I’ve now been back in Nosara for about two weeks. The First week was a slow ease into things but last week, starting on Thursday, was incredibly busy. There was a movie opening, a concert, a surf tournament and a few articles and multimedia pieces I had to do coupled with a sudden fire that sprang up Sunday night.
I think the easiest way is explain is to go through this chronologically.
On Thursday March 8, the Voice of Nosara had organized an event with a Costa Rican filmmaker. The Movie, ‘El Fin,’ which is a dark comedy about the end of the world caused by a speeding asteroid, was played. We couldn’t find a big enough sheet or a suitable theatre so instead the film was projected on the side of a truck. We had some 350 chairs and 400 people showed up to watch the movie. Personally I enjoyed it; it was really well written, funny and yet dark.
Some of the scenes were shot at Pelada beach, about 15 minutes walking from my house.
The next morning I was up early for an interview. The local Montessori school is bringing a 90-piece symphony orchestra for a free performance in Nosara; it’ll be the first time a show like this is put on. The organizers are all parents of children at the school, so I had to meet them before they went to work for the day. The interview went well, although transcribing it was fun… I hate transcribing interviews anyway and trying to do it in a foreign language is just that much more tedious.
However, there wasn’t much time to work on it, that evening was the opening night of the second round of Nosara’s fiestas. The first round, held January 28, had been one of my first assignments with Voice of Nosara. I’d be lying if I said I was pleased with the pictures I got from the first round, they sucked. Partially that was because I was still figuring everything out then but that’s not really an excuse. In the intervening month and a bit I had sent photos out to different photographers for critiques, people were generous with their time and responded, I took all the advice I received and kept it in mind and came away with what I considered to be a pretty good showing, especially compared to last time.
There was a doubles ride which seemed like a bad idea…
remarkably no serious injuries…
However, a decline in attendees was bad news for food vendors and games operators.
I got home from the fiestas around 11:30 then started editing, I wanted to stay on top of it otherwise I knew it would catch up. Importing my photos, took twice as long as normal because I accidently broke my card reader so I’ve had to use the camera to import. However, I did download a trial version of Adobe Lightroom 4, it has gotta be the most powerful photo editor I’ve ever used. I finished up around 2am and went to sleep.
At 6:30am the next morning I had to get up to meet my ride to the Triple Crown Surf contest, the first of three surf contests. This one was hosted at Playa Ostional, some 15km from my house and because the quad needed repairs I was getting a ride from my bosses friend.
Upon arriving I saw something I haven’t seen in a while… other photographers! There were three of them, all setting up big tri-pods. Curious, I got talking with one guy who told I needed at least a 400mm lens to be able to properly shoot surfing… I hate when people tell me this, “You can’t shoot such and such, because you don’t have such and such.” It happened for years shooting basketball at Carleton, and I more than made it work.
By the numbers here’s the advantage: All the surf photographers were using 7D’s, whose sensor is slightly smaller than my 1D, this meant that a 400 on their cameras had a true focal length of something like 620mm. The longest lens I have is a 135mm, I also have a 2x teleconverter, which doubles the focal length to 270mm. On my 1D its true focal length, because of sensor size, is 320mm giving them twice the reach. My solution was to wade into the water up to my waist further proving that you don’t ‘need’ a 400mm to shoot surfing.
I got home in the early afternoon; exhausted I edited some pictures then fell into a deep sleep. I woke up just in time to get on the shuttle bus headed up the hill to the 4th Annual Caricaco music festival hosted at the hotel Tierra Magnifica. The set up was unreal, it looked like one of those shots of an after party location in Entourage, the OC or the Hills. There were projectors with fancy light patterns, and open pool in front of the stage, sushi bar etc. The eight bands that played were also excellent. My favorite was one of the local acts called ‘Calle.’ They played ska and did a really good job of it. The lead singer, who wore an Alexisonfire t-shirt, also happens to be the general practitioner in Nosara… Small town.
