INTERVIEW WITH NATURE PHOTOGRAPHER GREGORY BASCO

INTERVIEW WITH NATURE PHOTOGRAPHER GREGORY BASCO

5999
0
SHARE
Red-webbed tree frog (Hypsiboas rufitelus) in lowland rainforest, Costa Rica

Hi Greg! Tell us about yourself

Hi! Thanks so much for having me. It’s a pleasure to appear on your blog.

As for me, I’m actually a political scientist by training. I’ve always been interested in nature and have studied environmental politics and biology. Right after college in the US, I spent 2 years in Costa Rica in the Peace Corps and fell in love with the country and one person in particular, my wife who is a Costa Rican native! We returned to the US for a few years where I did my graduate work in political science and tropical ecology. We then returned to Costa Rica so I could do my field research for my doctoral dissertation on ecotourism, and then I worked for a couple of years in conservation in Costa Rica.

basco-dgp-photo-29-of-30

But during that time, I was really getting into nature photography. I sold a few pictures and bought more gear. I sold a few more pictures and bought more gear again. And in 2006, I decided to move to nature photography full-time, selling my own images for books and magazines and co-founding Foto Verde Tours, Costa Rica’s first and only travel company specializing in nature photography tours. I’m busy now with the tours I lead, expanding the company throughout Latin America, producing my own coffee table and e-books, and starting to build a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting conservation through photography in the region.

So, it’s been kind of a non-traditional journey to nature photography but one that I think is finally coming full-circle in a way as I’m now in a position to try to help give back to the forests that have allowed me to make a living for my family and me.

Describe your style of photography.

I’ve always tried to shoot things a little differently simply because that’s what I enjoy and kind of how I see or feel the rain forests and cloud forests where I live and work. And that approach carries over to the desert and mountain ecosystems where I’m also starting to work in Latin America. At various times, I’ve actually thought that I could probably sell more images by taking more traditional types of photos, say really clean bird portraits with ultra-smooth backgrounds. I’ve always decided though that I preferred to shoot what I like and how I like to shoot and hope that the resulting pictures gain acceptance and make some money 🙂 I think any photographer looking to forge a personal style should steer clear of shooting for the market or trying to copy other photographers. I think that approach has helped me to be able to create a personal style that comes through in all facets of my nature photography.

The Holy Grail of bird photographers and birders who visit the American tropics, the elusive Resplendent Quetzal is absolutely gorgeous. I was lucky to capture this image on a beautiful morning in a cloud forest in Costa Rica's Talamanca Mountains.
The Holy Grail of bird photographers and birders who visit the American tropics, the elusive Resplendent Quetzal is absolutely gorgeous. I was lucky to capture this image on a beautiful morning in a cloud forest in Costa Rica’s Talamanca Mountains.

Who or what inspires your work?

When I was starting out, John Shaw and his excellent books on the technical aspects of nature photography were a huge help. Frans Lanting, with his use of flash in the rain forest, was a nature photography pioneer and an inspiration to me in terms of using technical knowledge as a means to solve problems in order to create artistic images. For inspiration these days, I’m trying to study paintings from the Old Masters to newer art. Photography, after all, is an artistic endeavor, so studying light and composition is very interesting to me.

You have many prestigious awards and recognition to your name. Please tell us what it takes to make that award winning picture?

The key to making an award-winning image can be patience and persistence but it can also just as easily be making sure that your technical knowledge is solid so that when something happens, you can focus on light, composition, and action. For the past few years I have submitted to the two most important contests for nature photographers, the BBC/Veolia Wildlife Photographer of the Year and the Nature’s Best Windland Rice Smith. And I have been fortunate to have been honored in both.

For the first contest, I always like the photo called Chachalacascape that was honored in 2011. It’s a photo that most bird photographers wouldn’t have taken. It’s a fairly boring species, it’s small in the frame, and the light is all wrong. Those were precisely the things that caught my eye 🙂

A couple of years ago I won the Art in Nature category in the second contest with a macro photo that was kind of the same as the photo above. It’s a photo of a glass frog but the frog is actually secondary. The main interest is the design of the leaf. Glass frogs were nocturnal so this one was taken out in the cloud forest where I was lucky to find some of these frogs on a rainy night.

