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Chainsaws in Paradise - Plus New Photos

In everything there must be balance.  And living in a developing country reminds me of that regularly.  I love when people call Costa Rica paradise.  Sure, in the photos, the tropical beaches and mountainous jungles look like heaven.  But, you can’t see the heat in the photos.  You can’t see the mosquitoes, and you certainly can’t see the regular frustrations that come with living in a developing country.  Like today for instance, one of the hottest days of the year, in a year that has been the hottest since 2014 on the Osa, some idiots with a chainsaw took it upon themselves to take down a tree that was growing alongside the road just a stone’s throw from my house.  They didn’t cut a wedge out of the trunk to control its fall, nor did they tamp a metal wedge into the cut to push the tree’s fall away from the power lines.  Instead, they cut the trunk straight across, and you guessed it; the tree fell directly onto the power lines. 

It crushed a utility pole, strewing power lines all over the road and knocking out power for over half the town. With electric fans and air conditioners rendered useless, every house is quickly turning into an oven as I write this.  

I made my escape from my own hotbox house about an hour after the tree went down, and already the air had become thick and stifling.  As I locked the gate to my house, I saw a couple locals taking a bicycle and a motorcycle over the downed lines without experiencing fatal electrocution.  So, repeating their path, I pedaled my bike over the lines as well, flinching as my tires made contact with the wires.  Nothing happened.  But, as I unclenched my muscles, I was startled by one of the chainsaw-wielding idiots.  They were sitting in the shade just across the road from the splintered utility pole sipping a pacha (a small bottle of cacique guarro, a Costa Rican liquor).  Just as I passed over the downed lines, one of them yelled out “Bwuh!”  I nearly fell off my bike.  I looked at him in dismay.  He appeared intoxicated.  The urge to stop my bike and punch his face was almost overwhelming.  But, I pedaled on, cursing him loudly.  

As I rode on, I saw that there were lines ripped from the utility poles all the way down the road, extending over a hundred yards past the cut tree.  I could only keep riding and practicing some deep breathing to encourage the bubbling rage inside me to dissipate.  

Usually such inconveniences that come with living here on the Osa roll over me without causing much of a reaction.  But, today’s heat coupled with the absolute idiocy of these two tree-cutting, pacha-sipping jerkoffs left my nerves raw.  And, in a place like this, it is imperative to have a thick hide.  Once you’re knocked off balance and feeling reactive, the annoyances can stack up quickly.  To thrive here, you have to be able to roll with the punches.  To react to every annoyance or inconvenience would take up most of your time and all of your energy.  

So, today, I’ll be heading to Playa Preciosa for some surfing and swimming to remind myself that the Osa truly is paradise.  And this is the balance.  Depending on your perspective, living in the tropics can be heaven or it can be hell.  Being properly provisioned and prepared is crucial. But beyond even that it is having a positive attitude and learning to adapt to whatever might be thrown your way.

And so, it is with that in mind that we move on to sharing some new photographs. I finished my latest photo safari with Backcountry Journeys down here two weeks ago.  If you’re interested in reading an enthralling and educational article I wrote about that specific trip, you can read it by clicking HERE>

To those of you who’ve read enough for the day, let’s get on with some new photos…


First up, the resplendent quetzal, taken in the small town of San Gerardo de Dota in the cloud forests of the Talamanca Mountains.

Resplendent Quetzal - Taken in San Gerardo de Dota, Costa Rica. Photo by Ben Blankenship ©2019

Resplendent Quetzal - Taken in San Gerardo de Dota, Costa Rica. Photo by Ben Blankenship ©2019

Resplendent Quetzal - Taken in San Gerardo de Dota, Costa Rica. Photo by Ben Blankenship ©2019

Resplendent Quetzal - Taken in San Gerardo de Dota, Costa Rica. Photo by Ben Blankenship ©2019

Next up, let’s talk monkeys! I am going to combine a few shots from this latest trip and from the one this past December.

