Story & Photography by Jeff Parker
Seven Tips for a Costa Rica Photography Trip:
- Be ready for darker environments.
Tropical jungles are lush and full of life, but they can also be pretty dark. The high ISO capabilities of today’s cameras go a long way towards addressing this; however, I advise you to be on good terms with your flash. Learn how to change your flash compensation. A flash extender and off camera flash bracket are good ideas also.
- Grab your gimbal.
If weight’s an issue and you’re wondering which tripod head to pack, bring your gimbal rather than your ball head. Costa Rica has a tremendous variety of wildlife & ball heads don’t work as well with heavy, super-telephoto lenses.
- Watch for the “Steamy Camera Blues.”
Some lodges in Costa Rica now have A/C. If your room does, keep in mind that when you head outside with your camera into the hot & steamy air, your lens will fog up inside. Keeping your gear in a bag and not setting the A/C too low helps avoid this.
- Mind your macro.
The birds and monkeys in Costa Rica are a photographer’s delight, but there is a world of wonder at your feet. Poison dart frogs, red-eyed tree frogs, butterflies, flowers, bizarre and colorful insects, the list goes on. Pack a macro lens or at least a close focusing telephoto such as the Canon 100-400mm Mk. II.
- Prepare for rain.
Most of Costa Rica is rain forest or cloud forest. No matter when you go, there’s an excellent chance you’ll experience a sudden storm, possibly even when you’re out in the field with your gear. For that reason, I always bring along garbage bags. Rain covers for your equipment work great, but for the price of one, I can buy lots of garbage bags. Besides garbage bags are not only cheap, but you’ll be surprised how many other uses you’ll find for them!
- Quick drying clothes are best.
Cotton might keep you cool, but in the super-humid ambient air, it won’t dry for a day or two if you get caught in a rainstorm or want to hand wash it. Today’s quick drying clothes are excellent choices for tropical travel. They’re lightweight & dry fast.
- Don’t forget a light jacket.
Yes, Costa Rica is a tropical country; however, if you’re after Respendent Quetzales and other cloud-forest specialties it’ll be chilly. Cloud forests are rarely sunny & the altitude can mean temps in the 50’s. Add the dampness of the mist, and you’ll be glad you brought something to keep you warm!
Costa Rica is a dream destination for nature photographers. I hope these tips will help guide you as you prepare for your tropical rainforest adventure.
Jeff Parker is the owner of Explore in Focus offering photography tours and workshops for the naturally curious. www.ExploreinFocus.com