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COSTA RICA June/July 2019 - Osa Peninsula and Monteverde


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INTRODUCTION - This trip report will cover a total of 13 days in Costa Rica in late June and early July 2019.  The first part of the trip was a one-week wildlife photography workshop run by Steve Perry at the Crocodile Bay Resort in the very southwestern part of Costa Rica.  The second part of the trip covered several days north and west of San Jose in the cloud forest area of Monteverde. 


PART I - OSA PENINSULA (Crocodile Bay Resort) - After an overnight stay in San Jose on the evening of arrival from the USA (at the Doubletree Hotel near the international airport, very nice), a short 45-minute flight on Skyways Airways the next morning connected to the small town of Puerto Jimenez, located on the Golfo Dulce and a short 5-minute drive from the Crocodile Bay Resort.  When I saw that Steve Perry was running his wildlife photography workshop in Costa Rica this summer, I jumped at the chance, both to improve my photography but also to visit Costa Rica again.  I had only been here once before, in the early 1990s for a liveaboard diving trip out to Cocos Island, and so I had seen very little of  mainland Costa Rica on that trip.  


The Crocodile Bay Resort (CBR) is a delightful place to stay, not 5-star accommodations, but everything is clean and spacious.  I sense that CBR is first and foremost a fishng lodge (motto: "Where the world comes to fish), and eco-tourism and photography workshops are a more recent addition.  The location is very good, being near the Golfo Dulce and Pacific Ocean for water-based activities but also to lots of lowland forest, the staff is outstanding and very friendly, the food is ample and good (some meals were served buffet-style), and the resort grounds are spacious and quite productive for wildlife (e.g., macaws, toucans, sloth, monkeys, hummingbirds, etc.).  Some resorts have a good "old school" feel to them, and this is one of them.


The photography workshop itself was very worthwhile, even for someone like me who has purchased a couple of Steve Perry's ebooks and watched a number of his free videos online.  With only 10 students, there was a lot of quality time with Steve and useful interactions with the other students (most of whom were much more serious and accomplished photographers than I am).  The general daily routine was to go out on all-day photography excursions, with a couple short classroom and critique sessions throughout the week.  Most of these excursions are also available ala carte through CBR, and their senior guides Dennis and Diego are so good that the resort's own tours would still be pretty productive photographically.  I also enjoyed my time greatly with the more junior guides Michael and Jose - as I said earlier, the staff at CBR make the place so special.  Photography excursions included drives around the Osa Peninsula looking for birds and wildlife, visits to two private reptile/amphibian reserves, and one of the highlights of the workshop, a boat cruise along the Siepre River photographing birds and mammals along the river banks.  I soon realized that Steve was not kidding when he said many of his best photographs were taken on the resort grounds, and I soon developed the habit of doing a short walk around the grounds before breakfast, and another in the late afternoon or early evening, depending on the schedule of workshop activities.  However, I should note that there are plans to develop some of those extensive resort grounds into an ownership resort (I assume that means time-shares).  But for the summer of 2019, CBR was a very pleasant place to visit.




BIRDS - I expected the tropical birds to be the highlight of this trip, and that was generally true.  Costa Rica has three showcase birds, two of which are found in the Osa Peninsula area: the scarlet macaw and the yellow-throated toucan.  I confess to being somewhat frustrated with these birds and disappointed in my photographs of them.  I imagined well-lit and well-composed photos of macaws and toucans, and that generally is not how it works in Costa Rica.  Photography here is challenging - the birds are up high in the tree canopy, you are often photographing birds in deep shadows against a background of dark leaves and bright sky, and there are usually intervening leaves and branches between you and your target.  When you see these birds in flight, it is often against a very bright sky.  However, when shooting birds up in the canopy, I was often at ISO 6400 and occasionally at ISO 12,800 - not conducive to quality results. Particularly with the macaws, which are easy to picture perched on the shoulder of someone dressed up as a pirate in Key West, it is important to remember that these on the Osa Peninsula are definitely wild birds.  With those caveats (excuses?) in mind, let's start with a couple scarlet macaws:
















As with the macaws, the yellow-throated toucans are hard to miss, both from the brilliant colors and the fact that both are somewhat raucous birds.  But seeing them is a different proposition than photographing them well.  I believe all of my better toucan photos from this part of the trip were taken on the resort grounds.








