Archive for Rainforest

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

 

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.

Tortuguero Birds

Posted in Travel with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 23, 2013 by chamimage
Sungrebe

Sungrebe

Our first stop in Costa Rica earlier this month was Tortuguero National Park in northeastern Costa Rica on the Caribbean coast. Tortuga means turtle in Spanish and Tortuguero is named after the green sea turtles that were found to nest on the beaches here. More on those in a future post.

Tortuguero is like the bayou country in the southern U.S. There are no roads so everybody uses boats for their daily activities. There is a large lagoon that parallels the coast for twenty-two miles, two rivers, and a series of canals that criss-cross the park. The canals were dug sixty years ago when the area was logged for teak and mahogany. So Tortuguero has rain forest, swamp, and beach habitat all in one place.

We explored Tortuguero in an open boat, open to allow us to look up into the tree canopy for Howler, spider, and capuchin monkeys, bird nests, and green iguanas sunning themselves on tree limbs.

The sungrebe above was found swimming and feeding at the edge of the main lagoon. It is always fun to find and photograph a bird that you never even heard of before. He is looking for bugs in an overhanging limb in the photo above.

Little Blue Heron with Pipefish

Little Blue Heron with Pipefish

We found a lot of herons walking and feeding from the floating mats of vegetation on the edges of the canals. There were so many little blue herons and green herons that the boat driver wouldn’t even stop for them any longer after the first day. This little blue heron snagged a pipefish (a relative of the sea horse). Much to his consternation, the pipefish wrapped himself around the heron’s beak. The heron would normally toss his prey up and swallow it as he caught it from the air, but the pipefish was foiling his technique. It was still a stalemate as we drifted away.

Purple Gallinule

Purple Gallinule

Another bird I had never heard of before photographing it at Tortuguero was the purple gallinule. These guys are related to rails and soras. He was feeding on a mat of vegetation beside some northern jacanas before he lept up onto this branch for his portrait session. While I was taking this image I missed a shot that would have been very interesting. Others in our boat had closer proximity and a better angle to photograph the jacanas and I looked up to see our guide with his cell phone about two inches from a jacana taking its photograph. I wished I had photographed him photographing the jacana. The birds in Tortuguero have become very accustomed to the boats and, much like in Africa, they seem to see only the vehicle and not the people that occupy it.

Later, as I process the images, I’ll talk about the tiger herons, monkeys, and turtles of Tortuguero. Then on to the toucans and tanagers (and squirrels!) of La Selva and the Resplendent Quetzals and hummingbirds of Savegere.

Columbia Gorge

Posted in Travel with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 5, 2011 by chamimage

Wahkeena Creek

The Columbia River Gorge is a lovely place to be in the fall. I spent the day there on Monday with my friend, Sandy Nykerk, visiting from Bozeman, Montana. It was fun to see the reaction of someone from sagebrush and rattlesnake country to our lush rain forest.

Wahkeena Falls has always been my favorite in years past, both for the photography and the loop trail for a good hike. The young hardwood trees have finally grown up to obstruct the view of the falls from below now. They have also runed the shot of the creek above the bridge at the top of this photo.

Latourel Falls

Of course, the lushness of the forest comes at a price. We had only two rain showers on Monday, one at noon and one that ended the day at 4:30 pm. Not bad for Oregon. We did fight the wind and spray all day, as the drops on the lens and the wind artifact in the trees attests to in this photo of Latourel Falls. We gave up on photographing Multnomah Falls altogether due to the volume of spray being blown around. The green mold on the rock walls might give another hint at a bit of dampness year round.

Stone Wall

I loved this mossy stone wall. It snaked through the forest and would have made for some great sinuous curve photos had it not been for all of the tree limbs and brush in the way of the wider shots.

Bridge Over Latourel Creek

If you like bridges, this is a great place. I finished this image and the next one with a filter recipe in the new Color Efex Pro 4 that I like called Warm Sunset. It stacks polarization, sunlight, and vignette filters. I made some tweaks to the image above.

The image below is the filter effect untouched. A bit too warm for me in most cases, but I guess that is the point of the filter.

Latourel Creek Bridge