Humming on Cloud Nine - Wildlife Photography Tour
Hum along with the planet's most resplendent birds, laze around with the world's slowest mammals, hop about with marvellous frogs, and lose yourself in an imponderably beautiful sunset. Come to these cloud forests, and you'll see that such a thing as paradise does exist. And it's here in Costa Rica, offering vignettes of the superlative bounty that Central America has to offer.
How is it?
In one word: prosperous. In two words: preposterously prosperous.
Hosting a dizzying 500,000 species — that's more species per unit area than any other earthly country, by the way — Costa Rica stands as a sumptuous ecological tapestry draping the southern hemisphere. And when you consider that it houses 5% of Earth's biodiversity in just 0.1% of its landmass, its name, which literally means 'rich coast', suddenly seems like the byproduct of excessive subtlety.
But then, when have words been anything but a travesty of Nature's wonder? When have verbal eulogies been able to capture the magic of the birds rising to the clouds and the clouds descending to the treetops? Hence this Tour, so you may experience it firsthand.
What you will see and photograph:
If by the above synopsis you've inferred that you'll see and photograph a lot, you're absolutely accurate in your educated conjecture.
The Tour will begin on a fragrant note, with beautiful orchids and tropical flowers on offer at the hotel in San José. Just as well, because things get rather explosive thereafter.
We start in the Atlantic Lowland Rainforest range, photographing keel-billed and chestnut-mandibled toucans, and brown-hooded parrots; green, red-legged and shining honeycreepers; lowland hummingbird species such as crowned woodnymph, white-necked jacobin, green-breasted mango, and scaly-breasted hummingbird. Then, camping in a lodge nestled quaintly in a valley at 4,500 feet, we explore the cloud forests of the northern Central Volcanic Mountain Range. And while its gurgling streams, cool zephyrs and orchid-decorated trees soothe your senses while you're at home in its idyllic premises taking a breather from all the action, your guest list may include black guan, silver-throated tanager, agouti and coatimundi.
Meanwhile, the forests will treat you to the sheer extravagance of scarlet and great green macaws. Imaginatively named species like violet sabrewing and green hermit will capture your imagination, while the eulogised ones like the purple-throated mountain gem and the green-crowned brilliant will cause you to rapturously add to the eulogies.
All this avian frenzy will be complemented by some truly exquisite landscape photography at a nearby 360-foot waterfall and the delightful cloud forest around it. But the bird photography hubbub will not slow down even here, as black-bellied hummingbird, coppery-headed emerald, green thorntail and white-bellied mountain gem do a most efficacious job of distracting you from your wide-angle lens.
Meanwhile, there will be detailed discussions, extensive demonstrations and execution of flash-based photography setup and camera techniques, particularly with the many-hued, magnificently nimble hummingbirds, the only birds to have a reverse gear in flight! So the experience is as sweet for you as it is for these diminutive birds sucking nectar off the exquisite flowers.
Later, in the Talamanca Range Cloud Forest, you'll be fully exposed to the wonders called golden-browed chlorophonia and long-tailed silky flycatcher, even as the delicious possibility of adding scintillant and green violet-ear hummingbirds to your already impressively long species list looms large.
But the flagship species here is without doubt the resplendent quetzal, which might as well have been named splendacious, for it dazzles with brilliance to yield exceptional delight. With a really long tail, a vivid front and a small beak, it's a big marvel, and a massive draw.
Adding the icing to the cake could be hairy and acorn woodpeckers, golden-hooded tanager, sooty robin and large-footed finch, so you can see just why this Tour is such a delicious prospect.
Behind Jayanth's awe-inspiring work are a fierce commitment to nail the composition in the field, an assiduous abstinence from digital manipulation, a nearly devotional love for quality, and zero appetite for compromise. Jayanth uses the strengths of his tools to his immense advantage, creating powerful vignettes of optical excellence designed to pamper the aesthetic corner of a nature lover.
Jayanth is one of the co-founders of Toehold and you can have a look at his work on his website www.wildlifetimes.com or keep a tab on him on his Facebook Page.
Read more about Jayanth here.
Although he has consolidated a veritable treasure chest of invaluable stock images, he strives to depart from a literal representation of his beloved subjects, and encapsulate beauty in different forms, through bird, mammal, landscape and macro photography.
You can have a look at Greg's work on his website www.deepgreenphotography.com or keep a tab on him on his facebook page.
Read more about Greg here.
