Independent Photography

Posts tagged “horses

Solo at VON

Okay so a post every two weeks is pretty good right?

The biggest change so far has been the departure of my editor.  She’s been in New York on business (the paper’s owner lives there) for the last two weeks and returns today.   The biggest change for me has been that I have mostly been in charge of the breaking news in Nosara.  Yes sometimes there is breaking news.

Like the first weekend after she left, which left me exhausted.  It was the weekend of St. Patrick’s Day, on Saturday I was supposed to shoot the second round on an ongoing surf contest in the morning then a St. Patrick’s Day event in the evening.

So I drove the 15km to Playa Graza at 6am to meet the boats and waited an hour, no one showed up.  Frustrated and confused I left and drove back to Guiones to the Tico Surf school, they’re the ones who organized the contest.  I walked into the office and saw all the organizers watching TV on a laptop, turns out the waves that day sucked so they had decided to post-pone. I went home and started to relax.

Then came a call from the Nosara firefighters saying they were dealing with a fire in the nearby town of Esperanza.  I drove out there, it turned out that a farmer had tried to clear land by starting a brush fire, then the wind blew it up a hill and it spread out of control.  Although there weren’t flames, in dry brush fire travels along the ground, the hill was burnt.

I went back home, wrote a story ate dinner then drove out to cover St. Patrick’s Day.  I went to a bar called the Black Sheep, which only opens a few times in the year.   It’s an English pub, a legit looking English pub, in the middle of the jungle.  It quickly denigrated into a drunk fest…  Literally people almost drank the place dry, here are some pictures.

The line-up at the bar was took about ten minutes to get through. By the end of the night the Black Sheep was out of all but two types of beer. The only people decked out in green seemed to be the staff.

Ok so if the white balance above looks a bit off… it is, I might have turned up the green channel, for ya know, St Patrick.

The Irish Car Bomb station served Guinness beer with shots of Baileys and Whiskey dropped into the glass. This is how mistakes happen.

And then they were drunk.

Things got a little rowdy after midnight... Including people jumping fully clothed into the pool. When they saw the flash firing from my camera... more people started jumping, then the owners came out and put a stop to it. Something about safety.

The next morning started early.  I had gotten home the night before around 2am and had to be on the road by 6am to be at Playa Garza in time to catch the boats.  As it happened I woke up a little later than I intended to and made it just in time to get on the second last boat.  The second round of the surf contest was hosted at an off shore reef.  According to one of the organizers it was the largest surf contest, held off shore ever in Costa Rica.

Horses (not wild) gallop along Playa Garza before the start of the second round of the Triple Crown Surf Contest. Before Tourism hit the area, fishing and ranching were the two biggest economic activities. Some ranchers now offer sunset horseback rides for tourists.

No big deal just some horses racing along the beach for some reason.

Maikol Alvares Helps to raise a banner for the Triple Crown Surf contest from the top of the judges boat.

Raising the flag at Triple Crown.

A sea taxi sits waiting in Garza bay, sea taxi's are used to transport people from shore to fishing boats which anchor further out. This is due to tidal changes, however, for the purposes of the Triple Crown Surf Contest they ferried people from shore to the boats further out.

That guy later ended up driving me back to shore.  When I got in the boat I noticed three empty beer cans on the floor and one in his hand.  As the boat pulled away from the judges boat he a) finished the beer he was drinking b) threw that can in the ocean (unlike the others c) opened another, then d) lit a cigarette…

Maikol Alvares dives into the water in preparation for his heat in the second round of the Triple Crown Surf contest on March 18. The contest was Costa Rica's first offshore surf contest of this size.

The unfortunate part was that I couldn’t actually see the contest.  Even from where the boats were the surfers were on the horizon, it was way too far away for a decent shot.  So I focused on the side show of the floating crowd.  After about two hours the contest was still going on, I was exhausted and there were no more pictures to take, I figured I would go home and take a nap, so I hoped on a sea taxi and went to shore.

I got home and started making lunch, literally just as I put it in the oven the Nosara firefighters called.  It turns out there was a field fire in the neighbourhood of Santa Marta, started by someone burning trash, once again the wind carried it into a field and started a slow burn of a field.   I went home filed a story and went to sleep finally.

