: Soberanía national park and gamboa

After breakfast, at the hotel, we will have a short walk with cameras to get a sense of the place in this rich tropical ecosystem.  Afterwards, students will have a portfolio review and will share their interests and hopes for the week with Christian.   

After lunch, we will start our photo adventure. This first day students will photograph birds and will learn effective use and new techniques with telephoto (long) lenses.

Canopy Tower    (B,L,D)

DAY 3: Gamboa

Today we will go to the Panama Rain forest Discovery Center ( run by the Fundacion Avifauna Eugene Eisenmann, where we will photograph hummingbirds and the great variety of birds that inhabit this area.  During this shoot, you will learn the best use of flash, mixed light and remote flash.  

After lunch in Gamboa,  the group will head to Gamboa to for an afternoon shoot where we will photograph flowers and critters,  specially leaf cutter ants and lianas.  Here you will learn to get the best use of your macro lens and the use of wide angle lens for close up.

Canopy Tower    (B,D)

DAY 4: barro colorado Island

After breakfast at the hotel we will take a short boat trip to the Barro Colorado Island where we will have the privilege of visiting the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute. This unique experience is not open to the general public. We have been granted special access to this research center, typically reserved for scientists involved with ongoing research projects. This  biodiverse 1,500 hectare island is located in the middle of the Panama Canal.  

Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute  (B,L,D)

DAY 5: Barro Colorado Island 

During our stay at the Barro Colorado Island we will photograph different plants and animals, and special attention will be given to the monkeys that inhabit the island. Students will also focus on photographing with their macro lenses the famous red eyed frog.  On the way back to mainland, students will shoot landscapes as we travel by boat along the canal.

Country Inn Suites Hotel , located right on the shores of the Panama Canal offering a spectacular view of the Canal (B, L)

DAY 6: David 

In the early morning we will take a 50 minute flight to David, located on the province of Chirique, in Western Panama.  From there, we will head to our beautiful cabins located in the highland cloud forest.  

During the afternoon, we will photograph hummingbirds on feeders and other birds with long lenses. We will also photograph the cloud forest streams in the surrounding area.

Los Quetzales Ecolodge and Spa Cabin  (B,L,D) 

DAY 7: David

During the morning we will learn to create great landscape images by photographing the cloud forest scenes.  During the afternoon, we will photograph the volcanic flow, which is about 10,000 years old, from the most recent eruption of Volcano Baru.

Los Quetzales Ecolodge and Spa Cabin  (B,D) 

DAY 8: David

After breakfast at the hotel, we will head to Finca Dracula, a place dedicated to promotion of education, investigation and conservation of orchids and other tropical ornamental plant species. They hold one of the largest collection of rare orchids in the world. In the afternoon we will head to the airport to fly back to Panama City.  At night we will have our farewell dinner at the famous Manolo Caracol Restaurant.

Country Inn Suites Hotel , located right on the shores of the Panama Canal. (B,L,D)

DAY 9: Departure 

After breakfast, transfer to the airport for your return flight. (B)


This workshop is for amateur and serious digital photographers. All participants must bring a digital camera, a laptop computer and software for organizing and presenting images. The workshop is limited to 11 participants to allow for maximum individualized attention.  

Sugested photographic equipment

  • 1 DSLR camera body
  • 1 Wide angle lense (20 mm or wider)
  • 1 Macro lens (100 mm or 105)
  • 1 long lens (ideally 300 or more)
  • 1 sturdy but not too heavy tripod with head
  • 1 flash that can be used off camera (with cable or IR control) (ideally would be 2 or 3 flashes)
  • 1 circular polarizing filter for the wide angle lens
  • 1 cable release for your camera
  • 1 remote (with long cable or IR) for your camera
  • 1 laptop computer and software for organizing and presenting images

important note

This is an adventure photographic workshop, the idea is to experience how it is for a photographer to be on assigment. We will be getting into the rain and cloud forests of Panama and will be staying at very unique hotels, hand-picked by you instructor, right in the middle of the forest and in the islands. In some cases, there may be a need to share a restroom, and in others, as it is the case in the Smithsonian Research Center, there will be a need to share rooms due to the limited capacity of the place (No singles there, sorry), but the place is so unique, and offers so many great opportunities for photography, that we believe this is one of the highlights of the workshop. There is a limited capacity and can only take a max of 12 students.


To reserve space in this workshop, a $500 per person deposit is required at the time of making the reservation. Deposits are due no later than 90 days prior to departure. Final payment is due no later than 60 days prior to departure unless indicated otherwise in the description of the tour or workshop. All payments must be made by credit card or wire transfer to Photo Xpeditions, LLC, and instructions for payments will be mailed upon confirmation of participation.

Photo Xpeditions reserves the right to cancel a reservation if full payment has not been received by 60 days prior to departure. For reservations made within 60 days of the departure date, full payment is required when the reservation is accepted. All cancellation notices must be received in writing and will become effective as of the date of the postmark. If you cancel 90 days or more prior to departure, a refund less an administrative fee equal to 50% of your deposit will be made. Per person charges for cancellations that occur less than 90 days prior to departure are as follows:
60–90 days prior to departure: 100% of your deposit amount; 
45–60 days prior to departure: 50% of the expedition cost; 
45 or fewer days prior to departure: 100% of the workshop cost.

Photo Xpeditions reserves the right of cancelling the workshop at any time if the minimum amount of students required for the workshop is not reached. If a workshop needs to be cancelled for this reason, a full refund will be given to all participants.