Costa Rica Photography Workshop – Highlands

In Costa Rica Photo Workshop, Upcoming Workshops by Matt Shetzer



Table of Contents

Day 1 – San Jose

Arrive in San Jose, Costa Rica, at the Juan Santamaria International Airport by your own arrangements. A representative will transport you to our beautiful hotel just outside of the city. Plan on capturing images of the beautiful tropical gardens with orchids and other flowers local to Costa Rica at your leisure. The group will meet for dinner in the evening to discuss all the exciting adventures that await. Get a good night’s sleep as we will head to the mountains tomorrow.

Day 2 – San Jose and Alajuela

After enjoying breakfast, our first stop today is a short drive outside of San Jose. We will visit a rescue farm with over 130 birds and 20 unique animals of Costa Rica. We will have the opportunity to photograph the colorful toucans, sloths (hopefully baby sloths!), Owls, Aracari, Oncilla, Wooley Opossum, and Northern Tamandua as well as many other species of animals found in Costa Rica.

Once we are done photographing the toucans and the sloths at the farm, we will continue our journey into the Central Volcanic Mountain Range, climbing to an altitude of 5,000 feet to our first hummingbird lodge. We will arrive in time for an authentic Costa Rican dinner as we are welcomed by the kind owners of this private 1,000-acre reserve in the Baja de Rio Toro region of Alajuela nestled between the Juan Castro Blanco National park and the Volcán Poás National park.

For the next couple of days, we will have many opportunities for our photography capturing images of the wildlife that visits this beautiful location.

Here are some of the hummingbird species we hope to photograph and view.

  • Green hermit hummingbird (Phaetornis guy)
  • Brown violet-ear hummingbird (Colibri delphinae)
  • Lesser violet-ear hummingbird (Colibri thalassinus)
  • Violet sabrewing hummingbird (Campylopterus hemileucurus)
  • Green-fronted lancebill hummingbird (Doryfera ludoviciae)
  • Talamanca (Magnificent hummingbird) (Eugenes fulgens)
  • Violet-crowned woodnymph hummingbird (Thalurania colombica)
  • Purple-throated mountain-gem hummingbird (Lampornis calolaema)
  • Rufous-tailed hummingbird (Amazilia tzacatl)
  • Black-bellied hummingbird (Eupherusa nigriventris)
  • Coppery-headed emerald hummingbird (Elvira cupreiceps)
  • Green thorntail hummingbird (Discosura conversii)
  • Magenta-throated woodstar hummingbird (Calliphlox bryantae)

Day 3 and Day 4 – Alajuela

A resplendent quetzal pauses for a rest before making his way home to feed his young chick.

Our next two days of the Costa Rica photography workshop will be devoted to hummingbird photography at one of the best locations in Costa Rica. I will explain how to set up a multi-flash setup to create stunning hummingbird images. This type of photography allows us to display all the feather detail of the hummingbirds and freeze their wings at a shutter speed equivalent to 1/10,000 second. We will setup on a covered terrace and with our small group and you will share the setup with one other photographer, ensuring you get lots of time for those special images.

While not in the multi-flash setups, guests are encouraged to walk around the private cloud forest reserve and photograph the hummingbirds in natural light so that you can build your portfolio with a wide diversity of images. In addition to hummingbirds, you can photograph some of the 300 species of birds that visit the reserve and the mammals that frequent the area such as the White-nosed Coati and the Central American Agouti.

In the evenings, we will discuss many different photography techniques including camera settings, and post processing for the images taken during the trip.

Day 5 – Atlantic Lowlands


A stop at Costa Rica’s largest waterfall

Today we leave our comfortable lodge after breakfast and visit the largest waterfall in Costa Rica on our way to another great location for hummingbird photography in the Atlantic Lowlands of Costa Rica.

After a short drive from the private reserve, we will mount our landscape lenses and photograph this stunning waterfall as the water flows into an ancient volcanic crater with red rock in the crater. We will utilize different camera settings to create that special image you are looking for.

In the late morning, we will continue our journey to another private reserve where we will focus on natural light photography of the hummingbirds and other native birds. The owners of this reserve planted native trees and plants that birds seek out, thereby creating a beautiful and wild sanctuary.

We will create natural setups for the hummingbirds with the flowers growing on the property and capture images with blur in the wings to offer a little more diversity to our images.

