Posts in Category: rain-forest

Right place, right time, ready!

Red-legged Honeycreeper: Donde Cope, Gaupiles, Costa Rica — When I teach wildlife and nature photography I tell my students that 90% of wildlife photography is “being in the right place, at the right time, and ready”. Donde Cope…Cope’s home in Gaupiles, Limon, Costa Rica…is one of the “rightest” places I can image. Cope has created a miniature bird and wildlife sanctuary on the tiny village plot around his home, where you can see and photograph birds, lizards, and frogs (and some years sloths) at incredibly close range. And most days are the right time to be there…some better than others of course…dry weather is nice (or at least not pouring rain…or maybe better, not dark rain), but then a gentle rain will make the birds more active, and deepen the colors…so, yes, most any time is a good time to be at Cope’s. That only leaves “ready”. And by “ready” I mean a whole bunch of things that the photographer can do, and should do, in advance…but I also mean the sum total of the photographers experience brought to bear on each moment. You need, of course, a camera that you are comfortable with and which you know well enough so that you no longer have to “think about how it works.” You either need to have set it up for a variety of situations, and have those settings stored for easy access, or you need to know how to set it quickly as conditions change. To my way of thinking the best camera is the one you have to think about least while taking photos. You need to be able to read the light well enough to know which program to set on the camera. At Cope’s the canopy is close and heavy, so light levels are always low. I set my camera for my “low light” program…which includes multi-frame noise reduction, and hope for the best. Then it is all about seeing the subject and framing. And taking a lot of photos. Birds, especially are always moving. You need to keep them in sight and in frame. Then you just press the shutter button and let the camera do its work (or that is my theory anyway). This honeycreeper, one of the brightest and most active birds at ground level in the rain forest, landed on a stump only a few feet from me. I got it in frame and shot off a series of photos. I have the focus set to a small movable spot in the center, which I trust to put the bird in focus if I can get it anywhere on the bird. Because you can not use multi-frame noise reduction and continuous shooting at the same time, taking multiple shots meant pressing the shutter button repeatedly while the bird was still in frame. All three of the shots I saved from the sequence are keepers. This is perhaps my favorite, and I, personally, think it is stunning! I love the color, the detail, and the dynamic pose. I love what it says about the bird…how absolutely Red-legged Honeycreeper it is! Just right time, rights place, and ready. 🙂 Sony Rx10iv at 561mm equivalent (I must have zoomed back a bit to keep the bird in frame, but that is almost instinctive at this point and with this camera, and I trust the zoom to be tack sharp at whatever setting I need). Program mode with my low light modifications. Processed in Pixelmator Photo and Apple Photos. Equivalent ISO 6400 @ f4 @ 1/320th. (And again, I am confident enough of the my low light program to just let the camera do its thing…I did not choose those settings…the camera did. 🙂 So, right place, right time, and ready.


Yellow-throated and Keel-billed Toucans, Collared Aracari: Dave and Dave’s Costa Rican Nature Park, La Virgen, Costa Rica — We spent our second full morning in Costa Rica, and our second day of heavy rain, safe and dry on the covered observation deck and the back porch at Dave and Dave’s Costa Rican Nature Park. In fact, Dave and Dave accommodated us by rescheduling our visit so that we could avoid getting soaked a second day in a row (it happened to be the last of the heavy rains for the trip). Dave and Dave, father and son, have, over the past 40 years, created a birder’s and photographers paradise on their property on the high bluff that overlooks the Sarapique River. Once a banana plantation, they have carefully reintroduced native plants and trees to attract a wide variety of birds and wildlife. Because they are on the bluff, right at the edge of the drop to the river, they are also at canopy level on one side, which gives them a unique mix of understory and canopy birds. It is a reliable place to see 3 of the 6 species of Toucans in Costa Rica…Yellow-throated and Keel-billed Toucan, and the Collared Aricari. (We had already seen a 4th, the Emerald Toucanet, the previous day higher in the mountains where they hang out, and 3 of us would see the Fiery-billed Aricari at the mid-elevation Wilson Botanical Gardens on the Pacific Slope the following week…leaving out only the somewhat harder to see Yellow-eared Toucanet for the two trips.) Though it rained hard off and on all morning, and we were very thankful for the cover, it did not discourage the Toucans. At times we had all three in view at the same time. Where to look?! I have said this before, but if you are into bird photography at all, don’t miss Dave and Daves on any visit to Costa Rica. Tanagers, Saltators, Honeycreepers, Woodpeckers, Toucans, Manakins, and one of the best selections of Rain Forest hummingbirds any where…and all from sheltered observation. It does not really get any better. Sony Rx10iv at various zoom settings for framing these large birds. Program mode with multi-frame noise reduction. Processed in Polarr and Apple Photos.

Black-cowled Oriole

Another infrequent visitor to the feeders at Selva Verde Lodge in the Sarapiqui valley of Costa Rica is the Black-cowled Oriole. The most common Oriole there in December is the Baltimore, wintering from North America, but you do occasionally see the resident Black-cowled. A striking bird by any standard! Sony Rx10iv at 600mm equivalent. Program mode with my custom birds and wildlife modifications, plus Multi-frame Noise Reduction. Processed in Polarr and Apple Photos.

