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Costa Rica Photography Tips & Techniques

written by: Misty Faucheux•edited by: Rhonda Callow•updated: 12/15/2010

Costa Rica is truly paradise. And, you need to know where to go, what to bring and how to take pictures in this environment. Learn some Costa Rica photography tips in this photography tutorial.

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    Introduction

    Costa Rica is a world full of natural beauty with over 9,000 species of flowers, 200 types of mammals and over 800 species of birds. It’s also a photographer’s dream. So, if you are planning a trip to Costa Rica, you need to know some Costa Rica photography tips to ensure that you are capturing the best photographs that you can.

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    Where To Go

    First of all, pick your destinations. Costa Rica is a country, not just a city that you can photograph in a day or two. So, plan your locations. If you want to photograph animals, check out the La Selva Biological Station. As many as 400 species of birds have been seen in just this one area.

    If you instead want to photograph natural wonders, the Corcovado National Park is remote and practically untouched. It’s wild and features every type of flora and fauna that you can think of it.

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    Equipment

    Once you figure out where you want to go, get your equipment together. Bring both a telephoto and wide angle lens. The telephoto lens allows you to zoom in on subjects in the distance, especially animals. The wide angle lens allows you to capture more of the scene, by Armando Maynez which works well for landscape photographs.

    When selecting a telephoto lens, purchase one with an optical stabilizer. This, plus a tripod, will reduce the instance of blurry pictures due to camera shake.

    To find the best pictures, you need to go into the woods. So, you will have to do some hiking. If you don’t want to carry a heavy tripod, consider using a folding monopod.

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    Composition

    When setting up your shots, always have something in the foreground, especially for wide angle shots. It adds depth to your photographs, and gives your audience something to focus on. For example, focus on a small tree in the foreground with a waterfall in the background.

    For animal photographs, you need a lot of patience. Set yourself up off the trail or near a body of water. Animals tend to gather around freshwater sources. Talk to the locals and find out where animals are often sighted, and then be prepared to wait all day. Animals do not show up on schedule.

    When taking a picture of an animal, focus on the animal’s face, and try to make the face fill the entire frame. Avoid busy backgrounds since they distract from your subject. Try to get down to the animal’s level, especially small animals. This gets the animals at eye level. Shooting from above doesn’t have the same impact as shooting on the animal’s level.

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    Camera Settings

    Unless you are willing to drag out heavy lighting equipment and set it up, you need to shoot when the lighting is right. Morning and mid- to late afternoons are best since the light isn’t as bright. Plus, if you are taking landscape shots, you’ll get the colors of sunrise and sunset.

    If it is a little too dark, increase your ISO to at least 800. If you need to, increase it to nearly 1600 for Costa Rican evening shots. Adjust your white balance using the preset settings. The exact setting depends on the time of day. Use the sunlight mode if you do take picturesby Wha'ppen  during the bright day, and cloudy for overcast times.

    For animals, increase your shutter speed by using the Action Mode. Animals are not going to wait until you take the shot. So, get it as quick as possible.

    Finally, have fun and take a lot of pictures. Costa Rica is a beautiful country that provides you with many opportunities to capture gorgeous pictures.