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.
I spent the last Thursday to Sunday with the Red Cross unit here in Nosara. Here is some key background about healthcare in Nosara: Healthcare in Costa Rica is universal, provided by the state. Doctors and hospital services are allocated based on population size and density. In Nosara, a town with a fluctuating population (due to tourism) health service are few. The Red Cross (a non-governmental organization) set up to provide basic, essential, paramedic and emergency services. However, due to the lack of adequate healthcare in the region they have slowly become the main providers of health services in Nosara and surrounding areas. They cover everything from pregnancy, injuries, illness, even hospice services. The government only reimburses the Red Cross for emergency services and the organization itself survives on donations and volunteers. As a result, the Red Cross in Nosara has had to cut back on non-essential services in recent years. The people of Nosara put the blame on the Red Cross, in reality the government has failed to provide adequate healthcare to the people of Nosara and are content to let the Red Cross shoulder their blame.
Thursday: A simple affair, I followed Victor Hugo, a full-time paramedic, as he went about his evening shift. Thursday’s are typically slow. He dealt with a dog bite and a sick infant then made dinner and relaxed.
Friday: A quiet day for most of it. In the evening I hoped in the back of a local’s SUV with Hugo. The Red Cross has limited ambulances and on Friday they were all out (one was in repair, two were making trips to the nearest hospital, 60km away and the fourth was on a call). The SUV took us to a house in Santa Marta, a neighborhood outside Nosara, inside a family’s matriarch was dying of emphysema. Hugo told me after she had a week, maybe less. He hooked her up to an oxygen tank, explained its use to the family and left. I didn’t shoot a single frame, something about it seemed wrong, as there were 15 members of the family standing around me watching. Although I had permission to take Hugo’s picture, I did not have the matriarch’s permission, I chose to respect her privacy.
Saturday: Another slow day, the crew at the office busied themselves with maintenance and cleaning. At dusk I followed David Perez Montiel, a volunteer paramedic, to the Nosara soccer field. The Red Cross sponsor’s a kids soccer team as part of a community outreach effort, he brought pop to give out to the kids at the end of the game. That night the Red Cross had six different calls and had to make two trips to the hospital in Nicoya, 60km away.
Sunday Morning: I was offered breakfast, consisting of fried pork and fried cheese in a tortilla, as well as a trip home to Guiones beach in the ambulance. On our way back, as we rounded the second to last corner, the road was filled with police and firefighters. I realized this was the fire my boss had texted me about earlier that morning. Because there hadn’t been any injuries the Red Cross wasn’t called, I asked them to stop and I hopped out and started shooting. Unfortunately, I missed the flames, which had been doused by 8-8:30, I arrived at 10:30 and was only able to catch firefighters dousing hotspots.
This one was my favourite because of the faces.
I also saw the paper copy for this month; I have about 90% of the photo credits in it… Now its back to work.
The last couple of days have been real slow, I didn’t shoot anything on the 30th. However, all of that changes today, I’m headed out of the office for four days and living with the local Red Cross unit until Sunday.
In Costa Rica, there is universal access to health care, although the state covers most healthcare costs and processes, paramedic work is carried out by the Red Cross then billed to the state insurance provider. In Nosara there is an issue though, many of the locals understand that the Red Cross provides paramedic services, however, when they call sometimes there’s no answer… The reason is because all emergency services are routed through the 911 system here, which is based out of San Jose, the number most people call, is the administrative office of the Red Cross in Nosara.
Really its an issue of popular misconception… why call 911 in San Jose, when the Red Cross is in Nosara? Except the number for the Red Cross is their administrative line… So the idea of this piece will be to dispel some popular myths about the Red Cross and hopefully open up the organization to people here.
For me it’s an opportunity for a hell of a picture story, maybe some multimedia too. The access is pretty incredible, as the Red Cross station is staffed 24 hours, I’ll be with them the entire time and I’ll likely be following them on calls.
In the interim here are some photos for yesterday… I camped out at the edge of the beach, read a lot and shot some random stuff and more sunsets…
Those birds were huge… but they weren’t the only ones.
The moon too is consistently visible in the sky from about 2pm on. Its kinda cool to see them both there as the sun and the moon control the tides and thus in a way, beach life.
Low tide reveals these sea rocks everywhere, worn and shaped by the ocean into weird shapes. In the pools left by the ebb tide there are tiny crabs and minnows. I picked up a seashell thinking it looked nice… it turned out there was a hermit inside.