Emerald glass frog (Centrolenella prosoblepon) on skeletonized Piper sp. (black pepper family) leaf, a common plant in the Costa Rican tropical forest understory. I took this image of this amazing nocturnal frog at night in a cloud forests on the outskirts of the Juan Castro Blanco National Park in Costa Rica's Central Volcanic Mountain Range. The image, which goes beyond the standard frog shot, caught the eye of the judges and won the "Art in Nature" category of one of the two most important nature photography competitions in the world, the Nature's Best Windland Smith Rice contest.
Emerald glass frog (Centrolenella prosoblepon) on skeletonized Piper sp. (black pepper family) leaf, a common plant in the Costa Rican tropical forest understory. I took this image of this amazing nocturnal frog at night in a cloud forests on the outskirts of the Juan Castro Blanco National Park in Costa Rica’s Central Volcanic Mountain Range. The image, which goes beyond the standard frog shot, caught the eye of the judges and won the “Art in Nature” category of one of the two most important nature photography competitions in the world, the Nature’s Best Windland Smith Rice contest.

As far as contests go, I feel increasingly that they are kind of a double-edged sword. As a photographer, being lucky to get an award (and it is a combination of hard work and plenty of luck) in the big contests is great for PR and to have on your resume. It’s kind of like winning an Oscar or a Grammy or being an NBA All-Star. You’ll always be able to have that tag with your name, and it’s a nice validation of your work.

At the same time, I see a disturbing trend with regard to contests these days. The drive to win awards in contests can lead to unethical behavior in the field or at the computer, as a number of recent controversies have shown. I also see lots of photographers these days photographing explicitly to win contests. I think love of nature and personal style should always be the driving force for our photos. Some of my best photographer friends are quite well-known but haven’t won awards in contests. That doesn’t in any way diminish their work.

So my advice is to shoot what you love and how you like to shoot it, enjoy nature, and enter contests knowing that if you win an award it will be a nice accomplishment but, if you don’t win, it’s not because you’re not a good photographer. Judging is subjective, and you’ll see lots of great pictures winning awards in contests along with lots of so-so images, even in the big two contests mentioned above. You never really know what they’re going to want so just submit what you think are your best images and hope for the best.

Cobalt-winged parakeets congregate en masse at a clay lick in the Ecuadorian Amazon. Scientists think that the clay may help the birds to flush toxic chemicals (ingested from the fruits and seeds that compose their diet) from their system and also provide much needed salt to the birds. But another hypothesis holds that clay licks may also be important as social gathering spots, simply the it place to be! Clay licks occur only in the Western Amazon where the influence of ocean air is null, meaning that salt becomes a scarce commodity.
Cobalt-winged parakeets congregate en masse at a clay lick in the Ecuadorian Amazon. Scientists think that the clay may help the birds to flush toxic chemicals (ingested from the fruits and seeds that compose their diet) from their system and also provide much needed salt to the birds. But another hypothesis holds that clay licks may also be important as social gathering spots, simply the it place to be! Clay licks occur only in the Western Amazon where the influence of ocean air is null, meaning that salt becomes a scarce commodity.

What gears do you use?

I started with Canon and shoot it to this day. I currently work with the Canon 5DsR (absolutely amazing!) and Canon 7DII bodies, which are a nice complement to each other. My main lenses are the Canon 300 mm f/2.8, the Sigma 150-600 mm Contemporary zoom, the Sigma 150 mm macro lens, the Canon 16-35 f/4 L IS zoom, a Rokinon 24 mm f/1.4, and a Sigma 15 mm fisheye. I use polarizing filters and graduated filters too for landscapes and wide angle wildlife. So, I’m pretty eclectic in terms of my gear choices but I like to shoot a wide range of subjects. Oh, and I never go anywhere without at least two flashes along with radio flash transmitters and light modifiers. I use flash a lot in my photography.

