2019 Costa Rica Wildlife Photography Workshops

The Adventure Of A Lifetime!

I’m excited to announce our new 2019 Costa Rica Wildlife Photography Workshop!  This once-in-a-lifetime photo workshop will take place on Costa Rica’s beautiful Osa Peninsula, a location National Geographic calls, “The most biologically intense place on Earth.” An impressive claim, but just a few hours on site is enough to make a believer out of any skeptic. In fact, I think the National Geographic statement may not do it justice!

As a full-time wildlife photographer, I’ve been to more than a few incredible locations, but I have to tell you – I’ve never experienced an environment that was so incredibly target rich and diverse as the Osa Peninsula. This is truly a workshop experience that you will always remember! When I went to evaluate the location for a potential workshop, I never dreamt I would end up shooting over 14,000 images in just under a week’s time!

What can you see and photograph? Although there are never any guarantees with wildlife, it’s very likely you’ll see quite a few of the species listed below – heck, you may see them all and then some! In fact, the Osa Peninsula harbors 2.5% of the biodiversity on the planet, even though it only covers less than 1/1000th of 1% of the surface area of the earth! There are over 463 species of birds and 140 species of mammals – think of it as Disneyland for wildlife photographers! For just a small sample of what I captured, check out the Costa Rica gallery here.

Here’s a short list of some of the more common species you’re likely to encounter.

Howler Monkeys
White-Faced Monkeys
Squirrel Monkeys
Spider Monkeys
Sloths (two / three toed both live in the area)
Anteaters
Toucans
Scarlet Macaws (largest population in Central America)
Tree Frogs (various – but especially the Red-Eyed Tree Frog, possibly dart frogs as well)
Lizards / Iguanas
Parrots / Parakeets
Various Raptors (Caracaras, Common Black Hawk, Etc)
Snakes (professionally handled)
Various Songbirds (Cherry, Golden-Hooded And Blue-Grey Tanagers are right at the resort!)
Hummingbirds (tons of fun)

And that’s just a taste – you never know what you’ll see!

As for the workshop itself, the goal is twofold. First, I want YOU to fill your memory cards with as many incredible shots as possible in the time we have and I will do everything in my power to make that happen. Second, I want to teach you as much as I can about wildlife photography.

As a dedicated wildlife photographer, more than 90% of the images I capture each year are of wildlife. I’m a specialist, and when it comes to getting critters on your memory cards, I have a wealth of tips and tricks up my sleeve that will help you accomplish that goal. Also, and as many of you already know, teaching photography is what I do – just check out my extensive collection of blog posts and videos to get an idea of how I convey myself and my information.

 

In this workshop, I’ll not only help you get the shot, but I’ll also share tips and tricks you can use to capture the special moments of any wildlife encounter. We’ll look at everything from camera and tech settings to creative techniques – it’s the whole package, and I think you’ll really enjoy it. At each wildlife encounter, I’ll be there to guide you and assist in capturing those wall-hangers! Also, while I may take a shot here and there, during the workshop, I’m NOT there for my own photos, but for YOUR photos. I’ve heard of nightmare workshops where the instructor was more interested in his or her own photos than that of the participants – that is NOT the case here. YOUR images are the priority for everyone involved.

 

In addition, we’ll also have professional guides along to help locate wildlife – and let me tell you, their ability to find wildlife borders on the supernatural (you’ll see for yourself that last line isn’t just marketing hype). I pride myself on my ability to spot wildlife, but these guys put me to shame. They know the area and can consistently locate and hone in on wildlife of all sorts. Plus, they are super-knowledgeable about every aspect of the rainforest; from fauna to flora, they can tell you all about it. Oh, and they are a blast to hang out with – you’re gonna love ‘em!

Finally, our home base will be Crocodile Bay Resort – and it’s just fantastic! The property itself is beautiful, and the truth is, you can (and do) see just about every animal I mentioned on the list above. Some of my best shots were captured right there at the resort, and some of our shooting will take place there. Heck, on our last morning there I was shooting howler monkeys that were less than 20 feet from my bathroom window. (In fact, I was slightly concerned they might try to join me!) Plus, the staff there is jaw-droppingly outstanding. Everyone is super-friendly and always makes you feel welcome. I wish all resorts were this good!

Here’s the rundown from start to finish:

Itinerary

Day 1 Arrive in San Jose Costa Rica 

On the first day, you’ll fly into San Jose, Costa Rica (most flights arrive in the late afternoon or evening) and enjoy a night at the beautiful Double Tree hotel. It’s an incredible facility and gives you the perfect opportunity to sit back, relax, hang out by the pool, and get a good night’s sleep.