Then the sun started to set in earnest, so I made my way back…
***The following contains camera talk, follow the hyperlinks to better understand***
I recently watched a PBS documentary on Ansel Adams, perhaps one of the most famous fine art photographers in history. He belonged to an informal group of photographers (painters have ‘movements’ photographers have ‘clubs’) called ‘the f/64 club.’ So named because they would shoot landscapes at f/64, which means the aperture of the lens is super small, which means the depth of field is huge which means the area in focus is huge. Back then too (the 20′s) film (or rather glass plates) had really low light sensitivty, well below what we would call ISO 50… Until now I’ve never had a lens combo that lets me shoot at f/64, they’ve always capped out at f/22. However, the 135 and the 2x extender make this possible. So just after the sun went below the horizon I found a rock, stabled the camera on it, set it to ISO 50 (the lowest I can go), f/64 and a 30 second exposure. The low light sensitivity meant really smooth tones, the slow shutter speed turned the ocean to fluff and the narrow aperture made everything sharp enough.
Then I decide to cast myself in the photo. I set the timer and ran in. The distance from camera to rock was about 75-80m so it took me just a little more than the 10 second timer to run in, however, because of the 30 second exposure I still had time. Looking at this photo though, I think it too should be in black and white…
Well thats it. My boss will be here in about an hour, then I’m off to Nosara. I intend to post this coming Sunday, which I’m sure will be a long night of editing…
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.
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…
As I said.. less reading more photography…
Sunsets here are beautiful, though I think I’ve stated this before.
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.
This time I used the 5D, shooting at 6400 ISO gives you a lot more more leeway, just fewer fps for catching peak action.
Finally the sun hit the horizon and everyone just kind of stopped to watch it.
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…
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.
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.
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…
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.
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.
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…
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…
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.
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.
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.
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…
Monday morning was the start of my first full week of work. I woke up to an email from my boss asking me to cover three assignments that day. The first one was a little ridiculous… We’re doing a story on ‘Tanorexia’ also called ‘sun addiction.’ I was asked to go to the beach and take some photos of people enjoying the sun, specifically women…
The issue wasn’t photographing women on the beach, the issue was talking to them afterwards… I ran over my speech a few times in my head, so I wouldn’t sound like a creep. Imagine some guy with a big camera who walks up to you and says, “I’m a journalist and I’m doing a story on sun-addiction, anyways I just took a photo of you and I need your name, and where you’re from and why you’re here.” After I hung out on the beach for a bit…
After that it was off to the liquor store for a very basic photo of liquor bottles. Costa Rica is in the middle of changing its license management system, and Voice of Nosara wanted some stock pictures of liquor bottles for any stories related to it. Having finished the first two I had some time, so I went back to the beach to try and get rid of the t-shirt tan I seem to have developed.
While that was actually successful, I got something worse… a tan-line in the shape of my camera bag strap. I’ll have to go back either without the bag or with the strap on the other side and correct that.
Monday evening was the third assignment, I went down to a place called the Yoga House, which is guess what? A yoga studio! They had a speaker, an American author named John Perkins who became famous in 2004 for his book, ‘Confessions of an Economic Hitman.’ The book was groundbreaking because it outlined his role for the previous few decades as an agent of the American economy sent to foreign countries to assist in destabilizing the economy for on behalf of American business interests. The theory is complex, but these so-called economic hitmen were instrumental in implanting America’s neo-liberal polices globally, but especially in Latin America in the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s I highly recommend looking it up.
Perkins is now a new age spiritualist and spoke about many topics. Mostly he talked about the meaning of several different spiritual and indigenous prophecies relating to 2012. It turns out that the Maya prophecy isn’t the only one relating to the dramatic changing of times in 2012 most importantly, its not the end of existence but rather a changing of existence. The talk was heavy at times but really enlightening.
I felt I was a little obtrusive though, the room was so quiet that the echoes of the mirror slap from my SLR could be heard. It gave me an opportunity to try out the 5D’s ‘silent shoot’ mode. It’s a lie, it’s not silent, although it is much quieter. Basically you enter mirror lock-up, the focusing mirror smacks up blacking out the viewfinder, and you use the screen to frame. When you actually take a photo the only noise is the shutter opening and the curtain closing, the problem is it limits the frame rate to only one photo at a time.
Tuesday morning started off slow. Shortly after I woke up I noticed some workers spreading some brown crap all over the road outside my window. In order to control dust during the dry season they pour molasses all over the roads, which with heat and pressure hardens and keeps dust from going everywhere. It looked like kind of a shitty job.