Costa Rica's Rio Celeste is an amazing place on its own -- the heavenly blue water results from a mixture of copper and sulfur and silica colloids that reflect only the blue spectrum of light. While photographing a landscapce, I suddenly saw a Baird's tapir crash through the underbrush and begin to swin downstream. I sprinted to a spot I had noticed earlier and hoped against hope that the tapir would cross there. When it did, I had time to meter quickly and fire off 4 shots with my manual focus lens before it disappeared again into the dense rainforest. Though a very rarely seen phenomenon, some think that the tapirs bathe in the chemical-laden blue waters as a way to rid themselves of ticks, fungus, and other skin infections. Though brief, seeing this elusive animal in this amazing place was a highlight of my nature photography career.
Costa Rica’s Rio Celeste is an amazing place on its own — the heavenly blue water results from a mixture of copper and sulfur and silica colloids that reflect only the blue spectrum of light. While photographing a landscapce, I suddenly saw a Baird’s tapir crash through the underbrush and begin to swin downstream. I sprinted to a spot I had noticed earlier and hoped against hope that the tapir would cross there. When it did, I had time to meter quickly and fire off 4 shots with my manual focus lens before it disappeared again into the dense rainforest. Though a very rarely seen phenomenon, some think that the tapirs bathe in the chemical-laden blue waters as a way to rid themselves of ticks, fungus, and other skin infections. Though brief, seeing this elusive animal in this amazing place was a highlight of my nature photography career.

How do you prepare your setup for macro shots?

For macro shots in the rain forest, flash is often a tool I’m going to use. Even when working with natural light, I’ll often need to use at least some flash to solve challenging lighting situations and/or to deal with slow shutter speeds. My mantra for macro is to always get the flash off-camera and to diffuse it. Direct, on-axis natural light is rarely very interesting and that goes double for flash.

So, depending on the situation and subject, I’ll use a dedicated macro flash such as the Canon MT-24 EX, which is great for small insects. For larger macro subjects such as frogs I use 1 to 2 flashes with small softboxes triggered by radio controllers. I’ll usually hold one flash and have a friend hold the other. If I’m by myself, I’ll put the second flash on a small tripod or a gorilla pod to get the light where I need it if my subject is cooperative enough. If I have a mobile subject, I’ll work handheld with the camera in my right hand and 1 diffused flash in my left hand.

Continuous lights such as flashlights/torches or LED panels also can give an interesting effect as they are quite easy to control for spotlight effects. But, they are most effective for work on inanimate subjects like mushrooms since they force you to use slow shutter speeds. I find that flash, used well, gives a great look and actually allows me to disturb my subjects less.

Why? With flash I can work quickly, get my shot, and let my subject get back to its routine. With continuous lights, you’re working from a tripod more often than not so you have to spend a lot more time with the subject, making sure it’s in the exact right spot and is angled the right way. That takes longer and is actually more disruptive. In addition, many torches and LEDs these days put out a lot of light. Having that bright light and heat on a subject for a long time actually could have more of an effect than working quickly and using a few very fast bursts of flash!

The red-eyed tree frog (Agalychnis callidryas) is the most famous frog in Costa Rica and probably in the world. I wanted a photo unlike the thousands of others out there, and I wanted to try to distill this nocturnal frog to its essence. Using flash to simulate a moonlit effect, I concentrated on bringing out those famous eyes and dispensing with nearly everything else.
The red-eyed tree frog (Agalychnis callidryas) is the most famous frog in Costa Rica and probably in the world. I wanted a photo unlike the thousands of others out there, and I wanted to try to distill this nocturnal frog to its essence. Using flash to simulate a moonlit effect, I concentrated on bringing out those famous eyes and dispensing with nearly everything else.

What different genre do you like to photograph?

I’m a nature photographer, and I enjoy shooting everything within that genre from macro to wildlife to birds to landscapes. So, I’m happy whether I’m working a mountain lake in Chile at sunrise, a camera trap setup for an elusive cat in Costa Rica, a cool tree frog in Peru, or a hummingbird in Ecuador.

Declared a national park in 1972, Manuel Antonio on the central Pacific coast is one of Costa Rica's first and perhaps its most famous national park. Its most striking feature is the tombolo - a land bridge created by the historical build up of sand - that connects the mainland to Cathedral Point, which used to be an island. For my coffee table book on Costa Rica's natural wonders, I wanted an iconic shot of this park that hopefully captured the essence of this protected jewel in one shot. I decided that an aerial photo was the way to go, and I envisioned a photo that would tell a little story but have an interesting graphic/geometric composition as well. So, I went up in an ultralight plane an hour before sunset to ensure soft light and had my pilot make a few passes over the park, tilting the plane sideways so I could shoot straight down, until I got the shot I wanted. Shooting on a Monday, the one day a week the park is closed, meant I had no people in my frame, just glorious unspoiled nature!
Declared a national park in 1972, Manuel Antonio on the central Pacific coast is one of Costa Rica’s first and perhaps its most famous national park. Its most striking feature is the tombolo – a land bridge created by the historical build up of sand – that connects the mainland to Cathedral Point, which used to be an island.
For my coffee table book on Costa Rica’s natural wonders, I wanted an iconic shot of this park that hopefully captured the essence of this protected jewel in one shot. I decided that an aerial photo was the way to go, and I envisioned a photo that would tell a little story but have an interesting graphic/geometric composition as well. So, I went up in an ultralight plane an hour before sunset to ensure soft light and had my pilot make a few passes over the park, tilting the plane sideways so I could shoot straight down, until I got the shot I wanted. Shooting on a Monday, the one day a week the park is closed, meant I had no people in my frame, just glorious unspoiled nature!