Day 2 Arrive At Crocodile Bay Resort 

This is where the fun really starts! You’ll fly over on a small 12 seat “puddle jumper” in the morning, enjoying incredible views along the way. (Keep your cameras out!)

We’ll meet you at the lobby and get you checked in right away. Once your gear is dropped off, we hit the conference center where I’ll have a presentation that covers how to photograph the wildlife of Costa Rica. Wildlife photography in Costa Rica can be a challenge and I want you to be thoroughly prepared when the action starts unfolding in your viewfinder. When the amazing moments happen, I want you to know EXACTLY what to do to secure the shot. After all, you don’t want to miss an incredible photo because you weren’t fully instructed beforehand!

After the presentation, it’s time for a delicious lunch and then an afternoon photo walk so you can become comfortable with the new techniques discussed in the presentation.

Day 3 – Full Day Of Shooting 

Today we’ll head out to the countryside first thing in the morning  and discover some incredible wildlife with our expert guides. We’ll enjoy traveling in a set of 4WD vehicles that can get us everywhere we need to go. Throughout the day, we’ll be driving through different locations and stopping along the way when we see interesting wildlife (some days, it’s so active we stop every 10 to 15 minutes). There’s no telling what we’ll see on a given day, but the diversity is incredible. 

Along the way, our guides will give a blow-by-blow of the forest and environment we’re driving through. We only ask that you keep your jaw off the floor of the truck 🙂

 
Day 4 – Reptile And Amphibian Day (usually with some birds and mammals too!)

Today we’re up bright and early again and off to one of my favorite locations where we’ll discover even more wildlife! You’ll have the opportunity to photograph a variety of snakes (wild snakes that are in the hands of a professional handler and released when we’re done), various frogs (possibly even poison dart frogs), and a large variety of birds as well.

It’s at the top of a mountain overlook and the variety will keep your shutter snapping the entire time. I captured some of my favorite images in this location and it’s by far one of my favorite spots!

Day 5 – Optional Excursions And Afternoon Image Review 

The morning of this day is set aside for those who want to do their own optional excursions through the resort (not included in the workshop price, but very affordable). We often have participants who want to target a specific species or groups of animals (just birds, just monkeys, etc.) and this allows you to work directly towards that goal – or you can take the morning off if you prefer. I will also use this morning to help anyone who has technical problems with their gear. (Happens more than you think!)

Lunch is at the resort and we’ll spend part of the afternoon doing a group image critique, answering tech questions, and fixing any photography issues. I’ll also use this time to show you some noise reduction techniques using Photoshop and Lightroom. We’re often shooting very high ISO in the rainforest, so this info can be critical to getting the most from your photos. You can also use this time to walk the resort and add to your collection of photos – the resort grounds are one of our best areas and many of my – and our participants – best Costa Rica images come directly from its park-like setting.


Day 6 – Full Day Of Shooting 

On day 6 we’re back at it again with another full day of shooting in the countryside and the rainforest. This is another day where anything goes and we just don’t know what we’ll see. From birds to monkeys, to reptiles, it’s all on the table!

Day 7 – Boat Tour 

We top off our last full day of shooting with a 3 hour boat tour on the Sierpe river. We embark on a pair of pontoon boats and slowly glide down the river, constantly stopping for the wildlife we discover along the way. The shoreline is loaded with critters and the shutters fly constantly!

The wildlife along the river is accustomed to the boat traffic and often allows an incredibly close approach. You’ll want extra memory cards for this day!

Day 8 – Fly back to San Jose and home 

You’ll be up bright an early today for your flight back to San Jose and then home.

Q&A

What dates are you going?

May 11 – 18 2019 – SOLD OUT
May 19 – 26 2019 – SOLD OUT
June 24 – July 1 2019 – SOLD OUT
July 2 – July 9 2019 – 1 Spot Left
July 18 – July 25 2019 – SOLD  OUT
August 30 – September 6 – SOLD OUT
September 7 – Septemeber 14 – SOLD OUT

What’s the skill level?

This trip is best suited for photographers who have at least some experience with their cameras and have done at least a some wildlife photography. Costa Rica is one of the most challenging locations on the planet and while I can guide you though the tough stuff, keep in mind that we do have 10 participants so it’s important that you have some experience under your belt.  

First, you should be comfortable with operating your camera. You should also be familiar with – and able to change – the following options on your camera:

  • Exposure Modes
  • Exposure Compensation
  • AF Modes / Areas
  • Metering Modes
  • Drive Modes
  • In addition, you should understand what shutter speed, F/Stop, and ISO do.