Since then I worked on a few other smaller things.  I covered a police briefing with community members, the arrival of a new police car, a preview for a reggae concert in the nearby town of Samara.  In the interim while writing stories I’ve been working on a personal project and trying to make interesting pictures… so here are some sunset and nature pics.

A woman rides into shore on her knees on a surfboard at Playa Guiones on March 29.

Knee surfing, a new sport?

A man walks along Playa Guiones at sunset on March 29. Sport fishing is gaining in popularity amongst tourists in Nosara.

No budget woes here…

A howler monkey looking for food in a tree. The howlers are considered endangered, as well as some of the slowest monkeys. They communicate by howling, which sounds like a dog bark or warthog, they can be heard up to 3 miles away. This one was camped in a tree not 15 metres from my front door.

No big deal, endangered animals hang around outside my apartment.

Anyway that’s all for now.  For a better look at what I’ve been doing with Voice of  Nosara check out (although new recent updates mean you have to scroll way down to see my stuff 😦 two days ago I dominated the top of the page)

Paz siempre,

Adam Dietrich

Cowboys and surfers

This week has been a little hectic, compared with the previous one at least.  It’s production week for the paper meaning decisions about cover, content selection and layout need to be made.  I’ve worked production at a paper before, however, the charlatan is a weekly publication, the voice of nosara publishes once a month.  Which means content relevance is perhaps the most challenging aspect, since the issue will sit on stands for a month, the stories and pictures inside need to be relevant for the whole month.

So on Wednesday I was asked to go to a hotel in town to get a photo of liquor for a story on the changing liquor laws here.  Apparently there are a limited number licenses available depending on community size, most of those licenses have already been bought up at prices as low as $6, the owners of those licenses in many cases rent them out for as much as $3000 a month, that’s a hell of business plan.  Most license owners purchased theirs as far back as the 30’s and have held on, clearly some updates to the law are needed.

The folks at the hotel agreed to make me a cocktail so I could photograph it.  I was supposed to keep logos and faces out so as not to implicate the hotel as one of the abusers of the liquor licenses… the photos were kind of boring but the drink was on the house, so I lingered by their pool and sipped it after.  Not too bad.


Sometimes its hard to do what I do...

Thursday was an equally quiet day; all I did was work on a few police briefs for the printed copy then hit the beach.  We managed to figure out that the suspected thief captured in Nosara the other week had been released on his own recognizance pending a trial date.  The police seem to have a case against him although the residents are still paranoid.  After that I worked on another brief about a car fire from a week ago, seems a battery shorted and the hood caught on fire, otherwise no major issue.

That evening I decided to go to the beach to read.  I ended spending more time photographing surfers in the fading light, I got a few nice ones…


This pretty much defined the evening...

As I said.. less reading more photography…


Surf instructors hit the waves at sunset because its after work and they have free time, the birds hit the waves for the fish.

Sunsets here are beautiful, though I think I’ve stated this before.


A surfer watches the sun set, they paddle out and sit and wait for waves to come. The light is beautiful...


Though it looks like there’s no waves they show up.  One minute the ocean would be calm as can be, then suddenly it would swell and there would be waves.


A surfer paddling to catch the front of a wave. The trick is to get just ahead of a wave before it breaks and quickly stand up.

This time I used the 5D, shooting at 6400 ISO gives you a lot more more leeway, just fewer fps for catching peak action.


This guy was good, he would ride the wave until it finished then lower himself back onto the board to paddle out again. No crashes, no falls.

Finally the sun hit the horizon and everyone just kind of stopped to watch it.


Two seagulls fly low looking for fish while a surfer waiting for a wave watches the sun dip below the horizon...

Friday was the start of two busy days…  First I was given a driving lesson on the quad and access to the keys.  It was maybe the third time in my life I’d driven a quad and the first time I’d driven a manual transmission vehicle.  The driving lesson was mostly my boss groaning every time the quad lurched as I tried to change gears…


Me and my new ride. The travel scarf is needed to keep from swallowing a dustball, as are the glasses and the helmet well safety first.

