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.
Nosara is a strange place sometimes. Electrical brownouts are quite a common thing, all businesses have surge protectors designed to store power to keep desktop computers on during the brief flickers. There have been the odd power outages too, for a few hours at a time, they usually occur during storms. Last Tuesday in the middle of the day, under a blue sky the power suddenly cutout. I wasn’t able to continue working so I went to the beach to pass the time until the power came back on.
As I got near the beach one of the real estate guys who works in the plaza near the beach saw me, “hey, got your camera with you?” he asked. I looked where he was pointing and there was a dead Howler monkey hanging from a power transformer, here was the cause of the blackout. I took some pictures, but what I found interesting was not the dead monkey, but the family of Howler monkey’s across the road who had gathered and were screaming.
It’s a common thing in Costa Rica, the monkey’s use power lines to cross roads and jungle, and if there is a hole in the rubber casing or they touch a transformer they’re either horribly mutilated or killed. There are several organizations set up to rehabilitate the monkeys, in some cases they have built bridges over the lines.
Although the dead monkey was sad, the gathered monkey’s mourning on the other side of the road gave me an excellent opportunity to get some nice pictures of this endangered species.
Last Friday was a somewhat busy day; I was supposed to go to Nicoya for the opening of a new music centre, although, because the bus was late I missed out, so I ended up not going Friday. However, while waiting for the bus there were a bunch of mountain bikers who biked by. They were part of a five-stage race across the province of Guanacaste; the third stage took them through Nosara.
The next week I went to Nicoya to follow-up on the opening and try to get a photo. At first I was worried when I got there, it was just a big open, empty room, with some smaller rooms off to the side where kids were having music lessons. I wandered around and was invited into a few of the lessons, one pair was completely cool with me photographing them during a practice session, so at least I came away with a few nice pictures.
Finally there’s been a community reforestation project on the beach for the last few days. From Sunday-Tuesday volunteers came out to plant trees, it was a follow-up to an event last year where they planted over 1000 trees… 80% died. This year they only planted 310 and used different compost and planting methods, organizers hope that more will survive this year.
So yeah, that’s the kind of week and half it’s been, tomorrow I head to Nicaragua, first I have to take a bus to Liberia, then I’ll stay there overnight and take a direct bus to Granada, Nicaragua.
I’ll end off with this picture taken by Surfing Nosara, they have photographers on the beach everyday taking pictures of people surfing in the hopes those people will buy those photos later. Their photog was a little bored Tuesday morning I think, and he took a bunch of pictures of people planting trees, there was one where you can see me at work.
Next post should have some pictures of my Nica-adventures.
I haven’t seen blue sky in five days, we’re entering the edge of what locals here call ‘winter,’ which means rain. It looks like the clouds may be starting to break though, so hopefully…
I’m going to try something new with this blog post, rather than chronological order I’m going to start with my favorite photos and work down. I should also make two notes, there are sunset photos near the end, for those who are followers of this blog you’ll note there are lots of sunset photos, you have been warned. Secondly there will be a geeky final paragraph about some film stuff, if you don’t want to read a lot of technical film/photography jargon, then skip that too.
There were a lot of ‘firsts’ for Nosara this month, first mini-golf tournament, first charity race and first motocross race. The motocross race on May 13 was cool, it was hosted in a field in the north part of town, and like most events here was low infrastructure.
I was able to wander all over and cross the track even during the race. I’ve also always wanted to shoot motocross, so this was cool. It was a loud muddy overcast affair, but I came away with some good clean pictures and had the chance to be creative.
I tried to slow the shutter here to keep the crowd sharp and the riders blurry. I didn’t think to use a flash, second curtain sync would have given me the same picture with a slightly sharper view of the bike at the end of the blur, would’ve been cooler.
A week and a half earlier there was a community outreach event. A local hotel, provided dental services for school children from neighboring communities over two and half days. Harmony Hotel has a community sustainability committee whose job is community outreach and development.
Dental access, like everything in Nosara, is limited. Dentists from Nicoya visit once a month but their time is limited. However, the university of Costa Rica’s dental program has an internship component. Usually students fulfill this obligation by doing volunteer work in Costa Rica’s countryside.
Harmony Hotel’s sustainability committee contacted the university and offered to pay for transportation and accommodations for the dental students. Several students and their prof showed up in the afternoon of May 2 and took over one of the hotel’s cabinas to use as an impromptu dental office then for the next two days then cleaned kids teeth and wrote referrals for anything serious.
Saturday morning was a much-anticipated charity run through the jungle, I’ve been asked to write two preview articles for it to date. There was both a 12k and a 5k race and the money went to charity, run of the mill stuff but I like the starting line picture.
A week before on May 12 there was a mini-golf tournament, welcome to small town news. It was little affair, surprisingly popular with the adults…
During the first two weeks of the month my girlfriend Yamina came to visit again, it was pretty awesome, the next three pictures were taken while she was here and we were wandering around.
and here is the geeky post…
I like to shoot film, I brought a Baldex med format folding rangefinder with me, some Kodak D-76 developer, fixer powder and my developing tank. I had never used the Baldex before so I’ve been testing how it works with some expired Tri X 400 a friend gave me as a birthday present.
I was able to develop two rolls so far, one at 400 ISO and one pulled to 200 ISO. Although I don’t have an enlarger or a med format scanner to scan them, I saw a post on Petapixel (a photoblog I follow) which detailed how to build your own med format scanner with a remote flash, a DSLR and a cardboard box.
The results I got were ok, although I’m not sure if that was the expired film doing weird things or the ‘scanning.’ I have some rolls of still good Panf 50, so I’ll try that next and see. At the very least it’s a good way to quickly scan negs to make digital contact sheets.