In short, the goal of this trip is to teach wildlife photography, not the basics of photography.

If you’re unsure if you have the proper skill set, contact us.

Are the animals tame?

Nope. Many people think this is sort of like a zoo experience where we head out to a location and the animals are just dripping off the trees. That’s not the case – this a wildlife workshop, not an excursion to the zoo 🙂 If you want a zoo-like experience, this trip isn’t for you. 

However, if you like and accept the the idea of photographing wild animals, you’ll have an incredible time! Sure, we can’t predict what we’ll see or when we’ll see it, but the area is loaded with wildlife and it’s always a blast!

What’s included?

  • All meals / food (provided at / from the resort – on full days, the resort packs us a cooler, you get to pick what you want them to pack)
  • Non-alcoholic drinks (provided at / from the resort)
  • Lodging throughout the workshop as outlined above. Note you can come early / stay later but your package only includes the nights for the workshop
  • Ground transportation
  • Flights from San Jose to the resort and back to San Jose

What’s not included?

  • Your flights from home to San Jose and from San Jose back home. 
  • Alcoholic beverages
  • Excessive baggage fees
  • Gratuities / tips
  • Airline fees / insurance / passports / personal expenses
  • Any additional tours, activities etc. not expressly mentioned in the workshop
  • Any additional nights accommodations that take place beyond the time frame of the workshop dates (but it is cool to stay an extra day or two)
  • Laundry (there is an on-site laundry service)
  • Any emergency services, if necessary. (There has never been an evacuation in the history of the resort, rest easy).
  • Any meals you decide to have outside of the resort.
  • Any other expenses not explicitly covered in the “What’s Included” section above

Can my spouse / family member come and stay at the resort?

Yes. For an additional $1200 your spouse or family member can share your accommodations throughout the workshop, however, they will not be able to join you on any workshop activities. That said, keep in mind there are tons of other activities at the resort, or they can just kick back and relax while you’re participating in the workshop.

How many participants are in the workshop?

In order to give you the best experience possible, we’re limiting the number of participants to just 10 people. Booking will be done on a first come, first serve basis – nothing is held unless a deposit has been placed. 

What should I wear?

The weather in Costa Rica is hot and humid. Like really hot and humid. Like, Florida in July, only hotter and more humid. And it likes to rain at least once a day. So, I recommend avoiding anything cotton – it just won’t dry and it will feel hot and icky (that’s the technical term BTW). I like dry-fit style shirts (I have some from Eddie Bauer that work well) and shorts (Columbia makes some nice options with their “Omni Wick” and “Quick Dry” water shorts). You can wear long pants if you like, however, make sure they are of the lightweight and fast drying variety.

When I go, I take the following:

Shorts
Short Sleeve Dry-Fit style shirts
Long Sleeve Dry Fit style shirts (for sun protection if we’re out on a sunny day – shirts with SPF protection are recommended)
Non-cotton undergarments (seriously, sweat-soaked underwear sucks)
Lightweight hat
2 pairs of lightweight hiking shoes (preferably waterproof)
Lightweight raincoat
Long socks (we sometimes use rubber boots provided by the resort and you’ll want a pair of long socks)

What should I bring for photo gear?

Keep in mind this is a dedicated wildlife trip, so you’ll definitely want your big glass. Using full frame, you’ll want at least 400mm, however, I HIGHLY recommend 500mm ~ 600mm or more. One of the super zooms is a good choice like the Nikon 200-500, Sigma 150-600, Tamron 150-600, or Canon 100-400. If you happen to have a big prime that’s even better – I use my 600 F/4 all the time and it works out extremely well.

I also HIGHLY recommend a macro lens – we’re going after quite a bit of wildlife that’s anywhere from dime to dollar size. Stick with a focal length of 100mm or longer. (Note – in a pinch you can certainly get by with most super zooms for macro work).

I also highly recommend taking a short zoom for snapshots and it’s always possible a good landscape opportunity will crop up. Something like a 24-70 would be just fine.

Since it can be rainy at times, you also may want some sort of “rain jacket” for your gear (or at least borrow a towel from your hotel room).

In addition, you’ll likely want a tripod and monopod (I used both quite a bit, but if I had to pick one, it would be the monopod).

When it comes to cameras, you’ll want as new of a DSLR as you can muster, preferably something from the last 3~4 years. We end up in a lot of tricky lighting scenarios, often requiring good dynamic range and good high ISO. So, the newer, the better. Any current Nikon or Canon is just fine.

Oh, and don’t forget extra memory cards and batteries!