As I said, the set-up was unreal…
And some fire dancing…
It was capped off with fireworks before the last band, although I asked for the names and even offered digital prints they flat out refused and started making-out. Bah.
By the time I got to sleep again it was close to 2am, although this time I wasn’t able to edit before bed, I was too tired. The next morning I wanted to sleep but there is construction across the road from me and they start with power tools at 6am everyday and go until 7pm. I was up so I started editing pictures and working on a video for the Voice of Nosara website, I’ve started doing more multimedia, its not something I’m good at or comfortable with yet, but I need to learn and the practice is good.
Sunday night I was looking forward to being able to relax again. However, literally just after I finished editing photos from the night before and having decided to make dinner I received a text message from my boss saying the dump had caught fire and she was looking for a ride for us to get there.
We got there just as the sun went down, which made pictures fun. I used my flash a bit, but in the pitch darkness it just ended up flooding the scene and destroying the drama in the pictures. The Nosara volunteer fire dept. barely has functioning hoses much less a system of flood lights, however, in one area they were using the light of a pick-up truck to work by, I settled in there to shoot some silhouettes and actually came away with one picture I’m fond of.
Monday was tying up lose ends. I finished captioning pictures and re-edited a few and finished a multimedia piece on the fiestas. Then Tuesday I returned to the article about the symphony, the interview now four days old it took a while to get into writing it, and then I finished a multimedia piece on Caricaco.
Yesterday after finishing everything off I decided to unwind a bit by going to the beach to read. While there I spotted some locals climbing the trees. Snapped a photo then went over to chat, they ended up offering me a coconut fresh off the tree, sooo good.
Today I’m treating like Sunday, as a day off. Then starting tomorrow I wanna get a head start on an article I’m doing freelance, it’s a travel piece I hope to sell to Canadian media. After that I have several events coming up and I’d like to be ahead of the game for once so I think I’ll contact the people involved in organizing them ahead of time.
Below are some links to the stories from the last couple of days including links to the multimedia pieces.
Also the Voice of Nosara has started working with other Costa Rican papers, mostly online stuff. We share stories that are relevant with them and they do likewise. The idea is to create more web traffic. One of my photos was used on elpais.cr and my preview about the Triple Crown Surf contest was just reposted to insidecostarica.com
So that’s it this week, coming up there’s a second round of the triple Crown Surf contest this Saturday. Saturday night is a picture story about St. Patricks at the Black Sheep pub, the only Irish-style pub in Nosara and on the 20th fiestas come to Garza a town 10km away.
Well, it has been a long time since I posted. Mid February was a little slow I was working on a few different stories but not much too exciting happened.
Then the last week of February my girlfriend Yamina came to visit, we had a pretty excellent time here, lots of beach time and seaside drinks. Then suddenly she was gone. Although I didn’t really have time to miss her right away…
There were long walks on the beach after sunset…
And a trip into the jungle on ziplines…
The guides were pretty awesome people.
Complete with a sarcastic sense of humour…
Our last night was so romantic, they should make a movie.
The day after she left I had to go to Nicoya, the capital of the province Nosara is in. The paper wanted some stock photos of the of the members of town council there for future stories about their decisions. It was nice and easy, I was also asked to shoot some stock pics of key places in the city.
The next morning rather than going back to Nosara I had to leave the country because my visa had expired. When you enter Costa Rica you’re supposed to get a visa good for 90 days, however, mine was only good for 40 days, although I’m not sure why I think it was because I didn’t have a return flight booked.
