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Warmer Climes & Colors

'Footprints,' Marino Ballena National Park (2018).

There is a mystique about the Pacific Northwest where I live. It spawns visions of crags and peaks, snow and glaciers, crystal clear blue/green/white rivers, dark canyons, spawning salmon, and mighty forests. In late January, it also means grey, fog, and light but persistent rain until July.

Green Sea Turtle. West Coast of Maui, Hawaii (2017).

I love the Northwest for all these reasons. While sunny and cold as I write this, the past few weeks have been classic local winter weather. About a week of just grey, with little light, which was not optimum for photography or spirits. But then the fog crept in. Fog is what brings the ethereal to this region. Fog rolling across the flatlands, insinuating itself among the peaks, and ghosting the trees and forests.

“Sometimes when you lose your way in the fog, you end up in a beautiful place!

Mehmet Murat Ildan

Sunset in Savegre de Aguirre, Costa Rica (2018). Just north of Marino Ballena National Park.

And then, the light breaks through. Just a bit to start, shading the fog, creating sunbeams in the deep woods, lightening the sky. Most often, that light bursts into full spot-on brilliance for the evening, resulting in some amazing sunsets over the Salish Sea or east where Mt. Baker and the Sisters range reflect that light back to Bellingham, and home.

Pacific Coast, Costa Rica (2018).

Still, winter in the Northwest is a good time to long for and remember trips to warmer and perhaps more exotic locations. Since these are harder to visit right now, I thought I’d take a trip back in time to earlier visits in Mexico, Costa Rica, and Hawaii. Terry Brooks, a writer of fantasy fiction put it well – “I want to kick-start your imagination and let you discover the places it can take you.” I hope I can do the same.

Collared Aracari, Costa Rica (2015).

To start, we need to envision a totally different palette and luminance. Morphing from the cool muted winter colors of the Pacific Northwest, dark greens and blues, shades of grey -- to vibrant, intense colors of magenta, orange, yellows (not gold, but the joyous yellow of a bright tropical day and a hot sun), bright turquoise.

Hibiscus Flower, Costa Rica (2015).

With all the snow and cold across the country right now, what better time to imagine yourself on a warm beach, in a hammock, with no immediate deadline. Gazing as the sun drops among the palm trees, snorkeling or diving in the ocean, or watching a completely different set of tropical birds, lizards and even snakes (hey, nature is everywhere, both cuddly and cute, cold, and scary). Wherever you are in life, I hope these photos can transport you to a different location, a different world, even if it is only for a short period of time.

Grey Breasted Wood Wren. Costa Rica (2015).

What I love about photography is looking differently at the world, and transporting others, through pictures, to places they have not been. Seeking nuanced light, a moment captured forever, adventures to find a new and/or long sought animal, bird or location, and the ability to have your images showcase a specific and personal vision for the world around you.

Purple-throated Mountain Gem. Costa Rica, (2015).

The hummingbird image above was taken at a jungle camp layover on a multi-day kayak trip down the Pacuare River. Talk about getting away from it all! This camp is accessible only by river, or a rough four+ hour drive on a mountain road. There are multiple ways to kayak or raft this and other rivers in Costa Rica, I went with Costa Rica Rios out of Turrialba, in the mountainous Central Valley. They are great people, will set up your itinerary for Costa Rica (river or otherwise), and I highly recommend them.

'Don't go in the Water' Caiman at night, Tortuguero National Park. Costa Rica (2015).

Other bird and caiman images were taken in Tortuguero National Park, another destination accessible only by boat or small plane. While difficult to get to, Tortuguero is the third-most visited park in Costa Rica (there are 30 National Parks), so getting there is possible. It is also a great place for wildlife photography with over three hundred species of birds (plus monkeys, whales, sharks, green turtles, and crocodiles). Some of these photos were taken at night, from a boat, and I highly recommend you take a night tour if you get to the park. You’ll need a guide, as almost everything in the jungle at night is hungry, thorny, or poisonous – including trees and plants.

Brown Pelican, Sea of Cortez. Loreto, Mexico (2019).

The pelican photo was taken offshore in Loreto, a city on Mexico’s Baja California Peninsula, on the Gulf of California. My wife Stephanie and I spent a week there, which was not nearly long enough. We can’t wait to go back. In addition to kayaking, the town, food, and locals made this a great romantic getaway. A full day of warm water paddling on the jet-blue Sea of Cortez, followed by an intimate candle lite dinner at Mi Loreto. Spicy fajitas, home-made guacamole, and then on-the-rocks with salt margaritas. I can see/taste it as if yesterday. Cheers!

Caribbean Coast, Tortuguero National Park. Costa Rica (2015).

This final parting image is of my friends Bill & Jeff sitting on the eastern Caribbean coast of Tortuguero. Jeff passed away a few years ago, and Bill has made an annual pilgrimage of visiting Cost Rica and is there now. I hope Bill will proof my bird photos; I’ve forgotten so much of my bird knowledge if it’s not hawks or eagles.

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