Each week we’ll feature one photographer from the PhotoShelter community, and share his or her story behind the shots that caught our eye.
Greg Basco of Deep Green Photography discovered his love for the Costa Rican rainforest 20 years ago when he came to the country as a Peace Corp’s volunteer. He returned again a few years later, this time with a graduate degree in tropical ecology and sustainable development. His plan was to become a conservationist, but Greg kept coming back to photography – so he finally made it his full-time profession.
According to Greg, there’s a certain challenge to photographing the rainforest’s wildlife. “First, it’s hard to find subjects,” he says. “The forests are full of life, but most animals are quite secretive. The most difficult challenge, however, is dealing with the lighting conditions. It’s either harsh dappled sunlight or low light rainy days.”
The first shot of the frog is a prime example of a typical lighting challenge that Greg encounters daily. “Poison frogs boast warning coloration to advertise their toxicity. The colors make for a dream macro photo subject, but the frogs’ shiny skin poses a problem with reflections. What’s more, these little guys move around a lot, which means that working handheld and using flash is the way to go,” advises Greg. “I chose to work with one flash with a small softbox. When doing this, I hold the camera with one hand and the flash, tethered via an off-camera TTL cord, in the other. Sometimes I auto-focus, and other times I pre-focus manually to get the approximate framing I want, and then follow the subject around until things all line up.”
Greg also often photographs hummingbirds, generally setting up the shot around a feeder and placing multiple off-camera flashes to capture crisp, sharp images of what he likes to call “tiny jewels in flight.” For the hummingbird image above, Greg knew he wanted a softer, lighter feeling, so he used ambient light and one off-camera flash for a mix of sharpness and blur. “I thought it went well with the misty, high-key look,” he says.
To get the shot of the black-crowned Central American squirrel monkey Greg literally jumped out of the shower to grab his camera and 300mm lens. “It was a great start to the day, and the picture later sold to Nature Conservancy magazine for a feature they were doing on their conservation efforts in this area,” he recalls.
Greg is currently working on an e-book with fellow nature photographer Glenn Bartley, titled The Guide to Tropical Nature Photography. The book, due out in early December, will be the first of its kind designed to help photographers deal with the unique difficulties inherent in tropical nature photography.
What caught out eye:
The patience of a wildlife photographer is a talent in and of itself – combine that with the difficult lighting situations of the forest, and these images are more technically difficult to master then what might initially meet the eye. It’s important to document these little creatures, these “jewels” as Greg so endearingly calls them, to remember the wildlife with which we co-exist, but are rarely lucky enough to see.
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