A gray-necked wood rail searches for food in a backwater swamp in a lowland rainforest area of Costa Rica. I waded into very murky water and, with the help of a friend, placed some food on the backside of this sunken log where the wood rail tend to pass on their daily feeding route. I left my camera in the water where it protruded just above the surface, composed and metered very carefully, and then tried to focus exactly where I thought the bird would be when it approached. I set my camera in silent mode and hoped for the best as I sat a distance away with a wireless remote release to trigger my camera when the bird approached.
Costa Rica's Rio Celeste is an amazing place on its own -- the heavenly blue water results from a mixture of copper and sulfur and silica colloids that reflect only the blue spectrum of light. While photographing a landscapce, I suddenly saw a Baird's tapir (Tapirus bairdii) crash through the underbrush and begin to swin downstream. I sprinted to a spot I had noticed earlier and hoped against hope that the tapir would cross there. When it did, I had time to meter quickly and fire off 4 shots with my manual focus lens before it disappeared again into the dense rainforest. Though a very rarely seen phenomenon, some think that the tapirs bathe in the chemical-laden blue waters as a way to rid themselves of ticks, fungus, and other skin infections. Though brief, seeing this elusive animal in this amazing place was a highlight of my nature photography career.
Canon 5D Mark III, Rokinon 24 mm lens, polarizer, handheld, f/5.6, 1/320, ISO 640
LA SELVA SUNRISE
Along with my good friend Paulo Valerio, I awoke at 2:30 in the morning to head over to Costa Rica's La Selva Biological Reserve to hike through the forest and climb a research tower in an attempt to photograph the sunrise over this beautiful and highly important tract of rainforest. While we were shooting the dawn breaking over the forest, a Black-mandibled Toucan flew into this wild nutmeg tree and began to feed. It was incredible experience and lent a big bonus to this beautiful scene.
A rarely seen juvenile Emerald Tree Boa (Corallus caninus) in the rainforest in the Amazon region of Peru is the Holy Grail for the herpetologist as they are exceedingly hard to find. Ialanced flash with natural light for this wide angle portrait.
Canon 5DsR, Canon 16-35 mm zoom lens, polarizer, handheld, one off-camera flash with diffuser, f/10, 1/200, ISO 250
An Altiplano Classic
A llama strolls across a rare flowing stream in the Lauca National Park in Chile with two active volcanoes in the background.
white-throated Quail Dove taken with a camera trap in the cloud forest, Mashpi Lodge, Ecuador
Agoutis are large but incredibly cute rodents. Shy and secretive, they spend the day combing the forest floor for fallen fruits and seeds. Some they eat and some they cache throughout the forest, helping to ensure genetic diversity of tree species in the rainforest by dispering seeds away from the mother tree, where seedlings are often doomed due to predation by beetles and caterpillars. I took this dramatic shot at the edge of a rainforest on Costa Rica's Osa Peninsula. A long lens and a shallow aperture helped me to allow the agout to stand out amongst the chaotic vegetation.
I spent a week in Costa Rica's Corcovado National Park hoping to get a good picture of an endangered Baird's Tapir. Indeed, they are all over the place but you basically see them lying in mud puddles during the heat of the day or crossing a river mouth before dawn. Neither of those scenarios was going to net me a great picture. While out hiking in the forest one day with my local guide Jorge, we stopped to photograph a little meandering stream. While I was shooting, we heard a crash in the undergrowth, and two full-grown tapirs charged across the stream. I was stunned, but luckily Jorge told me to grab my camera, leave the tripod, and sprint behind him. I did so and about 300 yards later we came to a small light gap in the forest. Jorge told me he thought they would come through here before continuing on into the deep woods. I quickly framed and took a couple of test shots. Not more than a minute later, one of the tapirs emerged from the forest, stood ten feet away from me, and sniffed the ground for a few seconds before moving on into the forest. I stayed still and got off three shots. I loved this one! I still can't figure out how Jorge knew this would happen but I do know I never would have gotten this shot without his knowledge.
Deadly Beauty 2
A long exposure and a nice little cloud forest scene contrasts with a newly described species, the Talamancan Palm Pit Viper (Bothriechis nubestris, in the Costa Rican highlands.
