Some time ago I spent a year in Costa Rica. During this time I learned a lot about how to capture the most beautiful creatures on film. Let me share a few tips with you.
Before I left home I was hoping I would get to see a lot of the Costa Rican wildlife. So when I packed my bags I carefully selected my camera equipment. Granted, there were no toy cameras in my collection. Instead I opted to bring my very decent Canon 50E SLR, two USM zoom lenses, and a sturdy monopod. Looking back on the images I collected over the course of the year, I think I made a wise choice.
Making a beautiful shot of an amazing tropical creature poses two main problems: first you have to find it, and then you have to make the perfect shot. Both issues can be pretty challenging but there are a few things you can do to improve your chances.
This is by far the most important rule when photographing wild animals. Don’t walk out expecting you’ll run into something every step you take. After all, you’re in a jungle, not a zoo!
Be very quiet.
The louder you are, the slimmer your chances you’ll get to see anything larger than an insect. Most animals are very shy and don’t like human company. With all the lush green, they will find a hiding space as soon they hear you coming there way. If you’re noisy chances are they’ll be watching you rather than the other way around!
Keep your eyes and ears open.
Whether big or small, it’s hard to spot animals in a jungle! Mammals tend to run away, birds fly off at the slightest movement, reptiles are very well camouflaged and insect tend to be on the small side (though definitely not all of them!). Keeping your eyes and ears open is a first step to finding them.
Look high and low,
Some animals roam high in the trees whereas other creatures scurry around the forest floor. Knowing where to look will help a lot! If you have the opportunity, walk along an experienced guide a few times to find out what to look for. Often, a certain animal has a tell tale that might point you in the direction of where it is hiding. Spotting animals is a skill that takes a lot of time to master, but once you get it, you’re golden!
Most living things in the tropics are heavily predated, so they usually don’t like to stay in one place for long. If you want to get that monkey climbing the tree right in front of you, you’d better be quick!
Always be at the ready.
Unlike people, you can’t tell an animal to sit tight while you get your equipment fixed. Make sure you have your camera ready to go at all times cause you never know what you may run into the next second.
Bring the right equipment.
The right equipment might differ depending on what you are after. If you are looking for birds or mammals, chances are very slim you will get really close to your subject. So most likely you will have to use zoom lenses. As the tropics are very green there will always be a lot of branches and leaves blocking your view. A good monopod or tripod is a must to capture that bird in the distance. If insects are your thing, and you want to get some close shots, you should consider investing in a macro lens (or go for the cheap solution and turn your lens around).
Using insect repellant is a bad idea if you want to see jungle life, as it will scare of more than just mosquitoes. So be prepared to be covered in bites, cause you can’t kill that little bastard biting your neck when you are taking that great shot!
It isn’t always easy to get that perfect shot, but when you do, it is amazing!
Enjoy some more of Costa Rica’s best below!