The reason I needed access to the quad was to get to Nosara for the fiestas of Nosara, a three-day rodeo and festival on the edge of town.  The event opened on Friday evening, it was part rodeo, carnival, running with the bulls and community dance.


A food vendor adds fuel to his cooking fire at the Nosara rodeo. There were more than 10 different places to eat mostly serving refried meats.

Safety precautions were not quite what they would have been in Canada, spectators are allowed right up to the fence, they can even sit on it.


A young rodeo fan watches the introductions before the start of the first rodeo game.


There was a big arena set up in a field outside of town; the rodeo games began with an introduction of the rodeo riders, complete with a prayer.  Then they released the first rider, after he was thrown the real games began… Drunk locals and tourists then would taunt the bull until he charged them, then they try to get out of the way…  I personally couldn’t believe it, in Canada the Calgary Stampede takes flack every year for potential animal abuse, in Costa Rica participants take their lives in their hands without even signing a waiver…


A festival participant tries to avoid a charging bull. Had I wanted to, I probably could have joined in I won't lie though I was a little nervous.

Although I didn’t get in the ring I did spend most of the time sitting on the fence, at one point a bull charged and in my rush to get back over my sandal caught the edge of the fence and I fell about 5 feet.  I din’t break any equipment or bones and I landed on the right side side of the fence.


A rider is tossed from a bull while festival participants rush in to distract and draw the attention of the bull, no one was hurt. To give you an idea of how close you can get to the action, this was shot with a 24mm on a full frame camera with little cropping. A minute later that bull charged the fence I was sitting on.

Of course I might have been overreacting… I mean if drunk, barefoot tourists can get in the ring without spilling their beers, I probably would have been ok.


A tourist protects himself and his beer from a charging bull. There were several tourists who participated in the rodeo games most of them were wasted.

Friday was a late affair; the event started at 8pm and went until about 2am.  I left around 12:45, because after 12 the rodeo was finished, the sober people left and the dance began.  I was tired and drove home to edit.  Having never shot a Rodeo before, and having to compete with some truly shitty lighting I somehow shot just over 1200 frames, I have never shot that many in a single night.  I trimmed them to a further 76 then finally down to 15 for use on the voice of nosara’s facebook page, it was about 3am when I finally got to bed.  Apparently they’ve set aside two pages in the paper as well, so some should make it in there as a pictorial story.

Saturday was thus a slow start, however, after lunch it was back on the quad to head to the second event called the Tope (pronounced toe-pay).  The Tope is basically a big lunch and party, complete with some cowboy skills competitions.  Since I’m missing the all-star game in Ottawa, this is the best I could do…


Cowboys arrive on horseback to the Tope, a big day of eating, drinking during the fiestas of Nosara on January 28.


It was brutally hot, I’m not sure how people could drink beer and whiskey for 3 straight hours in that heat and still ride home…


A young boy rests on bags of horse feed. Although the Tope was held in the shade, the day was immensely hot.


I tried some shooting from the hip, there’s an old photography adage, “F/8 and be there,” it means closing your aperture enough to increase your depth of field, allowing you to shoot without have to worry too much where your focus is.  In this case it let me catch this without having to be obvious about it.


Friends great each other near the beer truck at the Tope. The day was a relaxed feast and social event.


And of course there were lots of horses.  I spent some time on a farm in Uruguay in 2007 which cultivated a real appreciation for horses, these were pretty talented riders too.


A cowboy regains control of his horse, the horse grew impatient after trotting on the spot and began moving around wildly. Within a minute the rider was able to regain control.


This evening is the finale but I don’t think I’ll be there, today is my day off and my boss has the quad so I’d have to bike the 7km.  Instead I’m going to start work on a new project and get some beach time.  There is a hotel, bar and adventure travel company in town called The Gilded Iguana.   The owners are originally from Toronto and have established their business here as a sort of fixture.  Several people have told me that The Gilded Iguana is the place to be in town on a Tuesday night.  I was there this past Tuesday with my boss and the place was packed, we couldn’t find a seat much less a table for most of the evening.  I met with the owner and asked if she’d be interested in an interview, I think this is something that if pitched properly could be freelanced to a Canadian publication.

