Ten years ago I asked my grandfather, “When are you going to switch to digital?” His answer went something along the like…. “You kidding? Switch to digital? NEVER!” Well… maybe not exactly those words, but you get my point. He had been photographing birds and wildlife subjects with film cameras for 20+ years, certainly this digital stuff could not compare! Not more than a year later he bought his first digital camera, a Canon G3, which was BEAST of a camera at 4… can you believe it!?! A WHOLE 4 Megapixels! WOW!!! Within three months he was hooked and, like any good photographer, convinced he needed to upgrade. He bought himself EOS-D10 which was a whopping 6.3 megapixels! As a result of his upgrade I became the recipient of that first G3. So, as a Junior at Santa Clara University, with an almost brand new digital camera in hand, I did what any good college kid would do: Take pictures of your friends drinking fairly copious amounts of Keystone Light from red solo cups. (Yes, this was the tadpole from which a career in portraiture was born. Awesome, huh?!?) Probably not what G-pa had in mind. None the less, my passion for snapping, was sparked and over the last two years of college I took 14,000 images, most of wich would guarantee me a high ranking position in the government should any of my colleagues run for president. That, my friends, is my kind of job security!
After graduating I took the obligatory trip to Europe with a good buddy of mine (AKA Eurotrip), carrying the G3 all the while. Upon my return I shared *a select few* of the resulting photos with my grandfather at a family gathering. At breakfast the next morning he came out with a printed piece of paper and put it smack dab in front of my place setting. He said, “Buy this one.” I had no idea what he was talking about. I looked at the paper and it was a datasheet for an unreleased Canon 20D SLR. This thing looked like a technological marvel! The engineer in me had a nerdgasim combing through the specs. It had like 27 buttons, 8.2 Megapixels, 1600 ISO a removable lens, and then I saw was the price… $1500!!! WHAT! I think the most expensive thing I had bought to that date was a stereo system for $300 (you know… because chicks dig dance parties!). I started saving every penny I made from my job at Lockheed Martin and bought that 20D six months later. I’m fairly sure I took down the UPS tracking website on the day it was scheduled to arrive by clicking refresh about a billion times. “Is it here yet?… Is it here YET!!! IIIIS IT HEEERE YET!!!!! AHHH!!” Finally it arrived and I meticulously opened the box, examining every piece, not having any clue how to use any of it. From that day I have always thought of G-pa as being the reason I am where I am today.
Last June, G-pa asked if I was interested in joining him on a trip to Costa Rica… there was only one answer. “Oh HELL YEAHHH!” Our mission: To hunt down birds and photograph the crap out of them! So, with 60 lbs of camera gear, lenses bigger than 14th century cannons, and an open eye for winged critters, we met in San Jose, Costa Rica. We traveled some of the more obscure parts of the country starting out inland at Savedgre Lodge looking for the always amazing Resplendent Quetzal (a bird that was surly created while god was tripping on some pre-worldly acid). We then headed south nearly to Panama (we may or may not have illegally crossed the border) to the Wilson Botanical Gardens. After we moved west to the Pacific Coast where we took a boat to La Paloma Lodge in Drakes Bay. Let me just say that if you travel to this part of Costa Rica, know that you are surrounded by bugs. All. The. Time. There are bugs freaking EVERYWHERE! Bugs the size of my fist, little bugs, bugs that make crazy noises, bugs that throw nets, bugs that open and close doors, bugs that can kill you, and bugs that can save lives. We even took a bug tour which only solidified the fact that I was surly going to be eaten by an army of entomological critters. We explored Corcavado National Park and Cano Island all while millions of Cicada bugs blasted their high pitched buzz that makes the world sound like a 747 landing strip. Wanna know the most annoying sound in the world? Cicada bugs in the mid-day heat. Their high pitched scream is a clear indication that you are in a nearly non-hospitable environment. Finally, we we completed our mission of sniping feathered flying animals in Palo Verde National Park.
Needless to say we saw some cool stuff and I came away with some really great photos. I was of course happy about all of this, but more importantly I got to spend some time as a 30 year old, traveling with my 83 year old grandpa. Not many people can say they’ve had that experience. I could have lost every memory card on the way home and I dont think I would have blinked (well… thats a bold faced lie, but you get my point!). This trip, for me, was about spending time with family, and keeping an open ear to a person who has inspired me in so many ways. It was without a doubt one of the most memorable experiences in my lifetime, and will shape the way I see my grandfather for years. I am incredibly thankful to have had the opportunity to travel with one of my greatest heros, ohh, and get a few pictures in there along the way. ;D Check out some of the critters we found by clicking on the thumbnails below!