Canon 5DsR, Canon 16-35 mm lens, polarizer, tripod, cable release, off-camera flash, f/16, 1 second, ISO 1250
Olive ridley sea turtle (Lepidochelys olivacea) laying eggs as the sun sets at Playa Ostional
When I visited the Atacama deserts of northern Chile recently, I was struck by the spare beauty of the region; it couldn't be more different than my normal everyday studio in the tropical rainforest! While I was captivated by the lack of life in this area, one of the driest on the planet, I still longed for a bit of color and maybe even some feathers :-)
My wish came true very late one afternoon as I visited a highland lake with my friends. A lone Andean Flamingo (Phoenicoparrus andinus) was foraging right next to us on the path! I immediately changed from my telephoto lens to a wide angle, screwed on a polarizer, and grabbed a flash (which I always have handy no matter where I go). My idea was to expose for the larger scene, look for some compositional lines, and then use the flash to slightly fill in the shadows on the bird caused by the sun setting to my left as I viewed the scene.
After a couple of shots I had things dialed in and began shooting. The flamingo, however, was just kind of mulling around with its beak in the mud. I needed a more dynamic pose and, luckily, was rewarded with one for just a split second as the flamingo lifted its head and stretched out its back leg. This is the shot I envisioned from the moment I came upon the scene, and I was so happy to have accomplished it. I hope you like it!
For the photographers out there, here's the technical info!
Canon 5DsR, Canon 16-35 mm f/4 L IS zoom at 22 mm, circular polarizer, handheld, f/22, ISO 500, 1/50, flash on-camera at TTL -1
Processed in Lightroom with some slight selective adjustments for color and contrast, a very light rotation to correct for the horizon line.
Helmeted iguana (Corytophanes cristatus) in lowland rainforest, Costa Rica. I used a wide-angle lens, a polarizing filter, a touch of fill-flash, and a long exposure to take what is essentially a landscape photo with an animal in it.
A Quito Whorltail Iguana (Stenocercus guentheri) surveys his domain at nearly 15,000 feet near the base of Ecuador's Cotopaxi Volcano.
When I came upon this Ctenosaur aka spiny-tailed iguana (Ctenosaurus similis) on a beach in Costa Rica's Manuel Antonio National Park, I immediately pulled out my wide angle lens. What caught my eye was not so much the iguna but the fact that the arrangement of the driftwood seemed like some sort of modern sculpture gallery or the kind of thing one might have seen commissioned as street art in a progressive European city. I approached carefully to avoid scaring off the iguana, shooting and taking care to frame the island betwee the two tall pieces of driftwood, as I went. I was very happy with this image as I think it's a very different take on an iguana photo.
You might think I trekked along a wild jungle river to get this shot, and I'd love to tell you that tale! But alas, I took this picture on a busy bridge next to a popular restaurant in the norht of Costa Rica. The wild iguanas hang out in the trees all day above the river eating Sotocaballo leaves (they're vegetarian) while semi-trucks loaded with pineapples take their fruit to export processing plants. Besides seeing this wide angle shot, the hardest thing about taking this picture was dealing with the diesel fumes and the vibrations from the trucks as they whizzed past. After taking this photo, I went into the restaurant and enjoyed a great cup of coffee and a delicious dragonfruit (a native epiphytic cactus) ice cream cone!
A giant earthworm measuring nearly 3 feet long on the rainforest floor in Ecuador
Rainbow Tree Boa
A rainbow tree boa on a branch near a sluggish backwater stream in a rainforest in the Amazon region of Peru. These beautiful snakes are amazing, and I was very happy to capture this portrait that shows the snake in its foreboding environment.
a salmon-bellied racer searches high and low for the last remaining snails in the cracked mud of Palo Verde National Park at the end of the dry season
A bare-throated framed by the exuberant vegetation in the canals of Tortuguero National Park. I absolutely love bird photos that have a hint of the environment. When the boat I was on stalled and we began to drift aimlessly in the jungle canal, I was at first distraught to think that I would a miss a morning's shooting. But, while my boat driver Santiago used his cell phone (coverage is amazing!) to call a friend, a tiger heron perched atop this giant Raffia palm lead draped with a jungle vine. I quickly composed and fired off a few frame, knowing I had gotten the shot of the morning. Drifting aimlessly for another hour now seemed just fine :-)