Archive for Costa Rica

Miriam’s Place

Posted in Travel with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 16, 2014 by chamimage
Flame-colored Tanager

Flame-colored Tanager

One of the most awesome days I have had as a photographer occurred last December in Costa Rica at Miriam’s Place, Comidas Tipicas Miriam.

We spent the morning in transit from La Selva in the hot and humid central Costa Rica to the Talamanca Mountains in southern Costa Rica, which are cool and not humid at all.

We arrived in time for lunch, and oh what a lunch Miriam made for us. Her restaurant is on a windy gravel road that runs seriously downhill from the main highway to Savegre Lodge where we were to stay.

She kept bringing out dishes full of chicken that fell off of the bone, the traditional rice and beans that are required fare for every meal in Costa Rica, even breakfast. I can’t even remember what all was served now, but I remember it was the best lunch I ever had and I was hungry.

After lunch we got our gear and headed out into the back yard where bird feeders were set up. The action in Miriam’s back yard was non-stop all afternoon. We shot flame-colored tanagers, acorn woodpeckers, yellow-thighed finches, slaty flowerpiercers (they pierce the base of a flower with their beak to get at the nectar); mountain robins, slaty robins; rufus-collared sparrows and magnificent hummingbirds.

Acorn Woodpecker

Acorn Woodpecker

At one point some other photographers stopped by and were very disappointed that we were already there. They decided they would come back later. They had some perches they wanted to set up so we offered to set them up for them.

“Oh no, these are our very own special perches just for our photographs.” Really. They hid the perches in the house for later. We heard Miriam and her daughter laughing in the kitchen. It turns out she knew where these very special perches were hidden and wanted us to set them up. She was not impressed with the other photographers attitude. She was feeling naughty and so were we so we got the perches out and set them up, fully intending to leave them set up.

Slaty Flowerpiercer

Slaty Flowerpiercer male

Slaty Flowerpiercer

Slaty Flowerpiercer female piercing flower.

The evening was then spent photographing Resplendent Quetzals in a wild avocado tree down the canyon a ways, just to round out a long, productive day in the rain forest. And the cool nights in the mountains were so welcome after sleeping in wet sheets from the humidity in other humid parts of Costa Rica.

Yellow-thighed Finch

Yellow-thighed Finch

Mountain Robin

Mountain Robin

 

Photoshop Tutorials

Posted in Photography Technique with tags , , , , , , , , , , on August 4, 2014 by chamimage

Caribbean Sea

I find myself not getting much work done today because I keep running into interesting Photoshop tutorials everywhere I look. And I look.

Some of them are so good I thought I would pass them along for anyone interested in going beyond the basics in Photoshop.

Jimmy McIntyre has become a great source for Photoshop education. His weekly newsletter not only gives links to his latest offerings, but also links to others he has found over the week.

This week he hit it out of the park in a tutorial on landscape image editing he did for 500px at http://iso.500px.com/post-processing-tips-for-landscape-photos/. There should be enough there to keep you busy for a few hours.

Julianne Kost is my prime source for all things new in Photoshop and Lightroom. Any time there is a new release she is all over it with videos on the new features. This week she gives a very good review of what is new in the latest Camera Raw 8.2 release at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a4UTmTai5FU#t=375. I learned several new things I did not know in that 15 minute video.

Lastly, I discovered an amazing new natural light portrait photographer, Lisa Holloway, from a link in Jimmy McIntyre’s newsletter (you really ought to subscribe, it’s free) at http://iso.500px.com/backlight-natural-light-portrait-photo-tutorial/. It is also on 500px, which is coming up with some very good tutorials lately.

Those ought to keep anybody remotely interested in improving his or her camera and Photoshop skills busy for several hours.

Rialto Beach Sunset

Fun with Squirrels

Posted in Natural History with tags , , , , , , , , , , on May 12, 2014 by chamimage
Variegated Squirrel

Variegated Squirrel

I borrowed the title of this post from The Big Bang Theory where Sheldon does Fun with Flags.

I decided to process a bunch of squirrel images from Costa Rica all at the same time. I found these variegated squirrels to be a nice break from the bird photography. At one point I was going from a tree frog to birds to the squirrel all at the same time.

If I could ever have a tail, I’d want this guy’s tail. That would keep your nose warm on a winter’s night. You can tell when it is mating season at my house by how the squirrel’s flit their tails. Nose-warmer, message flag, balance corrector. I am a bit envious.

The Reach

The Reach

He couldn’t reach the food he was trying to get. No reason he couldn’t just go down there and get it, I think it is just more fun to steal it from above. It was a banana, by the way, and yes, he ate the whole thing. Little pig.

The Pose

The Pose

Does he not look like he is posing? A manly pose. Like George Costanza posed on a couch on Seinfeld.