There were a number of impressive birds of prey and vultures in the area, typically seen at the edges where a forest would abut open pastureland.  First up is the aptly-named (and fairly common) roadside hawk:



Apparently the yellow-headed caracara is one of the falcon family, but tends to scavenge and take prey on the ground more often than in the air.








The above birds were all seen during wildlife drives along the coast.  This next one, a common black hawk, was seen up close and personal on the resort grounds, feeding on a lizard early one morning.








These three king vultures look like they are competing with the macaws and toucans to be the most colorful birds in the area.




There is a large variety of smaller birds in the lowland forest.  As you can tell, I tended to pass by the nondescript little brown jobs and focus (pun intended) on the more distinctive or colorful varieties.  First up, a black-throated trogon.  FYI, this is what ISO 6400 in deep shade looks like.




And a thick-billed euphonia:



Spotted in a tree bordering open land at one of the reptile/amphibian shoots was this blue-gray tanager:



A different-looking relative is this male scarlet-rumped tanager seen at, you guessed it, the resort grounds.



A similarly-colored but very different bird, the smooth-billed ani:



And something that looks sort of familiar, the orange-chinned parakeet, actually a pair of them building a nest.  In a tree on the resort grounds, naturally.





This last one is not really a forest bird, as it frequents the ground in more open areas - the gray-headed chachalaca (not to be confused with the boom shakalaka, which is a whole 'nuther thing).  




The Osa Peninsula was, as one might expect, quite productive for waterbirds.  Along a small creek draining through the resort is a colony of cattle egrets, which were in breeding plumage at this time of year.






The workshop boat trip along the Siepre River was quite productive for birds, starting with an American pygmy kingfisher and then an Amazon kingfisher.





Next we have a couple different kinds of herons:  a bare-throated tiger heron, its close cousin the fasciated tiger heron, a green heron, and the heron with the unusual bill (and the big eyes), the boat-billed heron.












 can't end the discussion on birds of the Osa Peninsula without a couple hummingbirds, all spotted around the CBR resort grounds.  There will be lots more hummingbirds in the Monteverde portion of this trip report.  First up is the charming hummingbird, followed by a rufous-tailed hummingbird, and what I think is a female white-necked jacobin.








MONKEYS AND OTHER MAMMALS - While I did not think it likely that I would see any of the wild cats in Costa Rica like jaguars and ocelots (and I was correct), I did hope to see and photograph a sloth or two.  What I did not anticipate was that the stars of the show, at least in the Osa Peninsula part of Costa Rica, were the monkeys.  We saw some every day there, and there were endlessly fascinating to watch.  My personal favorites were probably the little squirrel monkeys - colorful, active, and not all that common in that part of Costa Rica.










The more common monkeys were the white-faced capuchin monkeys, which seemed to travel in larger groups. And somehow their very expressive faces make them seem more relatable.












The long-limbed spider monkeys seem less common, but that might be because the also seem to be more reclusive.






The largest of the New World monkeys in these parts, the howler monkeys, are more often heard than seen.  The sound is more raucous than relaxing, but after a short while it becomes part of the soundtrack of Costa Rica.






Then we get to the sloths.  I am not sure I would have ever seen them without the help of the guides.  Asleep up in the canopy of a tree during the time, a sloth looks like nothing more than a large fur-covered lump, out of which one can make neither head nor tail.  If you are fortunate enough to see one moving around during the day, then they are a bit more attractive animals.  This variety is called the three-toed sloth, and we were lucky that one our CBR guides spotted it, and in good light, where it makes a much more attractive photographic subject. 




But photographing the sloths takes some time (as does everything involving sloths).  After all, it is not as if the sloths just fall out of trees.  Well . . . usually they do not fall out of trees.  But one day while we were intent on doing macro
photography of reptiles and amphibians, our guide Dennis heard a loud crash in the nearby trees.  He dashed into the woods and came back holding a branch that had broken, with the sloth still holding on.  He was gently returned to another tree (the sloth, not Dennis) and proceeded to climb up into the relative security of the treetop canopy.  




