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Season 4 Episode 21

Season 4 Episode 21 (the Go Big or Go Home Special Expedition) 

It was a lot to pack into eight days but Mike Shane and I were up for the challenge that included two days of Rainforest photography, one night session in the jungle, one day inshore fishing, one day off shore fishing, one day kayak fishing and two days walking around our property on Osa Eden. 

The goals were ambitious - to see if we could capture stunning images of the following:       

- All four species of Monkeys (White face, Spider, Squirrel and Howler) – CHECK ·       

- Multiple species of birds (especially Scarlet McCaw’s) – CHECK ·

- Sloths (both three and two toed) – CHECK ·       

- Snakes (four species, two venomous) – CHECK ·       

- Frogs (several species including a poison dart frog) – CHECK ·       

- Insects (too many to count) – CHECK ·       

- Whales (a Blue Whale nursing it’s calf) – CHECK ·       

- Dolphin (many that were feasting on a bait ball offshore) – CHECK ·       

- Targeted fish (Tuna, Cubera, Roosterfish, Jacks, & Grouper oh my) – CHECK ·       

- Marine birds eating bait - CHECK ·       

- DroneBoy photos from the top of the Osa Peninsula – CHECK ·       

- Scenic shots from every location – CHECK 

 For me to spend time with two exceptionally talented photographers (Mike Shane and Dennis Atencio) was a privilidge but I learned very quickly… 

1. How inferior my camera equipment is (compared to pros). 

2. How truly deficient my photography skill level is (oh boy). 

3. How much more I need to practice to raise my game as a photographer. 

4. How incredibly unlimited the Osa Peninsula is as one of the greatest places on earth to photograph wildlife (on land or at sea). 

Upon reflection… The measurement guy has identified the top 10 elements that great photographers need to assure stunning photos. 

1. Habitat (the Osa Peninsula in Costa Rica is the most bio-diverse place on earth). 

2. Passion and intense desire (just like anything else, you have to be somewhat driven to be successful). 

3. Talent (the vision and critical eye to compose the photos). 

4. Knowledge and Experience (Local expertise with where to go and when to go to see the best wildlife). 

5. Equipment (high quality digital cameras and lenses). 

6. Technology (auxiliary lighting systems for shooting at night and software to edit final work). 

7. Skill (to manage all the equipment quickly with the ideal camera settings). 

8. Perseverance and patience (to wait for the ideal shot). 

9. Coaching and assistance (to make up for any of the above deficiencies or to provide “a helping hand”). 

10. Luck (which can often make up for many of the other elements listed above). 

The Attached photos include a “small sample” of what we captured as we easily shot over 16,000 photos. 

Day 1: Rainforest trip to Matapolo and Carate (Monkeys, Birds and frogs OH MY!). As we drove out to the end of the Osa Peninsula, we were treated to sightings of all four Monkeys that inhabit Costa Rica as well as many-many species of birds. The most incredible part of the day occurred after 3:00 PM when we had over 50 Scarlet McCaw’s taking turns feasting on the seeds of a mature Royal palm tree. This convergence allowed us to set up our tripods and capture multiple birds on the cluster of seeds and to capture them in flight as they both landed and took off from the tree. 

Day two: We started out at Dennis Atencio’s Grandfather’s property in the neighboring community of La Palma where a mini oasis has been created on approximately 30 acres to attract and support many diverse species of plants, insects, birds, reptiles, amphibians and mammals. All total, we observed a “Noah’s Arc Boat Load” of creatures including 6 sloughs that we were fortunate to get some great close-up photos. 

BTW… The Sloths move soooooo slow that Moss actually accumulates on their fir.   The afternoon session was conducted on top of a mountain ridge (on Edwardo’s property), in the small – remote community of Guadalupe. Here, the focus was on snakes and amphibians.  

Our timing was perfect as we located two species of Boa Constrictors (non-venomous) and Two species of pit vipers (aka DEADLY).  They were all very cooperative and we managed to “safely” get up close and personal with our Macro lenses and lighting systems to achieve some Nat Geo quality photos. 

The night session began with a Pit Viper encounter that reminded us all why it’s NEVER a good idea to venture into the Rainforest at night without a seasoned-local guide. As we were walking on a trail with our headlamps on, FORTUNATELY Edwardo spotted a deadly “eyelash” viper on a large leaf that was positioned exactly at shoulder level. It would have been incredibly easy to just walk by this plant, brush the leaf with your shoulder and have the pit viper nail you in the neck. 

Basically, if this happens you have about three hours left to live without very specific antivenom treatment at a local hospital (that just so happens to be located 2.5 hours away). Lesson learned. We then were treated to several species of frogs that allowed us to set up a mini studio (with reflective diffused lighting) to get some Nat Geo quality level portraits. 