So I left Nicoya at 6am for Liberia in northern Costa Rica then caught another bus to the border town of Peñas Blancas. I walked across the border and hit two snags: first I got screwed changing money, I changed $50 and the guy that did it took a $20 commission, then I left Costa Rica, at the Nicaraguan immigration booth I was dealing with my visa, just before we were finished the border guard became somewhat sketchy and quiet and told me I need to pay extra because my passport was dirty. While it is true there’s a coffee stain on it, that hasn’t been an issue for Canadian, American, Costa Rican or Peruvian authorities, this ass was soliciting a bribe. So I made him repeat himself then said I didn’t understand and asked him to explain exactly what he needed. It’s a technique I used in Cambodia to minimize or limit bribes required for border officials, making them state loudly and clearly, “I want you to pay me $X because your passport is dirty.” The idea being, the guard won’t want to be overheard by superiors or coworkers, the tactic worked and he growled at me, stamped my passport and I was on my way having only paid the prerequisite $12 for a tourist visa.
I got into the town near by and looked for a bus, I found a brightly coloured school bus headed to the capital, I hopped on board and we pulled out. The town of Peñas Blancas on the Nicaraguan side was like the wild west meets shanty town, people selling stolen watches, wallets and homemade food.
The bus dropped me off on the side of a highway about a kilometer from the hostel I was staying at. The hostel was located in the village of Poste Rojo, about 10km outside of the larger town of Granada.
Poste Rojo is a series of tree houses in the jungle. They rent small cabinas, private rooms, dormitory beds and hammocks, the latter was only $4 a night so naturaly that’s what I took.
Some of the areas were accessible via bridge.
I slept well enough. In the mornings though between the sun, Howler Monkeys and Cicadas it was hard to sleep in past 7am. The sound made by thousands of Cicadas during the day is completely deafening and I had a mild headache by the end of most days, thankfully at night they go quiet.
The day after I arrived was free rum night, yes all you can drink free rum… Everyone seemed to either black out, vomit or both… I didn’t though, I know how to drink without making an ass of myself. The party included a cow costume with a hole in the udder to feed rum out of and a visit by the Nicaraguan police… The cops, however, were dissuaded from doing anything when the hostel owner offered them beer and rum and a pack of cigarettes, they then joined the party. We took turns wearing their helmet and holding their shotgun for photos, then the cops sorta joined the party for a little while, I’m still not sure what to think about this.
My last full day in Nicaragua I joined a few other backpackers, two girls from Tilsonburg a guy from Germany, a guy from Sweden and a Nicaraguan-born Canadian, headed to a dormant volcano. The volcano, now called Laguna Apoyo has become a huge lake and is one of the deepest lakes in all of Central America. The water was beautiful, bath-tub warm and didn’t have salt! After a month and a half of the surf and salty pacific, a fresh water lake was amazing.
The walk down and up the crater was killer though…
The next morning I headed back on what became one of the most epic single day treks of my life. By the numbers: it was eleven hours, six cities, five buses, 2 countries and about $5. I also had trouble at the border, again, the Costa Ricans wouldn’t let me in because I didn’t have a copy of onward travel. I explained I only had a confirmation number for an electronic plane ticket, I couldn’t find an internet café to print out the number so instead I purchased a bus ticket from San Jose to Managua good for one year and then they let me in. I’ll need to leave again in three months to renew my visa anyway, so now at least I have a ticket direct from San Jose to Managua, next time I go I’ll bring a copy of my itinerary with me.
Interesting point too about Nicaraguan buses, they’re recycled school busses from North America, the one I rode from Poste Rojo to a town near the border actually said the words “Canadian Bluebird” in it and the emergency exit signs were in French and English (neither of which is widely spoken in Nicaragua). I wondered if maybe I’d been on the bus before, perhaps headed to a field trip as a young kid?
When I got back to Nosara I had dreams of a quiet beer and Skype with the girlfriend, however, that was not to be. My boss and the other reporter were at the office. Voice of Nosara has set up something big in August and she wanted to celebrate, so we got a bottle of Glenfidditch and went to a bar in town, bought some pizza and got a little silly.
This morning it was back to work, preparing an article about an upcoming surf competition and looking into some confusing rules relating to the Nosara airport terminal.
I promise I will try to update more often.
For now though that’s it.