Pura Vida is a photo series created in 2019 while in the Northern half of Costa Rica over the course of two weeks exploring environments from Rainforests to Prairies to Coastals.
Liberia Prairie Highway
Driving thru the northern Costa Rica prairie greatly reminds me of parts of Texas and is quite peaceful and fun. Libera is quite bustling and the main highway is smooth and nice to drive on. Getting around the area is a breeze. Traffic can be a tad weird coming from the States but you can learn it fast and safely.
On the Move
Taking shots on the move is not easy, taking shots on a large rubble (not gravel) road is even harder. So considering the difficulty I was thrilled with the shots I was able to get on the long drives to and from the rainforests.
Life in Costa Rica easily spills onto the streets, be it a fight, a conversation, a makeout session or just walking home from school or work with friends. Even in areas where you wouldn’t expect pedestrian activity it will suprise you.
Drving around the Guanacaste section of Costa Rica we saw a few fights, one makeout session, one poacher, a man on a donkey, a few roaming packs of dogs and people having a relaxing day.
Valley of the Volcano
Driving around the Orosi Volcano is a wonderful drive complete with a vast number of windmills, ranches, birds of all types and some of the gutsiest roosters. All of which remind me again of parts of Texas.
One of the great things about having dynamic differences between the nearby coast, the prarries and the looming inactive volcanos nearby is the view is never wanting for scale, weather differences and color. Even areas that are flat have a rolling quality and roads snake off like trails in a painting. It is quite a sight to see.
Jurassic Park Dinos
Deep in the rainforest of North Costa Rica is a Dino Park that you are going to tell yourself will be sad and pathetic but is honestly anything but. The animatronics are well made, their movements much more dynamic than you would expect, the tour is winding and fun and there is a real threat from the “la reina de la noche” or Queen of the Night or Angel’s Trumpet which can lead to delirium and death, so its got that going for it.
When you have a location with a distinct style, characters with a unified theme and some time you should really try to tell a story. I so wanted to make a movie while at the Dino Park and tried to with my photos. Be it taking bathroom shots alluding to a T-Rex attack or multiple angles and blurs to make it look like raptors were on the loose. SO MUCH FUN and for everyone else so weird to watch me do.
Cost of Costa Rica
Nothing about Costa Rica is cheap, if you are looking for a trip where your dollar or euro can be stretched this is not the place for you. Just about everything here from a tourism point of view is 20% more expensive than it would be in the states. The quality of that cost is lower as well for the dollar but it is a great example of economies of scale at work.
I love the intimacy of blurs and bokeh it can give that feeling of memory or personal connection that sometimes either gets lost in a photo essay or played too often. A wide landscape shot is powerful, a fight dynamic but a good placed closeup image or late night bokeh drives it all home.
Shops & Services
Fashion is a surprisingly robust merchant category in the coastal towns of Costa Rica, as is ice cream and other quick consumables. We ran across more boutique women’s fashion stores than I would expect in many US cities and they were wonderfully decorated.
Is this a mannequin in a shop window in a fashionable swimsuit with paper fishes or is this a decapitated swimmer deep in the murky water surrounded by fish with bokeh light twinkling in right before you hear the scream of CSI Miami or watch it get dragged up by Booth & Bones right before the techno music kicks in. It is obviously the first but the incongruity exists for a split second.
This was the largest surprise in Costa Rica, having grown up expecting Rainforests to look more like excerpts from films like Jurassic Park or The Medicine Man what you really seem to see is the wilds of Missouri but with funeral flowing plants growing in the ground or up trees. Very occasionally you see a toucan or a sloth.
In photography when you use a telephoto you compress a long distance making items yards apart seem inches togehter which can help take the broadness of nature and collect it in one frame to give the context needed to share a feeling that was real but a place that technically isn’t. I loved taking this photo and knew the minute I hit click I had something fun.
Surfboards everywhere, wicker lamps and chairs everywhere else. There are tons of visuals to see in Costa Rica and a diverse number of wonderful locals and ex-pats to talk to, mostly from Canada. Costa Rica’s northern side was full of some of the most friendly and talkative people I have meet in years.
Nothing is Boring
I don’t believe that anything is boring, maybe disorganized, maybe anemic but a little bit of ordering, a fresh angle and maybe a contrasting addition can make anything feel smart, deep and interesting. Asking questions or posing riddles that grab the imagination.
The last walkaway from Costa Rica was the color of everything. Be it the turquoise water or the amber plains (it was the dry season) or the bright orange ripe mangos everywhere being thrown about by monkey’s there was a richness of color that you missed when you eventually return home. Even the dust felt brighter.
There is nothing uniquely special about Costa Rica, it has good and bad parts or people but it does have unique colors that make it Rica. Mixes that make it and any location one of a kind. It was fun being shown those colors and sharing my life with them over a few drinks or a long van ride.