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 (recently winning the Art in Nature category), 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 and Lightroom for the Nature Photographer. 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!
Lucas Bustamante is a passionate biologist and wildlife photographer from Ecuador. For seven years now, he has been dedicated to documenting Ecuador's biodiversity, particularly reptiles and amphibians. He is a co-founder and general coordinator at Tropical Herping. Like Greg, Lucas' images have been honored in both the BBC/Veolia Wildlife Photographer of the Year and Nature's Best Windland Smith Rice contests. In addition to leading photography tours, he also has written several articles and books about conservation and herpetology. Lucas' photographic work has been featured in National Geographic, Ranger Rick Jr., Discovery Channel and many other magazines, books, calendars and articles. He recently won the Macro category in the Nature's Best Windland Smith Rice competition.
Day 1, March 16, Arrival/Quito
Arrival to Ecuador. Meet our representative at the Mariscal Sucre International Airport and transfer to our hotel in the heart of Quito. If you arrive early this day, make sure to get over to the charming historical section of the city. The architecture and the atmosphere is amazing.
Day 2, March 17, High Cloud Forest
This morning we travel to the high cloud forests just on the eastern side of the Continental Divide. En route we have a special treat – a stop to photograph a dramatic waterfall that embodies the power of the waters that eventually contribute to the formation of the Amazon River. We arrive to our lodge, a paradise for hummingbirds, in late afternoon with time to check in and enjoy a relaxing dinner. After dinner, we enjoy a presentation from Greg on the art and technique of multiple-flash hummingbird setups.
Day 3, March 18, High Cloud Forest
Today we spend all day with our multiple-flash setups right on the lodge grounds. We'll be going after common but beautiful species such as the Buff-tailed Coronet, Chestnut-breasted Coronet, Tourlamine Sun Angel, and Collared Inca with hopes for prize species such as the Long-tailed Sylph and Sword-billed Hummingbird. When you're not on the hummingbird setups, you'll be looking for torrent ducks in the river that runs behind the lodge, doing macro photography, and shooting on natural light hummingbird setups that we'll place out in the open areas surrounding the lodge. After dinner we enjoy a presentation on macro photography from Lucas.
Day 4, March 19, High Cloud Forest
Early this morning, we dedicate time to photographing the Chestnut-crowned Ant Pitta and then continue with our hummingbird work, giving you a second chance at the sylph and the sword-billed! In the afternoon, we'll double up on our efforts for the torrent duck and will also try to get some good looks at the beautiful Turquoise Jays, hopefully coming to the new feeders that we installed with the lodge owner on Foto Verde Tours' last visit to this destination!
Day 5, March 20, Amazon Slope Rainforest
After an early breakfast, we take our private bus to our next lodge on the lower eastern slopes of the Andes Mountain Range. We arrive for lunch and begin to photograph some of the fantastic birds right on the lodge grounds. Common birds include trogons, toucans, and multiple species of hummingbirds. And Black-mantled Tamarin monkeys often visit the lodge in late afternoon. Before dinner this evening, we'll enjoy a presentation from Greg on the technical aspects of flash photography.
Day 6, March 21, Amazon Slope Rainforest
Today we set in immediately to our multiple-flash hummingbird setups, targeting species such as Wire-crested Thorntail, Brown Violet-ear, Golden-tailed Sapphire, and Fork-tailed Woodnymph. But the hummingbirds are actually just a bonus at this lodge. When not photographing hummingbirds, you'll be photographing fantastic frogs, snakes, and lizards such as Snouted Brocket-Toad, Sarayacu Clownfrog, Devil’s Head Liana-Snake, Canelo's Dwarf Iguana, and Yellow-Spotted Glassfrog at our herp setups. This will be a great day in a fantastic place!
Day 7, March 22, Amazon Slope Rainforest
Today we do it all again, working with natural light and fill-flash for a different take on our hummingbirds and continuing our macro photography, all the while keeping an eye out for a nearby volcano to make an appearance for some landscape photography.