The Osa Peninsula is also home to the collared anteater . . .





And to the white-nosed coati, which I understand is a distant relative of the raccoon.




REPTILES AND AMPHIBIANS - As mentioned above, the photo workshop schedule included two visits to privately-owned reserves showcasing local reptiles and amphibians.  Admittedly these environments are not the same as encountering these critters in the wild, but the first problem with photographing them in the wild would be LOCATING them in the wild.  These private reserves are not exactly zoos either - the owners will go out the evening and morning before a scheduled visit and collect a variety of local lizards, snakes, and frogs, which are then returned to the wild after the photo session.  In some case, the critters make their own decision to return to the wild DURING the photo session, and it is a good sign they are free to do so.  First up is the strawberry poison dart frog, known colloquially as the blue jeans frog.




Another poison dart frog, this one a green and black variety (and one spotted in the wild).



A crowd favorite, and seen everythwere you turn in Costa Rice - that is, on souvenir tee shirts, refrigerator magnets, travel posters, postcards, and coffee mugs - is the red-eyed tree frog.  






This next amphibian is a masked tree frog:




Moving on to the reptiles, this is a Golfo Dulce anole:




And the distinctive helmet head lizard (a member of the iquana family).



Speaking of distinctive, it would be hard to miss this snake, a yellow eyelash pit viper.





And a different color variation of the eyelash pit viper (I vote for calling it the rainbow pit viper):







IT'S A FEATURE, NOT A BUG - In the case of Costa Rica, it is both.  Far and away, the most fascinating insects to watch were the leaf-cutter ants.  They cut small pieces of leaves and carry them back to the nest as a food source; they don't eat the leaves directly, but rather feed on a fungus that grows on the stockpiled leaf pieces (sort of like an edible compost pile).  However,it was hard to get enough depth of field to make a good still photograph of these ants.  They do make for an interesting cellphone video, though.




This one is actually from the Osa Interactive Gardens, and obviously is not a reptile or amphibian.  This is the Brazilian wandering spider, supposedly one of the most venomous spiders on the planet.




For photography however, I definitely preferred the different kinds of butterflies, mostly seen around the resort grounds but some also during game drives.  This first one is a longwing zebra butterfly, followed by a cydno longwing butterfly (treat my butterfly identifications with the same suspicion that you should apply to my bird IDs). 






This beauty is a tiger longwing butterfly.




Of course, the butterflies and the hummingbirds (not to mention the photographers) are naturally drawn to some of the gorgeous flowers in this part of Costa Rica:





PART II - MONTEVERDE (Monteverde Lodge and Gardens)


I chose to add a couple more days in Costa Rica after the end of the photography workshop.  I extended two more days at the Croocodile Bay Resort, then flew back to San Jose and picked up ground transportation for the roughly 3-hour drive up north to Monteverde.  Monteverde Lodge and  Gardens was a very nice base from which to explore the Monteverde area.  




The lodge is quite nice (I would say at least 4 stars), and has nice gardens around the hotel with some short trails.  This agouti was seen at the head of one of these trails on the lodge grounds.



The outdoor pool did not really appeal to me, but the deck overlooking the forest was a nice spot to spend some time.  The hotel also has a small butterfly garden (more like a conservatory) as part of the hotel.  The food was very good at the hotel; breakfast was included but other meals were ala carte, and could get a bit pricey.  Fortunately, a small shopping center with a grocery store and several good local restaurants is only a 5-minute walk from the hotel, and Monteverde town itself is maybe a 15-minute walk.  For me, the highlight of Monteverde Lodge and Gardens was the room itself.  The hotel has a clever design with each of the forest view rooms having a corner window (picture a sawtooth design with each point of the saw being the window of a hotel room) looking out onto a small manmade stream.  The view was nice, the sounds of the stream is even better, and the water attracts some local wildlife to the area right outside your window.  Makes a pleasant place for morning tea or to relax after a long day hiking, watching the sunset and looking for birds and monkeys in the treetops.




