Friday, January 27, 2012

Bird Photography & Birding in Costa Rica

I can't think of anywhere with more species of birds packed into a small country the size of West Virginia in the world.  While the USA boasts some 900+ species, tiny Costa Rica wins hands down with and impressive 1800+ species.  Migrants from both north and south America plus an array of endemic species unique to Costa Rica.  From tiny warblers and honey creepers to large waders, pelicans and birds of prey; more common species like thrushes and robins to exotic parrots, macaws and the magnificent Resplendent Quetzal you're sure to get your fill.  Whether you're and experienced birder, a professional photographer, a hobbyist or just enjoy the diversity of nature you'll be in seventh heaven in Costa Rica.

Our hosts for our are annual Costa Rica Photo Safari are Lookout Inn on the beautiful shore of the pacific ocean and Bosque Del Cabo Rainforest Lodge nestled in the primary rainforest.

If photographing the feathered friends is your quest I recommend at least a 400mm lens with a 500mm or 600mm preferred.  While these are on the heavy end you will need the reach to get close to the shy species.  But don't despair as there are plenty of  shots to be had with shorter lenses of 200mm to 300mm.  A good tripod is a must for working in the rainforest as dark conditions prevail under the canopy.  And I often employ the use of a flash with a flash extender, I use the Better Beamer.

Here are but a few of the thousands of bird images taken during the 2012 Costa Rica photo safari; in addition to many species we have photographed in the past we added several new species to our list.  New birds included, the White-fronted Parrot and the Masked Tityra.  The Tityra was photographed on the grounds of Bosque Del Cabo Rainforest Lodge and the White-fronted Parrots during our river cruise up the Rio Esquinas.
Masked Tityra
White-fronted Parrot
Several of my favorite images from this years safari included some of the images of waders and shorebirds taken while staying at Lookout Inn on Carate Beach.
"Walk like an Egyptian", a Tri-colored Heron &

Willet in winter plumage walking in from of a Tri-colored Heron
 While the 2012 adventure is coming to an end we'd be happy to share the beauty of the birds of Costa Rica with you in 2013.  For more information please visit and check out our dates and rates for 2013.  Or if you'd like more information, drop me an email at;

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Costa Rica Macro Style

Costa Rica and macro photography are as natural as spaghetti and meatballs; I can't imagine not taking advantage of the millions, yes millions of photo opportunities awaiting me in the small world in this biologically diverse country.  Costa Rica offers, tens of thousands of flowers, insects, reptiles and amphibians all waiting to be photographed.

One of my favorite subjects are the Leaf Cutter Ants that inhabit the rain forest.  These industrious ants work tirelessly all day carrying small pieces of leaf back to their nest where they tend them to grow fungus as a food for the colony.  Its not uncommon to find 6 inch wide trails on the forest floor left by the thousands of tiny legs as they carry their cargo back to the nest. 

My lens of choice is the Canon 100mm f2.8 macro.  I also use extension tubes; 12mm and 25mm if I need to get a little closer, as well as a 500d close focus element.  A flash, in this case a Canon 580 EX, with a small soft box to help freeze and highlight the ants as they march by.  Other equipment I find useful are a remote release, either cable of infrared, and a flash remote trigger to allow you to move the light to where its most effective.  And, most importantly, a tripod!!  You just can't hold the camera steady enough to expect much success hand holding!

If you're fortunate and they are cutting from leaves that are close to the ground, you might try your hand at capturing images of them cutting the leaf into sections.  Here's several of my successful images out of many hundreds attempted;

Leaf Cutter Ants fight over a leaf section

Leaf Cutter Ants at work

As you can see the images are worth all the time and effort in getting them; I probably shot 300 to 400  hundred images.  Working with a very small fast moving subject with a narrow depth of field (DoF) band.  The images were shot at ISO 1600 in order to increase my shutter speed while stopping down in order to maximize my DoF.  All images were taken with the Canon 1D MK IV.

So, moral of the story, get that macro gear tuned up before you head to the tropical rain forest and have the time of your life.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Carate Beach Costa Rica-Tapirs & Parrots

Well the best laid plans don't always work out, so I stay flexible.  Haven't been able to blog since arriving, just too busy.  Weather here at Lookout Inn on the shores of Carate Beach has been down right wonderful.  Sunny during the days with tropical breezes to keep things from being unbearably hot and muggy.  The photography has been simply amazing with the bountiful wildlife of the Osa Peninsula on display daily.  Wake-up for photo shoot is 4:30am daily and the early morning walk to the nearby lagoon to photograph wading and shore birds has been both productive and spiritual.

Today on the way back from our morning at the lagoon we were fortunate to see and photograph a Tapir, the largest mammal in Central America, in the surf.  I guess a dip in the ocean is not an exclusive to people.  The image was taken with a Canon 500mm f4 IS w/1.4x II teleconverter and a Canon 1D MK IV.
The Tapir spent quite some time in the waves giving everyone ample time to photograph him before disappearing into the nearby jungle.  With some luck he'll make another appearance before we head to our next destination. 

As we returned to the lodge of breakfast we were interrupted yet again.  A pair of Red-lored Amozon Parrots were nest building in a date palm at the bottom of the hill from the lodge.  Gotta love those kind of interruptions!  We'll be keeping an eye on the nest for more photo ops.  The image was taken with the same setup as the Tapir as I hadn't changed anything from the Tapir shoot.

Well daylights burning and there's plenty more images to be had today.   Just too much fun!!