COSTA RICA TRAVEL REPORT: FROM HUMMINGBIRD TO QUETZAL
Updated: Apr 6
Taking images of Hummingbirds in flight like a pro, spotting the rare quetzal, photographing frogs of all colors, snakes, toucans, and flying parrots... You can read about how our travelers achieved this, in this report.
Perfect setting, experience included
I must admit, personally I don't feel like walking in a forest hoping for a powerful image. Chances are too small that this will happen. You usually have to point your lens up and the resulting image will probably be filled with loads of overexposed elements caused by the visible sky between the canopy.
The experience is important, but the image prevails on my photography tours.
By the way, a toucan 2 meters away or dozens of hummingbirds flying around your head, I think that also counts as an experience, right?
Photos from Costa Rica are often more than perfect pictures. Toucans, hummingbirds and vultures in ideal compositions, atmospheric soft backgrounds, and a branch with a bromeliad to transcend perfection. As a photographer you immediately see that those ideal circumstances are tailor-made. You can only take such photos at feeders. And that's how I like to work with my guests.
We started with one of Costa Rica's best: the hummingbird. They are fluttering so fast, it seems very hard to freeze them in action. So we've set up a multiflash, a set of 5 flash units, to photograph them. This allowed us to "freeze" them while they came to feed.
A mass of hummingbirds buzzed around the feeders. For the image we replaced the feeder with a flower (with some sugar water on it) and after a few clicks, I soon saw a lot of smiling faces among the participants. I just had to put them on their way with the right shutter speeds and backgrounds.
We use multiple flashes to 'freeze' the birds
After this easy photography, I naturally also challenged them with more creative angles, slow shutter speeds and backlight shots. In this way the group was able to show off dozens of razor-sharp hummingbird images towards the end of the day.
A Rare Species, but not on our trip
Day 2 and 3 of our trip were dominated by the rare quetzal, a real target species for many bird photographers. Because this typical species is mainly active in the morning, we've planned two days to maximize our result. But thanks to the cooperation of our lodge with 23 local farmers, there wasn't a lot of research needed. Lucky for us! :-)
After 3 days everyone already had thousands of images. I felt that a record would die here. Japan still hold the record of 40,000 images!
A bird's eye view
Next stop: morning shoot in Sarapiquí. In addition to portraits of the famous scarlet parrots, we also came here to take photos in flight. The wild birds were willing to fly back and forth. That is, if you put some nuts in front of them. ;-)
In the afternoon we continued to "relax" at the lodge. Although the participants agreed that you don't always have to do that in a garden chair. Instead we've visited the butterfly garden of the lodge, we've found caimans in the lagoon, made pictures of the birds that visited the feeding places and a sloth that just happen to hung around in the neighborhood.
Talk about frogs! In many cases, you can only make beautiful images of these unique frog species if you put things on stage. Although this originally went against my principles. In addition, you prevent unnecessary disturbance to dozens of frogs while you wander through their habitat.
By 'staging' the frog shoot, we prevent in disturbing lots of other animals and support a good cause
For this shoot we worked together with Frog’s Heaven, an organization dedicated to the preservation of these species. Before our session, the team went out looking for a few specimens and placed them for us in a beautiful setting. I've told your before that handling this animals, goes against my principles but by participating, they use the money to protect many forests and so the species and individuals. At the moment they already have 7 hectares of forest under their care and it's still expanding.
Hotspot for bird photography
From frogs and snakes, to (more) birds. We arrived at the Costa Rica's photographers hotspot: Laguna Del Lagarto! As a hotel rather basic, but not to be missed as a photo stop. From their perfectly placed and equipped photography hide, we could observe the magisterial black vulture and the king vulture.
From a platform we also had a view of feeding places where species such as the Oropendola and the Toucan come to feed. The feeders are so perfectly placed, to give you a nice and soft background. On request they provide new branches, so not one image looks the same.
A beach life
We ended our trip in beauty...at the beach. We mainly traveled to Manuel Antonio National Park to photograph Capuchin Monkeys and for dessert we also saw a colony of disciplined marching leaf cutter ants.
Before we returned home on a night flight, we visited the wildlife refuge at La Paz Waterfall Gardens. And with some extra memorable images in our pocket, we returned satisfied from photogenic Costa Rica.