Isle of Tortuga

When I saw the sign at the resort advertising for boat tours to Isla Tortuga, I had to laugh, immediately thinking of Jack Sparrow and Lonely Island.  Little did I know that Aaron had actually booked us a trip to this white-sand-beach paradise.

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2017

I loved this scene of haphazardly beached boats near the dock

I was excited, because I knew I’d have more photographic opportunities.  What tropical island isn’t photogenic?

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2017

We really lucked out that day with simply perfect weather (perfect for chilling on a beach – not perfect for photography).  While the sky left much to be desired as far as my camera was concerned, it was the ideal environment for relaxing and taking in some rays.  This was ok, though, as I had failed to bring my big lens, anyway, for fear of damaging it on a boat ride.  I should have known it would have stayed dry.  Oh well.  We just focused more on the experience.

The boat trip in was exciting and fun.  Music thrummed us into a party mood while beverages flowed from the lower deck.  I was too busy running from the front to the back to the top to see the captain’s view, shooting all along the way.  The catamaran had ample space for its passengers to lounge on the spacious nets for the hour-long journey; others prepared for the ocean by dunking their feet in the twin pools on deck.

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2017

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2017

We passed many beautiful little islands on our mystical quest to the Isle of Tortuga, but I was surprised and saddened by the state of the water.  While Costa Rica is known for its efforts in earth preservation, they counterintuitively have a major problem with people dumping garbage into the rivers.  These, in turn, spill into the bay, leaving behind unsightly paths of trash.  There are efforts to address this issue, but we still witnessed this sad marring of the otherwise beautiful ocean.

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2017

The island itself was as advertised: a quiet stretch of soft beach backed by private land and rainforest.  It felt a bit touristy (as should be expected) with a gift shop and beach chairs for rent.  Fortunately, everything was included in our tour, along with lunch under a pop-up canopy, our own private bathroom (this is important), and a calypso band (complete with marimba).

It also included snorkeling and a banana boat ride.

The former, of course, couldn’t compare to snorkeling in Hawaii.  The water was somewhat murky, and the surface was questionable with sporadic debris.  But I still had fun, especially when I found some particularly populated coral surrounded by schools of fish.  I was able to play with Aaron’s GoPro, so I caught some awesome footage of the fish grouping and scattering in an elegant marine choreography.  You can check out that video on our travel blog here.

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2017

The latter was a new experience, and it was far shorter than I was hoping.  I was a bit nervous when I was the only one sans helmet and life vest, but I should have realized they were merely overcautious precautions.  It was easy to hold onto the long, yellow inflatable, and we got some decent speed!  But as with most exhilarating experiences, it was over far too quickly.

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2017

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2017

Back on land, we had some time to wander the beach, carving notes in the sand and chasing the local wildlife.  I loved the friendly boar, and I was surprised to discover a resident peacock!  I also quickly learned that a peacock’s cry sounds distressingly like my kitty’s mournful yowl – I was so confused at first.  I chased that bird up and down the beach to ensure a solid shot, and the locals were helpful enough to try to corral it long enough for a click.

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2017

All-in-all, I’d chalk the day up as a success.  I got some cool pictures and awesome footage, and we had an even better time just enjoying the peace and quiet of a remote beach.  When things get stressful in my daily life, I just think back on that day.  No, we didn’t find Captain Jack Sparrow, but I assure you the rum supply was more than adequate.


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This Week on Instagram: 7/21/17

Happy Friday!  I’ve got a little variety this week.  I love sharing these photos with you!

This first one is from the beautiful Isla de Tortuga and from my post for this week’s photo challenge, “collage.”  Take a peek at my crazy life here.

I’ll be writing about our trip to Tortuga very soon, so stay tuned!  White sand beaches, rocky coves, banana boats, and snorkeling… oh, and some more tropical wildlife!  We also just posted a video on this part of our trip over on our travel blog.  Check it out!

