Costa Rica is a vibrant country with incredible natural beauty like waterfalls, jungles, volcanoes, and wildlife. It provides many opportunities for stunning photography, but when is the best time to come? What gear should you bring? where to go? let’s find it out below.
Our small but beautiful country land stands on a bridge connecting North and South America. Several species of animals have settled in the lush jungle of Central America while migrating between the continental landmasses, this is what is known as the Central American isthmus.
The Pacific Ocean laps against Costa Rica’s west coast. The Caribbean Sea hits the eastern coastline of this country, which is 119 kilometers across at its narrowest point and 280 kilometers broad at its widest. Sandy beaches and world-class surfing attract many travelers but for many of us, the opportunity to view and photograph wildlife in its natural environment is the cherry on the cake to visiting or traveling around in this country.
Normally Costa Rica shows two weather seasons which are dry and rainy season, the dry one usually stands from December to mid-May, then the rainy season starts making the transition in the middle of April, however lately the climate has been a little crazy, and showers can appear on the dry season and hot sunny days in the rainy season. Basically, if you want to come for nature photography any time of the year is valid, just be prepared with the right gear.
There are many reasons to visit Costa Rica for wildlife photography. It is a close and very fulfilling destination. The wildlife is prolific with many species of birds, mammals, reptiles, insects, and amphibians. It’s a great location to photograph with both telephoto lenses and macro lenses all on the same day. The food is amazing and the lodging and the guides are top quality. Just like any wildlife photographic destination, there are some specific things that a photographer can be prepared for that will enhance the overall quality of the adventure. Here are five points we advise for a photographer to have great success in an amazing place.
Wildlife Photography in Costa Rica does not normally require long hikes and steep climbing in high altitudes. Although some walking is required and it will definitely pay off to walk and exercise daily. Starting several weeks before your journey to this stunning location, participating in morning and evening walks will give you a head start on being in condition for hiking in the rainforests. Most photography trips will provide transportation and only a minimum amount of walking may be required. It is a good idea to ask your tour leader if steep mountain hikes will be part of your itinerary. The mountains in Costa Rica can very steep. A very important consideration about getting in shape for photographing wildlife in Costa Rica is exercising your upper body, back, neck, and arms.
Holding heavy cameras and lenses up and pointing them toward the wildlife for long periods of time can be a bit tiring. Working on your upper body core strength can help you to maintain these camera positions for a longer period of time. Remember to always consult your doctor about any exercise routines. Our tours in Costa Rica do not require much walking, however, we do often encounter wildlife in the trees and often have to photograph them with the cameras pointing up. It is no fun missing an image because you are fatigued while trying to hold your camera in the correct position. It is also important to remember to breathe properly when holding up your camera. Learning to breathe continually and staying steady is a great skill to master.
The area where a photographer finds the majority of species to photograph is the rainforest. The cloudy skies will also provide some relief to the bright spots of light that can appear through the tree canopies. However, we rarely have rain that lasts the entire day. Having good rain gear for your camera and lens will keep you from having to stay indoors and miss some photographic opportunities during the rainy times of the day. It is also a good idea to have quality rain gear for yourself, including a rain hat and waterproof closed-toe shoes. Also bring several lint-free clothes, besides Zip Lock Bags for drying lenses, cameras, and eyeglasses. Another tip would be to bring a small portable umbrella.
Most people interested in photography often experience the frustration of a photographer with a new camera having difficulties with all the different settings. Today’s new cameras can be very complicated and learning how to use them is vital to enjoying and being successful with your photographic outings and tours. It can be expensive to go on exotic photography adventures. Such investments deserve a wonderful time and the ability to get amazing photographs. Study the owner’s manual, download it, and bring it along on your photographic trips. It is vital to set up your camera with your top features of importance for easy access when you are doing your photography. Once your camera is set up the way you like it, stick with it and let those buttons become second nature to you. Personally, I have my camera set up for easy and quick access to my three most important and often-used features. ISO, Camera Tracking feature, and Continuous focus. I want to be able to access these features quickly and not waste time looking for them. We all have different priorities and shooting styles, try to match yours with the setup of your camera. Learn it, and practice it at home.
Costa Rica can be very thick with ground cover as well as thick bushes and trees. Using a tripod will work in some cases, especially when doing river tours or photographing at eye level. However, having three legs on a tripod can get caught up in the debris that often covers the forest floor. Another issue with a tripod is that often you are pointing your camera towards the tree tops and it’s vital to have a tripod that will extend to or slightly past eye level. It can be difficult to lean over and photograph upwards all at the same time.
Lens fogging can be a huge hindrance and should be addressed in environments with extreme temperature changes and high humidity. I have found that it really comes down to giving your gear time to acclimate to the conditions you are photographing in. The humid and wet climate of Costa Rica combined with air-conditioned lodging and transportation can be a sure way to experience lens fogging. It is so nice and refreshing to enjoy a good night’s sleep with air conditioning. However, when going from your air-conditioned room to the hot and humid outside air, it can be a problem for your lens. Make sure you have plenty of time for your lens to get acclimated to the outside conditions.
Normally two lenses to Costa Rica are enough. In most cases, domestic air travel will limit the overall weight you can travel with. Our advice is to keep things simple and spend my time photographing. A good zoom lens will allow the photographer to create several different images at different focal lengths without having to move and possibly frighten the wildlife. A Canon 100-400mm, Canon 100-500mm, Nikkor 200-500mm, and Sony 200-600mm all in one package, from a wide environmental image to a close-up portrait all with the same lens is a dream come true. So you can go on a wildlife expedition and get everything you need from just one lens. It is super sharp, very reliable, water resistant, and functions very quickly. Now if you prefer to bring more top quality don’t think twice to bring you 600mm f4 or 400mm f2.8. The other lens you should take to Costa Rica is a 60-90mm macro lens since anywhere you go the conditions are unbelievable for any kind o macro from small insects to beautiful colorful flowers, amphibians, and reptiles.