Then I received an email asking me to track down some business inspectors from the Costa Rican government and follow them while they inspected local businesses (mostly immigration and health issues). There have been some claims of corruption apparently, however, the inspectors never made it today. Instead my boss showed up on an ATV. We headed out to the town of Nosara and I got a nice little tour. We drove through lower income neighborhoods built out of sheet metal with no electricity or running water. Then headed to three different construction sites to photograph bridges that were under construction. During the rainy season several poorer areas of Nosara are essentially cut off from vehicle traffic because of high water levels in the river. The government has finally gotten around to fixing this problem. It also presented me with an opportunity to try to be creative, how the hell do you take a picture of a build site in the jungle and make it interesting? What made it worse was we showed up during lunch so there weren’t any workers around.
After that we headed back, and I had to shower off a layer of dust covering my whole body then came the ‘fun’ part; editing and translating. Because the paper is bilingual everything is translated, so while I only filed English captions for the Spanish people to translate, I was given an 800-word story in Spanish to translate. I put on Jurassic Park for background noise and got to work, such a good movie.
All that’s done now though, so I’m going to make dinner then head out to the Gilded Iguana, a bar in town with live music. My boss and I are going for drinks, it will be my first actual night out, should be fun.
P.S. I just wanted to thank those who have read my blog and commented so far. I post with the expectation that no one reads it, but the encouraging comments from strangers and the number of page views say otherwise. While I don’t publish comments made (trying to maintain a portfolio feel to the site) I do read everyone. Thanks and I hope you keep reading.
So I suppose I will start with Thursday, since I didn’t post that day…
That morning I wandered down to the beach to shoot more surfing, I got a great sequence of photos of an American kid from Maryland pulling a back flip on his surf board, I was ecstatic.
While I was standing in the surf taking photos I noticed a lot of smoke from the south, I figured it was nothing, turned out to be nothing. However, with photography the mantra of, “shoot first, ask later,” is sometimes the wise thing to do.
Thursday was also my first official day of work, so that morning I received an email from my boss asking me to contact the president of the local surfing foundation to follow up on a story written in the summer.
In July Voice of Nosara, wrote a profile piece about an 11 year old girl in the next town over. She had been born with a rare bone disorder and her mother was unable to afford the treatment she desperately needed. A neighbor at the time was helping her with some basic physiotherapy, although the neighbor was only a Pilates instructor. The greatest challenge for the girl it seemed, would be attending the local school, which was in no way accessible nor did the school have the necessary funds to make it accessible.
So the Surfing Federation of Nosara hosted a concert with American singer G-Love, earlier this month and all ticket and beer sales went to help her. They raised over $4000 and secured promises from a local contractor to help with the construction for free. Since this only required a few emails be sent I spent most of the afternoon waiting to hear if the ATV had been fixed… It hadn’t.
That evening I decided to go and shoot more surfing, after the sun had just dipped below the horizon. It worked kind of, I probably should have used my 5D MK II which has better low light performance, instead I used ‘the beast’ (1D MK II) because of its added crop factor and high frame rate, however, it’s ten years old and sucks in low light… Lesson learned and I’ll go back.
Sunset on the ocean is beautiful… I can’t wait for my medium format to arrive.
This morning also started slowly, I had to run an errand for Voice of Nosara and pick up some documents from a nearby restaurant. I was expecting a slow day (I’d been told to expect a slow day) however, shortly after I returned to the office I received a call from my boss. It seems a suspect in a series of robberies and potentially a rape had been arrested, I was about to be smacked in the face by the realities of the Nosara ex-pat community…
When I arrived at the Police station tour source was there, freaking out, claiming the cops were going to let him go, they had no evidence etc. As it turns out a gardener found the suspect asleep in a hammock covered in leaves behind an ex-pats house, called the nearby private security guard who then called the police.
Apparently there has been a string of robberies going back more than a year in the area of Las Huacas (nicknamed the Beverly Hills of Nosara). The residents are all ex-pats, rich and were furious. However, because the suspect had been caught sleeping, not robbing they were worried about him getting off on lack of evidence.
There was also a rape of an ex-pat about a year earlier and there were some who thought he matched the description of the suspect in that crime. The survivor, who has since returned to the US, was emailed a photo of the man in custody, however, she couldn’t identify him, furthermore there was an issue with the DNA evidence collected after the rape… Apparently the cops had lost it… So he was effectively cleared of those charges then.