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2017

This next one is from Washington’s Palouse.  This vista is observed from atop Steptoe Butte.  I had just gotten an ND filter, so I was playing with daytime long-exposures.  It took me a few tries to get the blur of the turbines just right – enough to show motion without completely obscuring them.  This was also my submission for Leanne Cole’s weekly Monochrome Madness last week.  It’s a fun photo challenge, and I invite you to join in if you enjoy black and white photography.

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2017

Here’s another from my misty morning at Diamond Lake near Oregon’s famed Crater Lake.  We stayed here while visiting the former, and I lucked out with this magical morning.  Read all about it here.

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2016

Now, back to Costa Rica!  This was my favorite view from our hotel; we got to gaze upon this image of paradise daily.  I feel calm just looking at it now.  When can we go back?

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2017

From one adventure to the next!  I’m just beginning to process some of the photos from my amazing journey north to the wilderness of Alaska in search of bears.  I’ll be diving into this trip as soon as I wrap up my posts on Costa Rica.  If you don’t want to wait that long, be sure to sign up for my monthly newsletter for some earlier sneak peaks.  It was quite the trip!

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2017

This is another from Palouse, also from Steptoe Butte.  This is looking in the other direction.  I loved the clouds that night, and I’m always transfixed by the golden light just before sunset.

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2017

Finally, my favorite this week is a simple one.  This was one of the many tiny frogs we saw along our jungle hike in Rainmaker.  Many of the frogs are poisonous, but they look so pretty!

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2017

These pictures were all posted on my Instagram account, and I welcome you to follow me there as well for new pictures daily.

Have a wonderful weekend!


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Costa Rica Flora y Fauna

When you hear “Costa Rica,” perhaps the first thing that comes to mind is the verdant forests and thriving wildlife.  After all, it barely scrapes the 10th parallel, so this tropical paradise is teeming with life.

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2017

In visiting for ourselves, we weren’t disappointed, and I was ready with my trusty camera around every corner.

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2017

I had many opportunities to bask in the beauty – from just chilling at the resort, to the local park in Alajuela.  There was so much to take in no matter where I looked.

Old ruins were home to tropical birds and fascinating ants.

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2017

And, of course, the river was rife with life.

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2017

Birds, crocs, bugs, lizards, flowers, frogs – everything around us was living, breathing, thriving.  Even cats abounded along the beaches!

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2017

Yes, can I help you?

We couldn’t get enough from our day-to-day, so we additionally signed up for two jungle walks.

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2017

The first was with Rainmaker in Puntarenas.  We were there first thing in the morning, so we had the tour guide all to ourselves.  With him, we wandered the damp path, through clouds of mosquitos, over tree roots, and along a creek.  Around every corner, he pointed out a new life form, and I was amazed at his ability to discern the critters against the background of near-identical colors.  The frogs were beautiful, the flowers stunning, and the lizards entertaining.  Though I didn’t accept the invitation to swim mid-hike, we did grab a traditional Costa Rican lunch (rice and beans) afterwards, and I had more than enough to keep my attention with the local hummingbird.

Our visit to Arenal also brought another jungle hike, and this was surprisingly different.  While we likewise had the tour guide to ourselves, we didn’t see nearly as much life as with the first jaunt.  It also rained.  Quite a bit.

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2017

At home, rain starts slowly.  It’s a mist or a few sporadic drops, eventually coalescing into more substantial droplets.  Most ignore it and simply keep on walking, the moisture never enough to warrant a hood, much less an umbrella.

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2017

This approach doesn’t work as well in the rainforests of Costa Rica.  The first few drops are fine, but you quickly realize that this rain is bigger and wetter than anything at home.  Without shelter, you’re quickly drenched and even more miserable in the oppressive humidity.

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2017

This tiny snail was no bigger than my pinky fingernail!

Fortunately, I came prepared, but Aaron had forgotten his jacket in the car.  He was left shamefully sharing the umbrella with our guide until the water abated.

