Gaia Hotel Destination Wedding

Gaia Hotel Destination Wedding

I was super excited when Sandy, the wedding coordinator from Gaia Hotel and Reserve, called me to photograph Maria and Stephan’s wedding in Manuel Antonio.  Maria and Sandy were in the same modern dance troupe back in Germany and Sandy wanted to plan something special for Maria and Stephan’s wedding here in Costa Rica.  The day before the wedding was Valentines day, so the two of them got fully pampered with dinner and Spa treatments that day, and were fully refreshed and ready for the beach ceremony the next day.  They had planned on a late afternoon wedding at Playitas beach, with a dinner on the beach after the sunset, catered by Bohemia Cafe.

It had been storming in the afternoons the days previous, but we lucked out and had a rain free evening and a gorgeous looking sky.  It was also the first time I had been able to photograph one of the trees in bloom at the beach (the one behind and to the right of Maria and Stephan in the first photo.)

Maria and Stephan were also truly awesome to work with during the photo session.  We had a bit of a communication gap since they are from Germany, but we managed to understand each other by repeating ourselves a few different ways and even a little acting out of what we were trying to say.  It made for a really fun and light hearted approach to the portrait session.  I think this helped them to really enjoy themselves and focus on each other.  We finished the portrait session as the sun went down, and they stayed to enjoy their intimate dinner with the waves crashing just a few feet away.

Bride from Gaia HotelBride on beach in Manuel AntonioDestination wedding in Costa RicaGroom on beach in Costa Rica.

Bride walking to wedding ceremony on beach.

Maria walking down the “aisle.”

Groom sees bride in dress for the first time.

Stephan sees Maria for the first time in her wedding dress.

Wedding ceremony in Manuel AntonioFirst kiss at wedding ceremony.Bride and groom walking on beach in Costa Rica.Wedding in Costa Rica.Costa Rica Destination WeddingBeach wedding in Costa Rica.Costa Rica wedding photography.Wedding on beach in Costa Rica.

Cristobal Island Panama

Cristobal Island Panama

Last Month I went to Bocas del Toro Panama for a work vacation.  I grabbed my laptop and camera and drove seven hours from the Central Pacific in Costa Rica to the Panamanian border on the Caribbean side of the country.  From there I had to take a forty minute boat ride to get to my final destination on Isla Colon.  Isla Colon is an amazing place, it is an island, surrounded by other islands and islets.  Because of it’s remoteness, it is so tranquilo and the best place to unwind.  I stayed on a bungalow on stilts right over the water that was run solely by its solar panel on the roof.  The best part was I could edit on my laptop all morning, then jump off the deck into the water and start snorkeling two feet in front of where I was just working.  The boatman Leo who also lived on the property in a separate house was a great guy, and he offered to take me over to the other side of the river where his family lives.  Obviously I jumped at the chance.  Unlike the houses and bungalows where I was staying right over the water, these houses where a bit further up on dry land.  So you can’t see from the shore, but after you walk up a little hill, there is a nice farm spread with several houses that are all family of Leo.  They seemed very self sufficient as they had a bunch of livestock, fresh water, and they all got around in dug out canoes made by his uncle.  These canoes where dug out of huge Ceiba trees, and one of them was even big enough to hold thirty people!  This visit to the island made my trip.  Seeing families living off the grid, and seeing how the interact with each other in such a loving and supporting way is one of my favorite things to photograph (example).  Here’s to more opportunities like this in 2015.
Bocas del Toro PanamaView in Bocas del Toro PanamaKids fishing dug out canoe in Bocas del ToroBoy fishing in canoe in Bocas del ToroKids in Isla Colon, PanamaHouse on Isla Cristobal, PanamaIsla Cristobal, PanamaGirl in house on Isla Cristobal, PanamaBoy with dogs on Isla Cristobal, Panama_pana10

Santa Juana Lodge Costa Rica

Santa Juana Lodge Costa Rica

Last month I finally made my way out to the Santa Juana Lodge above the foothills of Manuel Antonio.  I had been hearing about this rural tourism project from a bunch of people, all with glowing reviews, and I know I had to check it out for myself.  It turns out it is in an area that I pass by a lot when mountain biking, but I had never been able to stop and explore the project up close.  This time, I decided to reserve one of the rooms at the lodge and take my time getting to know the area.

Santa Juana Lodge is a rural tourism project set up so that tourists can see how people continue to live in traditional ways in the rural areas of Costa Rica.  This gives many families living in these areas a living wage so that they can stay in their communities, and not have to move elsewhere to find work.  Moreover, the proceeds from these stays not only help the local community, but it is also invested in the replanting of thousands of native trees.  A lot of these had been cut down for agricultural purposes more than 50 years ago, and this project is helping to restore the area to it’s original habitat.

One of the things you first notice is that the foothills and views around Santa Juana are just gorgeous.  On one side you have views that look out over the Pacific Ocean, and on the three other sides the beautiful jungle mountains that are typical of this part of Costa Rica.  The spectacular waterfall just a short horse ride or 4×4 drive away is another one of the area’s beauties.  The water is cold and super clean, and there are even various ledges to jump from.

