Greg Basco is a resident Costa Rican professional photographer and environmentalist. He is a BBC/Veolia Wildlife Photographer of the Year and Nature's Best Windland Smith Rice prizewinner, and his photos have been published by National Geographic, Outdoor Photographer, and Newsweek. His latest work is an acclaimed coffee table book on Costa Rica's natural wonders, and he is co-author of the popular e-book The Guide to Tropical Nature Photography. Greg has earned a reputation as a knowledgeable workshop leader who puts his clients first. Greg does his own shooting on his own time, not yours!
Day 1, July 24, Airport/San José
Arrival to Costa Rica. Meet our representative at the Juan Santamaría International Airport and transfer to our hotel near the capital city of San José, where Foto Verde Tours’ Greg Basco will be waiting for you. Our hotel is surrounded by a beautiful tropical garden filled with great subjects for macro photography, including orchids, bromeliads, and passionflowers. There is free wireless Internet throughout the property.
Day 2, July 25, Central Volcanic Mountain Range
After breakfast, we enjoy an introductory presentation from Greg Basco on diverse strategies for photographing hummingbirds. We depart late morning and head to the cloud forests of the northern Central Volcanic Mountain Range. Our lodge, which is family-owned, is located in one of the most biodiverse areas of the country, nestled in a picturesque valley at approximately 4,500 feet above sea level between the Poas Volcano and Juan Castro Blanco National Parks. With its rushing mountain streams, cool air, and orchid and moss-festooned trees, the area is akin to a tropical Colorado. We arrive for lunch and then set in immediately to begin photographing violet sabrewings at our multiple-flash setups!
Day 3, July 26, Central Volcanic Mountain Range
Today we will be working with multi-flash hummingbird set-ups throughout the day on a rotational basis, photographing the vividly iridescent Violet Sabrewing and Green-crowned Brilliants that are abundant around the lodge. When not on the setups, you can explore the private cloud forest reserve for macro and landscape opportunities.
Day 4, July 27, Central Volcanic Mountain Range
After an early breakfast today, we head to a nearby waterfall, which is 110 meters high and offers beautiful photographic opportunities of the waterfall itself and the surrounding cloud forest. Since about 6 years ago, Foto Verde Tours has negotiated permission to set up our multiple flashes at the feeders around the restaurant at the waterfall. This is a great place to photograph some species, such as the green thorntail, coppery-headed emerald, and white-bellied mountain gem, that are less common at our lodge. We will alternate turns on the hummingbird setups with landscape photography. There are some spectacular tropical foliage shots here of palms and ferns on the cliffs surrounding the waterfall. We enjoy a delicious typical lunch at the waterfall. We return to our lodge in the evening for a relaxing dinner and time to download our great hummingbird and landscape images.
Day 5, July 28, Atlantic Lowlands
This morning we head to a nearby lowland forest destination with bird feeders that Greg worked with the owner to set up a few years ago. We'll be setting up great perches for toucans, aracaris, and colorful tanagers and honeycreepers. After our morning shoot, we head over to a nearby farm for a delicious homecooked lunch and then an afternoon shooting wild macaws in flight and in the trees – an unparalleled opportunity!
Day 6, July 29, Talamanca Mountain Range
After an early breakfast today, we head to the Talamanca Mountain Range, and a new lodge where we will spend our time photographing a different set of hummingbird species, including the green violet-ear, white-throated mountain gem, steely-vented, scintilliant, magenta-throated woodstar, and volcano hummingbirds. We arrive to our family-owned lodge for lunch and set in to begin photographing at our setups.
Day 7, July 30, Talamanca Mountain Range
We have the entire day today to photograph at our hummingbird setups, and we will also set up perches and flowers for hummingbirds outside to work with natural light for images with sharp hummingbirds but blurred wings, a great addition to your portfolio.
Day 8, July 31, Talamanca Mountain Range
Today we get to do it again but with a twist – we'll be working at our setups to capture high-key and low-key images and also working with slow shutter speeds for a mix of flash and natural light, an innovative technique that can produce fantastic hummingbird images!
Day 9, August 1, Talamanca Mountain Range
After breakfast today, we head up the highway to another family-run lodge, where we arrive for lunch and then settle in working at our new private photo area. This is a new area that is a collaborative effort between the family that owns the lodge and Greg's company Foto Verde Tours. We'll spend the afternoon photographing the amazing Fiery-throated Hummingbird as well as other hummingbird species.