Interestingly, I found the rain was actually stronger under the canopy, pregnant drops plummeting from their cached heights among the boughs.  Out in the open, the rain was more evenly distributed, falling in a gentle haze.

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2017

The rain didn’t scare away the forest life, however.  I loved the little snake that curled itself on a leaf to disguise itself as a mere turd.  That’s certainly effective at keeping predators from wanting to eat it!

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2017

Is that a snake or a turd?

I couldn’t get enough of the vast palette of species surrounding us everywhere we went.  There was plenty to keep my trigger finger happy, and we didn’t even begin to see all the life that rich country has to offer.  Perhaps next time we’ll see sloths, monkeys, or pumas!

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2017


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This Week on Instagram: 7/14/17

To be honest, a lot of this week was on autopilot – mostly because I was backpacking throughout the Alaskan wilderness with nary a signal to speak of.  But I’m back now, and I have so many photos to process!  I can’t wait to see them all.  I love photo excursions!

This week happened to have quite a bit of wildlife, but when the opportunity presents itself, why not?  This set starts with this adorable boar we found on Tortuga Island.  He just wanted some cool sand – no matter what!

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2017

Next, another from Yosemite.  I don’t get tired of this beautiful national park; I hope you don’t either!

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2017

Next, an elegant snowy egret along the Tarcoles River in Costa Rica.  This guy uses those yellow feet to attract fish.  How cool is that?

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2017

Next, an image from my recent post on Proxy Falls.  Sometimes, I get in over my head with my off-trail wandering.  Don’t do as I do, and be careful out there!

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2016

You might recognize this from my crocs post, but I also used this for my latest submission to Leanne Cole’s Monochrome Madness, theme: wild.  Is this wild enough?

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2017

Picking my favorites this week was tough.  I still love my misty photos from Diamond Lake, so those will always rank highly, but this wasn’t quite my favorite this week…

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2016

…this was my favorite.  While not necessarily the best photo, technically, I just loved these cute little cubs.  This is the first photo I’ve published from my epic journey to Alaska, and I can’t wait to share more.  I took so many pictures between the two halves of exploring Denali National park and backpacking along the Gulf of Alaska, and I’m so excited to process them.

These little guys were just napping on top of each other, curled up in adorable little baby bear bliss.  Mom wasn’t far away, and these cubs quickly decided it was time to bombard her with demands for food.  It was truly incredible to witness.  Stay tuned for more stories; I have lots to tell!

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2017

These photos were posted to my Instagram account this week.  I love to hear from you, both here and there; drop me a line!


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Bears and Boars

As you read this, I will be trekking through the Alaskan wilderness, finally off in search of bears!  As you know, I’ve been planning for this trip for a while, and I hope to have lots of amazing grizzly photos to share with you when I get back.

As such, with no service to speak of, I’m afraid I won’t be able to participate in this week’s photo challenge, so I’ll leave you with this instead.

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2017

We saw this little guy when we visited Tortuga Island in Costa Rica (don’t worry; a full post is coming).  Apparently, he’s a regular, just scrounging for scraps.

He took a real liking to this kid’s sandcastle, thinking it was the perfect spot to have a hot-summer’s-afternoon nap.  Needless to say, the kid was equal parts amused and annoyed.  We were able to snap plenty of photos as he tried to bury himself in the cool sand, and he was quite friendly, letting one of our group pet him.  Isn’t he cute?

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2017

I won’t be trying this with the bears, though; something tells me I wouldn’t get my fingers back!


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This Week on Instagram: 6/30/17

Happy Friday, all!  I had a fun set of photos this week!

This first one is from Washington’s Palouse.  We took a weekend trip out there, and while it rained part of the time, we still had some beautiful weather in there, too.  This is the expansive view from Steptoe Butte.  From up top, you can espy everything from canola farms to wind farms.  It was quite the view.