The town of Monteverde is surrounded by several interesting natural reserves, the most well-known being the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve.   With the area being at an approximate elevation of 5,000 feet, the cloud forest is different than the lowland forest on the Osa Peninsula, and is often very "atmospheric" (pun again intended) because of the low-lying clouds brushing the treetops.  It is quite a bit cooler than the Osa Peninsula. Truth be told, I was somewhat disappointed in the Cloud Forest Reserve. It is a pleasant place to walk with over 8 miles of trails (it made a recent CNN list of the top 23 places to hike on the planet), it is lush and cool, and there is no question it holds a lot of biological diversity.  


But . . . while you will hear lots of bird calls emanating from the trees in the cloud forest, you will have a hard time seeing or photographing much of these birds.  Tourists are restricted to the trail network, and having an expert guide along is essential to spotting much.  I would venture that the biologists doing research OFF the trails are seeing a lot more bio-diversity than the tourists ON the trails are seeing.  There is also a Santa Elena Cloud Forest Reserve in this region, but for some reason the local guides at the hotel had zero enthusiasm for going there.  I sensed that maybe they viewed it as not worth the drive to see the same terrain and creatures present in the nearby Monteverde Reserve.  I am glad I did the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve once, but am not rushing for a repeat visit.  The following cellphone pictures provide a sense of the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve.








In my personal opinion (always take that with a large grain of salt), I found the nearby Curi-Cancha Reserve more interesting, and more productive photographically.  The terrain is more varied, and there are some open areas breaking up the forest cover.  These open areas bordering the forests are essential for seeing and photographing the birds in the Reserve.  Again, I would say that hiring a good guide is the key to seeing what this Reserve has to offer.  Lastly, I visited the smaller, privately-owned Santuario Ecologico close to Monteverde town, which has similar varied terrain and offers self-guided trails.  Each destination had its advantages and disadvantages, and it was good to do a mix of
different locales in the Monteverde region.

FOREST BIRDS - No question the star of the Monteverde cloud forest is the resplendent quetzal, which is quite spectacular in terms of color and improbably long tailfeathers on the males at certain times of the year.  But they are not as large or as colorful as the scarlet macaws, nor do they reveal their presence by making a lot of noise like the toucans.  I am not sure I would have seen ANY quetzals without the expert help of the guides, but I did see them at both the Monteverde Reserve and the Curi-Cancha Reserve.  But seeing them is different than photographing them well, and as with some of the birds on the Osa Peninsula, the quetzals were perched high in the forest canopy, photographing in deep shade against a mottled bright sky background, and usually with lots of intervening branches and leaves.  Below are my best efforts, with the better ones coming from the Curi-Cancha Reserve rather than Monteverde.










I definitely would have heard the three-wattled bellbird as they make a very loud sound, sometimes sounding more mechanical or electronic than natural, but I probably would never have seen it without the help of the guide. When you look at how wide the mouth is open in the second photo, you begin to understand how they can produce such loud sounds.






Two more interesting forest birds from the Curi-Cancha Reserve, the first a northern emerald toucanete, and a black-and-yellow silky flycatcher.






And one I found without a guide at the Santuario Ecologico, an immature owl (I would welcome suggestions as to what kind of owl this is).





HUMMINGBIRDS - While the elusive quetzal preserved its reputation as somewhat elusive, and more of the smaller forest birds were more heard than seen, the variety of hummingbirds in the Monteverde region more than compensated for those frustrations.  Whereas all of the hummingbirds I saw at the Osa Peninsula were feeding on flowers on the resort grounds, most all of the hummingbirds seen at Monteverde were at feeders.  One such place is called the Hummingbird Gallery, and is a cluster of feeders set up at a coffee shop located just across from the entrance to the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve.  But this place was crowded with people and tough for photography.  By contrast, there is a group of feeders set up in an open area of the Curi-Cancha Reserve, with lots of space around the feeders and few people.  And some conveniently-placed picnic tables so you can photograph hummingbirds from a comfortable seated position.  I could still be sitting there . . . 