Day 8, March 23, Western Andes Cloud Forest
After breakfast, we travel to the other side of the Andes. Our lodge is a bird sanctuary well-known as one of the world’s best locations to photograph hummingbirds. En route, we stop at a small house for lunch and some photography, our target species being the Golden-olive Woodpecker and the outrageous Red-headed Barbet. We arrive to our lodge late afternoon with time to check in and enjoy a relaxing dinner.
Day 9, March 24, Western Andes Cloud Forest
Today we have a full day with the multiple-flash setups for hummingbirds at the lodge. Over a dozen species are waiting for us, including the outrageous Booted Racket-tail and Violet-tailed Sylph. In addition to our main target, the fantastic hummingbirds, we will be working our herp setups with subjects such as Emerald Glassfrog, Dappled Glassfrog, Gem Anole, Equatorial Anole, colorful Executioner Clownfrog, Palm Treefrog, Babbling Torrenteer, and the uber-cool Hippie Anole!
Day 10, March 25, Western Andes Cloud Forest
And today we get to do it all again! If you haven't yet gotten that perfect classic shot of the Violet-tailed Sylph, you have another chance. And if you did get it, we will work today on variations on our hummingbird setups. Possibilities include high-key, low-key, backlighting, and slow shutter speeds. We'll also be working our herp setups again, and the menu possibilities include Blue-thighed Rainfrog, Darwin Wallace Poison-Frog, Black Jungle-Frog, as well a couple of potential surprises.
Day 11, March 26, Back to Quito
We take this morning to visit a nearby lodge that is higher up and offers us great possibilities for photographing jays, trogons, and the super cool toucan barbet. We then head back to our lodge, pack up and travel back to Quito. En route, we stop at the Equator for a great typical lunch and a fun time learning a little about the culture and geography of the country that we've enjoyed so much for the past 10 days! We arrive to our capital city hotel around 3:00 for check-in and then a free afternoon and evening for you to enjoy the hotel's fantastic amenities or simply to relax and enjoy the fast Wi-Fi. Dinner is on your own this evening so that people with early transfer times the next morning can pack and rest. The hotel offers room service, and there are a large number of nice restaurants only a 2 to 5 minute walk from the hotel if you'd like to go out to eat.
Day 12, March 27, Departure – Airport
Private transfer to the Mariscal Sucre International Airport for your flights home.
THIS ITINERARY INCLUDES
Lodging as specified
All meals except for dinner the first and last nights (March 16 and 26)
Transportation w/private driver in spacious air-conditioned tour bus
Private transfers to and from airport
Professional, full-time photo instruction from your leaders Greg and Lucas
Multiple-flash setups for hummingbird photography
Entrances and fees for all described activities
Taxes for all specified services
THIS ITINERARY DOES NOT INCLUDE
Dinner the first and last nights (March 16 and 26)
Non-mealtime snacks and drinks
Single room supplement ($493)
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.
+ Do I need to change money?
If you are coming from outside the United States, yes. Ecuador uses the US dollar as its currency. That said, since pretty much everything is included in the trip cost, you won't need much cash.
+ 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. A former tour participant 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 Ecuador is home to a shape-shifting frog? That's right, the tiny cloud forest frog Pristimantis mutabilis has spiny skin when it is on a mossy branch and shifts its skin to smooth when not on moss!
You should arrive to and depart from Ecuador's Mariscal Sucre International Airport (UIO).
All of our hotels and lodges have electricity and hot water. They're quite nice! All but one even has WiFi available.
Plan to arrive early? No problem, we'll make your reservation for you!
This trip requires only low to 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 (even for our landscape shoots), 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.
Some countries may require that you have proof of yellow fever vaccination upon leaving for and returning from Ecuador. Please consult your doctor, and be sure to bring along a copy and the original of your vaccination certificate if your country requires it.
Greg has tried numerous auxiliary battery packs, and this is the first he likes that doesn't break the bank (see Quantum Turbo). We'll be doing some natural light hummingbird photography with fill-flash and fast recycle time is a big help. This Godox unit is easy to use and works very well.
Check out our reading list for our recommendations on great natural history books for our destinations.
Click the pic to see Greg Basco's top 15 tips for rainforest macro photography.
- 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