Our team guided the National Geographic’s expedition to the Madidi.
While shooting in Bolivia’s Madidi National Park, Joel spent a lot of time on the river’s banks. But to travel through the park, he had to get off the banks and into a dugout canoe, accompanied by native trackers and Rosa María Ruiz, director of Eco Bolivia foundation and one of Madidi’s staunchest defenders.
“She was my guide, interpreter, friend, and life – saver,” Joel says. “She made sure I stayed out of harm’s way.” When the Nebraska native and first time visitor traipsed through the jungle with a column of trackers, Rosa María kept him in the middle in case wild pigs-peccaries-or some other dangerous animal decided to investigate the two-legged intruders.
“The Bolivians could escape the pigs,” Joel says, “but they knew they’d need lots of time to get the fat gringo up a tree.”
Most of the abundant creatures in Madidi were less than keen to have Joel capture them on film, including the pigs. Nearly every photograph in the story required agonizing waits-the cover photo of the macaws took a week. Throughout, Rosa María worked hard to put Joel in great photo situations. “We built platforms, hideaways, a tower, and combed the forest,” says Rosa María. Says Joel, “Many of the pictures are because of her.”