First, one of the larger hummingbird species, the violet sabrewing:







Next up is a rufous-tailed hummingbird:





A lesser violet-eared hummingbird, which has a distinctive purple patch on the cheeks:






One of the smaller varieties, a female white-throated mountain gem hummingbird:




And lastly, closeups of the female green-crowned brilliant hummingbird, and the coppery-headed emerald hummingbird.  Each of these is more gorgeous than the last one.






I did mention earlier that coatis are relatives of raccoons.  Raiding birdfeeders seems to be part of their repertoire.





BUTTERFLIES - Possibly the most distinctive butterfly in Costa Rica is the blue-winged morpho, which were also present down on the Osa Peninsula.  However, the blue is only visible when the wings are spread, and the morphos are fairly erratic fliers (coupled with an erratic photographer on this end of the camera).  I failed to get a good photo of one with the blue wings outspread, but not for lack of trying.  The best I did was at the Butterfly Garden at the Monteverde Lodge, where you can see a hint of this brilliant blue despite the wings being folded up.




Speaking of a distinctive blue coloring on the wings, this is a zebra longwing butterfly, also photographed at the Lodge's Butterfly Garden.




Lastly, one taken the wild in the Curi-Cancha Reserve, a Juno heliconian butterfly.




FINAL THOUGHTS - I enjoyed both regions of Costa Rica very much, but if I had to choose one especially with photography in mind, I would go with the Osa Peninsula.  While it may not have the same unique ecosystem of the cloud forest, what it does have is more accessible and more varied (at least to my non-biologist eye).  As the reader can probably tell, I was a little underwhelmed with the cloud forest.  Maybe that has a lot to do with the time of year that I visited, as this was the low (i.e., rainy) season in Costa Rica.  Photographically, Costa Rica was a challenge.  I had a far lower percentage of keepers from this trip than from other wildlife trips such as African safaris.  Whether you are photographing, bird watching, or just sightseeing, I think that having good local guides truly makes for a better experience.  Without their expert help, I would have missed seeing three-quarters of what Costa Rica has to offer.


Thanks for looking. I hope this brief report helps someone else contemplating visiting this part of the world.  Pura vida!










Edited by KCAZ
Deleted duplicate photos at end of report
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I also own a couple of Steve's ebooks, and it must have been a true experience to participate on a workshoop he conducted.

The light is way different then in Africa but you have managed to get an impressive results, specially on your close-ups. Excellent job, IMO.

Costa Rica is one of those countries that allows easy enough access to a wide variety of wildlife to self-guided visitors, and as such, is an excellent destination for nature lovers, photographers and above all, birders.


Thank you for showing us the tresures of this lovely country and Pura Vida!


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Absolutely stunning series of images.


I particularly like the close up portrait of the sloth. How convenient he took a tumble

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Simply beautiful.  Hope you had a good "journey" in Osa with Steve Perry.  Sorry, couldn't resist.  What a great 2-part itinerary.  That Crocodile Resort is chock full of photo ops.  No, no, not timeshares in its future! 


Your intro shot is just enchanting.  Those "twin monkeys" are stars indeed.  How did you get the charming hummingbird (aptly named) to hover in front of a flower that complemented its wing color?    You were equally persuasive with the other hummingbirds halting in midair.


The brilliance of your frogs and snakes rivals that of @Bush dog 's chameleons!  Those private land owners where the frogs, etc. reside may be encouraged to keep their land accessible to the reptiles and not turn it into timeshares if they are paid photography fees.  You took advantage of a great opportunity.


Your best efforts in capturing quetzel images were wildly successful.  That is probably a big reason you included Monte Verde.  Your "boom shakalaka" bird is lovely too.


I have thought about a blue morpho safari to try to get those opened wings.  You showed us the blue.


The 2020 Costa Rica workshops with Steve Perry are sold out.  Wait list only.  " All of the workshops (6 weeks / 60 people) sold out in less than 36 hours! "



Lucky you to get in!


What do you think your most important photographic advancement or takeaway of this workshop was?


Fantastic trip!


Edited by Atravelynn
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It’s so true that the rainforests present major photographic challenges. I think the key is that it just takes spending a lot of time there to finally get a portfolio of photos you like. And Costa Rica can pull at the heartstrings so that it’s an easy palace to want to visit again and again.


