Nature Photography in my Garden, Manuel Antonio Costa Rica

Over my years here in Costa Rica, I have hiked into the rainforest countless times, but to tell you the truth I see so much wildlife right here at home. Don’t get me wrong, I love being out in the undergrowth, listening for rustles in the foliage, armed with my trusty camera. But there s something spectacular about being able put down my coffee and get photos like these, from the comfort of my balcony, and being able to share the experience with my family.
This is a collection of photographs I have taken over the last 2 weeks from my home in Manuel Antonio.
Two toes Sloth – Mother and baby travelling between mango trees
Squirrel Monkeys (Mono Titi) – with babies, eating mangoes and relaxing
White-Face Monkey (Capuchin)  – Mother and Baby on the move
Orchid Pollinator Bees – Only there for an hour on one day.
Golden Naped Woodpecker – looks like a pair are building a nest in a dead palm tree.
Chestnut Mandibled Toucan – Back for the rainy season
Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl – Been round for a few weeks
Scarlet Macaws – permanent residents, thanks to the local rehabilitation and release program
**Please note that all photographs were taken with a telephoto lens (apart from bee photos), so not to disturb the wildlife.
Enjoy and Pura Vida!

Quepos Billfish Cup – Marina Pez Vela, Costa Rica – February 2015

My latest photo project has been covering the Quepos Billfish Cup, at Marina Pez Vela in Quepos. The tournament is a three-day billfish team event, and a big one, as it’s a qualifying event for the Offshore World Championship, which is taking place here in Quepos in April.
There were 13 boats taking part, made up of fishing teams from the area, fishing primarily for  Billfish (Sailfish or Blue, Black, or Striped Marlin). There was also a category for meat fish (Dorado, Wahoo or Yellow fin Tuna) to get the biggest fish. There was great excitement and anticipation as the boats left the dock on the first day, there was amazing fishing, just look at the results board. On the second day of fishing I got to out on the Billfish with the team from Premium Marine Propellers. What a great day, the energy on the boat was electric, and I was lucky to see 23 sailfish brought in! I was pleased to see with how much respect the fish get treated. The tournament is played to IGFA Rules (International Game Fishing Association) which stipulates good fish practices like not bringing the billfish onto the boat which adds stress.
There were lots of activities on land too, for fishers and the local community. The final awards party was a great night with lots of prizes, music, and belly dancers!! Thanks for letting me join in the fun!

Health, Healing and Yoga Retreat in Costa Rica

I recently did a photography project for Samana Health Retreats. They were running a retreat at the beautiful Mareas Resort in Uvita, Costa Rica. Sisters, Ashley and Julie lead amazing health retreats blending naturopathic medicine, nutrition and the physical and spiritual practices of yoga. Ashley is a Naturopathic Doctor and Julie is a certified yoga instructor and holistic health coach, making a highly knowledgeable, talented and fun team. I think the photos really show the energy and joy they have in their practices…. love the light! 

For more information on these retreats, please visit
When not holding retreats, Julie is based in New York, if you would like more information about her Yoga classes,  please visit


The Night Tour with “The Bug Lady” – Drake Bay, Costa Rica

Last week I photographed a wedding in Drake Bays in the Osa Peninsula, this area is renowned as the most untouched zone on Costa Rica’s Pacific coast.  It’s a few hours drive and boat ride from my home in Manuel Antonio, so I decided whilst I was there to enjoy and photograph some of this wild and abundant nature.
I had heard of “the Big Lady” of Drakes Bay through friends, so booked a tour. Tracie and Gianfranco have been living and guiding in the area for 15 years, and know everything about the local bugs, snakes and creepy crawlies. Their 2 1/2 hour hike is PACKED with critters as Tracie and Gianfranco tag-team to find a specimen and then explain fascinating details about it. My favorite is the Trapdoor Spider, though I am not sure I will EVER be able to find one on my own…I will just have to go back!

Location – Drakes Bay, Osa Peninsula, Costa Rica

Thanks to Tracie and Gianfranco for identifying all my photos, you can find details of their outstanding Night Tour on their website.

10 Things I Love about Costa Rica

On my walk this morning I was pondering to myself all the reasons I chose to live in Costa Rica. Having been away for several months, I can see with a new perspective the natural beauty around me as they say “Absence makes the heart grow fonder”

1. Connection with Nature – I can step out of my house in Manuel Antonio and go for a walk in the Costa Rican rainforest, being close to nature is so good for the soul. And not having to get into a car to do exercise is better for the environment and plus it’s easier!

2. Abundant Wildlife – As I am writing this on my balcony, I have a troop of White Face monkeys passing by. Yesterday morning there were 4 toucans in the tree outside my house, being able to share these impromptu experiences with my daughter is priceless.

3. Fresh Fruit at great prices – The day after we got back from travelling we went to our local market and stocked up on tropical fruits and vegetables. We had tons of stuff for smoothies and stirfries for the whole week and did not break the bank.