How important does Post Processing play a role in Photography? Please describe your way of post processing and the tools you use for the same.

I don’t think processing is that important in my own nature photography. Of course, good processing technique helps to bring out the best in any photo, but I really try to get the absolute best single image I can in the field in terms of composition and exposure. So, I’d rather spend an extra hour out in the field working with filters and/or flash rather than spending an hour back at the computer. I try to have my final results not stray too far from my RAW file, the goal being that a casual viewer wouldn’t be surprised if I showed them my RAW file and processed image side by side. I use Lightroom for about 95% of my workflow. I will be releasing a new e-book, Lightroom for the Nature Photographer, very soon. You’ll be able to buy it from my website www.deepgreenphotography.com.

A Green-crowned Brilliant visits a Heliconia flower on a misty day in a Costa Rican cloud forest.
A Green-crowned Brilliant visits a Heliconia flower on a misty day in a Costa Rican cloud forest.

Please share a few tips for eye-catching nature shots with our readers.

Sure! First, try to really understand how your camera works and gain an understanding of the basics of exposure. Making the technical aspects of photography second nature will allow you to concentrate on light, composition, and behavior.

Second, study painting to gain a foundation in composition and the interplay between light and shadow. I don’t mean for this to sound pretentious but I really think that studying the great artists will help any photographer to develop a better eye. There are tons of resources online related to the great painting masters. Those are the western artists of course, but I also enjoy looking at the more ethereal style that’s typical of eastern watercolors. Studying these paintings is something that I enjoy doing during my free time.

Third, I urge people to learn how to use flash. Flash, used responsibly and well, can open your eyes to a whole new world of possibilities while creating natural-looking illumination with no harm to our subjects.

And fourth, try this little exercise. Take a subject common to where you live that’s been photographed a lot and try to come up with a photograph of that subject that’s totally different than what you’ve seen before. I did just that a few years ago for a photo of the famous red-eyed tree frog, which has been photographed a million times. I wanted to photograph it in a fresh and interesting way and in a manner that was appropriate for a nocturnal frog in its rain forest habitat.  It ended up being the cover of my recently released coffee table book on Costa Rica’s natural wonders.