The Osa Peninsula is one of my favorite places on earth.  You did quite well there, too. The sloth photos are just great. I’ve never been able to get them in any position except high up in a tree. I think the American pygmy kingfisher is quite scarce, so that’s a good find. Same with the squirrel monkeys. They have a very restricted range. 


Thanks for for your thoughts on Monteverde. I haven’t been there myself, but there are so many other parts of the country to see as well!

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Thank you, @xelas  and @wilddog for the kind comments.  I wish I had a photo of our guide Dennis holding the branch with the sloth attached to it, but I had a telephoto zoom on the camera so I could photograph the pit vipers from a reasonable distance.  Unfortunately, I didn't think to use my cellphone to grab a quick wider-angle shot of the scene.  This is as wide as I could get with my 70-300mm zoom; some serious claws on these guys.  



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Hi @Atravelynn, good to hear from you again.  I think that Steve's 2019 workshops also sold out pretty quickly.  I never calculated what the same trip to Crocodile Bay Resort, with the meals, guided excursions, and flights from and to San Jose would have cost to know how much the photo workshop added to the trip cost, but I think it was pretty reasonable for the quality of the experience.  I hope you are able to find an opening on one of his future sessions - he is very knowledgeable as well as nice, as is his wife Rose (who keeps all the students as well as Steve in line).  I have been in and around other photo workshops, and on trips with other professional photographers, and several things really stand out to me about Steve Perry's workshops:

  • He is not out on these workshop teachers who is really interested in photographing for himself and building his own portfolio.  He might do some of that in his free time, but when he is with his workshop students, his attention is 100% on helping them to get better images.
  • While I mentioned that you might see many of the same critters by going out with the CBR guides, a value that Steve adds is to keep the guides and the group moving in search of better photo opportunities.  For example, he might say "Here is a spectacled owl high in the tree in deep shade, so we will spend 10 minutes here so you can take your record shots, and then we are heading down the road to look for monkeys or macaws in better light."  That photo-centric approach is refreshing, and valuable for the photographers among us.
  • I respect that Steve is always trying to improve his technique, and is always open to making little tweaks to improve the resulting images.  While we were on his workshop, he figured out a simple approach to help reset the Nikon autofocus system when it has trouble locking on a low-contrast target.  By the time I had returned home, he and Rose had shot a short video on this technique while at CBR and had posted this as a free video on his website.  Nice.

You asked what my most important takeaways from this workshop were:

  • Being left-eye dominant, I have always resisted moving the focus point around the frame, as my nose will often hit the direction pad and move the focus point in unexpected directions.  Steve persuaded me to get serious about composing as I desire and then moving the focus point to the eye of the creature, rather than my old habit of using the center point to focus and then leaving the focus locked and re-composing as desired.  It works, but too many times I forget to re-center the focus point position before the next set of photos, so I then start off with a very out-of-position focus point.  Also, in low light or with low-contrast subjects, I do think the central cross-type focus points are more accurate than the points out towards the edge of the frame.
  • The other big change was shooting more in full manual, where you set both the aperture and the desired shutter speed and then allow the camera's Auto ISO feature to adjust the ISO as necessary.  After an initial couple shots, then you can experiment with slightly slower shutter speeds, which will have the effect of lowering the ISO that the camera chooses.  This technique works, though it does often lead to photographing at the maximum ISO limit you set for your Auto ISO function (which is why I have so many photos at ISOs of 6,400 and 12,800).  There are times I will use this approach and times I will fall back on my Aperture-priority setting (still with Auto ISO).

Of course, the real solution is faster glass and full-frame cameras.  I neglected to mention one of the rare birds I sighted on this trip - I have never before seen so many Nikon 600mm/f4 lenses in one place before (usually coupled with a Nikon D850 body or two). Sometimes felt like I should be sitting at the kiddie table with my crop-sensor camera body and consumer 200-500 zoom.


