I spent the last Thursday to Sunday with the Red Cross unit here in Nosara. Here is some key background about healthcare in Nosara: Healthcare in Costa Rica is universal, provided by the state. Doctors and hospital services are allocated based on population size and density. In Nosara, a town with a fluctuating population (due to tourism) health service are few. The Red Cross (a non-governmental organization) set up to provide basic, essential, paramedic and emergency services. However, due to the lack of adequate healthcare in the region they have slowly become the main providers of health services in Nosara and surrounding areas. They cover everything from pregnancy, injuries, illness, even hospice services. The government only reimburses the Red Cross for emergency services and the organization itself survives on donations and volunteers. As a result, the Red Cross in Nosara has had to cut back on non-essential services in recent years. The people of Nosara put the blame on the Red Cross, in reality the government has failed to provide adequate healthcare to the people of Nosara and are content to let the Red Cross shoulder their blame.
Thursday: A simple affair, I followed Victor Hugo, a full-time paramedic, as he went about his evening shift. Thursday’s are typically slow. He dealt with a dog bite and a sick infant then made dinner and relaxed.
Friday: A quiet day for most of it. In the evening I hoped in the back of a local’s SUV with Hugo. The Red Cross has limited ambulances and on Friday they were all out (one was in repair, two were making trips to the nearest hospital, 60km away and the fourth was on a call). The SUV took us to a house in Santa Marta, a neighborhood outside Nosara, inside a family’s matriarch was dying of emphysema. Hugo told me after she had a week, maybe less. He hooked her up to an oxygen tank, explained its use to the family and left. I didn’t shoot a single frame, something about it seemed wrong, as there were 15 members of the family standing around me watching. Although I had permission to take Hugo’s picture, I did not have the matriarch’s permission, I chose to respect her privacy.
Saturday: Another slow day, the crew at the office busied themselves with maintenance and cleaning. At dusk I followed David Perez Montiel, a volunteer paramedic, to the Nosara soccer field. The Red Cross sponsor’s a kids soccer team as part of a community outreach effort, he brought pop to give out to the kids at the end of the game. That night the Red Cross had six different calls and had to make two trips to the hospital in Nicoya, 60km away.
Sunday Morning: I was offered breakfast, consisting of fried pork and fried cheese in a tortilla, as well as a trip home to Guiones beach in the ambulance. On our way back, as we rounded the second to last corner, the road was filled with police and firefighters. I realized this was the fire my boss had texted me about earlier that morning. Because there hadn’t been any injuries the Red Cross wasn’t called, I asked them to stop and I hopped out and started shooting. Unfortunately, I missed the flames, which had been doused by 8-8:30, I arrived at 10:30 and was only able to catch firefighters dousing hotspots.
This one was my favourite because of the faces.
I also saw the paper copy for this month; I have about 90% of the photo credits in it… Now its back to work.
The last couple of days have been real slow, I didn’t shoot anything on the 30th. However, all of that changes today, I’m headed out of the office for four days and living with the local Red Cross unit until Sunday.
In Costa Rica, there is universal access to health care, although the state covers most healthcare costs and processes, paramedic work is carried out by the Red Cross then billed to the state insurance provider. In Nosara there is an issue though, many of the locals understand that the Red Cross provides paramedic services, however, when they call sometimes there’s no answer… The reason is because all emergency services are routed through the 911 system here, which is based out of San Jose, the number most people call, is the administrative office of the Red Cross in Nosara.
Really its an issue of popular misconception… why call 911 in San Jose, when the Red Cross is in Nosara? Except the number for the Red Cross is their administrative line… So the idea of this piece will be to dispel some popular myths about the Red Cross and hopefully open up the organization to people here.
For me it’s an opportunity for a hell of a picture story, maybe some multimedia too. The access is pretty incredible, as the Red Cross station is staffed 24 hours, I’ll be with them the entire time and I’ll likely be following them on calls.
In the interim here are some photos for yesterday… I camped out at the edge of the beach, read a lot and shot some random stuff and more sunsets…
Those birds were huge… but they weren’t the only ones.
The moon too is consistently visible in the sky from about 2pm on. Its kinda cool to see them both there as the sun and the moon control the tides and thus in a way, beach life.
Low tide reveals these sea rocks everywhere, worn and shaped by the ocean into weird shapes. In the pools left by the ebb tide there are tiny crabs and minnows. I picked up a seashell thinking it looked nice… it turned out there was a hermit inside.
Then the sun started to set in earnest, so I made my way back…
***The following contains camera talk, follow the hyperlinks to better understand***
I recently watched a PBS documentary on Ansel Adams, perhaps one of the most famous fine art photographers in history. He belonged to an informal group of photographers (painters have ‘movements’ photographers have ‘clubs’) called ‘the f/64 club.’ So named because they would shoot landscapes at f/64, which means the aperture of the lens is super small, which means the depth of field is huge which means the area in focus is huge. Back then too (the 20’s) film (or rather glass plates) had really low light sensitivty, well below what we would call ISO 50… Until now I’ve never had a lens combo that lets me shoot at f/64, they’ve always capped out at f/22. However, the 135 and the 2x extender make this possible. So just after the sun went below the horizon I found a rock, stabled the camera on it, set it to ISO 50 (the lowest I can go), f/64 and a 30 second exposure. The low light sensitivity meant really smooth tones, the slow shutter speed turned the ocean to fluff and the narrow aperture made everything sharp enough.
Then I decide to cast myself in the photo. I set the timer and ran in. The distance from camera to rock was about 75-80m so it took me just a little more than the 10 second timer to run in, however, because of the 30 second exposure I still had time. Looking at this photo though, I think it too should be in black and white…
Well thats it. My boss will be here in about an hour, then I’m off to Nosara. I intend to post this coming Sunday, which I’m sure will be a long night of editing…