The hummingbird species that visit this location include:

  • White-necked jacobin hummingbird (Florisuga mellivora)
  • Rufous-tailed hummingbird (Amazilia tzacatl)
  • Green-breasted mango hummingbird (Anthracothorax prevostii)
  • Bronze-tailed plumeleteer hummingbird (Chalybura urochrysia) also known as the Red-footed plumeleteer hummingbird
  • Scaly-breasted hummingbird (Phaeochroa cuvierii)
  • Stripe-throated hermit hummingbird (Phaethornis striigularis)

From the covered deck of this reserve, perches have been designed for photographers to be up close with the different species of wild birds. The perches surround the deck offering 360 degree views of different species.

Birds that visit this lodge are:

  • Keel-billed toucan (Ramphastos sulfuratus)
  • Collared araçari (Pteroglossus torquatus)
  • Montezuma oropendola (Psarocolius montezuma)
  • Golden-hooded tanager (Tangara larvata)
  • Crimson-collared tanager (Ramphocelus sanguinolentus)
  • Yellow-crowned euphonia (Euphonia luteicapilla)
  • Green honeycreeper (Chlorophanes spiza)
  • Red-legged honeycreeper (Cyanerpes cyaneus)
  • Black-cowled oriole (Icterus prosthemelas)
  • Baltimore oriole (Icterus galbula)
  • Black-cheeked woodpecker (Melanerpes pucherani)
  • Buff-throated saltator (Saltator maximus)
  • Black-headed saltator (Saltator atriceps)
  • Blue-gray tanager (Thraupis episcopus)
  • Scarlet-rumped tanager (Ramphocelus passerinii)

Multi-flash setup ready for the hummingbirds

In addition to all the photography options at this reserve, there are beautiful trails that lead to a flowing river where wildlife flourishes.

As the day ends, we will head to our hotel for the night just 10 minutes from the private reserve, enjoy dinner at the hotel, and relax for the evening with lots of outdoor lounging areas.

Day 6 – Atlantic lowlands

This morning after breakfast we have a special treat that is off the beaten path. We head out for some close-up frog photography with a local Costa Rican family who has turned their farm acreage into a breeding ground for frogs. They have planted vegetation that the frogs prefer making it the perfect location to view these little amphibians in their natural habitat.

The family will assist us in capturing beautiful images of these colorful frogs that are found in Costa Rica.

Some of the frogs we hope to see and photograph:

  • Red-eyed tree frog (Agalychnis callidryas)
  • Blue jeans frog or strawberry poison-dart frog (Oophaga pumilio)
  • Green and black poison dart frog (Dendrobates auratus)
  • Glass frog (Centrolenidae)
  • Rain frog (Craugastor fitzingeri)
  • Army frog
  • Red webbed tree frog (Rhacophorus rhodopus)
  • Dancing frog
  • Green boned frog
  • Strawberry frog
  • Masked tree frog

No roughing it on this trip. A sample of the accommodations at one of our lodges.

In addition to all the frog photography, there are beautiful birds that frequent this property and to their fruit feeders. Keep your eye out for that great image!

In the late afternoon, we will say farewell to our new friends and the frogs, and continue our journey climbing to 3,100 feet to the mountain range of the Cordillera Talamancato, to one of the finest hummingbird lodges in Costa Rica, arriving in time for delicious chef prepared dinner.

Day 7 and Day 8 – Cordillera Talamancato

The next two days of the Costa Rica photography workshop are dedicated to more hummingbird photography from the covered terrace of this premier family owned reserve. We will set up the multi-flash hummingbird setups to capture hummingbird images with local flowers, as well as natural setups for the hummingbirds. We will also photograph the local resident and migratory birds such as tanagers, orioles, oropendolas, chachalacas and wood nymphs as they come visit the fruit feeders and enjoy the view of a distant smoking volcano from the reserve.

Here are some of the common hummingbirds that frequent this lodge:

  • Green hermit hummingbird (Phaethornis guy)
  • Violet sabrewing hummingbird (Campylopterus hemileucurus)
  • White-necked jacobin hummingbird (Florisuga mellivora)
  • Green-breasted mango hummingbird (Anthracothorax prevostii)
  • Black-crested coquette hummingbird (Lophornis helenae)
  • Green thorntail hummingbird (Discosura conversii)
  • Violet-crowned woodnymph hummingbird (Thalurania colombica colombica)
  • Rufous-tailed hummingbird (Amazilia tzacatl)
  • Snowcap hummingbird (Microchera albocoronata)
  • Bronze-tailed plumeleteer hummingbird (Chalybura urochrysia) also known as the red-footed plumeleteer
  • Green-crowned brilliant hummingbird (Heliodoxa jacula)

The dining room with great views of the forest and birds that visit the lodge.

The dining at this lodge is fantastic, they raise their own food, and you will have options to try unique, tasty juice and foods from the region.

Day 9 – Cordillera Talamancato

We continue photographing the hummingbirds from the covered terrace and in natural light at this lodge.

