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…
The experience is tough. With the intense bouncing comes waves of exhaust filling the passenger area as the driver downshifts to make it up the steep inclines. The clatter of the truck with its makeshift implements is near deafening. Dust is everywhere, coating everything. And, for those of us born with testicles the colectivo can be particularly painful, as genitals are pounded by the hard benches if not sitting in just the right position. The smartest travelers on the colectivo use bandanas or buffs to cover noses and mouths, sunglasses to protect the eyes, and loud music playing in ear buds to help muffle out the ear-splitting racket as the truck smashes down the rocky path.Read More
Today I have arrived back in Costa Rica’s Osa Peninsula after leaving it over 8 months ago. Many forces drove me back here, but the two that pushed hardest were, one, the disconnection I feel from my own society in the U.S., and secondly, my desire to live a life motivated by something more powerful than a paycheck; a sense of wonder and purpose.Read More