I am back from Costa Rica. I left Canada on the 16th of January for Costa Rica and I returned on the 25th of July. I flew through Houston into Toronto and cleared security sometime just before midnight.
One of the biggest changes coming back, is that I am no longer living in Ottawa. Frankly I have no reason too. I went there for university and I finished that shortly before leaving. I will be going back to school in January at Loyalist College for Photojournalism, but until then I will be in Guelph. Hopefully I will be able to find some work in photography while I’m here otherwise… waiting tables?
Needless to say emails are going out today and tomorrow, to let people know, I’m here and I can do photography.
However, this post is going to recap my final days in Costa Rica.
I was at the Caribbean!
I mentioned the hostel I was staying in my last post, as a somewhat unique place, and not for good reasons necessarily. One of the drawbacks was that the beach in front of the hostel was rocky and kind of sucked. However, I had been told that about a 20 minute walk away was a nice sand beach, and there was so I spent a few hours there.
There was also a small island off the coast that reminded me Jurassic Park…
More interesting than another white sand beach (I know I was spoiled) were the jungle paths. The jungle basically pushed right up to the beach and there were some cool paths to some deserted places I went along.
One of those paths led up to a cliff with a sheer drop 50m into the ocean. It was a dramatic place to sit and read for a while, although one that required caution while climbing around.
On the 24th I packed up my stuff and set out into the rain. It had been pouring that morning but had slowed to a light drizzle around 10am when I left. I boarded a bus to San Jose and 5 hours later I was back in the big city.
I made my way 20 blocks across town with my backpack and found myself back at Galileo Hostel, the place where this had all began, so to speak. I stayed there for two nights when I first arrived and had nothing but nice memories of the place. Sure enough the experience was about the same this time around.
I spent the evening at the hostel bar, chatting with other people staying there. It was a little strange. As the night wore on, I was tired and wanted to sleep, but at the same time sleeping meant I would wake up, and waking up meant it would be over. I didn’t want it to be over.
The next morning while waiting to depart for the airport I took some pictures of a map they had spread out on a table at the hostel.
I decided to do an overhead shot and then I put the map photo into Photoshop and used the paint tool to circle all the places I was, and the roads I traveled to get there.
Considering I was just there to be in Nosara I think I got some pretty decent travelling around in as well.
Three hours later I was in the air to Houston, Texas.
Here is a short video I took out the airplane window of our take off, and my final glimpses of Costa Rica. I think the best part is the commentary from the four-year old sitting next to me.
I’m gonna miss Costa Rica. In my list of places to visit in my life, frankly Costa Rica wasn’t on it. I only went because the Voice of Nosara offered me an amazing opportunity. As I look back over previous travels though there seems to be a pattern of ending up in places I never intended to visit, which I then grow to love.
I hope I’ll be able to return someday soon. Financially speaking I should be able to, it’s almost cheaper to fly to San Jose from Toronto than it is to fly to Vancouver. And now West Jet is flying regularly to Liberia, Guanacaste.
Until then it’s time to hit the ground running. Photojournalism is an intensely competitive industry and I’m going into Loyalist with experience and a competitive advantage, the next two years are going to be fun.
P.S. To the regular blog followers who I haven’t met, glad you’ve enjoyed reading, hopefully I will be able to keep this interesting as time goes forward.
P.P.S To those at Voice of Nosara and the people of Nosara in general, thank you very much for everything over the six-months. Thank you very much.
It’s done. Gio is working for Voice of Nosara and I am on the Caribbean coast one the other side of the country.
My last few days were an odd mix of nostalgia, excitement, limited sleep and booze. I tried to pass on everything I’d learned in six-months to my replacement Gio and at the same time we spent each night drinking and getting to know each other. It’s funny, though we’d never met we know many of the same people back home. To give you and idea of how small the photojournalism community in Canada is.
My trip here was epic, and started when Gio drove me from the Voice of Nosara office, where I’ve lived for the last six-months to a friends house a few kilometers down the road where I was spending the last night. I had a bag with me and he had his gear bag so I had to sit on the luggage rack and face backwards. I watched Playa Guiones and all the places I’ve come to know so well fade into the night as we sped away. It seemed like the most appropriate metaphor.
Saturday morning was early. I didn’t get to sleep until about 12:30 and I had to be up at 4:30 to meet the bus in time, shortly after 5am. Tired and nursing a small hangover I set out for Nicoya, then San Jose. When I arrived in San Jose I realized the last time I had been there had been in late February to meet my girlfriend Yamina at the airport when she arrived for her first visit. It was only five months ago but it feels like a lifetime ago.