WHY GO ON A TOEHOLD PHOTO TOUR?At Toehold, we are passionate about photography just as you are, which lets us understand your travails and needs perfectly. And we use this insight to specially design our Photography Tours so they give you a toehold to excel at the art and set you up for success.
The Toehold team at your disposal will keep you tuned and geared, so you come in empty-handed but go out with bagful of images and tales of an experience that is better lived than heard.
- A clinically organized tour with utmost attention to your comfort and needs
- An open, informal environment that promotes interactive learning
- A team that will strategize and work to a plan to optimize opportunities and ensure a great tour
- Practical, hands-on assistance in photography from the tour Skippers both in the field and off it
- A wealth of subject matter knowledge
- Individual interaction with the Skippers over general or specific issues
- First-hand learning from the masters in the art and craft of photography
These exclusive, informative and interactive sessions are -
TESTIMONIALS BY OUR PREVIOUS TOUR PARTICIPANTSPhotography enthusiasts who were a part of a similar Tour previously said:
Exploring the rainforested wilderness in Costa Rica on the Toehold Photo Tour was an exhilarating experience. Not only will I cherish the stunning moments I got to capture as photographs but will always treasure the very experience of being there.
- Ruta Kalmankar, Mumbai
In this Central American country, apart from the countless breathtaking details of natural beauty, what stood out for me was watching this tiny little wonder, the humming bird, and making some interesting images of it.
- Shaji Mohammed, Dubai
Costa Rica contains many a wonder that will lead us to sensory overload. I particularly enjoyed watching and photographing the majestic creature, quetzal.
- Srihari Krishnamurthy, Bangalore
In a land far away from home, under the guidance of the Toehold Skipper, Jayanth Sharma, we had a great joy of exploring diverse wildlife and photographing them in their natural habitat. I hope to go back to Costa Rica again.
- Rahul Pratti, Hyderabad
Please click on any thumbnail and use the left and right arrow keys to navigate between photos in the gallery.
Entry into Costa Rica requires a valid visa. Please get in touch with us well in advance to have your visa application for the Tour processed. This typically needs at least two weeks.
- DAY 1 11 February 2018, Sunday: Arrival in Costa Rica; Overnight in San José
Upon your arrival in Costa Rica, you will be met by Tour Skippers, Greg Basco and Jayanth Sharma, and if you arrive early enough, you'll have the opportunity to photograph the orchids and other tropical flowers in the gardens of the hotel. Please note that meals are not included in the Tour fee on this day.
- DAY 2 12 February, Monday: Transfer to and Overnight in Atlantic Lowland Rainforest Range
After an early breakfast, we check out and head to our first destination, a rainforest lodge where we photograph many birds at the feeders. Later, back at the lodge, we enjoy a highly enjoyable interactive session with Jayanth, prior to supper and retirement.
- DAYS 3 AND 4 13 and 14 February, Tuesday and Wednesday: All-Day Photography and Overnight at Atlantic Lowland Rainforest
We will set out to photograph monkeys, crested guan, and collared aracaris around the lodge. Also, we will take time to photograph the numerous Montezuma oropendolas at the lodge feeders, where the staff will help us photograph colourful animals on natural stages that we will set up on site.
- DAY 5 15 February, Thursday: Transfer to and Overnight in Central Volcanic Range Cloud Forest
Prior to an invigorating breakfast, we enjoy a spot of good bird photography before climbing higher to the cloud forests of the northern Central Volcanic Mountain Range, where we'll check in to our next lodge. En route, we stop at a nearby farm for a delicious lunch and then photograph macaws in flight and on attractive perches. In the evening we'll enjoy a highly insightful session on flash-based setup photography by Greg.
- DAY 6 16 February, Friday: All-Day Photography and Overnight in Central Volcanic Range Cloud Forest
After breakfast this day, we get straight down to the highly enjoyable task of photographing hummingbirds with our multiple-flash setups right on the lodge premises. The Skippers will run the setups and provide attractive native flowers to ensure that you capture some fantastic hummingbird images. When not on the setups, we can relax and download images, and photograph the other birds and mammals that frequent the premises. We can also explore the cloud forest trails for macro and landscape photography.
- DAY 7 17 February, Saturday: All-Day Photography and Overnight in Central Volcanic Range Cloud Forest
After breakfast, we visit a nearby waterfall for a round of landscape photography of some lush tropical foliage. In addition, we'll have the opportunity to set up our multiple-flash 'studio' here to capture a few small hummingbird species. We'll shoot throughout the day, alternating our time between the setups, perched hummingbirds, and landscape photography, enjoying a picnic lunch at the waterfall.
