Friday, July 8, 2011

Having a Resplendent Time in Monteverde, Costa Rica

Many bird photographers come to Costa Rica just to photograph the beautiful Resplendent Quetzal bird. The Quetzal is the national bird of Guatemala and can be mainly found in Costa Rica’s national parks due to its protected status.

In my pre-trip planning I debated whether to bring my Manfrotto tripod, my Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 L IS lens and my Canon Speedlite 550EX flash. I knew Costa Rica was going to be primarily an “adrenaline” trip and that serious photography would be a secondary concern. I had only planned to bring my Canon 5DMKII with two lenses and my compact Canon G9 camera. In my pre-trip research I came across the Resplendent Quetzal and I knew I had to bring the rest of my gear. Besides with a name like “Resplendent,” I could only do the bird justice by bringing my longest and heaviest lens.

So I packed all of that gear along with a week’s worth of clothes into two carry-on bags. For the first part of the trip all that gear stayed in my photo backpack and I began to doubt my decision to bring it.

It gets dark in Costa Rica around five o’clock year around so we had to get up early everyday to make sure we packed in as many adrenaline tours as possible (If you’re not a morning person a trip to Costa Rica may not work).

Everyday we were early to bed and early to rise. I was too tired and too occupied with hiking, whitewater rafting, horseback riding, zip lining, etc to think about sunrise and sunset photography.

Midway through the trip I finally was able to put the gear to use when we visited the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve. Since I was traveling with a pair of non-photographers, I kept my expectations low in finding and let alone photographing wildlife.

I could say I waited for hours in the pouring rain risking life and limb to find the Quetzal, but in the end it was my nephew who spotted the bird only after hiking for about an hour. I quickly set up my tripod and broke out the 100-400 lens. Although I was shooting with the ISO King the 5DMKII, the cloud forest is still a dark shooting environment so I brought out the very cumbersome (and not often used) Canon 550EX flash.

For those not familiar with the 550EX, it is one of Canon’s brightest (if not the brightest) flash in its lineup. With the 550EX you can turn night into day with a click of the shutter. I may have blinded the Quetzal for all I know.

In the end, lugging all that photo gear was a good decision and photographing the Quetzal was simply "resplendent."

Happy Travels!

Text and photo copyright by ©Sam Antonio Photography

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