Red-legged honeycreepers and squabble over feeding territory. A slow shutter speed and multiple-off camera flashes allowed me to capture a mix of blur and sharpness in the northern Costa Rica lowlands.
Red-legged honeycreepers and squabble over feeding territory. A slow shutter speed and multiple-off camera flashes allowed me to capture a mix of blur and sharpness in the northern Costa Rica lowlands.
Declared a national park in 1972, Manuel Antonio on the central Pacific coast is one of Costa Rica's first and perhaps its most famous national park. Its most striking feature is the tombolo - a land bridge created by the historical build up of sand - that connects the mainland to Cathedral Point, which used to be an island. For my coffee table book on Costa Rica's natural wonders, I wanted an iconic shot of this park that hopefully captured the essence of this protected jewel in one shot. I decided that an aerial photo was the way to go, and I envisioned a photo that would tell a little story but have an interesting graphic/geometric composition as well. So, I went up in an ultralight plane an hour before sunset to ensure soft light and had my pilot make a few passes over the park, tilting the plane sideways so I could shoot straight down, until I got the shot I wanted. Shooting on a Monday, the one day a week the park is closed, meant I had no people in my frame, just glorious unspoiled nature!
Declared a national park in 1972, Manuel Antonio on the central Pacific coast is one of Costa Rica’s first and perhaps its most famous national park. Its most striking feature is the tombolo – a land bridge created by the historical build up of sand – that connects the mainland to Cathedral Point, which used to be an island.
For my coffee table book on Costa Rica’s natural wonders, I wanted an iconic shot of this park that hopefully captured the essence of this protected jewel in one shot. I decided that an aerial photo was the way to go, and I envisioned a photo that would tell a little story but have an interesting graphic/geometric composition as well. So, I went up in an ultralight plane an hour before sunset to ensure soft light and had my pilot make a few passes over the park, tilting the plane sideways so I could shoot straight down, until I got the shot I wanted. Shooting on a Monday, the one day a week the park is closed, meant I had no people in my frame, just glorious unspoiled nature!
A secluded beach in the Gandoca-Manzanillo Wildlife Refuge yielded this peaceful scene.
A secluded beach in the Gandoca-Manzanillo Wildlife Refuge yielded this peaceful scene.
Camera trap photos rely on an infrared beam to trigger a camera when something breaks the beam. It's a great way, indeed the only way, to take pictures of shy and elusive subjects. Yet many camera trap photos have a similar look with an animal looking surprised and gazing straight into the camera while walking along a path. I wanted to try do something slightly when I learned that an endanagered margay was spotted at my favorite ecolodge in Costa Rica, Bosque de Paz. Luckily, I'm friends with the owners, and they generously allowed me to set up my camera and flashes for as long as it would take to get my photos. I spent 9 nights setting everything up and putting out a little tuna and sardines to help attract the cat to where I had my camera pointed. The cat came for a total of 13 minutes, and my camera took 5 photos. This one, where the beautiful little cat seems totally unaware that he's being photographed in his cloud forest habitat, was my favorite.
Camera trap photos rely on an infrared beam to trigger a camera when something breaks the beam. It’s a great way, indeed the only way, to take pictures of shy and elusive subjects. Yet many camera trap photos have a similar look with an animal looking surprised and gazing straight into the camera while walking along a path. I wanted to try do something slightly when I learned that an endanagered margay was spotted at my favorite ecolodge in Costa Rica, Bosque de Paz. Luckily, I’m friends with the owners, and they generously allowed me to set up my camera and flashes for as long as it would take to get my photos. I spent 9 nights setting everything up and putting out a little tuna and sardines to help attract the cat to where I had my camera pointed. The cat came for a total of 13 minutes, and my camera took 5 photos. This one, where the beautiful little cat seems totally unaware that he’s being photographed in his cloud forest habitat, was my favorite.
I love to mix blur and sharpness in my photos to portray motion and what better way to show off that technique than with a wild Scarlet Macaw in flight? By using a slow shutter speed while panning along with the bird as it flew, I created a blur effect on the background. A bit of flash on the bird helped keep my subject quite sharp.
I love to mix blur and sharpness in my photos to portray motion and what better way to show off that technique than with a wild Scarlet Macaw in flight? By using a slow shutter speed while panning along with the bird as it flew, I created a blur effect on the background. A bit of flash on the bird helped keep my subject quite sharp.
Multiple off-camera flashes and an infrared beam that would trip my camera at the sign of movement allowed me to capture this picture of a Pallas' Long-tongued Bat visiting a Calabash tree flower in a rainforest in northern Costa Rica.
Multiple off-camera flashes and an infrared beam that would trip my camera at the sign of movement allowed me to capture this picture of a Pallas’ Long-tongued Bat visiting a Calabash tree flower in a rainforest in northern Costa Rica.
A strawberry poison frog (Oophaga pumilio) forages for food among orange cup fungus (Cookeina speciosa) on a fallen log in a lowland rainforest in Costa Rica
A strawberry poison frog (Oophaga pumilio) forages for food among orange cup fungus (Cookeina speciosa) on a fallen log in a lowland rainforest in Costa Rica
A Guanaco (Lama guanicoe), one of the wild relatives of the Llama and Alpaca, rests on top of a hillside in Torres del Paine National Park in Chile. I took this shot about 2 hours before sunrise, meaning the sun was extremely bright. Exposure, focus, and composition were a challenge because I basically could not look through my camera for fear of damaging my eyes and my camera sensor. This is the file that came out of my camera, with nothing changed in the computer!
A Guanaco (Lama guanicoe), one of the wild relatives of the Llama and Alpaca, rests on top of a hillside in Torres del Paine National Park in Chile. I took this shot about 2 hours before sunrise, meaning the sun was extremely bright. Exposure, focus, and composition were a challenge because I basically could not look through my camera for fear of damaging my eyes and my camera sensor. This is the file that came out of my camera, with nothing changed in the computer!
Starry skies over the Torres del Paine National Park, Chile
Starry skies over the Torres del Paine National Park, Chile

