Thursday, August 17, 2023

The first time doing a dolphin excursion in Costa Rica!

I have been leading photo tours to the same area of Costa Rica for many years now, and the itinerary has stayed very much the same with a couple of small changes. Some of the changes were conscious changes made by me (based on my guests feedback) and others were made out of necessity.  One of the excursions that my guests enjoyed was a visit to an animal rehab area. Unfortunately that sanctuary has been shut down and so I needed to come up with a different excursion for my photo tour. One of the best parts of the sanctuary visit was the boat ride across the bay. I really wanted to keep that as part of my tour, to share this awesome experience with my guests. Working along with my contacts at the resort, we decided to replace the sanctuary trip with a whale and dolphin watching trip. And it turned out to be awesome!

Let me share the images and story of our amazing morning on the water.

The first question I always get from my guests when I tell them that we are going to be on the water is "How rough will the water be?" Because we stay within the bay and don't venture out into the open ocean waters, it is almost always very calm.  We boarded a boat around 8am and headed out looking for whales. I saw this guy fishing from a kayak and loved the calm scene and all the blue colors working together. As you can see, we had nice overcast skies which really helped to avoid harsh sunlight and shadows.

After 20 minutes or so, our captain and guide spotted a mother whale and her young calf. We cruised along with them for while, capturing photos of their backs, but never got a good shot of their heads or tails.

Getting a nice shot of their dorsal fins is fine, but gets old fast. It was time to move on to see if we could find some dolphins.

We headed back into the smoother waters of the bay and same across this sea turtle who made an appearance for a quick photo.

We also tracked a couple of white-footed booby, but were determined to find dolphins!

After 30 minutes of searching, we saw spotted dolphins out in the distance. I was VERY excited to see the dolphins for 4 reasons:

1. They have been my favorite animal since I was a young child.
2. It was a large pod with a lot of activity.
3. They were not just swimming, but jumping high into the air.
4. I wanted my guests to have great photo opportunities.

I was shooting with the Canon R5 camera and Canon RF 100-500mm lens. Because the high resolution of the Canon R5, I could crop in on the previous shot to get this image. It is less than 1MB in size, but still decent. I liked the "S curve" of the body but really wanted to see more of the face.

As we got closer to the pod, we were able to grab images like this without having to do heavy crops. 

This one dolphin jumped so high, facing us and leaving a trail of water off of it's body! This is one of my favorite photos from the trip. I was excited to see that numerous of my guests captured the same jump. It was just AWESOME!  

Here is a tighter crop of the same image. This one is going on the wall at my home (and I will be offering this and many other images for sale soon).

They just kept performing for us. 

We estimated that there were more than 100 spotted dolphins in this pod.

The more mature spotted dolphins show spots on their under belly. you can see that in this image.

Here is another favorite image from that morning and the photo tour. Actually, there are numerous images from this excursion that are in my all-time favorite image collection.

After spending over an hour with the spotted dolphins, we started to make our way back to the resort, when we came across a small pod of bottlenose dolphins. They came over and rode the bow wave of the boat. At this point, many of my guests had stopped taking photos and were just sitting on the bow, enjoying the show. As soon as I saw them right in front of us, I switched to my Canon R6II which had the Canon RF 24-105mm lens on it. I also happened to have my Tiffen Circular Polarizing filter on the lens, which helped to cut the glare and get better images of the dolphins in the water. I stood up and shot images over the heads of my guests. 

Then I decided to put the camera down and enjoy this for myself. I did take my iPhone out and grabbed a short video to remember the moment. You can see that HERE.

As you can imagine, this excursion is staying on my Costa Rica photo tours from now on! I hope you can join me on an upcoming trip to see this for yourself.


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