We will leave our lodge in the Cordillera Talamancato mountain range in the afternoon and continue climbing to our highest point of the trip, 8,100 feet in elevation. We will be staying at a lodge in the cloud forest run by a local family who has created a wonderful location for photography, and works with the local farmers in the area to protect the stunning Resplendent Quetzal.


A room at one of the lodges. Enjoy the views after a full day of shooting.

Tonight, we will enjoy a delicious meal in the cozy restaurant next to the fire as the temperatures have dipped a bit as we have climbed high in the mountains.

Day 10

This morning we start our day with a guided Resplendent Quetzal tour by a local expert to assist us in our goal to capture images of one of the most beautiful birds in the world. After the tour, we will enjoy breakfast, and then spend the rest of the day in the private covered hummingbird setup with fantastic options for flash and natural light photography. This is the best of both worlds. In addition to the hummingbird photography, there are moss covered branches and fruit feeders that attract up to 150 species of birds in the area to add to your portfolio.

Hummingbirds that visit this Costa Rican location:

  • Violet sabrewing hummingbird (Campylopterus hemileucurus)
  • Lesser violetear hummingbird (Colibri thalassinus)
  • Fiery-throated hummingbird (Panterpe insignis)
  • Purple-throated mountaingem hummingbird (Lampornis calolaemus)
  • White-throated mountaingem hummingbird (Lampornis cinereicauda) also known as Grey-tailed mountaingem
  • Green-crowned brilliant hummingbird (Heliodoxa jacula)
  • Talamanca (Magnificent) hummingbird (Eugenes fulgens)
  • Volcano hummingbird (Selasphorus flammula)

More information about the Resplendent Quetzal


Lush trails around one of the lodges on our extension.

Day 11
We start our day again with another guided Quetzal tour and more multi-flash hummingbird photography and time at the feeders to capture more images of these beautiful birds. As afternoon approaches we say farewell to our kind hosts and continue down the valley to our next lodge.

Spend the rest of the day walking around the gardens and photographing the hummingbirds in the garden creating unique images.

Later in the afternoon, we will gather our gear, say farewell to our hosts, and head back toward San Jose and stay at a hotel next to the airport. We will share stories of the week over our last group dinner, and have an early night for tomorrows morning departures.

Day 12 (San Jose)
Our last day of the Costa Rica photography workshop, we will have breakfast and head to the Juan Santamaria International Airport for our morning departures.

(Tour schedules are subject to change due to changes in weather or other unforeseen events.)



Enjoy the gardens at our hotel in San Jose.

The cost of the Costa Rica Photography Workshop includes all the following amenities:

  • 9 nights accommodation at premier bird lodges. Double occupancy (Single occupancy available)
  • 2 nights accommodation at hotels in San Jose, Costa Rica. Double occupancy (Single occupancy available)
  • Transportation to and from San Jose, Costa Rica at the Juan Santamaria International Airport
  • Transportation between lodges
  • All meals are provided during the workshop. Expect to gain a couple of pounds on the trip.
  • The use of multi-flash setups containing flashes, radio triggers, light stands and backgrounds.
  • Instruction in the field with your photographer guide, with a maximum of 4 photographers per guide
  • Photography instruction on photo editing techniques
  • A planning package that includes recommendations on the proper camera gear and clothing
  • We take care of all the trip logistics once guests reach San Jose, so the only thing you should concentrate on is having a fantastic time and capturing stunning images of hummingbirds, Toucans, Frogs, Sloths and much more.
  • Prior to embarking on your journey, we are happy to provide a free phone consultation with your trip leader, who will give you guidance on what equipment to bring, answer questions about the locale, and give general photography advice to make sure you are ready to capture your dream image.
  • All lodges have free Wi-Fi and cell service


  • Transportation to/from San Jose, Costa Rica
  • Alcoholic drinks
  • Costa Rica Export Tax of $29
  • Travel/Cancellation/Emergency evacuation insurance
  • Personal Items
  • Local Guide and driver tips
  • If you would like to spend a day hiking with a bird guide, we can certainly arrange that for you in advance with the lodges. (Additional costs would apply, paid directly to the lodge.)


Please take a moment to review our previous trip reports.
2016 Costa Rica Photography Workshop
2018 Costa Rica Photography Workshop
2019 Costa Rica Photography Workshop


Spend 3 days at this lodge deep in the forest with beautiful views.



Costa Rica is one of our easiest workshops physically. You will need to walk about 100 feet on cobbled path. Our shooting takes place primarily from the patios at the lodges, therefore those with limited mobility won’t have any problems.

