Let Nature Touch You—A Botanical Photo Workshop

Praying Mantis; Costa Rica
Praying Mantis; Costa Rica

Join me for a botanical photo workshop sponsored by Finca Luna Neuva Lodge in Costa Rica, 9-15 April 2016. Spend six nights at the beautiful eco-lodge and Certified Biodynamic herb farm, Finca Luna Nueva. Located just miles from one of the world’s most active volcanoes, the Arenal Volcano, Finca Luna Nueva is nestled in the heart of the country’s most pristine rainforests. Sign-up deadline is 8 March 2016.


The workshop will focus on techniques for improving plant and nature photography while exploring tropical beauty and attaining a deeper understanding of how to relate to plants. The fee is $1300 (double occupancy) and $1600 (single room) that includes six nights accommodation, all meals and airport transfer. Round trip airfare from your originating airport to San Jose Costa Rica (SJO) is additional. To reserve your space email: grupos@fincalunanuevalodge.com.

Finca Luna Nueva Lodge features the best of tropical comfort including an ozonated swimming pool and solar heated Jacuzzi along with spa services. Delightful meals of Costa Rican-Asian fusion cuisine, served three times a day are included with the package. Much of the food is produced on the farm.


Finca Luna Nueva Lodge features well-groomed hiking trails, along with the Sacred Seed Sanctuary Semillas Sagradas, an ethnobotanical garden harboring over 250 medicinal herbs. The garden, first established in 1994, has evolved under the guidance of New York Botanical Luna-Nueva-5151901Garden ethnobotanist, Michael Balick, America’s herbalist-in-chief, Jim Duke, and Costa Rican ethnobotanist, Rafael Ocampo.  This extraordinary collection of neotropical medicinal plants is under the care of Steven Farrell, President of Finca Luna Nueva and Biodynamic farmer extraordinaire.  The garden serves as a model for the creation of other Semillas Sagradas ethnomedicinal gardens elsewhere, in an effort to preserve not only local biodiversity, but the indigenous traditions that are keepers of the knowledge.  Rafael Ocampo and Michael Balick co-authored Plants of Semillas Sagradas: An Ethnobotanical Garden in Costa Rica (2009). The book can be downloaded as a pdf file at the Finca Luna Nueva website. And that’s just a taste of the botanical offerings. Turn around at any moment and you could see a three-toed sloth, emerald basilisk lizard, green iguana, red-eyed frog, toucan or morpho butterfly!

Red-eyed Tree Frog
Red-eyed Tree Frog

Let Nature Touch You — A Photography Workshop with Steven Foster

Getting great photographs with the equipment you own

Topics Covered:

  • Our focus will be on techniques for improving your plant photography. Rather than dry optical theory or studio techniques, we will spend most of our time on techniques for fieldwork.
  • You do not need sophisticated, expensive equipment to take great photographs. It’s more about understanding simple concepts—lighting, being in the right place at the right time, and patience. And like anything worth doing, practice, practice, practice.
  • We will explore working with ambient natural light and making the most of the equipment you have. Just bring your iPhone. That’s all you need for equipment. Nature presents special conditions for photographing in the rainforest environment, and we will highlight getting the best images in varying situations, whether you are taking photographs for your own personal enjoyment or for use in scientific publication.
  • Assessing our equipment. Don’t be intimidated by the fact that you don’t have thousands of dollars worth of camera equipment. You can get good photographic results with the equipment you own. One key to successfully capturing images is to know and understand your equipment, while learning to keep your photography simple. For plant photography ideally, you may want to have a decent digital camera body, close-up lens (macro lens or a diopter for a fixed lens), and perhaps the single most important piece of equipment – a tripod. A wide-angle lens (28 mm or wider) and a telephoto lens (at least 200 mm, for a 35 mm camera body) will also enhance your enjoyment of taking plant and flower photos. Photographing plants often requires relatively long exposures, so besides the camera itself, a decent sturdy tripod is essential for plant photography in general.  Another piece of equipment that you will want to long exposures is a cable release. And finally, one other very essential piece of equipment is your camera manual. Read, re-read it and read it again until you begin to understand all of the features available to you as well as the camera’s basic operation. If you don’t understand something in the manual, highlight the item or write down a question to bring to the workshop. It really does take reading the manual several times to understand it. Remember —most camera manual are probably written by an engineer with English as a third language. . . .
  • Or forget all of that equipment and just bring your iPhone or other pocket digital camera!
  • If you don’t have thousands of dollars of camera equipment, don’t fret. You can take great photographs with whatever camera you own. One professional photographer with over three decades of experience that I admire, music venue/musician photographer David Horwitz, likes to keep it simple. He uses a 1970s vintage Nikon camera with just three basic lenses, a $79 point-and-shoot digital Minolta and on occasion $10 throwaway camera.
  • Photography is not about equipment. Photography is about light. As George Eastman, founder of Eastman Kodak put it, “Light makes photography. Embrace light. Admire it. Love it. But above all know light. Know it for all you are worth, and you will know the key to photography.”
  • Finding a subject and knowing what you are shooting. Anyone can take a photograph of a beautiful flower. If you want to find great subjects, especially plants, you have to know what you’re looking for and where to find it.  Finca Luna Nueva offers exciting photographic opportunities simply by walking outside the front door of any building. We will also discuss the ethics of plant conservation and “gardening” to create a more pleasing composition. The key to ethical wildflower photography is “leave no trace.”
  • Bring some of your own work if you wish and share it with the group. We will also look at images and talk about elements that make them interesting compositions, or a technically good photograph, keeping in mind the words of Ansel Adams, “There are no rules for good photographs. There are only good photographs.”
  • We will cover essentials of you helping to understand photographic concepts such as depth of field, focus, exposure, composition, making the most of ambient light, and macro techniques.
  • You took a great picture. Now what? In this new era of digital photography, snapping the shutter is only the first step. Once you have captured images and downloaded them to your computer, we will explore digital workflows, with information on useful software, file formats, key-wording and metadata, color space, equipment calibration, and other steps necessary for creating the best output for prints, the web, electronic media, and publication.


Published by

Steven Foster

Describing her first visit with Steven Foster in 1977, Harvard University botanist, Dr. Shiu Ying Hu (1908-2012), wrote, “Our conversation reminded me of something that Confucius said two thousand years ago. ‘In any company of three persons, there must be one who can be my teacher’. . . I found in Steven Foster a teacher who could share a profound knowledge of economic botany, particularly in the cultivation and uses of herbs.” In 1974, at age 17, Steven Foster, began his career at the Sabbathday Lake, Maine, Shaker Community Herb Department —America's oldest herb business, dating to 1799. There he established three acres of production gardens and managed 1700 acres for the commercial harvest of botanicals. For forty-six years, Steven has photographed and researched herbs from the Amazon rainforest to the highlands of Vietnam. Foster has over 900 photo-illustrated articles published in a wide range of media. Steven also served as Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the American Botanical Council, and a Contributing Editor to the organization's journal, HerbalGram. Steven is the author, co-author and photographer of eighteen books, including the NEW 2014 Third Edition of A Peterson Field Guide to Medicinal Plants: Eastern and Central North America (with James A. Duke), along with National Geographic’s Complete Guide to Medicinal Herbs (2010), and A Desk Reference to Nature’s Medicine (2006, with Rebecca Johnson), awarded a 2007 New York Public Library “Best of Reference.” He is senior author of three other Peterson Field Guides, including A Field Guide to Medicinal Plants and Herbs (with Dr. James A. Duke), 1st & 2nd editions, 1990, 2000; A Field Guide to Western Medicinal Plants and Herbs with Dr. Christopher Hobbs, (2002); and A Field Guide to Venomous Animals and Poisonous Plants of North America (with Roger Caras, 1995). Other titles include Herbal Emissaries: Bringing Chinese Herbs to the West (with Prof. Yue Chongxi, 1992); Herbal Renaissance (1994); among others. Foster makes his home in Eureka Springs, Arkansas.

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