- DAYS 8 TO 10 18 to 20 February, Sunday to Tuesday: Photography and Overnight in Talamanca Range Cloud Forest
After an early breakfast this morning, we head up into the Talamanca Mountain Range en route to our last destination, the high cloud forests just on the Pacific side of the Continental Divide. We arrive at our hotel for lunch and spend the afternoon in pursuit of the resplendent quetzal, widely recognised as one the world's most beautiful birds, and quite clearly our chief target over these three days.
Next morning we continue our search for the quetzal regardless of the previous evening's success, for you can never have enough of this magnificent bird. After lunch we visit a house where special bird feeders will very probably get us some new species.
The third day at Talamanca will be spent visiting another property where Greg has worked with the owner to set up bird feeders and plant bushes that attract some great birds. This afternoon, we'll keep an eye out for the quetzal again, while also focusing on photographing a few different hummingbird species right outside the hotel's restaurant.
- DAY 11 21 February, Wednesday: Transfer to and Overnight in San José
After breakfast this morning, we'll take a last shot at photographing some birds on the lodge premises before checking out and being transferred back to San Jose, arrive at the capital for lunch. We'll spend the afternoon captioning and cataloguing images to ensure we get the species names right, and learn a bit of post-processing, before enjoying a farewell dinner in the hotel restaurant.
- DAY 12 22 February, Thursday: Transfer to Airport and Departure
You are transferred to the international airport for your flight home, and the Tour ends after you've hopefully been introduced to the unbridled bounty of the American wild.
ATLANTIC LOWLAND RAINFOREST
CENTRAL VOLCANIC RANGE CLOUD FOREST
TALAMANCA RANGE CLOUD FOREST
Exclusive of service tax
Exclusive of service tax
Exclusive of service tax
Frequently Asked Questions
- What are the requisites to participate in this Tour?
Apart from interest, a valid visa and related documents, and a minimum level of fitness are essential. Visa assistance will be provided.
- I am a newbie in nature photography. Am I eligible?
Absolutely! This Tour is meant for fledgling as well as experienced photographers. Beginners get all the advantages of learning on and off the field from Toehold's eminent Skippers. In fact if you are a newbie, you should jump on this terrific learning opportunity and sign up right away! However, in order to make the most of the Tour photographically, we recommend that you be familiar with photography fundamentals. If you're not, we suggest you join a Art and Science of Photography Workshop before the Tour.
By what mode or modes will we explore Costa Rica?
We will travel between the destinations by road, but almost all the photography will be done on foot, or stationed in one place, in the case of setup multiple-flash photography sessions.
How sure are you about photographing wildlife on this Tour?
Considering the meticulous attention to timing we pay while scheduling Tours and the local expertise we leverage, we believe that it would be extremely unfortunate if our sightings and photography were unsatisfactory. Costa Rica is a country blessed with the greatest biodiversity, and the destinations we'll be visiting are teeming with wildlife, particularly birds, but since we will be in an uncontrolled environment, we do not claim that sightings of specific species are guaranteed.
What equipment do you suggest on this Tour?
For birds, a lens with a focal length of around 400mm is essential. For mammals, a telephoto zoom lens in the range of 100 to 400mm works very well, but a longer lens is fine too. A wide-angle or normal zoom to capture landscapes or creative perspectives of wildlife is a must, along with a macro lens for closeup flora work. A tripod, with a gimbal head (such as the Wimberley II) or ball head is necessary, and so is an external flash unit with preferably a Better Beamer flash extender. However, if you do not have appropriate equipment, there is no need to fret. Toehold offers an exhaustive array of cameras, lenses and accessories for hire, so you can always hire what you need. Click here to see what we offer.
- How different are your Photo Tours from ordinary tours?
Unlike travel agents who plan your holiday from a remote destination to places they sometimes haven't experienced themselves, Photo Tours offer a comprehensive toehold to experience a place through the guidance of a professional photographer. The common ingredients in all our Photo Tours are fun and a lot of learning and knowledge-sharing. Besides, most or all of our Tour participants are photography enthusiasts, which keeps the group in harmony and helps make your experience focussed.
© - All Text, Photographs, Videos and Narrations are properties of Toehold Travel & Photography Private Limited.
- Date: 11 to 22 February 2018
- Tour Cost:
Per person exclusive of service tax
Per couple exclusive of service tax
Per person exclusive of service tax
Additional per person exclusive of service tax
All fares excluding flights
- Skippers: Jayanth Sharma