Female Mantled Howler Monkey with Offspring - Taken in Rio Pro, Costa Rica. Photo by Ben Blankenship ©2019

Female Mantled Howler Monkey with Offspring - Taken in Rio Pro, Costa Rica. Photo by Ben Blankenship ©2019

Nom nom nom… Central American Squirrel Monkey Feeding. Taken in Carate, Costa Rica. Photo by Ben Blankenship. ©2019

Nom nom nom… Central American Squirrel Monkey Feeding. Taken in Carate, Costa Rica. Photo by Ben Blankenship. ©2019

A Mother’s Love. Female White Faced Capuchin with Offspring. Taken in Carate, Costa Rica. Photo by Ben Blankenship. ©2019

A Mother’s Love. Female White Faced Capuchin with Offspring. Taken in Carate, Costa Rica. Photo by Ben Blankenship. ©2019

Look at My Teeth! Male White Faced Capuchin in Threat Display. Taken in Carate, Costa Rica. Photo by Ben Blankenship. ©2019

Look at My Teeth! Male White Faced Capuchin in Threat Display. Taken in Carate, Costa Rica. Photo by Ben Blankenship. ©2019

And now, let’s get into some more birds! Hummingbirds, macaws, and toucans…

Hummingbird Feeding. Taken in San Gerardo de Dota, Costa Rica. Photo by Ben Blankenship. ©2019

Hummingbird Feeding. Taken in San Gerardo de Dota, Costa Rica. Photo by Ben Blankenship. ©2019

Hummingbird in Flight. Taken in San Gerardo de Dota, Costa Rica. Photo by Ben Blankenship. ©2019

Hummingbird in Flight. Taken in San Gerardo de Dota, Costa Rica. Photo by Ben Blankenship. ©2019

Scarlet Macaw Feeding on a Wild Almond. Taken in Carate, Costa Rica. Photo by Ben Blankenship. ©2019

Scarlet Macaw Feeding on a Wild Almond. Taken in Carate, Costa Rica. Photo by Ben Blankenship. ©2019

Scarlet Macaw in a Beach Almond Tree. Taken in Carate, Costa Rica. Photo by Ben Blankenship. ©2019

Scarlet Macaw in a Beach Almond Tree. Taken in Carate, Costa Rica. Photo by Ben Blankenship. ©2019

Chestnut-mandibled Toucan in a Mango Tree. Taken in Carate, Costa Rica. Photo by Ben Blankenship. ©2019

Chestnut-mandibled Toucan in a Mango Tree. Taken in Carate, Costa Rica. Photo by Ben Blankenship. ©2019

Chestnut-Mandibled Toucan Raiding a Woodpecker Nest. Taken in Carate, Costa Rica. Photo by Ben Blankenship. ©2019

Chestnut-Mandibled Toucan Raiding a Woodpecker Nest. Taken in Carate, Costa Rica. Photo by Ben Blankenship. ©2019

Return to the Osa (With a New Job, New Documentary, and New Photos)

With 2019 fully under way, I am returning to my blog to update everyone on what has been happening in my life. The last post I made was about arriving in Uganda for my assignment with Photographers Without Borders (PWB).  Though that experience deserves a post in itself, and will hopefully receive one, for now I am content with saying that it was eye-opening, challenging, and absolutely an incredible experience.  I will write a full description of my time there, as well as my experience with PWB soon, assuming my life remains somewhat calm for the foreseeable future.

Part of why I enjoy living here on Costa Rica’s Osa Peninsula so much is life’s lack of predictability.  Sure, there is routine and rhythm here, just as there is everywhere else.  But there is a rawness about life here, an exposure to the whims of chance that gives every day the potential to hold any series of misfortunate or glorious events.  The same is true for the types of people you might encounter on the Osa.  From backpackers to movie stars, from hobo surfers to billionaires, the Osa holds something for all of them. And, being a gringo living here, I often have the opportunity to brush shoulders with any number of them.  