However, an angry mob had gathered nonetheless to make sure he wasn’t released. The Costa Rican equivalent of the FBI (called the Judicial Police) were called from another town to come and take him away for fingerprinting. Apparently the police had prints on file from some of the previous robberies and they were going to see if they matched.
I spent four hours standing around, the cops had no holding cell and we found out he was being held in an ally between the station and the building next to it. They weren’t pleased with me sneaking a photo.
Due to alack of evidence (or perceived) our source was trying to get as many people as possible to ID him. A security guard took a picture of the suspect on his cell phone shortly after the arrest.
After four hours in the sun, waiting an not knowing what the eff was happening, we were told that the cops felt the had enough evidence to hold him and the Judicial Police were going to take him to Nicoya, where the courts and jail is. As he left the police station people were screaming threats and ‘son-of –a-bitch’ in Spanish at him.
I shot about twenty pictures of the three minutes it took him to walk to the car and for the car to drive off, I do consider myself a ‘frame conscious’ photographer.
So I learned a few things today, the ex-pat community here is EXTREMLY tightly knit, and you do not fuck with their property or they will crucify you. They were planning on following the police to the next town to ensure arraignment and were threatening to protest in front of the prosecutor’s office if he was let go.
Also in my rush to get to the scene I forgot my water bottle, which was a mistake I will NEVER repeat. After hanging around for four hours in the sun outside the cop shop I came home and jumped in a cold shower and downed a liter of water. The article is online already here I’m told this was very fast turnaround for Voice of Nosara, needless to say I’m pretty pleased.
It seems tomorrow I’ll be tagging along with the cops as the comb the hills for clues… should be good times in the forest, hopefully some interesting pictures can be made.
Whew, today has been a long one.
It started at 4am as I tried to quietly leave my dorm, although I’m certain my alarm pissed everyone off… I checked out and walked to the bus station, along the way the streets were riddled with the cries of tropical birds, it was seriously loud. The bus ride itself was long, it was about 6 hours in total and since there was no AC onboard I opened a window. That was a good idea, bad idea situation; because it’s the dry season now the roads are mostly dust and dirt. Ultimately though, the dust in the face was worth the breeze in the stuffy bus.
When I finally arrived in Nosara my boss wasn’t there to meet me, so I hung around for half an hour or so. This was about 11:30am and already I could tell Nosara is a lot hotter than San Jose. Just as I was about to get concerned that maybe something was wrong and she wasn’t coming, a lady on a bike pulled up and asked if I was Adam. It turns out the ATV is in repair so she’s been using the bicycle, I can’t wait until the ATV is out of repair.
Emiliana, the lady who met me at the bus stop, is the editor in chief of the Voice of Nosara, she’s from Argentina and seems very nice. I also met the ad manager, Arianna from Florida, who on occasion will also write stories. At first she was a little stand offish it seemed, however, later in the afternoon we got to talking. She gave a brief overview of the structure of the Voice of Nosara, readership for print/online, ad rates, ownership and circulation levels.
I was told I have the day off today, which makes me assume tomorrow I start, so I wandered to the beach and bought some sandals on the way. The beach is beautiful, it’s the Pacific Ocean and the water is bathtub temperature almost. I’m technically not in Nosara town, but Guionnes beach, although everyone calls it Nosara. The place is filled with beach bums, surfers and ex-pats (mostly American), it’s very easy to see why.
Cue gratuitous scenery shots…
I haven’t seen much wildlife yet, aside from some pelican-like birds.
As I mentioned surfing is huge, I’ve never shot surfing before but I figured I should try. The surf was a little low and there were only three people out… Gotta figure out when the best time to see people out is.
What I really want to catch is a huge bail, with the rider and surfboard going off in different directions… that would be sweet.
After the surfing photos I continued north along the beach towards a huge outcropping of sorts.
This photo only shows a corner of the hill, in the mid-day heat I almost died after summiting it. Okay well not really, but I did chug half my water bottle and have to sit down.
The hill proved to be tall enough to unnerve me a bit, especially because it was really just a ridge with a goat path on top. Still I found tire treads from a mountain bike… Meaning people use the ridge to ride down… Crazy.
As I said the mid-day heat is sweltering, after my walk along the beach I came back and had to nap. Arianna mentioned that here the sun is more direct and thus more intense, so 30 degrees feels a lot hotter than 30 degrees, needless to say I have a sunburn already, seems I should have worn sunscreen on my day out in San Jose.
