Monday, December 15, 2014

Costa Rica - Days 3 and 4 - Hummingbirds and more from Monte Verde

On our third day in Costa Rica, we made the 4+ hour drive from San Jose to Monte Verde. This left little time for photography, but we decided to spend the last hours of daylight walking around the grounds of the "hotel" grounds which was actually a group of cabins nestled in the hills. While walking around, we found some hummingbirds and put our patience to test once again, trying to capture these quick moving speedsters. There are more than 30 different species of hummingbirds in Costa Rica, and we wanted to capture photos of as many of we could.

Look at these awesome colors!

As is always the case, I am doing my best to track the birds and get there heads in perfect focus.  All of these hummingbird photos were taken with the Canon 1DX and 100-400mm lens. I used a combination of servo focus and fixed focus, but relied on back-button focusing to lock in on them. If you have not tried back-button focusing, you can check out the video I posted a while back, which explains the technique and shows you how to set it up on a Canon camera.

I was keeping my shutter speed at 1/250 sec to give me a decent chance of grabbing the birds in perfect focus, while also showing motion in their wings. If you photograph these hummers with a shutter speed slower than 1/100, you will barely see their wings. And if you photograph them at 1/1000 of a sec, you will freeze the wings with no motion.

I caught this female during one of her very infrequent rest stops.

This photo has a lot going on in the frame. Not only do I have the hummingbird in the shot, but there are many criss-crossing branches. I usually try to keep my foregrounds and backgrounds as simple and clean as possible, but there is something that attracts me to this photo. It does show the bird in it's environment, and because most of the branches are not in focus, the bird still stands out. Feel free to leave a comment and let me know what you think. Interesting photo or one to delete?

It was getting late in the day and we decided to walk back to the rented cabin. During our short walk back, I looked up and saw a parrot in one of the nearby tree tops, but the bird was barely visible. We waited for them to move from one tree to another and I had a clean shot. I took numerous photos, knowing that there were three birds in this spot. It was not until I downloaded the photo, that I saw the second bird peeking out of the left side of the branch, with perfect late afternoon light on his beak.

That night, the weather was horrible, with high winds and heavy rain. I wasn't sure that we would have any good shooting for our only full day in Monte Verde. As it turned out, the storm blew through and we had a decent day. At one point, my friend was tired and I decided to continue hiking on my own for a little bit. I came to this cool swinging bridge and decided to take a "professional selfie". :)

Here is what I did to get the shot:

* I decided that it would look cool having the camera low, on the surface of the bridge.
* I set the 1DX to 10 second timer for the shutter release
* I prefocused on a spot of the bridge, and made note to stand in that spot.
* I removed the Black Rapid strap from the bottom of the camera and folded it carefully under the 24-105mm lens as a makeshift lens support system.
* I hit the shutter release and quickly walked to the focus spot and voila!

I am not sure if it was due to the weather the night before, but we did not see very much wildlife in the park. Maybe if we had hired a guide, we might have seen more. Not sure. So after a couple hours of hiking, we made our way back to the entrance of the park, where they have hummingbird feeders. We figured that we could continue our quest to capture more species.

The photo above and the photo below are of the same exact bird taken only seconds apart. Look at how different the colors show up depending on how the bird is turned, and how the light is hitting the feathers. (Both photos were taken with the Canon 7D Mark II with the 100mm macro lens. I also used my Canon 600EX-RT flash which was turned down by two stops to light the feathers slightly.)

Here are a couple more hummingbird shots, taken with the same camera, lens and flash setup.

And then...I turned around and saw that we had a visitor!

Turns out that this Olingo (I had never heard of this animal before) liked the sugary water and came down from a tree to have a drink. I quickly took this photo before he went back up into the tree.

Here is another shot of the Olingo, perched in the tree and watching us down below. And then...

We had yet another visitor! This is a Coati, another animal I had never heard of. He cruised in and started licking the ground, where the sugar water had spilled from a feeder up above. While he had his tail straight in the air, I quickly turned the camera and shot this in portrait mode to get all of him in the frame.

And then...since he stuck around for a couple of minutes, I got down low and took this photo at his level. And then...

We had yet another visiter. This time is was an armadillo. And yes, I have heard of the armadillo, but never seen one in person. While walking on the trail the day before, I had an armadillo cross 10 feet in front of me. But, by the time I got the camera up and focused, he was gone. I was bummed. I was happy to get this shot of my first real armadillo sighting.

As it turned out, we saw more wildlife by the park entrance than we did through our entire hike. Funny but true.

We stopped shooting around 3pm so that we could grab something to eat and make the 3 hour drive to Manuel Antonio. This was the next and last stop for the week. As we made the slow and bumpy ride along the 13 miles of dirt roads out of Monte Verde, we were treated to numerous rainbows. And yes, we could not resist shooting these. I REALLY wanted to launch the Phantom 2 to get some aerial photos and video with the rainbow in the shot, but it was very windy and I did not want to risk losing the Phantom. As I mentioned, the next stop was Manuel Antonio, and we saw some very cool animals there. Stay tuned for blog posts from days 4 and 5.

If you are interested in purchasing any camera equipment, please click here to go to B&H Photo, as I get a referral from them if you enter this way. I would really appreciate that.


Unknown said...

Great shots!!! Costa Rica is one of my "when I retire" places to photograph.

Cynthia Brown said...

Dear Jeff, ~ Yes, keep the excellent photo of the hummer in the bushes. My eye went straight to the eye because I saw its fierce determination to get the job done; to find the nectar to survive. 'Tangles bushes' are a part of all our lives.

saralynn143 said...

The "busy" hummingbird shot is my favorite. My vote is to keep it.

Ricardo Mata said...

Hi Jeff I am Ricardo from Costa Rica I've seen your 3 presentations in BH Photo, I've learn a lot from them. I just saw that you were here, that´s a shame I really admire your work and the way that you teach. Excellent photos!!! Next time in Costa Rica if you need something contact me, It will be a pleasure to meet you ans I can show you nice places for photography. You will get a guide for free and I will learn more from a master.

Jeff Cable Photography Blog said...

Ricardo - I hope to be back within a year. What a great place you live in. It would be great to meet.

yakshithm said...

Gran y útil artículo por cierto. Gracias.

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