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2017

This little boat-billed heron was from our river tour in Costa Rica.  He was just chilling in the brush, peeking out at us through the leaves.  He was probably hiding out from the crocodiles.

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2017

This one’s also from the Palouse.  On our last day, we went out to an iconic red barn just as the sun was rising.  I was struck by the detail of the lines formed by this silo.  We also had some amazing clouds that morning before the rains filed back into the region.

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2017

And back to Costa Rica (I’m really not meaning to jump back and forth; that’s just how things shook out).  This was at our resort in Puntarenas, and this must have been the royalty cabana – right atop this little hill.  We saw a fancy dinner for two set up in this spot one night, but otherwise, it was just another place to relax on the property.

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2017

This was my submission this week for Leanne Cole’s Monochrome Madness.  This is from neither Palouse nor Costa Rica; it’s our good ‘ole Crater Lake!  This characteristic tree has been photographed so many times, but I can’t seem to keep myself away whenever I visit.  Though this lake is breathtaking in color, I find it’s just as beautiful in greyscale.

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2016

And now for these last two.  I really had a hard time deciding which I like better.  They’re pretty much a tie, but I have to put one before the other, so you get a Mount Hood sunrise first.  This is from this week’s photo challenge, “transient.”  We lucked out a bit with this one.  When getting up for sunrise, it’s usually a gamble.  You simply can’t always tell if the light clouds will produce any color or just a dud.

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2017

And this last one is another from Yosemite.  I love that park, I really do.  It was so much fun to photograph, and the area is so beautiful.

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2017

Daily posts over on my Instagram account and weekly summaries here.  Let me know what you think!

Have a beautiful weekend!


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Costa Rica: Resort Life

We had always wanted to do an all-inclusive deal in some tropical paradise.  That way, we wouldn’t need to worry about our “room and board” beyond a single daily price – just our activities.  It worked out very well in Costa Rica, where our hotel came with unlimited fruity drinks, amazing buffets, and nightly shows.

But I didn’t expect it to also come with so many photographic opportunities.

Between the beach and the birds, the trees and the pools, there was so much to take in!  Of course, they would want a well-cultivated landscape to delight their patrons, but in a place like Costa Rica, little effort was required.

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2017

We were on a beach that was somewhat scungy with dark sand and murky water, but even that proved beautiful.

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2017

I had a few favorite spots at the resort.

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2017

To begin with, I loved the first view that greeted us each morning: the balcony view of the courtyard.  We passed this every time we came and left our room, and on each passing, I had to take a slight detour to admire it both day and night.

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2017

Secondly, we both couldn’t get enough of the pier.  In the daytime, it provided beautiful symmetry with the lights lining the railings and asymmetry with the on-pier bar jutting out to one side.  The mornings also boasted a line of seabirds who would fight for the spot with the best vantages.  And I even got a bit creative with the surfers and boogie-boarders visible through the pier itself.

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2017

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2017

In the evening, the lights were more pronounced, and it was simply a quiet place to venture to the outermost edge like a plank and let yourself be swallowed by the pitch darkness.

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2017

Lastly, I loved that beach.  We managed to catch a couple of amazing sunsets – both of which were mostly a surprise.  Lines of palm trees formed a loose boundary between the sand and the lounge chairs, and they conveniently coalesced into a tunnel to draw my photographic eye.

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2017

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2017

The spot where the beach and pier met was photogenic; I had both dramatic waves crashing against the wood and mesmerizing patters underneath the walkway.

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2017

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2017

The beach was also where we could find our little beach resort cat – such a friendly little fuzzball!

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2017

I looked upwards each night to see if I might espy any stars, but weather patterns dictated afternoon clouds every day.  It wasn’t until our last night that we finally saw the faintest twinkles, and even then, the visibility was short-lived and scattered.

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2017

Fortunately, the resort had plenty more with which to entertain my trigger finger.  I almost didn’t need to even leave to get all the pictures I wanted.

…almost.

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2017


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