4. Diversity – Costa Rica is the most incredibly diverse country: geographically  you can find beaches, rivers, valleys mountains, volcanoes, within a couple of hours drive? There are so many different habitats, such as  cloud forest, tropical rainforest, tropical dry forest, mangroves. This give so many wild and wonderful creatures…sloths, monkeys, toucans, iguanas, leaf cutter ants…incredible.

5. Good Honest Slow  Food – Food here in Costa Rica is cooked from scratch, go to a “soda” or a local cafe and the food might take a while but there is no processed food full of additives and hidden preservatives. In our first week back we went to one of our favorites in Quepos “Esquina de Sabor” and my love for the humble casado (typical plate of chicken, meat of fish with rice, beans and a veg) is BACK!

6. Value – The day after we got back one of my cats cuts himself and I had to take him to the vets to get fixed up.  Anaestisa, stitches,  antibiotics, iodine and a cat of cat food was $25… you can’t beat that.

7. Freedom – Being able to trek to waterfalls and pools in the forest without having to sign a waiver is so refreshing! I love the fact that is Costa Rica you can explore and discover. Even though there Costa Rica is becoming a popular destination you can still easily get of the beaten track.

8. Friends – I love the mix of people here, I have good friends from Costa Rica and from all over that have settled here –  We are, as the ticos would say, an Ensalda (Salad) and it makes an interesting mix.

9. The Beach – Costa Rica has over 800 miles of beach, all of them different and beautiful. My local beach, Manuel Antonio is stunning. We were they yesterday afternoon, in the shade under some almond trees, my daughter was running about getting excited making sand castles and jumping waves…good natural fun. And so beautiful, that’s why so many people choose Costa Rica for their weddings.

10. A Healthy “Pura Vida” Life Style – It is easy to be healthy here, food choices are healthy, activities are energetic (in my first week back I have been snorkeling, walking on the beach and in the jungle, swimming and lots of playing with my little girl) Admittedly I have been to a couple of sunset happy hours, but drinking an ice-cold beer with good friends in a bamboo rancho surrounded by plants with an ocean view has got to be good for you somehow..right?!

Anyway I hope you enjoy my ponderings on this lazy Sunday, a little rest before the crazy summer photography season starts here in Costa Rica.

Nature Photography in the Rainforest, Costa Rica 2012

Over my years here in Costa Rica I have hiked into the jungle countless times, carrying not much more than my camera and water. This is when I feel alive, creeping along listening out for a rustling of leaves, a “ting” of a glass a hunter armed with a gentler sort of Canon. I realized that I have not been sharing these photographs of various Costa Rican critters that I have found, this is a collection of photographs I have taken over the last 6 months…and have been meaning to post!

Most of these photos have been taken at Rainmaker; during some amazing adventures with friends and family, hikes with their incredible nature guides, plus several night excursions, the last photo is of me on one of the hanging bridges.

Feliz Lunes!

Family Portraits Manuel Antonio Costa Rica January 2012

Last week I got the opportunity to photograph a beautiful family. A couple were celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary by bringing all their children and grandchildren to Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica. We did a sunset family portrait session at Casa Punto de Vista. They really enjoyed the session, it was so much fun!




Here comes summer…

Many people seem to think that Costa Rica is all about endless sunshine, playing on the beach and romping through the sun-dappled rainforest. Well, I am pleased to say that is mainly true, BUT in Costa Rica, we do have a “Green Season” too.

So what is this “Green Season”?? A typical day has beautiful sunny mornings and then in the afternoon, like clockwork  the clouds gather and there is rain……hard, tropical rain for an hour or two, sometimes more sometimes less, but one thing is for sure there is nearly always rain.

I personally quite like the rainy season. Firstly, the rain is warm! In the rainy season the rainforest is much lusher and filled with fabulous waterfalls, there are beautiful sunsets created by the clouds and there are fewer people!

From a photographers point of view it is the quiet season, fewer people means less weddings and less portraits. But it gives us a breath of fresh air to rejuvenate us for the crazy, high season that is just starting.
Amongst nature photography and house repairs, this green season I have been able to spend lots of time with my family and wonderful new baby daughter. We are however looking forward to the high season…someone has to pay for all those diapers!

Why Costa Rica?

So how did  I end up in Costa Rica?

I think I have always had a lust for travel, nature, photography and adventure…It all started when I was a wee baby born in Ireland, when I was just 1 years old, my parents decided to start a new life for our family in the USA, so my parents, 2 older sisters and I all moved to the east coast state of Virginia. This is where I developed my deep love of nature and later for photography. As a child, I had the freedom to roam in the Blue Ridge Mountains, putting insects in my pockets and following tracks of animals, only coming home as dusk started to settle. As I grew older I realized I wanted to capture moments of nature’s glory to remember forever and this is when I first started to take photos.

Living in Costa Rica gives me daily moments that I can be immersed in nature, and more than enough adventure to fulfill my childhood dream of being Indiana Jones. Manuel Antonio, the town where I live, is like an adventure activity playground where kayaking, canyoning, surfing, and scuba diving are the normal weekend activities, I live in a house where the monkeys run across my roof every morning and back again in the afternoon.