Day three: Inshore fishing with Captain Cory The morning started slowly but ramped up by mid-day with Mike and I catching a total of 11 different species of fish. For Mike (who is professionally a Marine Biologist at Scripps Research in San Diego), this proved to be his finest day ever recreationally fishing where he managed to check off 6 new species of fish including a 20-pound Roosterfish, a spectacular Cubera Snapper in the 30-pound class and a muscular Amber Jack that practically pulled him off the bow of the boat. 

Day 4: Rest Day to recover and to take photos around Osa Eden 

Day 5: An Offshore Tunafest After precuring our bait for the day, we had the report of Yellowfin tuna being sighted offshore about 10 miles from Matapolo Rock. Just as we took off to head offshore, I saw out of the corner of my eye a whale that had come up for air.  We turned the boat quickly and had the privilege of slowly cruising behind a Mother Blue Whale and her calf just as Mom was nursing.  

The most amazing photo was not of the whales breaching or their tails coming out of the water but it was of the Mother Whale’s MASSIVE blow holes that were briefly exposed as she took in air before her next dive. As we then left the whales alone to continue their nursing, it took us about 40 minutes to arrive at the Tuna school. 

Running out against a stiff headwind, when we did arrive, we became spectators to a classic bird, dolphin and tuna massacre. With our first drops and casts, we immediately hooked up with two big fish on both a topwater plug and live bait. At one point after we landed three fish in the 40 to 60 pound class, 

Mike and I were both hooked up and Cory decides to do something really stupid… He casts a popper from a spinning rod into the middle of the bait ball frenzy and sure enough, he hooks up with another monster (he just couldn’t resist the temptation).  Now there were three of us running around the boat in different directions doing the “over under – around and through three step” in an attempt to keep our lines from crossing and breaking off each other’s fish. 

Somehow, we managed to land all three fish that came in around 50, 60 and 70 pounds respectively. After we got all three aboard, I made another cast and witnessed a true monster come up and massacre my topwater popper.  It probably was a Yellowfin in the 150-pound class and I was relieved that I didn’t actually hook it – so I could avoid the subsequent three hour sufferfest that surely would have followed.  

Lucky for me, the beast managed to rip the front treble hook completely off my topwater popper and thus lived to torture another angler on another day. All total, the offshore count was 11 Yellowfin landed including four that were released. 

Whereas we could have stayed there all afternoon and caught a ridiculous number of trophy Yellowfin, we decided to head back inshore and try to get mike hooked up to a prize Roosterfish along my favorite section of beach located just in front of the Iguana Lodge. 

Once again, Captain Cory had our favorite spot produce as Mike finished the day landing a beautiful Rooster in the 20-pound class. It was really special for me to participate with Mike as these two days on the water with Cory were both the best fishing experiences of his life.  

Day 6: Kayak Fishing with Captain Tosh 

Of course, I went public to put pressure on Tosh to achieve the ultimate goal kayak fishing and that was to catch and document close up photos of a trophy Roosterfish in the surf along the beach. After securing some bait behind “Spit or Swallow” from Texas (I know, you can’t make this up), 

Mike was first to get hooked up with what turned out to be a 30-pound class Jack that towed he and Tosh around the gulf for about 45 minutes. I then hooked up with something really big that proceeded to immediately break another one of my St. Croix spinning rods (I think I’ve now managed to break 7). 

Unfortunately, I lost the fish but just then, Mike hooked into another big fish that actually took him close to the beach along the north section of Crocodile Bay. 

We beached the Kayaks and Mike fought the fish for quite a while before we finally had it close enough to see that it was a Jack in the 20-pound class. Just as we completed the photography session with Mike’s fish, Tosh decided to cast a live moonfish about 25 Ft from shore (at the abrupt edge of the drop off) and sure enough, something devours it and speeds off out to the middle of the bay. 

I grab the rod and based upon the initial high-speed run conclude that it can only be a Roosterfish and as I fought the fish for quite a while, it clearly didn’t want to come into the shallow water between the drop off ledge and shore. 

After the fish finally comes in “within guide range,” it was really-really hot and after three attempts, Tosh managed to do a classic “rodeo-grab hold” of the tail. Once the fish finally calmed down, we were able to get some really fine close-up portraits before we released it for the opportunity to treat another angler. Mission accomplished as we managed to achieve the lofty goal of landing a Roosterfish on the beach for some classic “in the water” photos. 

A few parting shots… Mike, now known in Costa Rica as “El Orkin” because of his photography skills in capturing Bug photos, managed to take this close-up shot of an exceptionally strong Leafcutter Ant as he was showing off hiking back to the nest with a buddy on board. 

Given that we only had 8 days on the Osa, we packed in as much outdoor adventures as our aging bodies would allow.               

Final Shot… This photo is a classic beach scene from Carate where at this time of year there tends to be more cloud cover and as a result, cooler temperatures and better photography opportunities 😊. 

NOTE – ALSO THAT THERE ARE NO PEOPLE FOR MILES ANYWHERE (which is very typical). Much more to follow as Katie and I gear up for another cross-country trip in our RV from August 9th to 30th. 

As Always, Plan your trips… 

T.O.


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