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!
Tom Whelan is an award-winning nature photographer and naturalist who specializes in close-up photography of plants and insects, portraits of wildlife, and intimate landscapes. His images range from abstracts of natural designs, to butterfly portraits, high magnification images of ice crystals, floral abstracts, and forest and waterfall scenes. He is a member of the Massachusetts Audubon Society, the North American Butterfly Association, and the Massachusetts Butterfly Club. His clients include the City of Aspen, Colorado, Trent University (Ontario), the North American Butterfly Association, the Boston Museum of Science, and others. Tom's photographs have won awards in competitions sponsored by the National Wildlife Foundation and the North American Butterfly Association.
Day 1, May 14 Arrival to San Jose
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 awaiting your arrival. 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, May 15 Central Valley
After breakfast, we spend the morning in the classroom going over the techniques that we’ll be employing during our time out in the field but with a special emphasis. Award-winning photographer and Foto Verde Tours co-founder Greg Basco will lead us this day to practice his flash techniques for creating dramatic macro images. Throughout the day we’ll be working on these techniques in the fantastic gardens right behind the hotel. The orchids, bromeliads, heliconias, and passion flowers in the gardens are simply amazing. We'll also work on focus stacking to extend depth of field beyond what is possible to capture in a single image.
Day 3, May 16 Lowland Rainforest
After breakfast today, we head to our first field destination in the Atlantic lowlands. We arrive for lunch and immediately set in to begin photographing the two species of poison frogs that frequent the lodge grounds. In the evening before dinner, we have a session with the resident red-eyed tree frogs, during which we will employ a special technique using flashlights for dramatic portraits of these amazing nocturnal frogs.
Day 4, May 17 Lowland Rainforest
This morning after breakfast, we have a visit to a nearby local farm to photograph a number of different species of colorful native frogs and insects. After lunch at a local restaurant, we explore the grounds of our lodge for macro opportunities before enjoying a relaxing dinner.
Day 5, May 18 Lowland Rainforest
Today we take a break from macro photography and focus on birds. We'll visit a local property where Greg Basco has helped to set up bird feeders that attract colorful tanagers, honeycreepers, and even toucans! We then head to a nearby farm where Greg has worked with the owner to provide opportunities to photograph wild scarlet and great green macaws. We'll enjoy a delicious home-cooked lunch on site and then spend all afternoon photographing the macaws!
Day 6, May 19 Cloud Forest
After breakfast this morning, we travel to the higher cloud forests of the northern Central Volcanic Mountain Range, and our next lodge, which 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. We arrive to our lodge for lunch and then have time to get settled in and then photograph hummingbirds on attractive perches.
Day 7, May 20 Cloud Forest
Today we take the entire day to explore our lodge’s private cloud forest reserve, which contains some fantastic frogs, insects, and mushrooms that will be great for photographing with macro and wide angle lenses. In late afternoon, we can usually obtain great portraits of the turkey-like black guan and the large forest rodent, the agouti, which visit the feeding areas right outside the lodge dining hall. And we also will work on photographing the abundant hummingbirds with natural light and fill-flash, both in-flight and perched. In the evening, we will look for glass frogs and other nocturnal frog species in the forest.
Day 8, May 21 Arenal Volcano
After breakfast, we travel to the Arenal Volcano area. En route, we make a stop for lunch and a little break from macro photography and head to 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 spectacular tropical foliage shots here of palms and ferns on the cliffs surrounding the waterfall. This is a great place to work on some wide angle and telephoto landscapes and can be an interesting place to explore HDR techniques if so inclined.We arrive to our lodge in late afternoon to photograph the sunset and the Arenal Volcano. Our lodge affords some of the area’s best photographic views of the famous Arenal volcano and offers fantastic sunset views over Lake Arenal and the surrounding hills.
Day 9, May 22 Arenal Volcano
We dedicate the early morning to photographing Montezuma oropendolas, Passerini’s tanager, green honeycreepers, red-legged honeycreepers, and emerald tanagers at the lodge feeders. Mid-morning, we depart for a nearby location run by one of Greg Basco’s friends. There we have special access to photograph numerous color forms of the amazing eyelash vipers, parrot snakes, vine snakes, as well as some of the incredible frogs and small lizards in Greg’s friend’s collection. We will photograph all of these animals on natural stages that we will set up on site. This is a great opportunity to photograph a number of species that are very difficult to find in the wild and also to continue our work on multiple flash setups for pleasing macro lighting. We will enjoy a delicious home-cooked lunch as well as refreshments and coffee throughout the day. We return to the our lodge in late afternoon to photograph the sunset and the Arenal Volcano.
Day 10, May 23 Back to San Jose
After breakfast, we pack up and return to our hotel in San Jose. En route we stop for a tasty lunch at a small restaurant famous for its population of wild iguanas, which are quite photogenic and easily accessible. We arrive to our hotel in late afternoon and then we'll enjoy a farewell dinner in the hotel restaurant.
Day 10, May 24 Airport
Private transfer to the airport for your flight 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)
- 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 ($651.50)
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 the toxins found in the skin of poison dart frogs depends on the foods they eat? Scientists suspects that ants and small beetles may be the source of the alkaloids that the frogs need to produce toxins. Poison frogs bought from a pet store are not toxic because their diet will not contain its normal rainforest fare!
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! All even have WiFi available.
Plan to arrive early? No problem, we'll make your reservation for you!
We run this trip in conjunction with our friends at NatureScapes, the leading online nature photography forum in the US. Upon booking, you will be directed to the NatureScapes site, where their staff will guide you through the payment and pre-trip process. Upon arrival in Costa Rica, Foto Verde Tours wil take care of everything!
This trip requires a moderately high fitness level. Your leaders will go over the gear you need for every shooting session so you don't have to carry the kitchen sink. You should be able to walk forest trails with a camera, lens, and tripod for up to 30 minutes.
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 Greg Basco's top 15 tips for rainforest macro photography.
- 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 - SOLD OUT! Feb 4, 2018 – Feb 16, 2018
- Mar 16, 2018 – Mar 27, 2018 ECUADOR - Hummingbirds, Herps, and More - ONE SPOT OPEN DUE TO CANCELLATION! Mar 16, 2018 – Mar 27, 2018
- Apr 14, 2018 – Apr 24, 2018 COSTA RICA - Art of Biodiversity Pacific - SOLD OUT! Apr 14, 2018 – Apr 24, 2018
- Jul 19, 2018 – Jul 31, 2018 COSTA RICA - The Art of Flight -- 4 SPOTS OPEN! Jul 19, 2018 – Jul 31, 2018
- Sep 7, 2018 – Sep 19, 2018 ECUADOR - Art of Biodiversity - SOLD OUT! Sep 7, 2018 – Sep 19, 2018
- Oct 8, 2018 – Oct 18, 2018 CHILE - Sand & Stone - Just announced! Oct 8, 2018 – Oct 18, 2018