So yeah that’s it, some community meetings/events this week, then it’s back to Nicaragua for another visa run at the start of June.
Ok so it’s been a month since my last post. April was a bit of a slow and weird month, I spent a lot of time working out the details for my return home and my replacement in July.
However, that’s neither here nor there. I spent most of the month working on a feature about the volunteer firefighters here in Nosara. Aside from that it was the odd assignment for the web. There has been some reorganizing of the staff internally and it’s been a somewhat confusing to say the least, but everything is starting to straighten itself out.
So going in chronological order…
Early in April I stopped by the Nosara Yoga Spa for a trippy little concert featuring three very talented guitarists. One of them, Bill McPhearson, is credited with starting the live music scene, more or less, in Nosara, with a Tuesday night acoustic set at the Gilded Iguana, a popular bar/hotel in town.
Tuesdays at the Iguana have now become an iconic part of Nosara’s nightlife. McPhearson has also left Nosara to take up a teaching post in California. However, he is married to a Tico (slang for Costa Rican) so he plans to return once a year at least.
About a week later I went to the animal rescue centre for a web feature on adoptable pets. It was fun, the animals were cute and the woman who runs it is incredibly dedicated.
Plus I shot all the portraits at f/1.4 it’s the newest coolest thing in photojournalism (I say that somewhat sarcastically). Basically it means shooting with the shallowest depth of field you possibly can, hence in this photo, literally only one eye is in focus. More and more photographers are paying big bucks for lenses that open to f/1.4, 1.8, 2, and I guess the logic is, if you’re paying for it why not use it? This was one of the first times I found it useful for an assignment that wasn’t a portrait.
I’ve also been getting into shape somewhat. We’ve been running a blog-style post a week on the web about fitness options in Nosara. What it means is I get to take a variety of free classes, ask some questions snap some pics then write a brief first person perspective on it.
So far there’s been Crossfit, which defeated me (I’m picking words carefully here), a Zumba/Bootie Fit class and today Tai Chi, my favourite thus far as been Tai Chi. although Crossfit made me feel like the hulk and Zumba/Bootie Fit left me feeling like a back up dancer in a rap video…
Anyway the photos weren’t anything special from any of the classes, but I like this one because I’m visible. I never ‘see’ myself at work, and after looking at this photo I think that’s a good thing.
So this will mark the third post I have with rodeo pictures. This time it was in the beach town of Garza, about 10km outside Nosara. It was pretty cool and it operated the same way as the Nosara fiestas, after two of which, I had a system down.
The big thing at this fiesta was this psychotic bull called ‘Malacrianza,’ which I was specifically asked to get a picture of. Talk about pressure, the rider lasted 7 seconds. At three frames per second (5D Mk II) that gives me a max of 14 photos. I had 8 useable ones, these two are my favorites. It was crazy though the arena was sparsely lit with these flickering floodlights, every photo the white balance is a little different then the last. Also Malacrianza was bucking in he part of the arena where my placement counter to floodlights left my pictures washed out. For those familiar with Adobe Lightroom, these photos have the contrast and black toned tab turned up 100%, and even still the photo lacks contrast…
I like that he wore a hockey helmet, it’s the second one I saw in Costa Rica, the first one was on a motorcycle driver…
These fiestas are crazy… people in and out of the ring.
Over the course of the month I’ve been meeting with the Nosara firefighters, speaking with their funders and founders, and other towns nearby about their situation for a feature on the underfunded and overworked volunteer department here. The feature sprang from an idea I pitched in March about a series of portraits of the firefighters with bios and their opinions on what they needed to better do their job.
The idea was based off a project I saw by Canadian Photojournalist Louie Palu, he worked in Afghanistan for a while and shot a really stunning series of portraits of the soldiers he was with. More pics shot at f/1.4. Palu’s work is here, check it out, I still don’t have anything on it, but that’s how painters in the renaissance learned, first by painting work done by masters before them, then developing past or outside that.
I’ve never been to or photographed an orchestra before, so this past Saturday was cool. In March I wrote a preview story about a group of parents at the local Montessori school, they were planning to bring an orchestra from Nicoya comprised of high school music students to perform in Nosara. It was big, more than 400 people turned out to see it. Most of whom had never seen a show like that before.
The conductor was great, he was so emotive I had a hard time filing down pics.
I shot a bunch of regular photos of people playing instruments but to be honest, just a straight photo of someone playing a violin is boring, unless they’re really emotive or flamboyant. So I was looking for something different. Because they were kids most barely saw over their music stands, I decided to play around with that, this was my favorite.
This one falls outside the chronological order of the post as I shot it on the 24th. I looked outside my window and saw a strangely bright star, I looked it up on Google and it turns out that night Venus was going to rise with the moon and be visible to the naked eye. I set up a tripod and took a photo, I haven’t done much astrography, but I want to try more. It’s more accessible than I thought, I mean this was taken at a 270mm focal length, nothing huge, you just have to know when and where to look.
On the 5th of May there will be what’s called a ‘super moon,’ basically based on the Earth and Lunar orbits this will be the closest the moon comes to the Earth all year, making it look much brighter, bigger and visible.
I think I’ll bust out my medium format, which by the way works. I had this old 50’s folding 6×6 shipped to me and I processed the first roll of film, some expired TriX a friend gave me. Camera works great and it felt badass to process film in Central America. #imanerd
Anyway, that’s it for now.
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.
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.
And then they were drunk.
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.
No big deal just some horses racing along the beach for some reason.
Raising the flag at Triple Crown.
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…
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.
Knee surfing, a new sport?
No budget woes here…
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 www.voiceofnosara.com (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)
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.