In 2018, a profound shift in my perspective spurred a momentous decision: I bought a plane ticket to Costa Rica, embarking on a soul-stirring solo adventure with nothing but my camera in hand. My heart’s truest passions beckoned—to immerse myself in the embrace of nature and to capture the ethereal beauty of the vibrant critters inhabiting the lush tropical rainforest.
In the realm of Costa Rican icons, the red-eyed tree frog stands tall as a perpetual must-capture spectacle. However, during my travels in January—right in the heart of the dry season—their usual lively antics were subdued, and their elusive nature made photographing them a challenge.
In the heart of one of the world’s most biodiverse wonderlands—the Osa Peninsula—I eagerly ventured out each night, driven by the hope of encountering the iconic red-eyed tree frog. Amidst the vibrant symphony of the jungle, I could hear the melodic calls of the male frogs echoing from the forest canopy, perched high amidst the verdant foliage. In this dry spell, they sought refuge in these elevated realms, a strategy when water was scarce for reproduction. Despite their enchanting presence, they remained elusive, aching to be captured through my lens yet beyond my reach.
Night after night, I immersed myself in the heart of the forest, relentlessly searching for the elusive red-eyed tree frogs. Luck eluded me, until a pivotal decision unfolded one day. I chose to venture deep into the jungle while the sun still held its reign, preparing to witness the nocturnal shift in wildlife. As daylight gradually surrendered to the approaching night, an unexpected tempest erupted. The torrential downpour was nothing short of astounding, the deluge seeping into my camera bag, turning it into an unintended aquatic haven. My cherished camera became a reluctant swimmer, submerged and inundated by the invading water.
Ironically, the deluge transformed the jungle into a frog’s paradise. The red-eyed tree frogs emerged in abundance, seemingly celebrating the downpour. Yet, amidst this spectacle of nature, a cruel twist unfolded. The frogs were everywhere, a photographer’s dream come true, yet I found myself devoid of a functional camera to capture this magical moment. Life’s irony struck, leaving me to witness this wonder without the means to preserve it through my lens.
Returning to the lodge, frustration gnawed at me, a bitter companion in that moment. I tried to find solace in the mental images I had etched onto my retina—the memory of the red-eyed tree frogs was imprinted within. Yet, a profound sadness lingered, for I had journeyed to Costa Rica with a singular purpose—to capture the essence of its wildlife through my lens. Devoid of a functioning camera, the very essence of my purpose seemed to slip through my fingers, leaving me adrift in a sea of discontent.
The next day, as the rain subsided, the environment remained soaked, offering favorable conditions for amphibian activity. Fortunately, a fellow lodger had a Canon Camera, an EOS Rebel, giving me a glimmer of hope. With borrowed gear in hand—a camera body, my trusty macro lens, a memory card, and a flash—I set out to a nearby swamp by the lodge as night descended.
In the midst of the glistening wetness, the frogs orchestrated a symphony of joy. The sight exhilarated me, and I waded into the swamp, ready to immortalize their beauty through the lens. I became entranced, the captivating frogs pulling me into their world, momentarily making me forget the potential presence of Terciopelo snakes (Bothrops asper), natural predators of these delicate creatures.
A stark reminder jolted me from my enchantment. As I sought the perfect angle to capture the frogs, a sudden movement stirred near my feet. My gaze swiftly dropped, revealing a Fer De Lance Snake, its unease palpable as it slithered and positioned itself defensively. The reality of the jungle’s delicate balance and potential danger rushed back, grounding me in a moment of sobering awareness.
In that heart-stopping moment, I cautiously retreated a few steps, my pulse quickening in both awe and caution. With steady hands and bated breath, I snapped a photograph of this captivating yet perilous creature. The beauty intertwined with danger was a sight to behold, a stark reminder of the untamed wilderness that thrived around me.
And so unfolds the tale behind this captivating series of photos featuring the red-eyed tree frog.
In the realm of nature, unpredictability reigns supreme, revealing its invaluable lessons to those who dare to listen and observe.
Cynthia is an ecologist, naturalist and wildlife photographer, with a big passion for conservation, and visual storytelling. Editor contributing for Paws Trails Magazine, and author of the book "The world of small. An approach of the universe from an artistic, vusual and evolutionary perspective". She gives workshops of photography and macrophotography.