Yucatan Wildlife Photography with the Tamron 18-400mm 

I hope this post is helpful for others looking to photograph wildlife near Cancun, Playa del Carmen, or Tulum. I also want to thank Tamron USA for lending me the jacknife of all travel lenses, the new 18-400mm. The broad range of this ultra telephoto All-In-One helped me image everything that moved (and a few things like ruins which did not move). I would sincerely recommend this lens to anyone looking for a versatile travel lens especially for nature which is one of my niches (addictions?).

Yucatan birding

Tropical Mockingbird in Cozumel Mexico

Tropical Mockingbird
Cozumel, Mexico
Tamron 18-400mm F/3.5-6.3 DI-II VC HLD lens + Canon SL2
Aperture Priority +2/3 exposure compensation
1/320th F/9 ISO 3200, 400mm

My first time observing this species. I could easily have mistaken this bird for the Northern Mockingbirds I often see at home. Body dimensions and wingtips do stand out to me as differing slightly between the two species.

Tamron 18-400mm bif

Turkey Vulture in flight and Caribbean Sea

Turkey Vulture in flight
Cozumel, Mexico
Tamron 18-400mm F/3.5-6.3 DI-II VC HLD lens + Canon SL2
Aperture Priority +2/3 exposure compensation
1/4000th F/9 ISO 6400, 400mm

The same vulture species we commonly see cleaning the roads in New Jersey. I like the small breaking wave of the Caribbean Sea in the background. I also like sharpness of the flight feathers now suspended in the frame. The Tamron 18-400mm VC did a very good job at tracking the action and also resolving the fine detail. Kudos to the Canon SL2 Rebel also for a clean enough shot at ISO 6400.

Tulum Mexico Nature Photography

Partially Leucistic Yucatan Jay in Tulum Mexico

Yucatan Jay – partially leucistic
Tulum, Mexico
Tamron 18-400mm F/3.5-6.3 DI-II VC HLD lens + Canon SL2
Aperture Priority +2/3 exposure compensation
1/1250th F/8 ISO 25600, 300mm

The genetic condition of leucism in birds will often cause a loss of pigment. I am not a scientist but I do know this condition varies from albininism as an albino animal should have discolored or pink eyes. Anyhow, this was quite a challenging photograph to capture as I was in the deep shade in a grove of trees, shooting almost vertically, and dealing with extreme heat. ISO 25600 is never a desirable as fine detail is sacrificed for a brighter exposure in low light.

Note that the shaded walk to the ruins of Tulum (approaching from the public beach side) has diverse trees including fruit trees making it a decent patch for birding.

Mexico Sandpiper Picture

Sanderling sandpiper in Tulum Mexico

Sanderling
Tulum, Mexico
Tamron 18-400mm F/3.5-6.3 DI-II VC HLD lens + Canon SL2
Aperture Priority +1 2/3 exposure compensation
1/250th F/9 ISO 400

A raised natural rock perch, overcast light, and uncluttered background brought this scene together for me. Sunrise Beach in Tulum is a very pleasant yet small public area. Lisa and I both enjoyed taking photographs here and you can walk on the scenic exposed rocks at low tide. It would be hard to take a bad picture in such a place.

Mexico Amphibian

Gulf Coast Toad in Coba Mexico

Gulf Coast Toad
Coba, Mexico
Tamron 18-400mm F/3.5-6.3 DI-II VC HLD lens + Canon SL2
Aperture Priority + 1/3 exposure compensation
1/25th F/10 ISO 1600, 100mm

An obliging subject at the base of a tree near ruins at Coba. Possibly my first time observing a Gulf Coast Toad, it’s dark lateral markings remind me a bit of a Wood Frog. An aperture of F/10 was selected to offer more depth of field than my typical walk-around setting of F/8. This is an uncropped image, the Tamron’s 1:2.9 (check this) macro ability is very useful for photographing small wildlife.

Yucatan Wildlife Photography

Striped Basilisk lizard at Coba Mexico

Striped Basilisk Lizard
Coba, Mexico
Tamron 18-400mm F/3.5-6.3 DI-II VC HLD lens + Canon SL2
Aperture Priority + 1/3 exposure compensation
1/320th F/9 ISO 800, 400mm

I did crop in on this, I played hide and seek with this lizard for several minutes but it was not going to sit still for me. A male Basilisk would like similar but have a large angular crest atop its head. I would have preferred a cleaner setting for the shot but my goal when I travel is to document as much wildlife diversity as I can.

Macro Insect Photography

Carmine Skimmer dragonfly in Cancun Mexico

Carmine Skimmer Dragonfly
Cancun, Mexico
Tamron 18-400mm F/3.5-6.3 DI-II VC HLD lens + Canon SL2
Aperture Priority + 0 exposure compensation
1/200th F/8 ISO 400, 400mm

I took this on a golf course during a morning walk from my resort. The Tamron 18-400mm looks like a good choice to me for dragonfly shooting. 400mm of telephoto reach, a short minimum focusing distance, and reputable Vibration Compensation (in lens anti-shake stabilization) are all very useful in the field.