Red-webbed tree frog (Hypsiboas rufitelus) in lowland rainforest, Costa Rica

Red-webbed tree frog (Hypsiboas rufitelus) in lowland rainforest, Costa Rica

The title of this picture speaks to the fact that I think it looks like a studio type shot, though I took it out in nature. I exposed for my subject and added just a touch of fill-flash for this portrait of an acorn woodpecker at the end of the day in a cloud forest in Costa Rica's Talamanca Mountains. The white background comes from the thick clouds flowing through the valley!
The title of this picture speaks to the fact that I think it looks like a studio type shot, though I took it out in nature. I exposed for my subject and added just a touch of fill-flash for this portrait of an acorn woodpecker at the end of the day in a cloud forest in Costa Rica’s Talamanca Mountains. The white background comes from the thick clouds flowing through the valley!
When I encountered this beautiful light just as the sun set at 4,000 meters above sea level in the mountains near Chlle's border with Bolivia, I was nearly too stunned to shoot! I watched a group of vicuña, a camel relative that is one of the progenitors of the domestic llama and alpaca, make their way along the slopes as they headed toward their nighttime camp and tried to compose with an eye toward the light and the diagonal lines. I was very happy with the resulting image, and I hope that you enjoy it as well!
When I encountered this beautiful light just as the sun set at 4,000 meters above sea level in the mountains near Chlle’s border with Bolivia, I was nearly too stunned to shoot! I watched a group of vicuña, a camel relative that is one of the progenitors of the domestic llama and alpaca, make their way along the slopes as they headed toward their nighttime camp and tried to compose with an eye toward the light and the diagonal lines. I was very happy with the resulting image, and I hope that you enjoy it as well!
Bullet ants can measure nearly 2 inches long and their sting i considered the most painful in the insect world. They can play an important role in pollination of certain rainforest plants as they collect nectar, which they hold in their jaws to take back to their underground colonies. This bullet ant is collecting nectar from a rainforest Poinsettia plant (actually from the genus Warsweczia in the coffee or Rubiaceae family).
Bullet ants can measure nearly 2 inches long and their sting i considered the most painful in the insect world. They can play an important role in pollination of certain rainforest plants as they collect nectar, which they hold in their jaws to take back to their underground colonies. This bullet ant is collecting nectar from a rainforest Poinsettia plant (actually from the genus Warsweczia in the coffee or Rubiaceae family).
A giant river otter eats a pirahna in a lagoon in the Amazon region of Peru
A giant river otter eats a pirahna in a lagoon in the Amazon region of Peru
I've been fortunate to be able to photograph lots of toucans but I never cease to be amazed at them, particularly Costa Rica's Keel-billed Toucan. If we set out today to design the perfect rainforest bird and came up with this guy, people would say it was over the top! Yet all of these colors have their functions. The colors help with mate attraction and species distinction in the forest. And that crazy beak that looks so unwieldy helps this heavy-bodied bird to snip fruits off the ends of branches and to forage in crevices for insects and lizards and even to reach into other birds' nests to eat eggs and chicks. Most surprisingly, the beak also contains lots of blood vessels which allow the bird to help to regulate its body temperature. On a hot rainforest day, the bird will move blood out into the vessels of the beak, making more surface area to help keep the bird cool. Amazing!
I’ve been fortunate to be able to photograph lots of toucans but I never cease to be amazed at them, particularly Costa Rica’s Keel-billed Toucan. If we set out today to design the perfect rainforest bird and came up with this guy, people would say it was over the top! Yet all of these colors have their functions. The colors help with mate attraction and species distinction in the forest. And that crazy beak that looks so unwieldy helps this heavy-bodied bird to snip fruits off the ends of branches and to forage in crevices for insects and lizards and even to reach into other birds’ nests to eat eggs and chicks. Most surprisingly, the beak also contains lots of blood vessels which allow the bird to help to regulate its body temperature. On a hot rainforest day, the bird will move blood out into the vessels of the beak, making more surface area to help keep the bird cool. Amazing!
The Violet Sabrewing is one of Costa Rica's largest and most beautiful hummingbird species. I used a multiple flash technique to capture this image of a perfect male specimen visiting a Kohleria flower at the edge of a cloud forest near the Juan Castro Blanco National Park.