Those planing on joining the guided Resplendent Quetzal photography does require a bit more walking as we photograph the Quetzal. A typical morning, we could walk up to a mile on improved trails with camera gear.

For those who enjoy hiking, there are numerous trails at each lodge to explore.

If you are concerned about the physical demands of this trip, please contact us and we would be glad to discuss the typical day and options for your needs.



We welcome any and all photographers from beginners to professionals.



Weather in Costa Rica is very comfortable. It ranges from 55 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit at our lodges.



Matt Shetzer – Matt has been photographing hummingbirds for more than a decade, and loves being outside watching these amazing birds. Sharing this beauty with our guests is always a highlight of the year. To read more about Matt, click HERE.




A sample room at one of our lodges

  • Learn how to set up and configure a multi-flash setup to achieve high quality natural looking hummingbird images and freeze the high-speed action of these amazing birds.
  • Instruction on how to photograph hummingbirds in natural light
  • Proper exposure for the scene
  • Getting the most out of the histogram
  • Achieving the best composition
  • Motion blur to add movement to your images
  • Mastering the modes (When to shoot Manual, Aperture and Shutter Priorities)
  • Image workup techniques with Photoshop and Lightroom. At each workshop, we demonstrate how to work up attendees’ images from scratch, displaying our nondestructive techniques to produce the highest quality image.
  • Best Plugins to use
  • Color Correction
  • Layers and Masks (Masks are targeted adjustments)
  • Noise reduction and sharpening techniques
  • Lightroom and portfolio management
  • Photography discussions – We’ll review select images and discuss which images work and why to expand your skills and move to the next level


  • A telephoto lens from 200 to 400mm (500-600mm can be used as well but not necessary)
  • A wide-angle lens from 24-100 for landscapes
  • Tripod with Gimbaled or Ball Head
  • Remote Trigger\Cable release
  • Lots of memory cards. We typically shoot about 1,000 images a day so bring plenty of memory cards.

If you need assistance selecting gear to meet your photography goals just let us know. All guests will receive a detailed planning package to assist in the process prior to the trip and optional phone consultation.

A three-toed sloth up close at the rescue farm.

A three-toed sloth up close at the rescue farm.



Costa Rica Photography Workshop Lodge

Photograph hummingbirds from our first lodge on the trip

The Costa Rican backcountry has fantastic bird lodges providing a spectacular experience for anyone involved on the photography tour. Non-photographers are welcome to join us in the field and join in on all activities with a discount of $250.00.



Read what our fantastic guests are saying out our workshops. Client Comments



We strongly recommend all participants purchase trip insurance purchased from a third-party operator to protect your travel investment against medical emergencies, participant trip cancellations, trip interruption and delay, weather delays, missed connections, baggage loss or delay, emergency evacuation and repatriation or simply ‘Cancel for any reason coverage’.

Because Shetzers Photography must pay fees for reservations and leases of accommodations and transportation needs of the group far in advance of the workshop, all paid tour fees are non-refundable, non-transferable and cannot be applied to a future workshop. Shetzers Photography runs small group workshops and wants to ensure the workshops are not canceled due to participant cancellations thus impacting the participants who do not cancel. All tour cancellations must be submitted in writing and will result in loss of deposit and all fees paid.

Please review our Workshop Terms and Conditions.



If regulatory restrictions in the hosting location prevent the workshop from running as scheduled, the workshop will be rescheduled to a future date. All participants must meet hosting country vacination requirements. No refunds or rescheduling will be allowed due to guest cancellations when the workshop is able to run following all host location regulatory restrictions.



Over the last few years all of our trips have sold out. We start to fill up about a year before the workshop and keep the website updated with the current workshop availability. If a workshop is full\sold out you can add your name to the waitlist. If a spot becomes available we will contact the guests immediately on the waitlist in the order they signed up. We tend to have the most cancellations 90-180 days before a trip starts so being on the waitlist can help you get on a sold out trip. We require no deposit to be on the waitlist.



The cost for the tour is $6,995.00 per person. We do offer single accommodations for an additional $650.00 per person. To reserve a spot on this tour, we require a $1,000.00 deposit per person that is paid by credit card at the time of registration. Full tour payments must be completed 90 days prior to the start of the tour and are paid by check or bank transfer.

Once the final trip payment has been received, the detailed trip planning documents will be sent to each guest to assist in planning for the photography workshop.

Our workshops are based upon a first come, first serve basis. Workshop availability will be updated on this page.

If you have any additional questions or would like to speak to one of us, please contact us at 303-888-2710 and we would be happy to answer your questions.



Costa Rica Photography Workshop – Highlands was last modified: May 27th, 2022 by Matt Shetzer