Monday, February 22, 2010

Last walk into 15 seconds of fame

For my last full day in Monteverde, I decided since I will be by myself the whole day, I will go all out with full day of activities with all my camera equipments. I awoke around 6, still a bit tired from under 6 hours of sleep, I got ready to catch the 7AM shared taxi to Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve. I plan to get out about half way to hike the short 3km Children Eternal Forest, a reserve created by children who were tired of seeing adults waste the natural resource around them. The weather this morning was the best of the all of my days here, bright sunny morning and no wind what so ever.

I got to the park office and waited for it to open at 7:30, but by 7:36, there was nobody, so I decided to start my hike and pay when I get back. I quickly noticed that this park is very different than cloud forest. It is much drier and from what I read from book, it is compose of some first and second growth trees as well as reclaimed farm land. I did not see much on this hike, just a toucan like bird and some bird walking into the woods. There were couple lookout points that let you see down the valley, but with bright sun the contrast was too great for any decent photos, so I decided I should find something like flowers or insects or small plants, but the trail was lack of those as well. I guess this trail is good for people to enjoy a quiet solitude in the woods as I did not see a single soul during my walk.

After a while I finally spotted some small flowers and I decided to whip out my long lens to get a blur background shot of the flower. As I was fumbling to get the lens hood on the lens, I dropped onto the trail and it bounced off the trail down the thickets, where I saw it drop down and disappeared. Since it sounded like it did stop some where and the drop off did not look that deadly, I decided to go after it! The slope was steep so I tried to hold on to any tree trunk or root and at same time hoping some of the rocks under my foot will not fall off. I was able to find the lens hood (over $40 saved) and got back up to the trail in may be 3-5 minutes. It definitely made the boring hike so far much more fun! After making my photos, I started heading back toward the visitor center. At one section of the trail, it was more shaded and more moist, and there were lots birds of paradise flowers (none too photogenic due to its various state of decaying) with some of its new leaves curled up. From my previous experience, I know some creature like to hide in it, so decided to see if there was anything, and wala there was a spider in one of the leaf, so I brought out my macro lens to try to capture it. But the lighting was very dark inside the leaf. Next I tried the camera flash without the lens hood, and it was better. I spent a while with various setting and flashing power, and I think the photos were not the greatest, but still nice enough to enjoy the spiral shaped leaf and spider. After the fun shoot, I hiked back up to the visitor center which is now opened and paid my due and was on my way to the Butterfly Garden. On the way there I went to the Sheila's bakery to recharge with juice and lemon pastry. By this time sun is high in the sky and hot, and I tried to walk in the shade as much as possible as I don't have sun screen with me, but there were not much shade on the way to the garden.

I have been to the many butterfly gardens before, but the best is still the Brookside garden in Maryland! It was a hot day so by the time I got there the butterflies are super active, rarely stopping and lighting was harsh in some enclosures, so I think I only took THREE photos of the butterflies! But the guide provided some nice and interesting information on some of other insects they kept there, and I was able to take many photos there in a controlled condition :) I was also took some photos of strange looking caterpillars as well as leaf cutter ants (they had a small colony on display).

With lots walking and standing with photo equipments, I needed another break, so on the way back to Santa Elena, I stopped by the ice cream parlor for a sundae.

My next objective was the frog pond that we went to the first night. Since the 2nd visit is free and wanted better pictures, I stopped in and suddenly realized that the two of people (one guy, one woman) working there were some of the same Ticos that hung out at the night club every night! Anyway they got me a flash and I was back in the frog display. The lighting this time is definitely better, but some frogs were hard to find or in hard to photo places, and combine this with glare from the glass window, it was till difficult to shoot. But did my best with my macro lens and hopefully few will be decent.

As I was approaching the last display I noticed there was a film crew of some sort, but I ignored it, and when I got to the last display and noticed that they were still there and shooting at the famous red eyed green frog with display window opened, how nice they open it for the film crew so they don't have to deal with glare! I attempt to get myself close so I can photo the frog without the glass as well. The frog was sleeping in a nice set of leaves and the filter sun light was soft, perfect photo op! As I was setting up my tripod, they asked if I like the place or not. I saw the CNN logo on their shirt, and ask if they are from CNN, and they said yes, but CNN Latin America. They asked me to continue to take the photos of the frog as they filmed me, then they interviewed me about my experience of frog pond and Monteverde. I am not sure I will make the cut during their editing, but I was happy enough to be interviewed by a tv crew for the first time and of all places in a frog pond. As they said, if you hang around a place long enough, things will come and happen to you :)

By this time it was just past 4PM, and I have been out for 7 hours, so decided to go back to the hostal to rest for a little bit and drop off my rain gears - not needed any more. Soon I was out again for my last photo shoot of the day - snake/reptile display near by. The lighting is bit better with each display has its own incandescent light (not all working), but some snakes hide in dark places or behind leaves. Also some display have mixed lighting with strong ambient/filter sun/incandescent light source - good luck with getting the right white balance on the whole snake. There was no CNN crew there, but I was there when they fed some of the snakes with live white mice and was able to capture some of the "fun" imagery through the glass of course.

With my last activity of the day out the way I was hungry, so I went to the near by place that serves "budget" end of the meal, and had good dinner that I quickly devoured. Didn't feel like to make new friends on my last night, I thanked Diego for all his helpful information and went back to my room to pack-up and gone to sleep around 9:15.

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