What type of non-photography gear should I take?

You’ll want your laptop / card reader for sure – we take a TON of photos and you’ll want to offload them at night. I’d also recommend an additional backup device, such as an external hard drive or large memory card (I use a large SD card for backup and keep it on my person at all times).

You’ll also want:

  • Bugspray (the bugs really aren’t bad at all – most of the time you won’t need it, but doesn’t hurt to have it)
  • Knee pads (optional)
  • Small reflector (optional)
  • Sunscreen (High SPF – the sun can be brutal)

Do I need to speak Spanish?

Not at all. I know about a dozen words in Spanish and I got along just fine. Everyone you will deal with speaks English.

Is it safe there?

Absolutely. Everyone is super friendly and never once did we feel “unsafe” in any way.

Is there a lot of hiking?

No, not on this workshop. Most of our photography is done near the vehicles, with some walking at the resort. Nothing too strenuous in any case.

Is the area packed with tourists?

Nope, not at all. Sure, there are visitors there, but I was amazed at just how few tourists were in the area. It’s one of the reasons I wanted to go to this location – no “competition” for critters!

Will there be opportunities other than wildlife?

Just to be 100% clear – this is a wildlife photography workshop, so the critters take precedent. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t grab a nice landscape or two while you’re down there. In fact, the docks are an incredible location for sunrise. 🙂

What’s the weather like?

We’re going to be down there in their winter (May-Sept), so it’s hot but not as bad as it gets from Dec-April. Still, expect hot and humid conditions with rain likely. The good news is that we will likely have a good bit of overcast that will allow us to shoot all day in decent light.

Is any of this subject to change?

Yes. We may choose to rearrange / modify the schedule based on weather, unforeseen circumstances, or just better opportunities for you to get a better selection of images. The primary goal is for YOU to get as many great images as possible, and any schedule change will be based on meeting that goal.

What’s the price?

The price is $4885 per person (or $4207 for double occupancy) with a deposit of $1500 per person due upon booking (Note, if you book within 90 days of the trip, the entire payment is required upon booking.) Again, this is fairly inclusive and includes:

  • All meals / food (provided at / from the resort)
  • Non-alcoholic drinks (provided at / from the resort)
  • Lodging throughout the workshop as outlined above. Note you can come early / stay later but your package only includes the nights for the workshop
  • Ground transportation
  • Flights from San Jose to the resort and back to San Jose 
  • For single occupancy, you’ll have your own private room

Note that you will be responsible for the flight from your home to San Jose Costa Rica. Check with your favorite airline for current rates.

Also note that the rate for double occupancy (two workshop participants sharing a room) is lower per person, coming in at $8414 for two ($4207 each). So, get a friend to do the workshop with you and you both save!

What if I have questions? 

Send ’em to us via our contact form and we’ll get back to you as soon as you can. Note that this is only for questions – to sign up, use the form below. 

How do I sign up? 

Fill out the form below to start the signup process if you’re ready to book / put down your deposit. Thanks! 

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37 Comments on "2019 Costa Rica Wildlife Photography Workshops"

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[…] 2019 Costa Rica Wildlife Photography Workshops […]

Martin
Guest

I wonder if Nikon 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6E VR AF-P FX would be sufficient to make wildlife photos in Costa Rica. Is 300mm reach long enough? (Sorry, if this question has already been answered somewhere.)

Steve Funk
Guest

I’m very interested in attending, in July 2019. It looks like there may still be a few openings. I understand photography basics and read your book on the Nikon Autofocus system. However, I have not yet done wildlife photography (other than wild grandkids and a border collie). I have basic gear: D500, Nikon 200-500, 70-200, DX 18-200, SB5000, tripod, (no macro lens yet) Lowepro Pro Runner bag for air travel & backpack. What else would I need in experience and/or equipment to be ready for the workshop?

Adi
Guest

Fabulous images! What do you use to carry the gear? It’s so hard to get this on a plane as carry-on (size and weight!)

Kris
Guest

Regarding packs…I just came back from Africa. 3 flights & 28 hours…My Lotus pack by F-Stop (32 liters) fit in the overhead easy and could have fit on the floor at my feet with some “encouragement” but I place my 40 liter REI gear bag there. The F-Stop was very comfortable.

Bruce
Guest

Good idea to take a flash that can be used off the camera when doing macro shooting of the critters. A 200mm macro provides more working distance when photographing poisonous snakes.
For the bugs it works best to treat clothing with a diluted permethrin solution and then one only needs to apply picaridin 15-20 percent solution to exposed skin.

