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!
When not in the operating room (he's a cardiac anesthesiologist by day), Doug Brown is a BBC prizewinning photographer best known for images of birds in flight. Doug is a moderator at BirdPhotographers.net in the Avian: Image Critique forum. You can see his photos in the popular smartphone app iBird and also on the WhatBird.com website. His work has been published in New Mexico Magazine, Western Birds Magazine, and Aloft. His images are also used extensively in A Field Guide to the Plants and Animals of the Middle Rio Grande Bosque and Raptors of New Mexico. Doug enjoys leading bird photography workshops in the United States and Costa Rica, his favorite international destination for bird photography.
Day 1, Feb. 4 San José
Arrival to Costa Rica. Meet our representative at the Juan Santamaría International Airport and transfer to your hotel near the capital city of San José, where Doug Brown and Foto Verde Tours’ Greg Basco will be awaiting your arrival. Those who arrive early can take the afternoon to photograph the beautiful orchids and other tropical flowers in the hotel’s expansive gardens. The hotel has free wireless Internet throughout the grounds and in the rooms.
Day 2, Feb. 5 Pacific Coast cloud forest
After breakfast this morning, we head across town and 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 to our family-run lodge 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 such as the Green Violet-ear and Magnificent Hummingbird.
Day 3, Feb. 6 Pacific Coast cloud forest
Before breakfast, half of the group will 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. The other half of the group will stay around our private photo area, and we'll continue here throughout the morning. This will be a fantastic day of cloud forest bird photography!
Day 4, Feb. 7 Pacific Coast rainforest
After breakfast, we depart and head toward the Pacific Coast lowlands, arriving at our hotel for lunch. In the late afternoon, we head to nearby boat docks for a photo-filled trip near the mouth of the Tarcoles River, where we'll have the chance for great shots of Tiger Herons, Magnificent Frigatebirds, Southern Lapwing, Turquoise-browed Motmot, Yellow-headed Caracara, American crocodiles, and a number of other great photo subjects. We return to our hotel in the evening with time to relax after this busy day.
Day 5, Feb. 8 Pacific Coast rainforest
Today we head out on our private river boat again, this time for a sunrise tour to explore different spots on the river and also to look for different light angles on our subjects. We return to our hotel for a late breakfast and then time to relax a bit. After lunch, we'll take cover from the heat of the day and enjoy a post-processing session led by Doug. In the late afternoon we'll take a break from photography to do a little birding to see some of the interesting but rarely photographable species on the lodge grounds.
Day 6, Feb. 9 Atlantic lowland rainforest
After an early breakfast, we check out and head to our next destination, a rainforest lodge where Greg has worked to set up a feeder that offers unparalleled opportunities to photograph Keel-billed Toucans, Chestnut-mandibled Toucans, and Brown-hooded Parrots among many other birds. We arrive at the lodge mid-afternoon and set in immediately to photograph at the feeders! This evening, Greg and Doug will give a presentation on fill-flash for bird and wildlife photography.
Day 7, Feb. 10 Atlantic lowland rainforest
Today we divide our time at the lodge among photographing toucans, honeycreepers, and hummingbirds – tropical bird photography doesn't get any better! Today we will divide the group with half using the restaurant feeders for toucans, oropendolas, parrots, and aracari and the other half visiting the lodge manager's house where Greg has worked with the lodge manager to set up two blinds – one for honeycreepers (including the Green Honeycreeper, Red-legged Honeycreeper, Shining Honeycreeper, and Blue Dacnis) and one for a multiple-flash hummingbird setup where you will have the opportunity to photograph lowland hummingbird species including Crowned Woodnymph, White-necked Jacobin, Green-breasted Mango, Scaly-breasted Hummingbird, and Long-billed Hermit. This evening, Greg will give a presentation on the ingredients that go into making a successful and pleasing tropical bird photograph.
Day 8, Feb. 11 Atlantic lowland rainforest
And today we do it all again, rotating group members so that everyone gets great pictures of all of the birds around the lodge and at the manager's house.
Day 9, Feb. 12 Atlantic slope cloud forest
After breakfast, we have some time to shoot the toucans and parrots at our restaurant feeder before travel ing toward the higher cloud forests of the northern Central Volcanic Mountain Range. Our lodge 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. With its rushing mountain streams, cool air, and orchid and moss-festooned trees, the area is akin to a tropical Colorado. En route, we stop at a local farm where Greg laid the groundwork to set up photo opportunities of the wild, free-flying Great Green and Scarlet Macaws that inhabit the owner's large farm property. We arrive to our lodge in late afternoon, with time to settle in and enjoy a relaxing dinner after this busy day. This evening, Greg will do a presentation on the technical and artistic aspects of multiple-flash hummingbird photography.