I transferred bus stations, the Caribbean bus station was about eight blocks away, had some lunch and boarded the final bus to Puerto Viejo de Talamanca in Costa Rica’s eastern-most province. I arrived shortly after 7pm and took a taxi to Rockin’ J’s hostel, which is sort of like a warehouse of drunk tourists. I plan to take it easy and enjoy the chill vibe during the day though. I’m on a very tight budget now.
In addition to the standard dorm or private options, this place lets you rent a tent or pitch your own.
They also let you rent hammocks or hang your own. Aside from camping with your own tent or hammock renting a hammock is the next cheapest option, so I jumped on it.
The different warehouses border a central courtyard which is nice and relaxed
Did I mention the gaudy mosaics?
The next photo was taken just inside this entrance.
Before I went east everyone told me the Caribbean was a very different place from the west-coast. I’ve been here less than 24 hours and already know they’re right.
When I said, ‘warehouse for drunk tourists,’ I meant all of it. I woke up around 9am and walked to my locker where two girls were drinking a litre of wine, their conversation was mostly about how they’d been drunk all day the day before too. I left for an hour to buy groceries and when I came back they were gone, but the empty bottle (which had been full) was still there. Then I went to the beach.
I miss Nosara already, the people, the place and the beauty. I haven’t travelled a whole lot around Costa Rica, but every place I have been to palls in comparison. Still I am excited to be coming home, though not excited to be coming home broke and in debt. However, with five months in Guelph before I need to go back to school hopefully I can save up some coin and make a dent in the debt.
Ultimately it was totally worth it though. And I know I’ve left the paper in good hands with Gio there, if you want to keep up with his travels in Nosara check out his blog.
On Tuesday I will catch a bus back to San Jose I hope to stay in the same hostel I stayed in during my first two nights in Costa Rica back in January. Then on Wednesday I’ll taxi or bus to the airport and leave for Canada.
Until then I’m going to take it easy on the east-coast, where reggae pours out of every bar, black guys with dreadlocks cruise through town on beach bikes and every other place sells Caribbean style fried chicken. Not a bad place for my retirement from Voice of Nosara.
It’s the final stretch for me in Nosara now. A week from now I plan to be in the Caribbean town of Puerto Viejo de Talamanca, in the eastern province of Límon. Until then I’m finishing up a few final stories and assignments and rounding out the things I wanted to do here.
So, last weekend I finally got to Samara, some 25km from Playa Guiones where I live, I left Friday night and returned Sunday. Without a functioning quad I had to take the bus though, which requires going about 30km out of the way and transferring buses.
I stayed at a place called Las Mariposas. Their dorms, at $15 a night, were expensive for Central America but affordable for Samara. The place was nice and the people were good.
Overall I prefer Nosara, the big thing is the beach. Samara’s is crowded and the sun doesn’t set over the ocean. From Guiones to Ostional, 6km north, there is a turtle refuge for the Olive Ridley sea turtles who lay their eggs there. So there is very little beachside development, save for a handful of lots who have concessions from the government.
I also saw the biggest land crab I’ve seen yet. It crawled into the hostel grounds and ended up trapped in a case of empty beer bottles. We tried to help it free but it freaked out, fell down and ran off.
He was big enough to arract the attention of people walking by.
Sunday morning I was up at 5:45am to meet one of the editors. When I told her I was going to Samara, she asked if I could come on a finca tour Sunday morning to take pictures for an article she’s working on for next print issue. Samara is close enough to Nosara that we cover events there too.
A finca is a plantation basically, as well as a colonial status symbol brought over by the Spanish, they exist all across Latin America. In this case this one is overgrown, with some small-scale logging. The owners, who bought it a few years ago, want to use the jungle space they have as an eco tour business.
So we were given a short version of the tour and walked for two hours, mostly through a river because they haven’t cut many trails. We saw lots of cool stuff, but there was only one pictures I really liked.
Rewinding a little bit, earlier that week on July 4th I helped shoot another wedding. I’m not really going to post pics here though. Instead i’ve made some site changes, the navigation bar at the top now links to my twitter account, my new facebook page, and two new blogs I set up and linked here, portfolios and weddings.
Check them out they’re part of my effort to expand my online presence and commercial photography business. However, I will include one picture from my most recent wedding, it’s not in the album on my weddings page though. It’s what I would call wedding B-roll, but I really like this photo.
It is July, that means I’m now in my final month here in Nosara. It’s prompted a few interesting reflections, some I will share now, others I will have to think about a bit more. One thing I know is I will miss this place, maybe not right away, but at some point down the road I know I will. Below is part of the reason why, I haven’t used high dynamic range editing in more than a year, but Monday’s sunset prompted one. This is me on top of a ridge separating playas Guiones and Pelada.
What’s more my replacement is picked, a guy named Giordano Ciampini, he’s leaving Canada on July 5th and wisely getting some pre-internship travel in. For the last little while he’s been based out of Toronto as a freelancer, he also graduated from the same program at Loyalist I’m going into, and last year he was in Egypt during the revolution under his own steam. He has a tumblr here with some cool stuff for those interested.
