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  1. #1

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    Travel to Costa Rica

    I'd appreciate some expert advice. I am traveling to Costa Rica for two weeks this summer, as part of a study abroad class with other students and at least one faculty member. We'll be spending time in the rain forest, one coast or the other (no idea which yet), making a visit to the Arenal volcano, and also spending some time in San Jose and a resort area.

    I don't need to bring a tripod because the professor will have two. I can only take one large bag, and also a shoulder bag/briefcase. In my case the bag is a North Face Big Shot backpack, a rather large day pack which I've traveled out of for as much as a week with little difficulty; my satchel is a Domke 802 and I can get some gear into that as well.

    Here is the 35mm gear I have to choose from (I've already ruled out taking the Mamiya RB67):

    Nikon F100 with MB-15 (I may leave the vertical grip behind)
    Sigma 12-24/4.5-5.6
    Nikkor 24/2.8
    Nikkor 50/1.4
    Nikon Series E 70-210/4.0
    Sigma 150-500/5.0-6.3
    a small monopod
    As much film and spare batteries as I can pack...

    As a result of a project I'll be involved with, I am also bringing a Nikon D300 and 18-70/3.5-4.5 (no choice on this, it's a part of the course).

    Anybody have experience with travel to Costa Rica, suggestion on what I will definitely want to bring, what I probably won't use, et cetera? I've never traveled outside the US before, and certainly have no experience in a tropical climate, so clothing suggestions are also helpful. Thanks!

  2. #2
    markbarendt's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by rthomas View Post
    Sigma 150-500/5.0-6.3
    There will be birds and other things you cant get close to, this lens will help but it's fairly dark under the canopy, 100 speed film may make life tough.

    Also an umbrella.
    Mark Barendt, Beaverton, OR

    "We do not see things the way they are. We see things the way we are." Anaïs Nin

  3. #3

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    Quote Originally Posted by markbarendt View Post
    There will be birds and other things you cant get close to, this lens will help but it's fairly dark under the canopy, 100 speed film may make life tough.
    A friend of mine, who has traveled there, also suggested this lens; it's got OS, and I've handheld it at a 1/15th... I should be ok with say 200-speed Sensia or maybe 400-speed Provia... I think this lens is a must have on a trip like this.

    My professor is bring a Nikon kit so I will leave behind any lenses he has.

  4. #4
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    I was in Costa Rica for a week in October and took my Pentax PZ1p with a Sigma 28-105 and a Sigma fisheye (I think it's a 15mm, but don't quote me). I think I shot mostly 200 print film and had no problem with amount of light. It rained every afternoon, so it might be worth keeping an eye on the sky. There's a waterfall park (paid admission, kinda steep) not too far from Poas Volcano (I can look up the name if you're interested). They had birds and butterflies in a captive environment where it was easy to photograph them. Outside there, we hardly saw wildlife. The birds and cats they have are all rescued, so it's not quite like a zoo, more like a rehab. There was also a walk through the jungle along a river with about 5 waterfalls. I used my walking stick as a monopod and had decent luck. I wouldn't have wanted to carry the tripod the way the trail was.
    I think I shot 9 rolls while we were there and about 4 in that park. Poas Volcano was also cool, but go very early - it gets covered with clouds by about 9:30am (at least when we were there).
    If you pm me, I can e-mail you a link to some snapshots (mostly with a P&S).

  5. #5
    36cm2's Avatar
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    I honeymooned in Costa Rica last year (Guanacaste beach region, Monteverde, Arenal, Paos and San Jose). Your initial gear choices seem pretty good. If you're trying to slim down that pack, I'd take the three nikons and maybe the long Sigma.

    What you use will depend on what you're shooting - Costa Rica is very varied in terrain. You'll likely shoot (i) beach and volcano landscapes, (ii) rain forest wildlife, (iii) cloud forest wildlife and landscapes (Monteverde) and (iv) local villages.

    Volcano and cloudforest landscapes: Definitely use a tripod here. If you shoot color, this is a Velvia dream. If you shoot B&W, you may want to use a yellow-green filter for contrast. In the cloud forest you'll be way up and can get some amazing wide-angle mountain vistas with mist. At Arenal, if it's very active, you'll probably see some great twilight lava shots for your longest lens.

    Rainforest wildlife: Handheld and monopod in the rain forest. You won't have the time or patience for the tripod, especially with the group and a nature guide (which you'll probably have). Mark is right on when he says that you'll want to shoot longer lenses in not-so-great light here. Crazy birds everywhere, but they appear and disappear fleetingly. I would shoot 400 or faster here. Winger, I think the waterfalls you're talking about are at Peace Lodge. I didn't like the nature park you mentioned (I hate enclosed animals), but the waterfalls on the trail below were great. Tons of tourists on that trail though and shooting with a tripod (for longer exposures) wasn't very comfortable.

    On the road: Costa Rica is really rich with smiling locals and colorful villages. Don't underestimate the opportunity to get some great shots while traveling through the country. Also, keep your eyes on the trees on the roadside and listen carefully for a whooping sound. Seeing Howler Monkeys in the trees that line the roads is not uncommon and they are incredibly cool. They make this loud call to establish their territory. Enjoy some great shots of them with your long lenses. Just watch out. If you get to close, one of their defense tactics is to hurl poop at you. Try cleaning that off your expensive glass!

    The best piece of advice I can give you is to figure out the weather cycles as soon as you get there. Costa Rica has very predictable weather rhythms that vary depending on when you go. If it's rainy season, it will rain at least 3 hours a day (sometimes much more), starting and ending about the same time every day. When I went it was always beautiful and sunny in the morning, with mists burning off by 9. Then at 11 the clouds would roll in and it would rain lightly until about 4. Then clear from 5 until the next day. Absolutely buy a good poncho to cover yourself with and some kind of water protection for your gear. Also, have decent hiking footwear. It gets muddy. You and it will be soaked without a doubt otherwise. This may be different when it's not rainy season, but they don't call it the rainforest for nothing.

    Hope this helps. Have a great time!!!!

  6. #6
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    I'm no expert, but I just came back from a trip to hawaii.
    In addition to my 35mm SLR gear, I brought along a Olympus Stylus.
    That gave me some options I did not have otherwise. I could load it with another type of film. I took it with me kayaking and was not worried if it got a little wet. It was very lightweight.

    I would also reccomend a fast short telephoto, like the nikon 105mm f2.5. You may want this instead of the 70-210mm. Alternatively a 90-100mm macro lens like the tamron or vivitar. Lots of opportunities for small things like bugs and flowers.

  7. #7

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    Thanks for the advice, everyone! I have so much planning to do. I'll read over all this and post any questions...

  8. #8
    Poohblah's Avatar
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    I visted Costa Rica several years ago. Wonderful, wonderful place and wonderful people as well. If you are traveling up into the cloud forests (Monteverde), then you'll probably want faster film since you'll find yourself under cloud cover nearly 24/7. I would definitely bring the long Sigma though, it is worth it for birds and other little critters. Along with those, I would bring the two Nikon primes. Personal preference, mostly. There is some overlap with the 70-210 and the long Sigma that seems to make bringing the Nikon zoom not really worth it.

  9. #9
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    36m2 and Poohblah beat me to mentioning the cloud forest. Definitely worth the trip if you can swing it. True cloud forests are actually quite rare in the world.
    If I had been present at the creation, I would have given some useful hints for the better arrangement of the Universe.
    Alfonso the Wise, 1221-1284



 

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