Day 10, Feb. 13 Atlantic slope cloud forest
After breakfast today, we set in immediately to begin photographing hummingbirds at our multi-flash setups right on the lodge grounds. We will concentrate on the Violet Sabrewing (Costa Rica’s largest species), Green hermit, Purple-throated Mountain Gem, and Green-crowned Brilliant. Greg and Doug will run the setups and provide attractive native flowers to ensure that you capture some fantastic hummingbird images. When not on the setups, you can relax and download images, shoot the Black Guan, Silver-throated Tanagers, Agouti, and Coatimundi that frequent the lodge grounds. And you can explore the cloud forest trails for macro and landscape photography. There are some great rushing cloud forest stream images to be made only minutes from the lodge restaurant.
Day 11, Feb. 14 Atlantic slope cloud forest
After breakfast, we visit a nearby waterfall, which is 110 meters high and offers beautiful photographic opportunities of the waterfall itself and the surrounding cloud forest. There are some absolutely world-class landscape and lush tropical foliage images to be made here. In addition, we have permission to set up our multiple-flash here to take advantage of some very interesting small hummingbird species such as Black-bellied Hummingbird, Coppery-headed Emerald, and Green Thorntail and others such as the endemic White-bellied Mountain Gem and the perennial favorite, the Green Hermit. We'll shoot throughout the day, alternating our time between the setups, perched hummingbirds, and landscape photography.
Day 12, Feb. 15 Back to San José
We have free time this morning to explore the grounds for birds such as Spangled-cheeked Tanager and Golden-browed Chlorophonia that sometimes frequent nearby wild fig trees. After lunch at the lodge, we check out and head back to our San Jose hotel, arriving late afternoon. You'll have some time to get started on packing before we enjoy a farewell dinner in the hotel restaurant.
Day 13, Feb. 16 Airport
Private transfer to the airport for your flight home.
THIS ITINERARY INCLUDES
- Lodging as specified
- Meals as specified
- Private transfers to and from airport on first and last days
- 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
- Alcoholic Drinks (except at one hotel)
- Non-mealtime snacks and drinks
- Dinner the first night (Feb. 4)
- Single room supplement ($375)
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.
+ I see we will be shooting from a boat. Should I bring a monopod?
Good question. Though a monopod seems like a good idea for shooting from a boat, we've actually found it to be limiting in two ways. First, it restricts your mobility. And second, it can pick up vibrations through the boat floor. (The same goes for shooting from a tripod.) We've found that handholding on the boat gives the best results. We'll teach you how!
+ 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. Check out this site for all of your silica gel needs: http://www.silicagelpackets.com/.
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 Scarlet Macaws (unlike many humans!) mate for life? We'll be photographing these beautiful birds during this workshop.
You should arrive to and depart from Costa Rica's Juan Santamaria International Airport (SJO).
As of July 2017, US government regulations mandate that flights from Costa Rica to the US have additional security measures. Before boarding, you may be asked to turn on laptops, tablets, and phones. Please have these items charged. Failure to comply may prohibit boarding.
All of our hotels and lodges have electricity and hot water. They're quite nice! All even have WiFi available.
Plan to arrive early? No problem, we'll make your reservation for you!
This trip requires only moderate fitness. Your leaders 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 read Greg Basco's ideas on how to make your bird photos stand out from the crowd.
- Apr 14, 2018 – Apr 24, 2018 COSTA RICA - Art of Biodiversity Pacific - SOLD OUT! Apr 14, 2018 – Apr 24, 2018
- Jan 20, 2019 – Jan 31, 2019 COSTA RICA - Toucans, Hummingbirds, & Quetzals - SOLD OUT! Jan 20, 2019 – Jan 31, 2019
- Feb 25, 2019 – Mar 9, 2019 ECUADOR - Tropical Bird Photography - SOLD OUT! Feb 25, 2019 – Mar 9, 2019
- Mar 12, 2019 – Mar 23, 2019 ECUADOR - Hummingbirds, Herps, and More - SPOTS OPEN! Mar 12, 2019 – Mar 23, 2019