Destinations: Golfo Dulce, Costa Rica

The sun sets on the Osa Peninsula. Sunsets here were incredible almost every night. We marveled, drinks in hand, as they approached.

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We spent the majority of our time in Costa Rica at the Saladero Ecolodge, a beautiful and relaxing spot in the Golfo Dulce. Like many of our trips, photography was not a primary focus and in researching the photographic opportunities of the spots we were to visit, I knew early on that I would not have an easy time of it. The Golfo Dulce is an incredibly lush and bio diverse area and presents excellent opportunities for those wishing to photograph birds and other wildlife. Unfortunately, the area’s photographic strength is my visual weakness. The birds and other animals in the rain forest blended into the foliage so well that I simply could not find them to photograph them. Of course, most photographers have much better sight than mine so my issue should not be a deterrent for them in any way.

A heron found this colourful perch to fish from

With that said, where I normally develop a bit of photography plan when traveling, I photographed quite casually on this trip.

Bats were a regular fixture on the outer walls of our cabin.

The weather changed constantly through the day.

Harvey, one of our hosts at Saladero, took the group on an amazing paddle through a mangrove forest. Here we’re traveling along the coast to a section of mangrove forest.

Our group in kayaks in the mangrove forest

There are a lot of things that can kill you in the rain forest. I’m not sure if this spider is one of them but it was an absolute monster

Harvey and Susan showed us how to make chocolate from cocao pods that grow right on the Saladero property. It is quite a process and a rather boozy one as well.

This is the main kitchen and social area at Saladero.

Really, my only decent brush with wildlife was from the deck of our cabin in the trees. Howler monkeys regularly traveled the branches in front of the deck. I was able to hear them coming a long way off and simply hung out of the deck at the ready. Although it was very dark in the forest, and the monkeys held still for just a second or two at a time, I managed to get a few decent images. The howlers were amazing to watch and to hear.

This howler was perhaps 50 feet away and was still a challenge for me to spot in the tree.

Coconuts are plentiful at Saladero. This area served as a repository for the fallen fruit

Although the Golfo Dulce didn’t work out all that well for me photographically, we thoroughly enjoyed our time there. Photographers with a good eye, in the literal sense, and fast glass will make out just fine.

Eclipse 2017

My wife and I took in the eclipse in Willamina, Oregon. I had intended on shooting from Victoria but we decided to take the trip at the last minute after hearing and reading the experiences of others who’d been under a total eclipse. Early on the morning of the eclipse, due to predicted overcast, we decided to get out of the coastal village of Otter Rock, OR where we were staying. We drove inland to Willamina, where the forecast was for clear skies.

At 7:20 we found a field with a few cars parked along the road. We pulled in to check the prospects and it looked to be a terrific location. At 8:00am, I set up my gear and Trina and I took our spots among a growing crowd, all patiently waiting for the show to begin.

Canon 5D IV, 100-400 f4.5-5.6 L II, 2x teleconverter, DIY solar filer using Baader AstroSolar OD 5.0

Right on cue, the moon started to nibble into the sun. I started shooting every couple of minutes, bracketing exposures. It was fascinating to see the slow envelopment through 800mm optics. About half way through, we realized the temperature had dropped several degrees and the light level had fallen. I’ve never seen light like it. The shadows were still crisp, as on any sunny day but the light level was lower than on a cloudy day. It was most similar to the light of a full moon but brighter. As totality drew close, I prepared to quickly switch settings and pull of the filter. I had set partial eclipse settings to the custom 1 spot on my camera’s mode dial and totality settings to custom 2. At the last sliver, I pulled the filter off and set the dial to C2. I started shooting seven frame brackets just in time for the diamond ring effect and kept firing away all the through totality and the reappearance of the diamond. I then put the filter back on, changed back to C1 and shot the reappearing partial phases.

Seeing totality was absolutely awe inspiring for both Trina and me. I found myself a bit shaky as the sun disappeared and the temperature and light levels dropped to their lowest levels. I was glad to be shooting with a cable release because my unsteady hands at the time would certainly have ruined my shots. It was a much more emotional experience than I was prepared for, in a good way. I imagine it’s a bit like looking back at earth from space - you know what it looks like but you’re seeing it for the first time with your own eyes.

Totality is such an amazing sight but more than that, it’s incredible to experience it with people. I was focused on shooting but I could hear peoples’ reactions around me and could tell they were equally awestruck. It’s easy to see why people become eclipse chasers after experiencing one.

A huge thank you to Stanley, whose land approximately 30 of us invaded uninvited. As we waited to set up, I wondered who owned the land we were about to enter and whether we’d be welcomed or banished. Stanley showed up on his ATV just as the moon started to make its appearance and I think everyone held their breath. I walked over to introduce myself and gauge his reaction. He was simply glad that everyone was able to enjoy the event and asked that people be careful about fire hazards in the dry conditions. Everyone cheered. Print’s in the mail, Stanley!

MEC Scully 50 Liter Dry Bag Review

Long house and mortuary poles at Skungwaii

My wife and I signed on to a four day Zodiac tour of remote parts of Haida Gwaii. Recalling a whale watching tour some years back and how thoroughly soaked my camera gear and I were as soon as the boat hit big water, my choices were to find a dry bag or leave my camera gear at home.

My gear fits into an airport regulation sized backpack. It’s easy to find top loading dry bags that will fit my pack but they’re a pain to use. They’re huge and you need to stand up to take the camera bag out of the dry bag and to wrestle it back in. The process becomes more difficult still when the outside of the dry bag is wet. If I chose a top loading bag, I knew that my camera was much less likely to see the light of day because of the hassle. I wanted something that I might be able to work out of on the boat if needed.

I checked out the Mountain Equipment Co-op website to see what was available there and I was quite certain that I’d found the holy grail of dry bags for my purpose. I gathered up my pack and headed downtown to the MEC to check it out.

The Scully 50 Duffle is a 50 liter dry bag that checked all of my boxes. It retails for $129.00 Canadian. Being a duffle, my camera bag sits nested inside on its back and ready to open. With my camera bag inside, there was a bit of room around it for miscelaneous items. Unlike many water resistant bags, the Scully is fully waterproof with a rolling inner liner although it is not considered submersible. I suspect gear inside would survive a short dump in the drink however. The bag has a bunch of attachment points and back pack straps that hide away when they’re not needed.

In use, the Scully did its main job perfectly. We went through 9 foot swells and were blasted with gallons of water. The underside of the main flap didn’t get wet through the zipper, let alone my gear beneath the rolled liner. I found getting my camera bag in and out of the Scully easy to manage, although my plan to rest the duffle on my lap in the boat didn’t work out due to the seating arrangements. The bag is seemingly made of very tough materials and stood up to the trip without incident. I opted, after putting my camera bag inside the Scully, to push the air out of the purge valve so that the bag was easier to handle on the boat. I found a couple of times that I’d forgotten to re-seal the valve, which of course defeats the purpose of a dry bag. It took a few times but I did make a habit of closing the valve.

The Scully also comes in 30 and 100 liter versions.

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