While the sun had destroyed my appetite, the nap had brought it back. I walked around the corner and bought a wrap for about $6, it was incredible. Avocado, red cabbage, carrots lightly toasted with some sauce in it.
The Office is also my apartment, so from 9-5 five days a week, it’s a newspaper office, outside of those hours I have the run of the place. It’s very cozy and central too, I’m about a ten minute walk to the beach and 2 minutes to amenities.
The windows look out onto ‘main st’ Nosara…
Also, there’s a cat! I’m allergic to cats (which is tragic because they’re my favourite animal) this one is mostly outdoors and the apartment is wood so hopefully I won’t need to dig into the allergy meds too much…
I’m very excited to start tomorrow, however, I need to stay out of the sun from 11am-2pm otherwise… I may cook. That said I’ll leave you with this photo taken on the beach just before sunset… Be jealous, it’s ok.
That’s all for today.
P.S. Today Wikipedia and other major sites (including WordPress) blocked access to some or all of their content to protest two bills before the United States Congress, the acronyms are SOPA and PIPA respectively. I won’t go into detail here but if you’re curious you should Google them… if those bills pass they WILL change the way everyone uses the internet, for the worse.
P.P.S. Capital Hoops was tonight, the classic showdown between Carleton and Ottawa U’s basketball teams at Scotiabank place, its the first time in three years I haven’t gone and the last two I was there court side for the charlatan, I was feeling a little nostalgic as I cruised their live blog.
Well I can’t quite believe the day is almost here but in three days I’m heading to Costa Rica for 6 months, as an intern at the Voice of Nosara, a newspaper on the west coast of Costa Rica.
It comes at an important turning point in my life, I just recently finished the requirements for my bachelor of arts degree at Carleton University. I must confess I’m truly excited to be done university, more excited to be heading to Costa Rica (more so because there’s a heavy snowfall right now), yet the most excited about waking up every day and going out to shoot pictures. Some days will be more mundane than others, some might be downright boring but to be out there partaking in the process of ‘photojournalism’ for the next six months, has me very excited.
There are of course the people in Canada whom I will miss. I am surprised at the number of good connections from four years in Ottawa and I am very thankful for the memories. The last few weeks I’ve been between Guelph and Ottawa to visit family and friends. While it has been somewhat bittersweet, I think that’s something to be grateful for.
Packing has been the process of packing my entire life into two bags, with the carryon holding most of the items crucial to my job. Below is the ubiquitous ‘what’s in my bag blog photo,’ enjoy.
Starting in the top left corner going done in imagined columns the list of stuff is:
1. My travel scarf… bought it for a dollar fifty in Cambodia in 2008, used it as a turban/bandana for two years as a Roosters cook, soaked it in vinegar and used it over my face 2. against tear gas while photographing the G20… I was told at purchase time I’d find a million uses for it
3. Beside it my Canon L 135mm f/2, a beautiful lens in low light and super sharp too! Made as a portrait lens but highly useful in sports as well.
4. My PSP, for entertainment on the go nothing beats it… Especially when its been moded to play NES, SNES and Gameboy games…
5. In the black draw bag; my headphones, a much needed item
6. My Canon 5D MK II, my main camera body, it’s a full frame, lightweight, video-capable wonder
7. Below that, my ‘work camera,’ for days where lots of frames will be shot nothing beats the reliability of Canon’s EOS 1D line. Though the MK II (pictured) is somewhat dated, (it’s a nine year old camera ) it was recently repaired by Canon after being damaged during the Bluesfest wind and rains.
Below the cameras is my developing tank and an extra reel. I have a medium format camera on the way and I’d like to be able to process the film while I’m in Costa Rica.*
8. Canon L 24mm f/1.4 II recently returned from Canon repairs after its focus shifted, it is a beautiful wide angle lens, useable in almost any light.
9. Below that is a remote shutter release… I’ve had it forever and you never know when it’ll be useful.
10. Extra PSP UMD games… for fun
11. Moleskine notebooks, one reporter type and one small notebook for travel notes
12. Battery chargers for my 1D batteries**
13. My Canon 85mm f/1.8, another portrait built lens that works for on the fly as an excellent low light action lens
14. Canon Speedlite 580EX II, an amazing hot shoe flash, simply the best one Canon makes. I’d like to start making better use of it
15. Digital voice recorder, what type of journalist doesn’t need this?
16. Pens, a highlighter and sharpies, important for writing stuff
17. A set of pocket wizards, useful radio transmitters for off camera flash photography
18. Three extra batteries for my EOS 1D
19. A Leatherman multi tool, because that stuff is ALWAYS useful*
20. My Flip video camera, I purchased it for the G20, so I could have video, this is a durable, simple and useful high def video camera in a pinch
21. My Canon 2x Extender II, this turns my 135mm f/2 into a 270mm f/4, or when used on my 1D the cropped image sensor makes it a 320mm f/4.
