Be My Guest Monday 1/10/11: Rob Knight Shares Thoughts on Guides and Costa Rica

It's "Be My Guest Monday," the day of the week that's turned over to a talented guest blogger for a quick tip, trick or technique

Today's guest: Rob Knight

Tip: A great guide can make a big difference in your travel photography.

First five Costa Rica photographs by Rob Knight; last three Costa Rica photographs by Rick Sammon.

Take it away Rob!

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It’s easier than ever for a photographer to research a new location before taking a trip. You can search for a location by name on SmugMug and see the shots others have made there. You can use Google, message boards, iPad apps and more to find out endless information about when and where to shoot. All of these things are handy to get a feel for the types of photos you may want to make when you travel, but they are no substitute for a good local guide.

An experienced local guide will not only take you to the typical places to photograph, but he can show you things you didn’t even know to ask about. Tell your guide what types of  subjects you want to shoot and he can recommend locations for you. Chances are, he can give you access to places and events that most tourists wouldn’t get. He can tell you the best place to shoot the sunrise or sunset, and the overcrowded spots to avoid. A good guide can also tell you about the history and culture of a new location. For me, this adds another dimension to my travels and shapes the way I photograph a place. 

When you’re shooting wildlife it is practically essential to have a guide that knows where to find the animals and the best times to look for them. Someone familiar with the local wildlife can often point out animals that you would not even see. My friend Enrique in Costa Rica can see a 6” long, leaf-colored Eyelash Pit Viper in the jungle from 20 feet away... and he found three of them! My group would have walked right by these beautiful snakes if we had not had an experienced guide.

There are a few ways to find a good local guide. I have had good luck using the guides recommended by the hotel or lodge where I will be staying. If you have friends that have visited the area you’re traveling to, ask them to recommend someone. You can try searching online using Google or even sites like You will usually want to arrange for a guide before your trip because the best guides are usually booked in advance.

You may want to avoid large guided tours that are not photography related. They are usually less flexible because they have to cater to a larger variety of people and interests. Larger tours generally stick to the more popular tourist sites, so you probably won’t get a lot of unique photo opportunities. You may have fun and learn a lot, but you might not have the chance for good photo ops.

One way to be assured of good guide service and lots of photo ops is to attend a photography workshop in a place you want to travel to. A good workshop includes an experienced guide (sometimes a photographer familiar with the area) and is geared toward providing photo opportunities beyond the usual tourist routes. A photo workshop gives you the advantages of an experienced guide and the benefit of tips and techniques to help improve your photography.

Rick Sammon and I are leading the second annual Arenal Eco Adventure Photography Workshop in Monterrey, Costa Rica (near the Arenal Volcano) next September. I had a great trip last September, and a big part of my success was my friend and guide Enrique Molena. This area of Costa Rica has such a wide variety of subjects to shoot and Enrique makes sure we don’t miss a thing. In this one week you will be shooting landscapes, wildlife, portraits, a parade, and much more! 

For more information about this unique, all-inclusive workshop, contact Rick at or visit

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Thank you Rob for a great post. Costa Rica will be blast!

Explore the light, 

P.S. Planning a photo tour or workshop this year? This book may help! Click here to order.