Henry Pollak
Guest
Hi Steve I am coming for the September 18-25 workshop and wanted to ask a few things about equipment. I have the Nikon 600 f4L and the 300 f2.8G also the 80-400 f4.5-5.6 and al three TC the bodies I plan to use are a D500 and D850 and I have the Gizo Monopod and the number 3 tripod. My Gimbals are a New Gitzo Gimbal and the wimberley 200 II I also have the Tamron 24-70G 2.8 the Nikon 24mm, Zeiss 25mm f2 and the Tamron 90mm macro and Nikon 200 f4 macro Also Nikon SB5000 flash and Godox… Read more »
Bruce
Guest

Nature Air agent told me they could not guarantee that my photo gear would arrive the same day as my wife and I when flying to Puerto Jiménez Airport. How do you get around this with your groups?

Fabio Martinez
Guest

Dear Mr. Perry, I am very interested in the COSTA RICA WILDLIFE PHOTOGRAPHY WORKSHOP you are organizing. I saw that both May trips are already sold out. By any chance it can be possible for you to add 2 more places in any of the May weeks? I hope you can!

Looking forward for your positive reply

Best Regards,

Fabio

Cookie Segelstein
Guest

Hi Steve,
I am so excited to be on this workshop! I even got my brother to come along. If we want to stay a day or two longer at Crocodile Bay, is it easy to just postpone our flight back to San Jose for our flight home?

Thanks!

Cookie

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[…] and techniques to put more keepers on their cards. Oh, and there are still a few spots open for my Costa Rica workshop next year […]

Eric Harmon
Guest

I’m so excited to say that I just filled out the request form for me (and my wife as a tagalong).

Tom Jones
Guest

Steve, I filled out the interest form for the two trips in August September and ready to put down deposit but I did not see a form to do it. Tom

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[…] For pricing and new dates for this workshop click here […]

Kishore Bhargava
Guest

Hey Steve,

This is a truly marvellous opportunity. I am really sad that I will not be able to attend this year. In my case I’d also have to add the travel from India to San Jose, I will just keep a look out for the results from the participants and maybe the next edition I will be able to join.

All the very best to you and all the participants.

Cheers…Kishore

PS: keep up the excellent work.

Win Robins
Guest

Steve: The pictures, as usual, are marvelous. Would you be good enough to tell us the details on the hummingbird images. What lens, what setting, what ISO? Did you use a flash? Did you use a triipod? A monopod?

Thanks. Win

John
Guest

Steve,
I would like to attend. How much is the deposit and what are the terms?
I have spent a good deal of time in Costa Rica. A good tip to offer your guests is to buy a bottle of whatever they like to drink ( assuming they like to drink ) duty free in the airport in San Jose. Liquor, even beer is fairly expensive in CR and seems like it goes up every time I go. The price in the duty free airport store is close to the US.
John

Gary
Guest

Hi Steve

My wife and I Iive in the UK, and we pay for our inter-continental vacation flights with Air Miles. To get free seats, we have to book a long way ahead of the flight. So, this time, We’ll have to pass because my 2018 trips were booked ages ago.

Is there any chance you could announce your 2019 workshops earlier in 2018, so that we’d have a better chance of scheduling such a trip?

Thanks,
Gary

PS – how’s the D850 review coming along?

Kevin Lohman
Guest
Very interested! How many memory cards did you use to take 14,000 pictures? Would you recommend we bring a computer to offload images onto hard drives? Or will a (Mac) computer be available to allow us to move images from memory cards to hard drives? I will have a Nikon D850 which I have not had a chance to play with yet. And some Nikon lenses, including a 200-400, 1.4 extender, 70-200, 24-70, and 14-24 zoom lenses, and I guess a macro lens. Do you think those lenses will be good, or will a longer lens be needed? Wondering what… Read more »
Mathias Pfauwadel
Guest

Would love to go, but i can’t afford that sadly

Fabrizio
Guest

Wow Steve, I wish I could afford the workshop, it would be like a humble priest of a remote town gets invited to dinner with the pope 😉 Too bad it’s out of my league for now, I hope you will host more workshops like this in the future.

Torben Brix
Guest

Will there be any pre- or post events in US?
I`m thinking of attending but I`m from Europe and will not be able to attend any related US events.
Any other complications in not being an US citizent?

Torben

Bob
Guest

Hi, Steve.
Thanks for your answer about Jeeps some time ago, and for your excellent books and website.

Re Costa Rica workshop, one question. I have a crummy immune system so I want as much protection from bug-borne disease as is feasible. I have gear that should be adequate for daytime, but do you know whether the hotel has mosquito nets or AC?

Bob