22. A mini-mag light for finding stuff in the dark
23. Extra back cap for a lens and body cap for a camera
24. USB 2.0 multi-card reader with 8gb card. While the card reader is a little slow and dated… I don’t have cash for the nicer UDMA firewire ones right now
25. A roll of mini-sized gaffer tape, you never know when you’ll need it
26. An 8gb USB key
27. 2x Lexar 400x 16gb compact flash memory cards, fast enough to let me shoot to my cameras buffer and keep pace plus the two cards give me all the memory needed
28. A 512mb compact flash card… incase the limited extra space is ever needed…. I had it lying around
29. Adapters (USB and SD) for the micro SD card in my Blackberry (not pictured)
30. An Olympus point and shoot 35mm camera, I found it in a trash can in Osoyoos BC in 2007, since then it has gone everywhere with me. 35mm colour film is still widely available so I’ll buy some in Costa Rica
31. A regular 4x AA battery charger
32. Charger for the battery in the Canon 5D MK II
33. A Duracell battery charger which charges four AA batteries in about 15 minutes, very useful.*
34. Archive sheets for 120 negatives
35. Kodak powder developer and fixer, I’ll buy vinegar for stop bath there. I can’t bring liquid because of TSA regulations. This and the film below are evidence of how much I’m going to miss Kodak once their stock tanks and they file for bankruptcy…*
36. 120 medium format film! 4x Kodak Tmax 100, 2x Ilford Pan F Plus 50, 2x Fujichrome Velvia 100 (for some beautiful slides… I’ll have to bring this back for processing) and finally 4x Kodak Tri-X 400, expired in 1990, my friend got a bunch on Ebay for very little so he gave me a few rolls as a birthday gift, I think I’ll use them for fun and try pushing and puling (200, 400, 800, 1600)
37. Charger cable for my PSP
38. Think Tank Retrospective 30 shoulder bag, for carrying everything, without looking like it…*
*Will be checked for airline and bus travel and not put in my shoulder bag
**one is checked one is in carry on
***Items not pictured, Blackberry Curve 9300 (unlocked and able to be used with a Costa Rican sim card), Super Baldex a 50’s era folding medium format camera which was made by the German camera company ‘Balda Cameras,’ its highly portable and shoots film, which if processed and scanned properly, can yield resolutions like 60-70 megapixels, an 8gb SD card for backing up files on my 1D mk II, and finally my Macbook Pro 13” and charger for editing, 1TB hard drive for storage.
There is some exciting news this week as yesterday I found out that I will be going to Costa Rica in January of 2012 on an expenses covered, paid internship with a community newspaper called Voice of Nosara. Although I still need to hammer out the finer points it looks like I’ll be producing content, mostly photos although stories and multi-media as well, for the papers hardcopy and website. In addition they have an apartment they’ll give me and pay for and an ATV to drive to local assignments and a monthly salary of $500.
I urge people to go to http://www.voiceofnosara.com/ and check out the work done by Pinar Istek. She’s their current intern.
The opportunity came during game six of the NHL playoffs. I was at the Georgetown Pub in Old Ottawa South with my girlfriend and some journalism friends. My friend and former coworker/boss at the charlatan, showed me an email he’d received from the journalism department. It was a forwarded internship opportunity looking for an advanced photojournalism student who spoke Spanish. I figured, “what the hell,” and applied. The deadline was July 1st and on July 2nd I had an interview over Skype with the managing editor at Voice of Nosara.
In the meantime I have the time to brush up on Spanish, finish my degree at Carleton and pick up a few pieces of equipment I’m missing.
For those curious my portfolio is available here: http://adamdietrich.carbonmade.com/
…Now onto BLUESFEST. The annual music festival hosted at the Lebretton Flats here in Ottawa. Yesterday was the second day. I saw the Roots and Skrillex, although I missed the media call for the Roots, so I only have pictures of Skrillex. Enjoy.
So I was merrily making pictures, then crap started happening during the second song then after security called a stop to the music because their barricade had broken from the crowd.
There will be more Bluesfest…. Rise Against, Lupe Fiasco, Black Keys, Dropkick Murpheys and Cheap Trick are what I can think of off the top of my head.