Saturday, July 27, 2013

Where is your Shangri-La?

I Call it Shangri-La - Selva Verde Primary Forest, Costa Rica
Canon 5D Mark III + Canon 17-40mm f4.0L @ 19mm / f1
Synonymous with an earthly paradise, Shangri-La was first described by James Hilton in his 1933 novel Lost Horizon. The Himalayan utopia, as described by Hilton, lies trapped between mountainous peaks, and is a place where happiness and youth are maintained in perpetuity. 

I have seen Shangri-La. Hidden to most, this magical landscape reveals itself to those who embrace their wanderlust. A place where the land touches the sky and light scatters about, Shangri-La is only visible to the early risers, compulsive hikers, and the dreamers of the world. Located somewhere on this planet I’ve been there before and I have no doubt that I’ll be there again. 

Black & White Conversion with Topaz B&W Effects II

About the Picture --- This image was first conceived in 2011. I visited this valley during an intense hike through primary rainforest protected and owned by the Selva Verde Lodge and Preserve. Following an early morning ascent that included a precarious swinging bridge, hognose viper, steep switchbacks and bushwhacking up a mountainous slope, we arrived at the valley after sunrise. While I took many pictures that morning, I was forced to use HDR processing to reconstruct the image that disappeared as fast as the sun rose. 

We returned to the Selva Verde Lodge in July 2013. Knowing that my intended photo required us to beat the sun, we began our 2013 hike to Shangri-La at 5:00 a.m. On this day the atmospherics were kind as rain clouds hung in the valley while the sun climbed the mountainous slopes. With the sun to my right and thick clouds in the foreground, I decided to use this dying tree as a way anchor my landscape. While I like what I’ve produced, I still don’t think I’ve made “The Shot” that lingers in my mind... I guess this means I’ll have to make plans to return to this Central American Shangri-La.
©2000-2013 / Bruce & Tamy Leventhal. All rights reserved. No image on this site may be used without permission.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Costa Rica 2013 : Oophaga pumilio

I'll Take a Half Cup - Selva Verde, Costa Rica
Canon 5D Mark iii + Canon 300mm f2.8L IS + Canon 2x Mark iii Converter

What’s in a name? 
Known as the “strawberry, blue jeans, blastimentos, or la gruta” poison arrow frog, Oophaga pumilio is a frog with many names. Diminutive at about 20mm, Oophaga pumilio appear in 15-30 color morphs that vary according to their geographic distribution. Once considered members of the larger Dendrobates genus, the strawberry poison dart frog is classified in a single clade, Oophaga, whose evolution coincides with the formation of the Panamanian land bridge. 

Found from Nicaragua to Panama, each subpopulation is morphologically distinct. Some groups are bright red (strawberry) while others are yellow with black spots (la gruta). The frog pictured here is the “blue jeans” morph, and they are found throughout the Caribbean slope near the La Selva Biological Reserve in Costa Rica. 

The name “poison arrow” or “poison dart” is a generic reference to the poisonous neurotoxins that are secreted dorsally. Historically, pre-Columbian aboriginal populations used the secretions from living and dead frogs to produce poison darts that could be used to hunt monkeys and birds living throughout the forest canopy. In general, poison arrow frogs are unaggressive yet fearless. Dressed in neon and Day-Glo, this genus is famous for its aposomatic or “warning color” patterns. While there are a few bird species that can tolerate the toxins or modify frogs by scraping the glands on rocky surfaces, most birds use the outrageous colors as a way to recognize these frogs as non-food items. Observed in everything from insects to snakes, there is strong selective pressure for aposomatic warning patterns throughout tropical communities. So prevalent is this strategy, some non-poisonous species will mimic toxic ones by evolving aposomatic-like color patterns. 

The genus Oophaga is fitting, as the prefix “Oo,” egg, and suffix “phaga,” to eat, aptly describes the nutrition of the developing frog larvae. Female frogs carry eggs into the canopy and deposit them near a watery vessel. Often laid on the leaves of bromeliads, male frogs will make multiple visits to water the eggs and prevent desiccation. Once the tadpoles emerge, females will retrieve the larvae and carry the embryonic frogs to pools formed at the base of epiphytic bromeliads or tree cavity. Here, the larvae will grow until they develop legs and can leave their aquatic homes. The maternal ecological investment is high because the strawberry tadpole is a finicky eater. Beginning with the deposition of one to two larvae and every three days until final development, the adult female will return to the aquatic nest to lay unfertilized eggs. These eggs represent the entire diet of the Oophaga larvae until they can leave their watery home. The diversity and range of this species seems all the more incredible when you consider that less than 12% of all fertilized eggs the survive through metamorphosis. 

©2000-2013 / Bruce & Tamy Leventhal. All rights reserved. No image on this site may be used without permission. 

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Costa Rica 2013 - In the Beginning...

A Window into a Monkey's World (Cebus capucinus) - Hacienda Baru, Costa Rica
Canon 5D Mark iii + Canon 300 f2.8L IS + Canon 1.4x Converter
After arriving at Juan Santamaria International airport in San Jose, we grabbed a taxi to the Hotel la Rosa de America in La Garita de Alajuela. Hotel la Rosa is a favorite bookend for my Costa Rica photo-adventures. Located in a quiet spot near the airport, La Rosa has beautifully manicured gardens that attract exotic blue-crowned motmot’s, rufous-naped wrens, and a variety of tanager species. However, la Rosa is just the beginning... we are now eight days into our travels and have seen more than can be shared at this time. Stay tuned, as there is much more to come! 

©2000-2013 / Bruce & Tamy Leventhal. All rights reserved. No image on this site may be used without permission. 

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Costa Rica 2013 : Pre-trip Post #3

Hognose Viper (Porthidium nasutum) - Selva Verde, Costa Rica 2011
Canon 40D + Canon 100-400 f4.5-5.6L IS
It's summer in North America and we're heading to the tropics. Constrained by a pre-defined school schedule, we rarely travel during spring and holiday breaks. In Costa Rica, these are the peak travel periods, and we can't afford peak rates, nor do we wish to endure peak tourist traffic. In the end, this winter retreat has become our summertime  oasis. With relatively few travelers competing for access to prime photographic locations, July and August is both affordable and productive months for those seeking some solitude in the tropics. 
Not Stuttering... Two Toucans (Ramphastos ambiguus swainsonii) - Selva Verde, Costa Rica 2011
Canon 7D + Canon 300mm f2.8L IS
Our batteries are charged and we've got memories to make and memory to burn. Follow us throughout the next few weeks as we explore the unimagined diversity of Costa Rica. 

©2000-2013 / Bruce & Tamy Leventhal. All rights reserved. No image on this site may be used without permission.