The Violet Sabrewing is one of Costa Rica’s largest and most beautiful hummingbird species. I used a multiple flash technique to capture this image of a perfect male specimen visiting a Kohleria flower at the edge of a cloud forest near the Juan Castro Blanco National Park.
Cobalt-winged parakeets congregate en masse at a clay lick in the Ecuadorian Amazon. Scientists think that the clay may help the birds to flush toxic chemicals (ingested from the fruits and seeds that compose their diet) from their system and also provide much needed salt to the birds. But another hypothesis holds that clay licks may also be important as social gathering spots, simply the it place to be! Clay licks occur only in the Western Amazon where the influence of ocean air is null, meaning that salt becomes a scarce commodity.
Cobalt-winged parakeets congregate en masse at a clay lick in the Ecuadorian Amazon. Scientists think that the clay may help the birds to flush toxic chemicals (ingested from the fruits and seeds that compose their diet) from their system and also provide much needed salt to the birds. But another hypothesis holds that clay licks may also be important as social gathering spots, simply the it place to be! Clay licks occur only in the Western Amazon where the influence of ocean air is null, meaning that salt becomes a scarce commodity.
A graphic shot of tree fern and palm leaves in a cloud forest in Western Ecuador is a reminder of how nature produces art based on mathematical proportions and symmetry. I purposefully overexposed the sky on a typically misty day in the cloud forest to produce this graphic composition.
A graphic shot of tree fern and palm leaves in a cloud forest in Western Ecuador is a reminder of how nature produces art based on mathematical proportions and symmetry. I purposefully overexposed the sky on a typically misty day in the cloud forest to produce this graphic composition.
A rarely seen juvenile Emerald Tree Boa in the rainforest in the Amazon region of Peru is the Holy Grail for the herpetologist as they are exceedingly hard to find.
A rarely seen juvenile Emerald Tree Boa in the rainforest in the Amazon region of Peru is the Holy Grail for the herpetologist as they are exceedingly hard to find.
The King Vulture is larger than Costa Rica's other vultures, and the king generally gets his way when a group is feeding. I shot from a very low angle and used the widest aperture (f/2.8) on my lens to set the bird off against the forest and the black vultures that were waiting their turn to feed. I titled this shot "Vulture Dreams." What is this King Vulture dreaming of? We probably don't want to know!
The King Vulture is larger than Costa Rica’s other vultures, and the king generally gets his way when a group is feeding. I shot from a very low angle and used the widest aperture (f/2.8) on my lens to set the bird off against the forest and the black vultures that were waiting their turn to feed. I titled this shot “Vulture Dreams.” What is this King Vulture dreaming of? We probably don’t want to know!
Visiting Ecuador for the first time, I knew I wanted to do something different with my hummingbird photography. One of the best ways to take high-quality pictures of hummingbirds is to use a technique called multiple-flash, which basically means constructing a little studio outside. This technique allows the photographer to capture amazingly sharp photographs, even in the dim, poor light of the forests where the amazing hummingbirds live. I use a printed background of an out of focus scene (often vegetation), in this case a sunset. Then I place a flower near a hummingbird feeder and fill that flower with some of the same sugar water from the feeder to entice the birds to visit. I then underexpose the natural light completely and rely on a number of flashes, triggered remotely, to provide all of the light for the scene (just like a portrait studio or a fashion shoot except that I'm outside in a cloud forest!). Why am I telling you this? For two reasons. First, the alternative is to tell you that I just happened to capture this image with natural light as the sun set over the mountains in northern Ecuador, and that would be a lie! I think transparency is very important in nature photography. Second, you may be thinking, "Well, that's cheating. Setting things up like this makes it easy. Anybody could do it." This couldn't be further from the truth. It's not cheating if you don't lie about it (and I just told you the truth above!). And it's not easy either. Choosing the right flower, the right background, and then making the light look natural is tough and requires knowledge of both the natural history of your subject. Doing a good setup is quite difficult, and simulating a sunset shot is doubly so. I used colored gels over my flashes and positioned the lights very carefully so that there is some logical direction to the light. Even if still feel that the setup diminishes the value of this photo, I hope you will appreciate the effort behind my honesty in telling yo