Some of my more memorable nature photography moments have taken place here. Photographing the amazing diversity of creatures, from the tiny, colorful insects to the slow-moving moss-covered sloths. You are never quite sure what might surprise you, like the 15 ft boa constrictor I found outside my house last week…my motto is always keep a camera handy!

For these reasons I chose to settle here in Costa Rica, now I have been here over 10 years and can really call the jungle paradise my home.

a day in the life of a wedding photographer…

Many people that I talk to imagine that being a wedding photographer, particularly in the paradise of Costa Rica, is a piece of cake…arrive just before the ceremony, take photos, try and stay invisible…easy huh?

Well this is just not the case at all! Like every part of a wedding day, whether you are the bride, the groom, the wedding planner or the caterer, everything looks easy, but believe me…a lot of work has gone into making it look easy!

As the wedding photographer, I am normally in contact with the bride and groom months before they arrive in Costa Rica for their wedding, finding out about them and what sort of photographs they would like, answering questions about the local area, where to get the best photographs, generally planning for the best way to capture their wedding day.   As a photographer, there are certain very important rituals that I run through before the day and on the morning of the wedding…I need to check that all my cameras are working, batteries are fully charged, lenses are clean, check back up cameras, tripods, reflectors, flashes, check the back ups back up camera and take time to clear my head and give my self fully to the wedding…etc.

Then the wedding day begins….I typically take photos before the wedding of some of the preparations, like the bride finishing getting ready or having a pre-ceremony glass of champagne with her brides maids, or the groom nervously joking with the best man, these are the moments that begin to reveal the story of the day. During the ceremony I do my best to be invisible, whilst photographing the wedding from a variety of different angles that capture the eyes, the curve of a smile, or body language of two people brimming with emotion and love. Many people chose to get married on the beach in Costa Rica, which gives a stunning back drop and the amazing sunsets on the Pacific coast cast a magical light on the photos!

After the ceremony I normally take many photographs of the bride and groom and also group and family photos, I try and make them a bit fun and inventive by using the natural surrounding like the beach, palm trees, the waters edge, even monkeys from time to time.  My idea is that we all have fun with the photographs and in that way it is more enjoyable for everyone and as people relax their natural personalities and smiles come out. After the ceremony I often photograph the reception, and get details of the cake, flowers and toasts.  For larger weddings, I really enjoy when I am able to stay for the whole evening (till the music stops) and fully capture the whole day.  This allows me to get to know everyone better and be part of the celebration when people are relaxed and reveling in the after glow of the day.  Also, for better or for worse it really is fun to see all those crazy dance moves and wackiness going on late night and know friends and family will be enjoying those photos for years.

Often the bride and groom like to take more photos a couple days later, once the pressure is off and guests are not waiting to get stuck in to the champagne or cocktails. Then we can spend an hour or two getting some beautiful photographs either on the beach or with a sunset view.

Then the editing work begins, I post some of the best photos to my image gallery with in a week so that the couple can share the memories with all of those anxious friends and family who want to relive the day or were not there to participate. After that, I spend time editing the rest of the photos, which for each hour on site normally means 3-4 hours of editing. When I have finished editing and correcting the photographs, I send a high resolution DVDs of the wedding photographs to the bride and groom as soon as possible so they can print and share their photographs of their tropical wedding in Costa Rica with all their friends and family back home.  I always include a DVD slide show set to music, that reads like a book of the visual moments and progressions that make up the Bride and Groom’s story, this really does tug on some heart strings and brings you through the emotions of the day that go so quickly.   That is what I enjoy most, knowing that I have documented and been part of one of the most amazing days of people’s lives and given them something that will bring them back the instant they look at the photo and read into the smile or details within.

So as you can see the wedding day is not just one day at all!

I am John, a photographer in Costa Rica

Want to know more about being a photographer and life in Costa Rica? This blog is about my life, my name is John Williamson and I have been exploring, photographing and living in Costa Rica since 2000.

I first came to Costa Rica, via Virginia, to work as a photographer for Costa Rica Outward Bound, living the sort of experiences that one can normally only dream of – hiking my way through the jungle, jumping off waterfalls, and climbing volcanoes…and this was a job? (Well admittedly my home was a tent and the salary was pennies!). 10 years later I am certainly more established with my own home, photography business, two cats and a baby on the way. But I am still living the dream…I work with people on the happiest day of their lives, my photography backdrop is a beach or a wonderful sunset view and I live in paradise. What more could a man ask for?

My main photography areas are weddings portraits and architecture, though I am still a passionate nature photographer and am currently working on perfecting my underwater photography skills. In my spare time, when not photographing and editing, I love to travel, scuba dive, surf, and cook. Please follow my blog to hear more about my times in Costa Rica and life as a destination wedding photographer.

If you would like to see more of my Photography work, please go to my Wedding Photography Website or my Architectural Photography Website