As we had been doing everyday, we were in the field and shooting to greet the sun. This morning we were in sea kayaks in a croc filled lagoon shooting. Out on the lagoon once the light had gone hard, we had a few moments to paddle around to enjoy the incredible beauty of where we were (I insist on that!). By staying in one place and simply doing a 360 turn of the kayak, I could see three, THREE species of Kingfisher! All new species for me and as a birder, this is nirvana! I simply can’t express verbally or in photographs the immense richness of Costa Rica’s wilderness! We slowly paddled in birding our way back while trying to get out of the increasing heat of the sun (I don’t think I’ve ever sweated so much in my life!). I do have to admit, having the croc there watching us as we disembarked from the kayaks was fun, some others in the party didn’t see the humor.
I had two D7100 bodies with me, one with the 28-300 and the other with the new 70-200VR3 (I really love that lens!), both on straps and both in seabags just in case a croc got me, we could save the cameras. We have priorities! With the kayaks all brought back to shore, covered to protect them from the white wash of the locals, we started to walk down the beach, back to where we parked the Rover. We were walking along and our truly amazing guide Gary (this kid really impressed me!) pointed to a pile of white, what look like deflated balloons in the disturbed bowl of sand. We were quite a distance from the surf and on the edge of the vegetation. Gary said, “This is a Black Sea Turtle nest and it looks like it just hatched last night.”
Just then Gary dropped to his knees and started digging like a dog going after a long, lost bone. The sand was flying and before we knew it he was down to his shoulder in the pit he had dug out with his hand. Then he said, “Found one!” and he pulled out a “baby” Black Sea Turtle. It had hatched and got stuck behind a root deep in the sand. Lana & Gary explained that this was pretty common which is why Gary started digging. The first, then second, third, fifth, tenth baby sea turtle was placed in our hands as Gary continued to find more and more stuck in the roots. When our hands were full, Lana said to take just a couple of steps and put the turtles on the sand. It was bright, hot in the sun and the water was a longs ways off but the baby turtles have to make the trek themselves to embed the beach in their senses so when it’s time for them to comeback and lay eggs, they can find the beach. Damn, Mother Nature is just so darn cool! How in the hell does this biology start in the first place?
That long distances in the hot sun though is not what the baby turtles are meant to do. They should have gone in the cool, protective cover of night. Knowing that the odds are that 1 out of 20 survive the first year and Gary had recovered nearly two dozen, we wanted them all to make it to the water. On this big, empty expanse of a beach, don’t think these humans making a fuse didn’t get some attention. Not from other folks as there are none on this deserted, gorgeous beach, but rather from those wanting to make a meal of the turtles. The magnificent Mangrove Black Hawks appeared out of nowhere when the first turtles were put on the sand. So in between bringing water to keep the turtles cool, we stood over them providing aerial assault protection. Now if them baby turtles would have stayed together and all gone at the same pace, things would have gone smoothly. One had a slightly injured front flipper and while it didn’t just go in circles, it didn’t make a straight line either to the water’s edge. Some went fast and some seem to be taking in all the sights and before we knew it, they were scattered about the beach. Then a scream went up as the aerial assault was launched!
With moves worthy of a Heismen Trophy winner, one of the group made a move foiling the hawk stoop on the baby turtle, ending up with with a talon of sand rather than an easy meal for its attempt. While mother nature is amazing there are times to us, it seems cruel. But that’s why so many eggs are laid, so many hatch because the odds of one turtle making it back are slim. Finally with what seemed like hours past, the turtles started to reach the water and safety. Smaller than the palm of your hand, it seems unbelievable they head out into the big expanse of the Pacific ocean without any hesitation. With our protecting duties comin to an end, I picked up the D7100 and started to shoot. The D7100 instantly grabbed focus, locked on and blasted away. I didn’t have to think about the camera, just the photograph…and protecting the baby turtles! I’d never seen such a thing in my life, doubt I will again and I was going to have at least one click of this miracle of life. To Lana and Gary from Luna Lodge, it’s just what they do because of their fulltime involvement with the environment and protecting of the rich biodiversity of Costa Rica. For our little posse though, this was a very special event, a wonder of nature none of us will ever forget!
It was our very first day at Luna Lodge, Costa Rica and we were in meetings about our shoots for the next two weeks. We were in the open dinning area overlooking the rainforest when Gary, our guide came up to use kind of excitedly. “They found a Two-toed Sloth and it’s really low!” The species (Two-toed being the harder to find) and being low were both the important part of the statement. “You want to photograph it?” It was on the list so we suited up with gear and headed out.
With the D7100, 70-200f4 & TC-20e3 in hand, we got in the Rover and headed down the canyon. In not too long of time, there we were right next to the Sloth. Man, what a cool animal! Not really much bigger than a watermelon, there is “sat.” It wasn’t going anywhere until nightfall so we could take our time to make the shot. There was a number of avenues through the forest to get the shot, I looked for the one bringing out the character of this unique critter. I had to shoot stills and video so I was busy. In my mind, the priority was the stills first, video second so that clicks were being made.
It was all going really well. In fact, despite the tremendous pressure I was putting on my self to produce, I was having fun. The one feature about the D7100 I enjoyed was the dynamic range. You’ll notice in this photo the highlights on the leaves in the background aren’t blown out, the camera held the detail, which made the shooting just a little easier. With the stills in the can (I shot everything on Lexar 64GB 600x SD cards), I moved to get the video. I needed to shoot both DX and Cropped video (New feature for a Nikon DX camera). So I moved over to capture some more forest for movement in the video since the sloth wasn’t moving, a hair! With it all set up, there I stood whispering with the rest of the group what I was doing.
The D7100 was on the Really Right Stuff Tripod / BH-55 just running away. I had set up so I was standing on the edge of a cliff with the tripod right in front of me. The group was at my three o’clock and the sloth at my ten o’clock. The filming was going great, really cool stuff being captured. I was standing there behind the tripod talking with the group when, all of a sudden….NO MORE MOOSE! The tripod was there and the D7100 was still running, but I had completely disappeared!
Without any warning, the edge of the cliff gave way and like an elevator ride, I went straight down into the tangles of the rainforest below! One moment I was looking at the gang and the next, I was staring at rock and dirt! I didn’t know what happen but all of a sudden, I heard a bunch of excited voices and hands grapping me. They got me up and back on top of the cliff without seeming too much problem and amazingly, I didn’t have a scratch on me. But I had injured my right wrist in the fall, fractured it (didn’t tell anyone until after we left Costa Rica). Everyone was pretty calm, making sure I was OK and then after a short time, looking at me, they all broke out in full blown laughter shaking the monkeys from the trees!
I didn’t get it until I looked where they were staring. They were all starin at my crotch! I looked down to see that my convertible pants had completely and fully, blown out from front to back leaving EVERYTHING hanging out! I mean everything! Well, I finished the video and we all got back in the Rover. All I had to do now was figure out how to get through this five star lodge and to my bungalow without embarrassing myself further. And there you have the glamorous life of a Nikon shooter on assignment for a new product launch on his first day….. and there’s more to come!
(Note: This photo was taken with D7100, 70-200f4, TC-20e3 and this is a Jpeg from the Raw file, no processing)