Monday, December 31, 2012

Top 10 Favorites of 2012

2012 was not a very prolific photo year for me.  In fact, after May I only remember picking up my camera once for some serious shooting.  Sometimes life gets in the way.  But, I vow to change that in 2013.  Despite the “down” year, we ended up taking two fantastic trips.  The first was to the Ecuadorian Amazon and the second was a return trip to the Osa Peninsula in Costa Rica.  All of my favorite 2012 photos are from those two trips.

As with last year’s top 10 favorites, I picked these not because they are of the highest quality but  because of the memories of the events themselves and what it took to get these shots.

My first favorite is of this pair of Night Monkeys taken in Ecuador.  This was one of the target species that we wanted a photo of and I had read about these monkeys in advance of the trip and really wanted a shot of them peering out of their tree hollow hideout.  My shots of these monkeys didn't turn out as sharp as I hoped but considering they were taken in low light from a moving canoe I felt good enough about the quality and was really happy that I got a shot that I had envisioned before the trip.

Night Monkeys

This Yellow-headed Amazon River Turtle had all four legs off the log and was waving them slowly.  I am sure this was done to take advantage of the warm sun, but a part of me thought that maybe the turtle was inspired by the hitchhiking butterfly and was trying to fly.  Alas, it gave up after a few minutes and decided to sunbathe instead.

Yellow-headed Amazon River Turtle

In Ecuador, we visited two large parrot clay licks.  Both had 100's of birds and the sound was virtually deafening.  This video doesn't even do the experience justice.  One of my favorite shots is of these Cobalt-winged Parakeets and Orange-cheeked Parrots just as they took off in a mass exodus and flew right over our heads.

Wings of Color

Another of our target species in Ecuador was the Pygmy Marmoset.  The primate is one of the smallest in the world and next to impossible to find.  Our guides did a tremendous job tracking this pair down in dense jungle based on their high pitched calls.  In order to get a semi-clear shot of these shy critters, both guides were holding branches apart that were in my line of sight and I was contorted like a pretzel trying to get the tripod aligned between openings in the foliage as best I could.  Of course, my wife will remember this because of all the mosquito bites we got in this part of the jungle, but those bites stopped itching months ago and the memories will live on forever.

Pygmy Marmoset Pair

By far, the species that we most wanted to see in the Amazon was the giant otter.  We picked the Napo Wildlife Center for this very reason and we were not disappointed.  We saw the otters 3 separate times and spent at least an hour all told with them.  I am disappointed that I didn't get any really great images of them due to the low light and their elusiveness, but I will never forget the first time we saw them and the amazing sounds that they made as this video will attest.

Giant River Otter Family

In Costa Rica, anoles are very common and I have seen many.  However, I haven't been able to get a really good shot of one displaying it's dewlap until this year. I observed that this Golfo Dulce Anolis would bob its head up and down twice and then do a short display of it's dewlap.  The third time it repeated this pattern, I was ready.

Golfo Dulce Anolis

Spider Monkeys are very challenging to photograph because they all always on the move and rarely stop to pose for pictures.  When they do, they always seem to stop behind some branches or directly into the sun ensuring lousy photos.  So, when this troop of Spider Monkeys decided to pause long enough in the trees above our Cabina in Costa Rica, I took advantage as best I could.

Spider Monkey

Now imagine a monkey that is about 1/3 the size of the Spider Monkeys and just as elusive to photograph.  That monkey would be the Squirrel Monkey and it is our favorite of the 4 monkey species we see in Costa Rica.  Between its Eddie Munster like face, bird like calls, and long black-tipped tail this monkey is really fun to see in the wild.  On top of that, they are good little hunters and if you look closely you can see the giant grasshopper that this one had as a snack.

Squirrel Monkey

For us, seeing snakes in the wild is very exciting especially when we see a big snake.  While we were happy to see an Anaconda in Ecuador, it was only about 6 feet and was just a juvenile which is about 1/3 of the size of an adult.  In Costa Rica, we finally saw a really big snake.  This Boa Constrictor was easily 7 feet but its girth was most impressive.  It was a great experience to see this big snake all coiled up and then slowly uncoil and retreat into the dense undergrowth.

Boa Constrictor

The lodge where we stay in Costa Rica (Bosque del Cabo) has cabinas high on a bluff overlooking the ocean.  This makes for great photo ops of birds flying by.  The Scarlet Macaw is a spectacular bird and they are common on the grounds of this lodge.  However, it is very hard to time one of their flybys to get a decent picture.  Most of the time the birds are nice enough to let out a few squawks to announce their impending flyby.  I can't tell you the number of times that I have heard those squawks and tried to time this flyby to get a good shot looking down on these birds as the glide past only to have a branch in the way or bad light.  Finally, this year I was able to get a satisfying shot.

Scarlet Macaws  

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