Before I go though I have a list with some unfinished things and unexplored places. Off the top of my head, the town of Samara, 35km away and playa Rosada, a pink sand beach only really accessible during low-tide. More importantly as I look back over the last six-months I realize I got what I needed from this experience.
My Spanish, though still rough, has improved dramatically, I’m still limited in my own vocabulary but I seem to understand around 80% of what is said at a regular speaking pace. My portfolio is now more than half comprised of photos from Nosara. I’ve gone from being a terrible writer to a passable one, and pitched stories that landed on cover. In a few cases I produced features which required, video, photos and text. While there is still time to do more, I’m happy with the way things have gone.
Conveniently too I have been hired as an assistant for two weddings here. I say convenient because I have been looking towards what I’ll do from August to January in Guelph, and frankly I’m hoping to do some weddings. However, my wedding portfolio was sorely lacking, so the two here have given me an opportunity to step up that part of my game.
I like wedding photography, for different reasons than journalism. Weddings are generally happy days, people are usually looking their best and want you to take their pictures, creativity is a must, if you’re not trying something new each time you’re not really trying, I feel.
Nosara is a great place for a wedding too, on the beach with the setting sun. Here’s a few samples from last Wednesday, the next one is tomorrow night. I’ll be putting up a new blog for wedding stuff soon, and a Facebook page, which will have more samples.
In terms of assignments, it has been a slow month and none of them have really been great for pictures. I’ve also done a lot more writing this month and I’ve been playing around with video more.
I’ve been hoping to do a video on what it’s like to drive in Nosara – beautiful views, jungle, choking dust, mud, 2ft deep pot-holes, the pacific etc. I figured the easiest way was to drive from north of town to the beaches, through different neighborhoods on a quad with my camera straped to my chest for a POV video.
Problem is the quad keeps breaking so I haven’t had a chance… But a few weeks ago on a quiet day I decided to test my, ‘camera-mounting system,’ which is a belt and a carabiner and go for a test-drive. I wondered if the sped up video would work and if the POV would work or if it would be too shaky. I feel like it worked, although some minor adjustments need to be made and once the quad is functioning again I can do the actual drive.
And for those of you who have five5 minutes and want to see the slower and thus more scenic tour.
I also played around with stop motion animation for a feature on coffee. Basically I boiled water and set up a cup, a cloth coffee filter, which is how the Tico’s brew their coffee, and my camera on a tripod. I used the cable release, and put the running lock on, once the 5D hit its buffer it shot roughly 1.5 frames per second at a consistent rate for as long as I neeeded, then I started brewing coffee. After I used iMoive (I need to graduate to Final Cut) stacked the pics (120 in total) and set the view time for .2 seconds each. It could probably also be made into a .gif…
I’ll also include a few pictures from my trip to the coffee farms. Earlier in June I went into the mountains in Nicoya to visit two coffee farms with a writer, it was a really fun day of sightseeing for me. Unfortunately coffee season is not now, so both the farms were empty and dormant, the coffee plants won’t flower until around November-December. In both cases we were toured around an empty farm, it was still interesting but a lot harder to make pictures of the farms… The full feature is coming out later this week in print and sometime shortly after online I think.
This past Friday I was hired to shoot a graduation ceremony at Blue Spirit. The Blue Spirit centre is a Yoga training fortress, situated on a mountain overlooking Playa Guiones, protected by guards, razor-wire and walls. The Yoga monks inside are quite nice though, it’s an interesting community they have there. While I was in their studio I was able to see over the tree-line to Playa Guiones from a height I haven’t before, it was pretty cool.
I was hired to shoot a group photo of all 70 students, I’ve never shot a group photo that big before, but they had a ladder. They also wanted a portrait of each student with their teachers and certificates during the ceremony. I used a portrait lens and a flash to fill them in and with my remote trigger and a tripod, it was like a factory line.
After the ceremony though, the students had a presentation that they’d prepared. It involved a lot of kow towing, rhythmic dancing and flowing white dresses. I wasn’t hired to shoot this part, but I did, cause it was kind of cool. I wanted to be more unobtrusive though, so I tried to use a slower shutter and very narrow focus to do it with the limited natural light. I think it kind worked.
The Blue Spirit people were very friendly, and the facility is absolutely beautiful. Plus they let me eat at their buffet… I was stuffed I had 4 plates I think, there was a random mix or American, European and Tico food so for example, rice, beans, French bread with guacamole and peanut butter.
So coming up is another wedding tomorrow, I’m planning on heading to Samara for the weekend, and hopefully next week there will be an Arribada in Ostional, it might require a late night and early morning but I want to shoot one sooooo bad.
For now though this is it.