This is how I got my new job.  During the couple months I spent working at an Ecolodge in Carate, I met my soon to be new boss, Russ.  He is owner of a photography safari tour company.  After meeting him and learning about his company, I mentioned that I had been working as a photographer for several years, showed him my work, and pretty soon he was offering me a job as a photography guide!  His company, called Backcountry Journeys (BCJ), offers fully inclusive trips for photographers to a range of destinations, including Yellowstone, Yosemite, Alaska, Zion, Botswana, India, and of course, the Osa Peninsula (and several other destinations as well). Some trips are focused on wildlife photography and others on landscape.  The job works something like this.  Clients book a trip to any one of the many destinations offered by BCJ, which includes everything but airfare and booze.  They fly into their selected destination at the time of the tour to be picked up by their photography guide, i.e. me.  As a guide, my job is to facilitate their photography. So, this means getting them to the destination on time, whether that be a view of the Grand Tetons at sunrise or on a jungle trail looking for monkeys and sloths.  And once we are there, I am providing technical guidance as to lens, camera settings, and composition.  I answer any number of questions from the clients, whether it be about the wildlife, the history of a region, or in the case of Costa Rica, questions about what life on the Osa is all about.  By the end of the trip, these photography clients will hopefully be walking away with some of their best shots to date and memories of a great experience amongst some of our planet’s natural wonders.  

OK, so that’s the job.  And, I spent the better part of the fall and winter guiding such trips and learning the ropes. I really love it, because it is one part safari and one part photo workshop, two things I love being a part of.  It has kept me busy, but also has provided me with time to pursue my own interests.

Recently, I have begun production on a short documentary here in Costa Rica.  My friend Laura The Brit, as she is known around here, is incredibly ambitious and dedicated to conservation work here on the Osa.  I first met her on my first job down here working for a conservation NGO, The Society for Environmental Exploration.  She still works with them, but has also started a new project focused on sea turtle conservation. They run a hatchery on Carate Beach and are releasing thousands of hatchlings throughout the year.  But, the part of her project that interests me the most is that she is employing the local gold miners to run the hatchery.  I’ve spent a lot of time with these guys, even spent a couple weeks living with them and photographing their works. Their lives are very hard and their jobs incredibly dangerous.  These are the people often guilty of poaching turtle eggs or local wildlife as a matter of necessity.  But, with the proper funding, these men will now be employed to participate in the conservation of these animals.  This is the aspect of the project the documentary will focus on, the use of simple economics to swing local perception of an endangered species.  It has been well documented, especially in Costa Rica and many African countries, that endangered animals can be worth more alive than dead with the proper economic incentive.  So, my hope is that this documentary, once completed, might lead to a grant to produce other films about the relationship between conservation and economics and how that relationship can be used for the benefit of both wildlife and the people amongst whom it lives. 

I will be sure to keep everyone up to date as the documentary progresses. So far, we have begun shooting, and we will be doing interviews and aerial footage after the conclusion of my next photo tour, which will be here on the Osa.  

And now, to share some of my recent photographs…


Mt. Moran as seen from Oxbow Bend in Grand Tetons National Park

Mt. Moran as seen from Oxbow Bend in Grand Tetons National Park

Grand Tetons and the Snake River

Grand Tetons and the Snake River

El Capitan in Yosemite National Park

El Capitan in Yosemite National Park

Cathedral Rock and the Merced River in Yosemite National Park

Cathedral Rock and the Merced River in Yosemite National Park

Scarlet Macaw - Osa Peninsula

Scarlet Macaw - Osa Peninsula

Sleepy Squirrel Monkey - Osa Peninsula

Sleepy Squirrel Monkey - Osa Peninsula

Two toed sloth - Osa Peninsula

Two toed sloth - Osa Peninsula

Toucan - Osa Peninsula

Toucan - Osa Peninsula