Two Toucans!

Two Yellow-throated Toucans from the feeding station at Selva Verde Lodge in the rainforest of the Sarapiqui valley of Costa Rica. The feeders are in a deeply shaded area behind the dinning hall. Never enough light, but great birds every day. I have seen everything from Manakins to Tinamous from the comfort of the second floor deck. These two Toucans struck an ideal pose. Sony Rx10iv at 340mm equivalent. Program mode with my custom birds and wildlife modifications, plus Multi-frame Noise Reduction. Processed in Polarr and Apple Photos.

Keel-billed Toucan

And yet more birding in the rain. This is an immature Keel-billed Toucan at Dave and Dave’s Costa Rica Nature Park in La Vergin, Costa Rica. I was standing more or less dry under the covered patio at Dave and Dave’s, but the bird was very wet and getting wetter. This is this year’s hatchling so the bill is not as vivid or quite as large as it will get. The Keel-billed Toucan is perhaps the bird people think of first when thinking of tropical American birds, and it is certainly an impressive bird. This year at least, it was easily outnumbered by its larger cousin…the Yellow-throated Toucan. I was pleased to see this one at Dave and Dave’s. Sony Rx10iv at 600mm equivalent. Program mode with my custom birds and wildlife modifications. Processed in Polarr and Apple Photos.

Montezuma’s Oropendola in the rain

This year the Point and Shoot Nature Photography Adventure in Costa Rica got lots of experience photographing birds in the rain. Fortunately Dave and Dave’s Costa Rican Nature Pavilion has a covered patio area, surrounded by features to draw birds in, where you can keep yourself, and your cameras, relatively dry. They put out whole bananas to draw the larger rainforest birds, like this Montezuma’s Oropendola, the largest member of the Oriole family. You see colonies of huge hanging, pendulous, Oropendola nests in large trees. Oropendolas prefer free staining trees where the flight lines are open. Shooting in the rain means low light levels and high ISOs. I used Multi-frame Noise Reduction on this shot. Sony Rx10iv at 386mm equivalent. Program mode with my custom birds and wildlife modifications and MFNR. Processed in Polarr and Apple Photos.

Red-capped Manakin

One of the more elusive birds at Selva Verde Lodge in the Sarapiqui valley of the Caribbean slope rain forest in Costa Rica, is the Red-capped Manakin. If you sit at the feeding station by the dinning hall long enough, you will see the female come through the background trees and maybe sit in one of the trees at either end of the deck for a brief glimpse as it feeds. If you sit rather longer, you might see the male in one of those two same trees, appearing as if by magic, and disappearing just as quickly. You kind of have to be looking in just the right place at just the right time. That is how it is with Red-capped Manakins at Selve Verde. Getting a photo means getting your camera before it disappears, but it does happen 🙂 Some of the folks in my Point and Shoot Nature Photography group got better photos than this, another day, but I was not there. I am sure, during mating season, there is a lek that can be found, but we are never there during mating season. So, I take what I can get. Sony Rx10iv at 600mm equivalent. Program mode with my custom birds and wildlife modifications plus Multi-frame Noise Reduction. Processed in Polarr and Apple Photos.

Olive-backed Euphonia

We saw the Olive-backed Euphonia in many locations in the Sarapiqui valley. It was among the most common birds of the understory in the rain forest, and in openings everywhere. This individual was foraging deep under the canopy of primary rain forest at La Selva Biological Research Station. Euphonia comes from the latin for something like “sweet sounding” or “sweet voiced”, but I have actually never heard one sing. I am sure they do. Sony Rx10iv at 600mm equivalent. Program mode with my custom birds and wildlife modifications. Processed in Polarr and Apple Photos.

Yellow-throated Toucan

The largest toucan in Costa Rica is the Yellow-throated Toucan, and it is common at the feeders here at Selva Verde Lodge in the Sarapique River valley (and everywhere else we have been in the the valley rain forest). It used to be the Chestnut-mandibled Toucan, and, before that, the Black-mandibled Toucan. It is big and noisy and hard to miss! Sony Rx10iv at 600mm equivalent. Program mode with my custom birds and wildlife modifications, plus auto ISO with multi-frame-noise reduction. Processed in Polarr.

Red-eyed Leaf Frog, Costa Rica

On our Point and Shoot Nature Photography Adventure in Costa Rica, the Red-eyed Leaf Frogs have never failed us. We found 5 of them last night on our night walk at Selva Verde Lodge here in the Sarapique River. This is one of my best shots ever as the frog was posing nicely just below eye-level right beside the path. I am using a new flash-shoe mounted light cube that has just the right intensity (adjustable) for shots like this using the Sony Rx10iv’s Anti-motion Blur mode. It is certainly much easier then hand holding a flashlight. (No flash allowed when photographing leaf frogs 🙂 600mm equivalent. Processed in Polarr.