Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Costa Rica - Our 6th and final day of photographing wildlife

It was our last full day in Costa Rica, and we planned on spending the first half of the day in Manuel Antonio National Park and then driving back to San Jose, where we would fly out the next morning. We packed up the car and I was pulling out of the hotel exit when my friend Steve, said "stop the car!" I was startled and asked him what was happening. He pointed his finger up towards a rope that was traversing the road, and there were a couple of squirrel monkeys crossing the rope. We both hopped out of the car and grabbed our cameras, but I saw the two monkeys moving out of site and figured that I would not get a shot of them. Then I looked to my right and saw about 30 more monkeys waiting to make the same crossing. Cool!

The tough part of shooting in a humid environment is getting the camera adjusted to the humidity. The camera had been in my air conditioned hotel room and air conditioned car, so when I pulled it out to shoot, the lens and eyepiece immediately fogged up. I kept wiping the 100-400mm lens to try and clear it, but as soon as I wiped it, it would fog up again. Most of the monkeys crossed the rope before the lens adjusted and I could get this shot. I did not take the time to clean the eyepiece, so I just ignored the blurry view through the camera and shot, knowing that the final image would be fine. I was happy to get some clean "unfoggy" shots of these little guys.

And then we were back in the car and off to the National park.

We had yet to see a howler monkey, but I knew they were around. The sounds from these monkeys, which are the second loudest animal in the world, woke me up earlier in the morning. Not too long after we entered the park, we came across a couple of the howler monkeys and I got this shot. At first I thought he was flipping me off, but when looking through the 400mm lens, I noticed that this was not the case. Phew!

We encountered more lizards. I really loved the bright green colors on this one.

The day before, I brought my Canon 1DX, Canon 7D Mark II, 100-400m lens, 24-105mm lens, 100mm macro lens, a flash and some other accessories in my backpack. But I thought I would try something different on this day. I only brought my Canon 1DX, 100-400mm lens and the Canon 500D Close-up lens (that looks like a filter). This really lightened the load for me. And because I had the 500D close-up attachment, I could use the 100-400mm lens as a long zoom or a macro lens. Very cool! This shot of a dragon fly was taken with a 100-400mm lens. Normally, the closest focusing distance of this lens would be 6 feet, but, using the Canon 500D "filter", I took this only inches from the insect. Not too shabby huh?

Here is another lizard shot. What makes this different from the other lizard photos, is that I could see his entire body. I moved to a place where I could see him from head to tail and framed the shot to accentuate the curve of his body. As always, I made sure to keep the focus on the lizard's eye, and then I let the rest fall out of focus.

Using the same 500D close-up lens, I took a macro shot of this rather large spider.

And look at the detail in this crop of the previous photo.

This isn't a very good photo of this grasshopper, but it was the best I could do. This tiny insect was probably 15 feet from us, and I used all of the 400mm reach of my lens, along with a tight crop in Photoshop, for this. The colors of this grasshopper were amazing, with a blue head, green body, and orange / yellow legs.

On or second day in Manuel Antonio Park, we saw a couple more sloths. They don't move much, so getting them doing any activity was a treat.

I like this photo of this sloth peeking through the leaves.

My last photo in the park was of this grumpy lizard. I think he was having a bad day. :)

Before leaving the park, I decided to launch the Phantom 2 Vision+ drone to get an aerial shot of the park. I just love how I can get a totally different perspective with the aerial camera.

We then left the park to make the 2 1/2 hour drive back to San Jose. But, one of the people I met in the park showed us photos of crocodiles, and I asked where he saw them. He told us about a bridge (around the midway point of our drive) which was known for all the crocs living below. It was easy to find, since there were signs warning about the crocs and numerous cars parked on either side of the bridge. We stopped on the far side of the bridge and walked out to the middle of the bridge. There were some really large crocodiles living in the river below.

I think this croc was waiting for us to throw some food to him, but I don't think he would find a Canon camera very appetizing.

Using the Canon 100-400 lens, I was able to get in pretty close to these guys. I wanted to get more photos of these guys, but could not get any closer. It was time to break out the Phantom 2 Vision+ again.

I flew right by these guys, but tried to highlight the biggest one, which is right in front of the camera. They called this crocodile "Mike Tyson". I also captured some pretty cool video of the crocodiles and will try to put together a video soon.

 Here is an aerial shot from high above the bridge. It is so pretty there.

When going back to where the car was parked, to switch between the camera and the drone, someone pointed up into a nearby tree and said that some macaw had just flown in. This was the first time that I have seen these in the wild, and I shot a bunch of photos. This was one of the first shots I took.

At one point, a couple of the macaw flew into the same tree.

I moved to a location where I could get both of them in the same image, and waited for them both to have their heads up.

I shot many photos of the macaw, looking at their different positions and trying to get a pleasing balance of the two birds. This was one of my favorite photos, with the birds criss-crossing each other, creating a nice balance to the image. The only problem was that there was a lot of sky showing through the tree, causing the viewers eye to be distracted from the birds. While shooting the photo, I knew that there was nothing I could do about the bright spots at the time.

But...I also knew that I could fix this in Photoshop.

This is the same image, but I have filled in the bright spots. I used a combination of the spot healing brush and the clone tool (taking leaves from other locations in the tree). Look at both images and I think you will agree that the retouched photo is much stronger.

Well...that is the last of the blogs from this trip to Costa Rica. I hope that you all enjoyed joining me, albeit virtually, for this trip. I hope to announce a workshop in Costa Rica sometime in the next year or so.


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.



Cynthia Brown said...

Dear Jeff, ~ What a strong, colorful finale to your Costa Rican trip! The 'waiting-for-food' croc has surrounding water texture resembling its hide & the open jaws with doubling shadows must be certain and quick death to its prey. Bravo for communicating so well with both images and words!

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Best Regards,
Jivko Stefanov