Located near the center of the continental bridge between the Americas with Nicaragua to the north and Panama to the south and hemmed in by the Pacific Ocean and the Caribean Sea, the small country of Costa Rica is a unique place on earth and a nature’s marvel. Its geography with the length of less than 300mi (480km) and the width of 200 miles (320km) constricts a breathtaking amount of plant and animal life within an area of about the size of Denmark in Europe or Virginia in the US. The tiny nation of Costa Rica is home of an astonishing 5% of the world’s biodiversity and contains 12 of the 30 life zones on earth.The country’s 26 national parks which are part of a robust network of presently 160 protected areas compose some 25% of its total landmass – the largest percentage of protected areas in the world. Costa Rica has successfully managed to diminish deforestation from some of the worst rates in the world reducing the forest cover between 1950 to 1990 from 90% to 25% to almost zero by 2005 so that the country now boasts in 50% forest cover again. The commitment to preserving the national treasures and progressive conservation ethics continue.
There are 904 species of birds including colorful tanagers, honeycreepers, toucans, macaws, parrots, 52 species of hummingbirds and not to forget, the resplendent quetzal — considered by many to be the most beautiful bird in the Americas. Around 200 amphibian species including the famous poison dart tree frogs and red-eyed tree frog, of course, were identified in Costa Rica as well as 216 kinds of mammals (109 bats alone), many species of reptiles such as snakes, crocodiles, iguanas, lizards and turtles. Costa Rica is known for the numerous sea turtle nesting sites of global importance. As to the botanic, there are 800 species of ferns, 1,000 of orchids, 2,000 kinds of trees.
Between the coasts, the interior of the country is shaped by four mountain ranges which run from North to South and contain several active volcanos.The uninhabited parts of the landscape is largely characterized by rainforests, cloud forests, dry forests to name a few of the numerous ecosystems.
The extraordinary biodiversity and abundant variety of tropical wildlife and flora have made Costa Rica a primary goal for ecotourists and nature photographers for a long time – me included. Therefore it has been a privilege that I could join a photo tour and workshop in Costa Rica in January 2017, mainly focused on the avifauna in the Atlantic Lowland Rainforest, Atlantic Slope Cloud Forest and Talamanca Cloud Forest (see map below). This included humming bird photography with multi flash settings but we also photographed tree frogs, bats and reptiles.
The tour was perfectly organized by our professional guides Greg Basco and Greg Downing and without doubt one of the most amazing trips I ever did. Of course, the 10days tour could only cover a section of Costa Rica’s incredible variety and abundance. That’s why I’m planning to revisit CR in April 2018 to explore some other areas, especially those near the coast.
As to the equipment, the 200-400mm/f 4.0 + Ext or 600mm/f4.0 (+1,4x Ext III) mounted on the Canon 5DsR, 5D Mark IV or 1-Dx Mark II were used for photographing small birds. For some motifs, the combination of the Canon 7D Mark II + 100-400 II was a good and flexible choice, too. Of course, a stable tripod with gimbal head or ball head, a flash (Speedlite 600 EX) with Better Beamer extension and off-camera holder as well as a macro lens were needed. I used the 100mm /f 2.8 IS + Macro Ring Flash for closeups. For landscapes I mostly chose the 24-70mm/f2.8 and 70-200mm/f2.8 IS II on the 5D Mark IV or 5DsR.
The gallery- though fairly large – can just give an impression of the fantastic birdlife and the scenery in Costa Rica. I returned back home with 9000+ photographs and it took a long time to organize and post process a selection for this site and forthcoming presentations – including the identification of all the birds.