Eating

Eating

This squirrel ate that seed head like a person eating a corn cob. This was at OTS (Organization for Tropical Studies) La Selva. Scientists come and stay at this place to do research in the rain forest. The paths are paved and they ride bicycles out to wherever they need to go. Of course it is located here because it is hopping with plants and animals. We benefited from a white cloth put out overnight to attract insects. What insects they have!

Upside Down Squirrel

Upside Down Squirrel

When it got too dark in the rain forest in the evening I went down by the river where the angled light could still penetrate. I have no idea if that is a fruit or a nut.

One fine day

Posted in Travel with tags , , , , , , , , , , on March 17, 2014 by chamimage
Baby Green Sea Turtle

Baby Green Sea Turtle

By far the highlight of our last full day in Tortuguero National Park in Costa Rica was finding hatching baby green sea turtles. We had been told none of the nests looked like they were ready to hatch that evening. They always hatch at dusk, I assume to avoid bird predation.

We had been entertaining ourselves while our local boat driver took a look up and down the beach. He had given up and was almost back to the boat (which, strangely, was on the other side of the Tortuguero airport runway) when he came across the hatching nest. I had to sprint about one hundred yards in sand so was pretty breathless when I got to the turtles.

They go fast. The trick is to photograph them without leaving big old footprints in the sand for the next turtle to fall into. You lean a lot.

Todd

Todd

Here is our trip leader, Todd Gustaffson with his 15 mm fish-eye lens, getting the turtle, Caribbean, and sky all in the same shot. Tells a story. You can see where a little turtle might fall into foot or knee prints, but they were strong and climbed right out when the did. I wonder how they know which way the ocean is?

Yellow-crowned Night-Heron

Yellow-crowned Night-Heron

As fun as the evening was, the morning started off with a bang, as well. We had exhausted the rivers and lagoons by then so opted to take our morning boat ride northward, past the village of Tortuguero, itself.

I think the yellow-crowned night-herons are especially lovely. This one is on a sea wall.

 

Yellow-crowned Night-Heron

Yellow-crowned Night-Heron

The fog didn’t suddenly set in. I must have shot through someone’s hat or something. It was surprising how quickly we learned to not lurch around an rock the boat while shooting. It still helps to keep the shutter speed 1,000 or higher.

Tiger-herons

Tiger-herons

On my previous trip to Costa Rica I had seen just one tiger-heron so was hoping to find more. We ended up seeing them everywhere this time. These are bare-throated tiger-herons standing in a blue and white boat that is docked. The orange is a retaining wall.

Tiger-herons

Tiger-herons

Maybe they were waiting for a ride? The lagoon eventually leads to the Caribbean. Some of the lodges near where the herons were cater to marlin fishermen. All of the lodges were serviced by boats. There are no roads in Tortuguero. You get in via about a twenty mile boat ride, then end of which is pretty wild. Big boats speeding up and down a narrow, narrow river – both ways. We didn’t lose anybody. It costs a dollar to pee at the car park before your long bus ride back to civilization.

Caribbean

Caribbean

 

Night Critters

Posted in Photography Technique with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 10, 2014 by chamimage
Red-eyed Tree Frog

Red-eyed Tree Frog

Night macro wildlife photography is the most technically challenging for me. We made several forays into the night in Costa Rica in December.

There is a balance between depth of field and high ISO noise that is a problem even with our newer cameras that do better at noise suppression at high ISO’s.

Sleeping red-eyed Tree Frog

Sleeping red-eyed Tree Frog

I usually err on the side of narrow depth of field. Higher ISO images look fine on a computer screen, but are throw-away’s if you look at them in full size. Spiders are especially problematic because they are small and the closer you have to get the narrower the depth of field. Not to mention the risk that the spider might jump onto you in the dark.

Drab Tree Frog

Drab Tree Frog

It helps to have a big, bright flashlight when looking for these critters. Then it helps to have LCD video light panels to keep them illuminated while trying to focus the camera. Obviously it is almost impossible without at least two people, unless you are especially good at aiming a flashlight and holding camera at the same. I tried it. It’s not easy.

Turnip-tailed Gecko

Turnip-tailed Gecko

Some of these guys bite. I guess I am surprised that they don’t bite more often than they do. You can see in the image above that someone is holding an LCD light panel behind and my macro flash is acting as front fill.

Gecjo Silhouette

Gecko Silhouette

The silhouette through a banana leaf is a bit of a cliche, but you have to do it.

Smoky Jungle Frog

Smoky Jungle Frog

This guy was huge so was actually the creepiest critter of the night for me. He secretes toxins through his skin. I didn’t know that at the time, but it is always a good idea to wash your hands as soon as possible if you handle a frog or lizard in the tropics. Usually the worse that will happen is you will get nauseous.

The Nikon R1C1 macro flash system is a Godsend with these macro shots in low light. I use it on macro shots even during the day at lower power. At night it takes full power so bring lots of batteries because they will go fast. Bring two flashlights because you really don’t want to be out there in the rain forest in the dark with a dead flashlight. It’s not really dangerous, but try telling that to your pounding heart.