So I sent the owners an email and received a speedy reply essentially saying drop by whenever, so today I’ll call and hopefully be able to meet with them.  This isn’t a project I intend to rush, I’d like to take time, and build trust, if this is going to work I’ll need photographic access to the entire operation.  So I’d like to start with a very basic introductory interview, and hopefully a tour, I doubt I’ll shoot a single frame today.  After a few months, I’ll hopefully have something marketable.

Paz siempre,


P.S. My apologies for the break in posting this week and thus the huge post today.  The office internet has been down for the last three days, it started working this morning again, so fingers crossed it keeps working…

Days off

Saturday wasn’t actually supposed to be a day off.  Instead I woke up at 6am to get to the edge of town for 6:50, I was supposed to be meeting a source from the day before.  He was the security guard who helped bring in the thief; he and the Tourist Police were headed to the hills to scour for clues and I was supposed to accompany them, take some pictures and write a perspective piece.  I got there ten minutes early and waited for more than an hour, my ride never came.  I suddenly found myself with an extra day off…

I hadn’t actually gone grocery shopping yet, I’d only purchased a few over-priced items at the mini-mart.  I’m not actually in the town of Nosara, that’s about 7km away, instead I live at Guiones beach.  So I figured I’d bike into Nosara, see the countryside a bit and buy some groceries.  I got a little lost (what’s a 20 minute detour anyway?) but otherwise I got there without trouble, the town was like a ghost town, dusty roads and abandoned buildings (maybe even tumbleweed)… However, I found the grocery store and bought some food.  Then as I was leaving, my bike chain snapped… Leaving me with no choice but to walk the 7km back to Guiones in midday heat and sandals.  Very, very bitter I forgot about taking photos for the most part (I will be going back at some point obviously) until I was about halfway home and working on instinct.

Near the airport was this sign… I put it up because when I got home I was coughing up dirt for an hour…

Laugh all you want… this is a serious issue in the dry season…

Dunno… thought this was a cool shot, the plane coming in to land…

This was a third of the way home… I was still smiling… an hour later, not so much.

When I got home, I drank almost 2 liters of water, and passed out for an hour, woke up and made my first real meal since arriving here (by real I mean not just rice and onions…).  I spent the rest of the afternoon keeping cool and rehydrating, then bought some beers and wandered down to the beach to read before sunset.  It was truly peaceful.

Every sunset amateur cowboys wander down the beach…

I brought two beers with me for reading and sunset… but in the heat they tend to warm up, thus creativity is needed…

Find a rock in a tidal pool, leave beer to chill…

Then I got a little silhouette happy…

Like with this couple walking back along the beach past the tide pools

And then there’s the self portrait…

And why not? If I didn’t photograph me no one would! …

I didn’t want to waste my day off though, so I took a very long walk down the beach.  First I wandered as far as I could before I hit jungle, then swam in the surf, read and decided to walk back.  On my way back I stepped on glass or something and slashed my toe open, I sat on the beach trying to clean it with salt water and my towel, then used gaffer tape and a bit of towel to wrap it up.  Its doing well and didn’t hurt too much on the walk back, however, the day before, I developed a bad blister on the same foot walking from Nosara, my poor left foot…

On the way back I wandered up to this building I had seen from a distance for a long time, it turned out to be an abandoned hotel on a cliff over looking the pacific… I explored for a while and found one other person, he could only tell me it was closed, he had no idea why.  I wanted to climb to the top of a spire that was in the center of the hotel, however, my progress was halted by a pack angry dogs who showed up in force to bark at me…  I’ll be back, I’ll be careful, the view of the beach from the top will be unrivaled.

A horse tour coming out of the hotel area…

Anyone see Jurassic Park?  It takes place on an island off the coast of Costa Rica right…

I’m not even kidding… I half expected to see a velociraptor come through here.

Isla Sorna…

The most confusing part about the hotel… it’s abandoned, with a big manicured lawn.

However, reanimated dinosaurs weren’t the real concern…

A pack of angry dogs was the issue…

I continued my trip back to the office, made some dinner, threw on a movie and wrote this up.  Tomorrow is the start of my first full week of work.

Paz siempre,

Adam Dietrich