Day 10, August 2, Talamanca Mountain Range
This morning we head out with the lodge owner to look for the Resplendent Quetzal, the Holy Grail for neotropical bird photographers. The lodge owner and his family have started a project to work with local farmers in the area to monitor and protect the Quetzal, and this network exponentially raises our probability of getting a good photographic look at this beautiful species. We work the rest of the day at our private photo deck photographing the fiery-throated hummingbird and also working our fruit and seed feeder setups for photographs of the flame-colored tanager, large-footed finch, yellow-thighed finch, and sooty robin. This evening we have a presentation by Greg on processing images in Lightroom.
Day 11, August 3, Talamanca Mountain Range/Back to San Jose
We head out early again this morning to search for the quetzal. After breakfast, we spend more time photographing at our setup area. After lunch at the lodge, we pack up and then arrive to our San Jose hotel in late afternoon with time to relax a bit before enjoying our farewell dinner together.
Day 12, August 4, Departure - San José/Airport
Private transfer to the Juan Santamaría International Airport for your flights home.
THIS ITINERARY INCLUDES
- Lodging as specified
- Meals as specified
- Transportation as specified w/private driver in spacious air-conditioned tour bus
- Professional, full-time photo instruction from your leader(s)
- Multiple-flash setups for hummingbird photography
- Entrances and fees for all described activities
- Taxes for all specified services
THIS ITINERARY DOES NOT INCLUDE
- Airport departure tax (US $29, may be included in the price of your plane ticket)
- Alcoholic Drinks
- Non-mealtime snacks and drinks
- Dinner the first night
- Single room supplement
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
+ Will someone be there to meet me at the airport?
Certainly! We take care of you from the moment you step off the plane until the moment you leave to return home. We'll send you all of the info you need to know regarding arrival in a final info message before the trip.
+ I plan to arrive a day early. Can you help?
Definitely, we'll be happy to make your reservations to ensure that you get to the same hotel that we have booked for the official first night of the tour. By the way, private transfers to and from the airport are always included in our tours, and you can use this transfer whether you arrive early or depart later than the official dates.
+ What kind of clothes should I bring?
In general, your best choices are lightweight garments that breathe and dry quickly, and you’ll want a mix of long sleeves and short sleeves. A light polartec and a good rain jacket are also good to have. For meals, it’s informal at the lodges and in the region in general. A pair of jeans, tennis shoes, and a clean shirt are just fine for dinner, even in the captial city hotels. Lightweight hiking boots are fine for your photography out in the field, and if you’re visiting a beach area, you will want sandals or aqua shoes as well. Of course a good hat and sunscreen are important. The sun is strong in the tropics, even on cloudy days. We will send you clothing information specific to your trip after you've signed up.
+ Can I have laundry done?
Many of the lodges we use offer laundry service for a cost of approximately $1 per garment with same or next day service. We will indicate to you which lodges have laundry service after you've signed up for a given trip.
+ Can I drink the water?
This is probably the question that our clients ask us the most. And it’s the one for which we have the least definitive answer, except to say that beer is always a safe choice!. Water in and around capital cities is treated with chlorine and generally can be consumed with no worries. The lodges that we use for our photo travel often have their own well water, which is tested regularly by the Ministry of Health. Nonetheless, upset stomachs do occur as a result of change in diet or simply bacteria different from those to which Northern stomachs are accustomed. Serious disorders such as Giardia or amoebic dysentery are virtually unheard of. Bottled water is very widely available at our hotels and lodges, and a conservative strategy would be to use it as often as possible when outside the capital. As with travel to any foreign country, immodium pills are good to have along, and some of our clients also bring along Cipro or other broad-spectrum antibiotics. Some go so far as to begin taking antibiotics before arriving in-country. For antibiotic use, we suggest you consult with your physician. That said, we have very very few problems with water and food-related issues on our tours.
+ How do I keep my equipment safe from humidity while in the rainforest?
The lush cloud forests and rain forests for which Costa Rica is famous means that your camera gear will be exposed to high humidity. We’ve never had problems with our gear here in Costa Rica, and neither have our clients, so humidity is nothing to be obsessed about. And it is certainly not a deterrent to visiting and photographing the rainforest. Nonetheless, a three-pronged strategy will help avoid damage to your gear and allow you to concentrate on your photography.
First, pack your gear well in water repellant camera bags and backpacks and sprinkle these liberally with silica gel packages. Former Foto Verde Tour participant Christian Moynihan turned us on to this site for all of your silica gel needs: http://www.silicagelpackets.com/. Whenever possible, pack each item in ziploc bags to avoid condensation upon exiting an air-conditioned vehicle or when traveling from the cool highlands to the warm lowlands.