 

Glamor Glow Rescue

Posted in Photography Technique with tags , , , , , , , on March 5, 2014 by chamimage
Tortuguero Rainforest After

Tortuguero Rainforest After

When I looked at the Before image of this in Lightroom earlier today I asked myself what in the heck I was thinking for not deleting it on the first edit. What did I see in it? It was way too busy and the light was harsh mid day light. Not flattering at all in a rain forest.

Yet I still didn’t delete it. There was something there. Maybe it was the reflections. So I opened it in Photoshop.

Tortuguero Rainforest Before

Tortuguero Rainforest Before

This was what I had to work with. I use Google Nik filters on most of the images I process. I like to use them in Photoshop because it makes the changes on a layer that I can mask and brush in or out the effect as I please. Sometimes it causes an area to be too contrasty or blows out the whites in an animals fur of feathers. I can use the opacity slider if the effect is too strong.

I still thought I would have to give up and delete the image after my usual color correction and contrast adjustments. Then I decided to try one last thing – Glamor Glow. I almost never use it at its strongest, but that is what it took to make me finally have to admit, this image was suddenly working for me.

I am trying to be a more ruthless editor and delete more images, but sometimes there is just something there and you have to mess around a bit to find what it is that will bring that out in the image.

Tell a Story

Posted in Philosophy and Spirituality with tags , , , , , , , , on January 13, 2014 by chamimage
Anhinga with Rainbow Bass

Anhinga with Rainbow Bass

Most days all of the social media sites I visit just seem like one big time suck that I should live without. But then I will run across a gem of a post that makes it all worthwhile. I will share of few of those gems today. They are words to live by for 2014 for me.

1. Tell a Story – I got this one from Karen Hutton on The Grid podcast last week. When you find a subject and you are looking for The Picture, try looking for The Story, instead.  That will inform your decision on how much of the environment you need to include, what mood to go for. It wasn’t hard to find the story above – that anhinga may have bitten off more than he can chew. Adding more rain forest wasn’t needed for that story.

Wild Timber Wolf

Wild Timber Wolf

A tight shot of this wolf would have been ugly, but showing what a miserable day it was to be out in the woods was the story. He was walking along the cleared road side to keep out of the wet brush, cars be damned. A good photograph informs the viewer of an aspect of the subject they had not previously considered, a new truth, like leading them to think about the wild animals out in the forest on a wet, stormy night.

1a. I can’t use the one above without adding the famous saying by Jay Maisel as a corollary – “If you want to take more interesting pictures, be a more interesting person.” Listen to music, watch dance, read classics. It can be pretty interesting what bangs around in your head while you are out with your camera.

2. “Don’t be afraid to give up the good to go for the great.” – a quote from John D. Rockefeller I found on Sue Bryce’s Facebook page last week. I don’t think he had photo editing in mind when he said that, but that is certainly where I will apply it. We all have the problem of all of those technically good documentary images that we can’t get ourselves to delete. Let them go. They are not great so they are of no value to you. Post only your great stuff. My recent trip with Todd Gustafson was helpful in terms of seeing that he chose to keep maybe twenty images from the 300 we had shot that morning. On the first edit. That is my goal. To be able to find and keep only the images that speak to me without having to edit the folder four times to get there.

Canada Goose

Canada Goose

3. Find your passion, then build a body of work in that area. This doesn’t mean you have to shoot just birds or do macro only, but it doesn’t make much sense to build a portfolio full of landscapes if your passion is wildlife photography. I remember a conversation with Wayne Lynch in Africa about how it would be better to work locally and build a deep body of work in your local wildlife refuge or national park than to try to piece together enough trips to Africa and the arctic, etc. Give yourself creative projects in your genre rather than doing assignments that someone else makes up that accomplish nothing on Google+. Build a body of work. Get better at what you love.

Slaty Flowerpiercer piercing a flower.

Slaty Flowerpiercer piercing a flower.

I have a few more that are appropriate to the conversation. They are oldies and on my New Year’s Resolution list every year lately, but always good to be reminded.

4. Live as if every thought and action affects the collective consciousness and might just possibly influence others in a positive way. 

5. Less lawn mowing, more adventures. Metaphorically and literally. See Brooke Shaden’s recent blog on busy-ness. Don’ confuse being busy with accomplishing anything worthwhile. I have a theory that every meaningless meeting I am forced to attend, every sales pitch I get sucked into, every soggy sandwich vendor-sponsored lunch I eat, and every PBS pledge break is like smoking a cigarette, they shave minutes off of your life.

6. Tomorrow is not guaranteed. Live accordingly. Leave nothing undone and nothing unsaid. Lie in your death bed with no regrets about the life you lived.

7. No negativity allowed.

8. Be generous.

9. Be humble.

10. Be loving and kind. Speak gently.