Drive By Shooting (photographically that is!) in Costa Rica
Exploring the Cultural, Social and Physical Landscape of a Country While Photographing out the Passenger Window of a Car.
Don’t let anyone ever tell you that it is impossible to get great images out the window of a moving vehicle (or in some cases a moving boat).
On a trip to Costa Rica in November of 2018, I found out, somewhat by accident, that this is an amazing way, in a short period of time, to really capture the cultural, social and physical landscape of a place…the housing, the towns, the businesses, the people, and to create amazing images at the same time.
It started innocently enough when I was forced to be a passenger on a tour bus for a long drive to and from the Caribbean Coast and the town of Tortuguero and the National Park found there. Fortunately, the bus windows could open and during our initial route through the urban jungle of San Jose and then en route to the coast, I began exploring shots out the window and started to like what I saw.
After that tour, the group of 10 of us that were travelling rented cars and I was supposed to be one of the drivers. Things got confused and I ended up riding shotgun in the passenger seat and in hindsight, I was glad that I did, as I could then explore with my camera, the passing landscape as we traveled first south from San Jose to Manuel Antonio National Park, then back north to the Arenal Volcano and LaFortuna, then to the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve and finally back to the west coast and the lovely little beach town of Samara.
I captured images that I would not have been able to capture if driving, unless we stopped every 10 minutes (not possible), and I captured far more images than I would have been able to get if on foot. I also captured many images that I probably would have been too shy, self-conscious, or fearful of taking, had I not had the comfort and security of a moving vehicle to wisk me away before any bystander had a chance to voice any opposition to my photography.
I truly believe that I was able to capture an amazing cultural and geographical cross-section of the country in a very short period of time, with an ease and simplicity that caught me by surprise.
Technically things were quite simple, using my Canon 1DX and a 16-35 F2.8 wide angle lens, I shot at a high shutter speed (usually 1/2000 of a second), using a high aperture (f8 or so), AI Servo, with a high frame rate (10-12 frames per second) and basically looked for an interesting structure or scene (sometimes anticipating an interesting structure or scene) and then literally “sprayed and prayed,” panning the camera as I went by and trying to frame what I could, while keeping the camera level.
The real fun came later, in post-processing. That is when I could start exploring the frames of raw images to see what I captured…what the best angle was, what the best crop was, what was hiding in the shadows that I did not see when I quickly snapped the image out of the window.
For me, that was the real artistic endeavor...getting the crop just right, enhancing color and details where needed, enhancing cloud details, or enhancing the shadows to reveal hidden details and turn a basic snapshot into a work of art.
In this series I kept the crops wide and in a bit of a panorama mode on purpose. There is so much color and texture in the buildings and the landscape here in Costa Rica and there is so much intricate detail, I wanted to capture as much of this in each and every image.
Part of the fun in exploring each image is investigating the various layers and level of information that is present….the colors of a small “soda” or supermarket storefront, the lush greenery of the Costa Rican physical landscape, the looks of any people captured in the photos, the texture of the weathered buildings, the various pieces of furniture, or other items that many of us might consider junk, but that form a part of every day life here in Costa Rica.
These images may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but I invite you to take your time exploring each one. Make your first impression, then explore the backgrounds, the shadows…the details. That is what ultimately defines the culture of a people, their home, their lifestyle and I hope you enjoy what I have captured here in this gallery.
Keywords: Christian J. Stewart, Costa Rica, landscape photography, photography, Pura Vida, street photography, Travel Photography
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