Monday, May 1, 2017

Through a Guide's Lens: Costa Rica with Alex Arias

Macaws by Alex Arias

“That's why I tell my guests that sometimes you must put the camera away to first enjoy that precious moment of nature.” 

Alex Arias
Recently we were awed by Alex Arias’ photographic skills and approach to viewing wildlife. He has an uncanny ability to capture Costa Rican wildlife in its raw form. As a full time, resident guide for Costa Rica Sun Tours, Alex’s expertise and personality on and off the trail are exemplary. Alex’s specialty, since starting to guide in 1995, is leading photography trips and adventure tours. He has competed with adventure teams in Mexico, Nicaragua and Panama, and has led friends up to the peak of Chirripo - the highest peak in Costa Rica - several times. As a bonus, families with children love him for his enthusiasm and caring personality! Read on for an interview and to view a sample of his inspiring images.

KC: What was your inspiration to start guiding?
AA: I always enjoy nature, I have been exploring and traveling all over Costa Rica and I love to share everything I have learned through all these years, and if I can help people learn and appreciate all this nature, much better. For example, in my case I grew up with a sling shot in my hands because I did not know anything different, nobody taught me anything about how important was to protect our environment, so now I try to make a difference. It is more exciting to capture birds and animals through the lens of my camera and share those moments with my guests.

KC: Can you share your most proud moment as a guide?
AA: I would not call it proud, is more really like “a good feeling”. Which is when I get travelers to see things with different eyes, when they understand and appreciate what they are seeing, and finally when they are having a great time. Then I hope they will return to their country back home with a different attitude, a unique experience and of course the photos they always wanted to take.

Arenal Volcano , Alex Arias

KC: What has been your most incredible moment with wildlife?
AA: Wow this is a very difficult question, in so many years I have enjoyed so many incredible unique and simple moments from a small hummingbird feeding their young to a puma attacking a wild pig.  But I have to say that what really makes my days is to see the emotion in the eyes of my guests when they first get to observe or photograph what they always wanted to,  you just have to see the face of a child,  the first time they see monkeys jumping or howling in a tree, or a sloth moving slowly through a tree trying to reach the branch they  want,  giving my guests that life and unique experiences is what fills me.

Puma in Corcovado, Alex Arias

KC: Of the photos you have shared with us, can you tell me a story about one of them?
AA: The photo of the puma  for example: first it is very difficult to see a puma in the rainforest, second to see it so close even more difficult, that specific day I was  walking along the beach in the Corcovado National Park  with a group of travelers  and while we were  observing a group of flying macaws   we found the cat's footprints on the beach, “wow these are the traces of a Puma” I told the guests, and one of them said;  “Alex  seeing  a cat would be  a dream coming  true to me” (ha ha also for me! I told him in a funny way). We tried to follow the animal’s tracks until they were lost in the forest, and what a surprise when we found that beautiful puma, just resting on the shade giving him a perfect camouflage in the forest understory. That is one of those moments when I must tell my guests to leave their cameras on the side and enjoy that unique moment, then we can take the photo.

KC: What is your favorite region of Costa Rica (if it's possible to pick only one!) and why?
AA: As a naturalist and photographer, I really can’t choose a region in Costa Rica, this country is so diverse and so exciting for a photographer, it is best to organize trips that visit different areas.

White-throated Capuchin Monkeys, Alex Arias

KC: What photography tips can you share with travelers to Costa Rica?
AA: First thing and most important is to know the equipment you are carrying, become familiar with it and learn and master their capabilities and their limitations. Have lots of patience, observe first, and in the case of wildlife if possible learn the behavior of the animal.

Fiery-throated hummingbird, Alex Arias

KC: Do you have a specific camera or lens you recommend?
AA: For me or for any photographer the world's best photo equipment is that one we have, the one we know very well. Of course, there is always “other equipment” that you will like to have, but that will depend on the budget of each one.

Emerald Toucanet, Alex Arias

KC: What do you hope your guests return home with?
AA: When you take a photograph it is important to think: What is the most important, the photo or the subject? Maybe it is an animal that is the first time we see it in the wild, and we do not know if there will be another chance to see it again. That's why I tell my guests that sometimes you must put the camera away to enjoy first that precious moment of nature.

So, I will say, I do not like the word “tourist”, I rather call my guests “travelers”, I want them to return back home feeling that we exceed all their expectations in the trip, that their trip becomes a transformative experience for them. I hope they will have lots of new experiences to share with their friends and family,  and talk about their  trip to Costa Rica for a long time, and finally  hoping  to see them again in my country.

Sunset, Alex Arias

Photographing Coatis, Alex Arias

Yellow-throated Toucan, Alex Arias

Margay Cats, Alex Arias

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