And @Alexander33, you are absolutely right that the real secret to getting better wildlife photographs is spending more time with the wildlife.  I am slowly coming to that realization with respect to African safaris, that the most valuable photographic skill one needs for safari photography is PATIENCE.  And if you don't see the creatures you hoped to see, or don't capture the photos you imagined, well then you just have to go back.  Again and again if necessary. :D

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9 minutes ago, KCAZ said:

Sometimes felt like I should be sitting at the kiddie table with my crop-sensor camera body and consumer 200-500 zoom.


I can understand the feeling, but I’m actually quite fond of my crop-sensor and 200-500 myself!  In fact, my first trip with the 200-500 was to the Osa, and our next-door-neighbor had a big lens and tripod, and he had many more challenges than I did with my maneuverable handheld setup. I really can’t imagine how lugging all that equipment through the heat and humidity there could be enjoyable at all.  


I’m a huge Steve Perry fan and I know that he routinely extols the virtues of tripods and “fast glass”, but, in those particular conditions, did you find that the guests with those setups were really getting photos that were that much higher in quality?

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Probably they did get better photos, but I don't really know because I don't do any social media to see their results.  I am like you, I can't see lugging the big glass PLUS the big tripod on international trips.  I also like the extra reach with the DX bodies, especially in good light on safari.  But I did take a full-frame D750 body to Costa Rica, and appreciated that extra stop that comes from the larger sensor (i.e., ISO6400 on the D750 looks about the same as ISO3200 on the D7500).  And ISO12,800, never will I go there again!


I lucked out on a 500/5.6PF recently, after returning from the Costa Rica trip, so that will be going on my next Africa trip instead of the 200-500 lens.  

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3 hours ago, KCAZ said:

Sometimes felt like I should be sitting at the kiddie table with my crop-sensor camera body and consumer 200-500 zoom.


And you would be in a very good company, my friend! With a bit of patience, and luck, our "consumer gear" can produce really good results; even in Costa Rica.


About 500 PF, you lucky guy, I can predict that you will miss the zoom option in Afrrica. The variety of big mammals and small birds is much bigger there (and thus a zoom much more useful) then in Costa Rica.


Speaking about Aperture priority vs Manual mode, both with AutoISO engaged, I have never see what benefits A can have over M?! 

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A very nice report @KCAZ.  I too am a fan of Steve Perry (both the photographer and singer ;)) so I was glad to hear that you enjoyed his workshop.  I often think about taking one but always balk at the price and the fact that I have yet to find one that includes activities (and lower prices) for non-photographer spouses.  I certainly wouldn't be allowed to go by myself. :)


Speaking from experience, a "crop-sensor camera body and consumer 200-500 zoom" has performed wonderfully for me and it looks like it did for you as well but I am sure you will enjoy your new 500mm "toy".


You wonderful photos brought back lots of Costa Rican memories.  We have been 5 times but I could go back 5 more if I had the time.  A wonderful country with great people and wildlife.



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Thanks for a really interesting report.  I feel your frustration in relation to rainforest photography and not getting as many keepers - I had the same issue myself in Borneo earlier this year (trip report still to come when I get the time).  Trying to take moving creatures, in dense vegetation, at the top of tall trees, in poor light - extremely difficult.  In Borneo we even added at night to the list just to make it even harder!

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  • 1 month later...

Thanks for your report--it was very helpful to read through as I will be leaving next week for my first trip to Costa Rica (hooray!) I will be spending 4 nights in Uvita (a bit North of the Osa Peninsula) and 3 nights at La Paloma in the Osa Peninsula. I hope to come back with at least a few decent photos but I know how challenging it is!


Do you mind sharing what kind of setting you used for the hummingbirds? Did you shoot those on manual and let the camera set the ISO? 

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Very interesting to hear from someone who has taken Steve Perry's trip...I too am a fan and own all his ebooks and watch all his videos with interest. I admit even I was tempted by his workshop, so its good to hear a first-hand account.


Your photos are quite good given the conditions. A great variety of critters. Love the frogs and the viper!


Have you tried doing any noise reduction? I think that would help improve the noisy ones even further :) I definitely felt the same pain on our recent Madagascar trip, at least in the rainforest most shots were at my maximum auto ISO of 5000, and NR really saved many of them.

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