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!
Glenn Bartley is a world renowned professional nature photographer from Victoria, British Columbia, Canada. He focuses almost all of his efforts on capturing intimate images of birds in their natural habitat. Glenn is especially well known for his portraits of rare and difficult to photograph birds from the Neotropical Region and his portfolio of hummingbird images.
Glenn’s images are well respected and represented around the world. He is an award winning photographer whose work is regularly featured in North American and Internationalnature books, calendars and publications. Glenn’s work is regularly featured in magazines such as Audubon, Birdwatching, Canadian Wildlife, Birders World, and many more. His images regularly appear in books on birds including several by National Geographic. Glenn has also published several books of his own including "Birds of Ecuador", "Birds of Vancouver Island" and "Birds of Biritish Columbia" as well as instructional guides on Post ProcessingFlash and Tropical Nature Photography Techniques.
Day 1, 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 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, Atlantic lowland rainforest
After an early breakfast, we check out and head to our first 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 for lunch and set in immediately to photograph at the feeders! This evening, Greg and Glenn will give a presentation on fill-flash for bird and wildlife photography.
Day 3, Atlantic lowland rainforest
Today we divide our time at the lodge among photographing toucans, parrots, king vultures, honeycreepers, and hummingbirds – tropical bird photography doesn't get any better! Today we will split the group with half using blinds for toucans, oropendolas, and vultures that we've rented for the day and the other half shooting at our restaurant tanager and parrot feeders and visiting the lodge manager's house where we have worked with the lodge manager to set up two blinds – one for honeycreepers 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.
Day 4, Atlantic lowland rainforest
And today we do it all again, with each half of the group visiting the blinds at which they've not yet photographed.
Day 5, Atlantic Lowland Rainforest
Today we work on more setups at our lodge but we focus our attention on some other species that really deserve our attention. We'll put our efforts on the chestnut-colored woodpecker, great curassow, and others during the day. And at night, we have a special treat – bat photography with multiple flashes!
Day 6, Atlantic Middle Elevation Wet Forest
After an early breakfast, we travel to the Arenal Volcano area. Though currently experiencing a lull in activity, until recently Arenal had been the country's most active volcano, with continuous emissions of lava and incandescent pyroclastic flows since the beginning of the recent active cycle in 1968. On clear nights, the views of incandescent avalanches can be breathtaking. Hopefully it will become more active again soon but that, of course, is beyond our control. En route to Arenal, we stop for lunch and then a private nature reserve to photograph caimans, boat-billed heron, and butterflies, among other possible subjects. We arrive at our lodge in the afternoon and, after check-in, photograph the sunset over Lake Arenal.
Day 7, Atlantic Middle Elevation Wet Forest
This morning we roam the hotel grounds in search of wildlife to photograph, including monkeys, crested guan, and collared aracaris. We also will take time to photograph the numerous Montezuma oropendolas at the lodge feeders. Later this morning, we depart for a nearby spot with an amazing collection of frogs, snakes, and lizards. This place is run by one of Greg's friends, and the staff there will help us to photograph these colorful 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 creative lighting for pleasing macro images. We will enjoy a delicious home-cooked lunch as well as refreshments and coffee throughout the day. We return to our lodge in late afternoon to photograph the sunset and the Arenal Volcano.
Day 8, Atlantic slope cloud forest
After an early breakfast, we travel to the higher cloud forests of the northern Central Volcanic Mountain Range and our last lodge and photography base for the rest of our trip. 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 has worked to set up photo opportunities of the wild, free-flying great green and scarlet macaws that inhabit the owner's large farm property. Upon arrival to our lodge, we can photograph tanagers and black guan in the new feeder areas that Greg has set up on the lodge grounds or explore the cloud forest for macro and landscape photos. This evening, Greg will do a presentation on the technical and artistic aspects of multiple-flash hummingbird photography.
Day 9, 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 will run the setups and provide attractive native flowers to ensure that you capture some fantastic hummingbird images. Greg's company, Foto Verde Tours, is the only company that has permission to do multi-flash hummingbird photography at this lodge. When not on the setups, you can relax and download images, shoot the black guans, tanagers, agouti, and coatimundi, or explore the cloud forest trails for macro and landscape photography.
Day 10, 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. We'll shoot throughout the day, alternating our time between the setups, perched hummingbirds, and landscape photography.
Day 11, Cloud forest to San José
After more morning photography around the lodge grounds and feeders, we have lunch and then pack up and leave for San José. En route, we stop at Greg B's hometown for some HDR photography of the beautiful church and park. We arrive at our hotel in the late afternoon, we have a bit of time to relax and photograph in the fantastic hotel gardens before enjoying a farewell dinner at the hotel. Again, our hotel offers free wireless Internet throughout the grounds and in the rooms and also offers some great macro and nice bird photo opportunities for those departing later the following day. You can also pay your airport exit tax right at the front desk, a great convenience.
Day 12, 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 leaders
- 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 the Violet Sabrewing is the largest hummingbird outside South America? We'll be getting great shots of the giant purple beauty on this workshop!
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 above to see how Greg Basco's DIY tropical bird feeder.
- 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