Second, try to avoid actually getting your gear wet. We try to send our photo clients to lodges with covered shooting areas but these are not always available. A good rain cover for your camera and/or a small umbrella that clips onto your tripod can be very useful. And rain showers can come down suddenly when you are out with your camera. That same small umbrella is an easy way to cover up as are garbage bags stored in handy places in your camera bag. Camera bags with built-in rain covers are particularly useful.
Third, at night you may want to dry your equipment with a compact hair dryer that you bring along for this purpose (most lodges do not have hair dryers in the bathroom).
+ I'd like a single room. Can that be arranged?
Certainly. Simply indicate your rooming preference on the workshop signup form.
+ I'm traveling by myself but would like a double room. Can that be arranged?
It depends. If we can match you up with a suitable solo traveler who also wants to share, we will place you in a double room.
Did you know that most hummingbirds beat their wings over 4,000 times per minute? Greg Basco will show you how to use flash to stop the action!
You should arrive to and depart from Costa Rica's Juan Santamaria International Airport (SJO).
All of our hotels and lodges have electricity and hot water. They're quite nice! Many even have WiFi available.
Plan to arrive early? No problem, we'll make your reservation for you!
This trip requires only moderate fitness. Your leader will go over the gear you need for every shooting session so you don't have to carry the kitchen sink. There are no long hikes involved, but you are always welcome to get out on the trails if you want!
Electrical current is 110 volts, the same as the US. If you are coming from Europe or Asia, you may need a voltage converter.
A small power strip for charging camera, flash, laptop, and phone/tablet is useful. Greg Basco recommends this one:
We recommend purchasing travel insurance if you have not already done so. There are many companies out there, but we've found Frontier MedEx to have a pretty good selection. Note that in the case of a medical emergency, we will assist you in every way possible.
Gear insurance is also a good idea. You may, of course, have your gear covered under your homeowner's policy. If not, we've heard good things about TCP Insurance. Greg Basco has had his gear covered under the NANPA policy offered through Rand Insurance for years. He's only had to file one claim but they took care of things right away with no hassle. Note that NANPA also offers recommendations for travel insurance for photo tours.
Costa Rica does not require any special vaccinations or medicines.
Check out our reading list for our recommendations on great natural history books for our destinations.
Click the pic to learn how Greg Basco typically processes a multi-flash hummingbird photo.
- Jul 20, 2017 – Jul 31, 2017 COSTA RICA - The Art of Flight -- SOLD OUT! Jul 20, 2017 – Jul 31, 2017
- Sep 9, 2017 – Sep 20, 2017 COSTA RICA - The Art of Biodiversity Caribbean -- 1 SPOT OPEN Sep 9, 2017 – Sep 20, 2017
- Oct 20, 2017 – Oct 30, 2017 CHILE - Sand & Stone - 2 SPOTS OPEN Oct 20, 2017 – Oct 30, 2017
- Nov 9, 2017 – Nov 20, 2017 COSTA RICA - Tropical Nature Setups - SOLD OUT! Nov 9, 2017 – Nov 20, 2017
- Nov 10, 2017 – Nov 20, 2017 COSTA RICA - Art of Biodiversity Pacific -- SPOTS OPEN Nov 10, 2017 – Nov 20, 2017
- Jan 25, 2018 – Feb 5, 2018 COSTA RICA - Toucans, Hummingbirds, & Quetzals -- SOLD OUT! Jan 25, 2018 – Feb 5, 2018
- Feb 4, 2018 – Feb 16, 2018 COSTA RICA - Tropical Bird Photography -- 2 SPOTS OPEN Feb 4, 2018 – Feb 16, 2018
- Mar 16, 2018 – Mar 27, 2018 ECUADOR - Hummingbirds, Herps, and More - 3 SPOTS OPEN Mar 16, 2018 – Mar 27, 2018
- Apr 14, 2018 – Apr 24, 2018 COSTA RICA - Art of Biodiversity Pacific - JUST ANNOUNCED! Apr 14, 2018 – Apr 24, 2018
- Jul 19, 2018 – Jul 31, 2018 COSTA RICA - The Art of Flight -- JUST ANNOUNCED! Jul 19, 2018 – Jul 31, 2018
- Sep 7, 2018 – Sep 19, 2018 ECUADOR - Art of Biodiversity - BRAND NEW TOUR! Sep 7, 2018 – Sep 19, 2018