Isla Mujeres birds

Cormorant and Gulls silhouette in Isla Mujeres Mexico

Cormorant and Gulls silhouette
Tortugranja, Isla Mujeres, Mexico
Tamron 18-400mm F/3.5-6.3 DI-II VC HLD lens + Canon SL2
Aperture Priority + 0 exposure compensation
1/2000th F/8 ISO 200, 227mm

I chose not to use my lens at its furthest zoom for this image to show more context. Compositionally this is a pretty basic rule-of-thirds layout. The muted scene looks rather postcard to me which is neither good nor bad, “it is what it is”. This might print well for a dentist’s office.

Ctenosaur Iguana picture

Ctenosaur (spiny-tailed iguana) in Mexico

Ctenosaur
El Ray Ruins, Cancun, Mexico
Tamron 18-400mm F/3.5-6.3 DI-II VC HLD lens + Canon SL2
Aperture Priority + 0 exposure compensation
1/250th F/10 ISO 400, 400mm

This large adult iguana is either surveying his territory, enjoying the breeze, or doing whatever else iguanas do. They are actually quite territorial and will confront other iguanas invading their turf. A good number of the iguanas we saw had tails in various stages of regeneration which is a nice evolutionary trick to have.

Fringe-toed Foamfrog

Sabinal Frog (aka Fringe-toed Foamfrog)

Sabinal Frog
El Ray Ruins, Cancun, Mexico
Tamron 18-400mm F/3.5-6.3 DI-II VC HLD lens + Canon SL2
Aperture Priority + 1 exposure compensation
1/160th F/9 ISO 800, 400mm

A very diminutive frog and hard to locate at first. I chose to show its flooded grassy environment to provide context and scale.  A big thank you to Bill McGighan for identifying my photo for me.

Cancun Crocodile Picture

American Crocodile in Cancun

American Crocodile
Cancun, Mexico
Tamron 18-400mm F/3.5-6.3 DI-II VC HLD lens + Canon SL2
Aperture Priority + 1 exposure compensation
1/500th F/10 ISO 400, 200mm

A small individual, this one was on the edge of the lagoon just behind a gift shop in Cancun. I had seen another tourist couple looking down in the lagoon and had a hunch of what they were looking at. After a couple of photographs and a quick conversation with the couple from Manchester UK we bid the reptile and the humans good day.

Mexico butterfly picture

Gulf Fritillary Butterfly in Cancun Mexico

Gulf Fritillary
Coral Beach, Cancun, Mexico
Tamron 18-400mm F/3.5-6.3 DI-II VC HLD lens + Canon SL2
Manual Exposure
1/100th F/8 ISO 1600, 227mm

The wildlife habitat at Coral Beach was less than overwhelming, however it did have more vegetation than most other parts of the tourist city. Coral Beach (also called Mirador) is a very pleasant place to walk around and a good way to avoid the crowds on the rest of the boulevard. Vibration Compensation saved the day on this shot, with a low handheld shutter speed of 1/100th at ISO 1600 I did not want to raise the ISO at the expense of fine detail.

 

Let me know if you have any questions or comments about the photographs, locations, or lens/camera setup I will do my best to help.

 

Purchase the Tamron 18-400mm F/3.5-6.3 DI-II VC HLD All-In-One Zoom through my affiliate link to help support my blog

Tamron 18-400mm for Canon APS-C

Tamron 18-400mm for Nikon

Canon EOS Canon EOS Rebel SL2 24 Megapixel Digital SLR Camera Body Only

Advertisements

2 thoughts on “Yucatan Wildlife Photography with the Tamron 18-400mm 

  1. very nice i’m going to Cancun and probably few days i like to see some wildlife what do you recommend it is good to rent a car or to go with the guide ,i guess with the guide is kind of pricey

    Liked by 1 person

    • Congrats on the upcoming trip.

      My fiancee and I rented a car for our full trip from Easy Way Rent a Car and got a good price. The only problem with driving is that local police go out of their way to target tourists, especially near the boulevard in Cancun. Will you be staying in Cancun? No problems otherwise, though I have driven internationally including in Costa Rica.

      Our trip was not solely for wildlife viewing, we honed in on visiting several ruin sites (Coba, Tulum, El Rey, Chichen Itza). Of which Chichen Itza I found least enjoyable as it was too touristy. There is some wildlife to be found at Coba, Tulum, and El Rey ruins and you will not necessarily need guides to get around these well traversed ruin sites. There are some very nice natural beaches on the far side of Cozumel which can be good for birds and possibly sea turtles (in season). We took the ferry to Cozumel and rented a car after we got on the island.

      I did see a lot of birds on the walk into Tulum and there looked to be some nice B&B’s to stay at in the little beach town also.

      Please exercise caution and safety on your trip. We did see a few seedy characters, suffered minor extortion by Cancun traffic police, and were confronted by drug pushers a couple of times as well. The Yucatan is a beautiful area though getting off the beaten path may not be for the faint of heart.

      Lisa and I would certainly recommend visiting a couple of the more affordable cenotes on your trip for unique swimming experiences. Some of the cenotes are within natural areas and you never know where an interesting bird or lizard might pop out.

      I do a great deal of my travel research on the TripAdvisor Forums and would highly recommend doing the same. Give this is a shot – https://www.tripadvisor.com/SearchForums?q=birding&scope=2&sub-search=Search&ff=14383&geo=1575485&returnTo=__2F__ShowForum__2D__g1575485__2D__i14383__2D__Quintana__5F__Roo__5F__Yucatan__5F__Peninsula__2E__html

      Let me know if you have any other questions.

      Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

w

Connecting to %s