Visiting Ecuador for the first time, I knew I wanted to do something different with my hummingbird photography. One of the best ways to take high-quality pictures of hummingbirds is to use a technique called multiple-flash, which basically means constructing a little studio outside. This technique allows the photographer to capture amazingly sharp photographs, even in the dim, poor light of the forests where the amazing hummingbirds live.
I use a printed background of an out of focus scene (often vegetation), in this case a sunset. Then I place a flower near a hummingbird feeder and fill that flower with some of the same sugar water from the feeder to entice the birds to visit. I then underexpose the natural light completely and rely on a number of flashes, triggered remotely, to provide all of the light for the scene (just like a portrait studio or a fashion shoot except that I’m outside in a cloud forest!).
Why am I telling you this? For two reasons.
First, the alternative is to tell you that I just happened to capture this image with natural light as the sun set over the mountains in northern Ecuador, and that would be a lie! I think transparency is very important in nature photography.
Second, you may be thinking, “Well, that’s cheating. Setting things up like this makes it easy. Anybody could do it.” This couldn’t be further from the truth. It’s not cheating if you don’t lie about it (and I just told you the truth above!). And it’s not easy either. Choosing the right flower, the right background, and then making the light look natural is tough and requires knowledge of both the natural history of your subject. Doing a good setup is quite difficult, and simulating a sunset shot is doubly so. I used colored gels over my flashes and positioned the lights very carefully so that there is some logical direction to the light.
Even if still feel that the setup diminishes the value of this photo, I hope you will appreciate the effort behind my honesty in telling you
A nocturnal red-eyed tree frog (Agalychnis callidryas) is bathed in the rainforest starlight in northern Costa Rica. This image, a dream of mine for the past few years, was chosen as the cover of my coffee table book on the natural wonders of Costa Rica. Interestingly, there was some controversy over choosing the photo because a number of people involved in the book publishing and distribution thought it was a product of Photoshop. It's not -- it's the product of in-camera creativity!
A nocturnal red-eyed tree frog (Agalychnis callidryas) is bathed in the rainforest starlight in northern Costa Rica. This image, a dream of mine for the past few years, was chosen as the cover of my coffee table book on the natural wonders of Costa Rica. Interestingly, there was some controversy over choosing the photo because a number of people involved in the book publishing and distribution thought it was a product of Photoshop. It’s not — it’s the product of in-camera creativity!
Costa Rica's Corcovado National Park protects one of the world's premier rainforests. Rainforests are somewhat of an illusion. The profusion of growth is built on but a few inches of nutrient-rich topsoil that is consistently regenerated by fallen leaves and other decaying plant matter. Underneath is thick clay that is largely devoid of nutrients. Since rain is abundant and nutrients are only at the top of the soil surface, tap roots that reach deep below the surface are unnecessary. Rainforest trees have evolved to have serpentine buttresses that spread out laterally to gather water and nutrients while at the same time helping to stabilize these giants of the forest. I photographed this ancient wild fig tree at the end of the day as late afternoon sun broke through the forest.
Costa Rica’s Corcovado National Park protects one of the world’s premier rainforests. Rainforests are somewhat of an illusion. The profusion of growth is built on but a few inches of nutrient-rich topsoil that is consistently regenerated by fallen leaves and other decaying plant matter. Underneath is thick clay that is largely devoid of nutrients. Since rain is abundant and nutrients are only at the top of the soil surface, tap roots that reach deep below the surface are unnecessary. Rainforest trees have evolved to have serpentine buttresses that spread out laterally to gather water and nutrients while at the same time helping to stabilize these giants of the forest. I photographed this ancient wild fig tree at the end of the day as late afternoon sun broke through the forest.

 

To see more of Greg’s work, visit his web profiles

WEBSITE

FACEBOOK

INSTAGRAM

I want to thank you again for inviting me to talk about my work on the Light Art Academy blog. It’s a great resource, and I’m happy to be a part of it!


All photos by Gregory Basco and used with permission.

A rarely seen juvenile Emerald Tree Boa in the rainforest in the Amazon region of Peru is the Holy Grail for the herpetologist as they are exceedingly hard to find.
A rarely seen juvenile Emerald Tree Boa in the rainforest in the Amazon region of Peru is the Holy Grail for the herpetologist as they are exceedingly hard to find.

NO COMMENTS

LEAVE A REPLY