My favorite activity in the area though was seeing the traditional sugar cane mill.  At Santa Juana Lodge they have a traditional oxen driven wheel to crush the sugar cane stalks to press out the sugar cane juice.  It really is a relic, as now a days these mills are run by electric or gas powered engines.  Seeing how this was traditionally done, in this kind of setting was a real treat for me, and also a real joy to photograph.  After my day and a half at the lodge, I realized there was a lot more to see in the area, and I am anxious to plan my next trip back.

_pana14Waterfall at Santa Juana LodgeTrapiche or sugar cane millCowboy at Santa Juana LodgeTraditional sugar cane mill.

wedding in Osa Peninsula

Osa Peninsula Costa Rica Weddings

Last month I had the pleasure of shooting Kristin and Jake’s beautiful wedding in Matapalo on the Osa Peninsula of Costa Rica.  The Osa Peninsula is such a gorgeous and remote part of Costa Rica, and I always jump at the chance to go down there.  What made this even more special though is that Kristin and Jake are one of the coolest couples ever.  Kristin and Jake both live in the world of professional snowboarding, with Jake even having his own feature films.  This also meant that the guests and family at the wedding where super laid back and fit in perfectly with the vibe on the Osa peninsula.

Because one needs to drive on some of the worst 4×4 roads to get out there, the venue needs to be totally self sufficient, and the guests need to be comfortable with the idea that they are really out in the middle of nowhere.  This made the wedding even more intimate and everyone was psyched to celebrate the union of Jake and Kristin.   The wedding planners at Tropical Occasions picked the perfect locations had stunning set ups for this celebration.  The ceremony was held at Casa Tucan Terra which had an amazing view over the Pacific Ocean.  It really was one of the most stunning ceremony locations I have seen.  Afterwards the reception was held at the luxurious Casa Mindugur that had a great deck for the dancing and festivities, and also made for an elegant backdrop for Kristin getting ready before the wedding.

As the groom and a lot of the guests where snowboarders, I shouldn’t have been surprised that everyone started jumping off the deck into the pool at the end of the night.  But I was totally surprised and happy at the opportunity to photograph both the mothers of the bride and the groom jumping off the second story balcony in the pool.

Kristin and Jake and their family and friends made for such an epic wedding in one of the most beautiful places in Costa Rica.

osa peninsula costa rica weddingsOsa Peninsula Costa Rica WeddingsStairway at Casa MindugurBride getting ready in Casa MindugurBride at wedding in Matapalo on the Osa PeninsulaCasa Tucan TerraWedding at Tucan TerraDestination wedding in Costa RicaBoy at wedding.Bridesmaids at weddingCasa Tucan Terra in Costa Rica.wedding in osa matapalo.Look out at Casa Tucan Terra.Wedding reception in Costa RicaWedding SpeechesGroom at weddingwedding reception in Casa MadugurWedding reception at Casa MindugurCasa Mindugur weddingDancing at wedding in Costa RicaGetting down at wedding in Costa RicaBride and groom jump in pool at wedding reception.Osa Peninsula Wedding in Costa Rica.

Costa Rica Coffee Farm

Costa Rica Coffee Farm

For the past few years I’ve dreamed of going to a family run coffee farm to take photojournalist photos.  This means staying on the farm for a few days and just shooting people going about their daily business, without any set shots, and it also means I am there for enough time for people to let their guard down.  Last month I finally got to live this dream and shoot this personal project of mine.

Costa Rica is known for its coffee, considered to be some of the best in the world. The environment is perfectly conducive to the growth and production of coffee beans – it gets just the right amount of sun and rain.

During harvest the coffee fruit must be picked by hand, as some fruit on a stem will be ripe and others not.  This means each plant needs to be revisited every few days or so to keep harvesting the ripe fruit before they get to mature.  After the beans are picked, they are then put through a wash to remove the outer pulp, oils, and husk. Once all the husk and pulp is removed the beans need to be dried either with the help of a machine, or on small farms, the beans are laid out in the sun to to dry. After this the the beans are sorted according to size.

At a lot of the smaller coffee farms, the workers are part of the family, with children helping out when they get home from school.

The Coffee Plantation in Costa Rica that I visited was called Las Dueñas Coffee farm.  Las Dueñas coffee farm is located in the Southern-Central part of Costa Rica, on the slopes of the volcanic Talamanca mountain range. At an altitude of 1250 meters (4101 feet), they are cultivating some of the best quality Costa Rican coffee.  The owners of the farm are three Portuguese women who decided to leave the office world and live life on a coffee farm.  It helps that two of them grew up on coffee farms in Angola and they know all the ins and outs of coffee production.  I choose my personal photography projects based on organizations that are making a positive impact on the environment or the community in which they are based.  Las Dueñas is actively involved in improving the environmental awareness in the farming community, as well as very much involved in the lives and well being of the workers on their farm.

Las Dueñas Coffee FarmCoffee fruit freshly pickedCoffee Beans on the treeCoffee plantation in Costa RicaWorking coffee farm in Costa RicaPicking coffee in Costa RicaCoffee worker in Costa Rica

Photos from a coffee farm

The man in the center frame wanted a photo with his most prized possession, his antique sewing machine.

lasDuenas011Kids playing with CajuelaLife on a coffee farm in Costa Rica.

Coffee farm in Costa Rica.

This baby is inside this bag the girl is watching.

Farmer loading coffee on to truck.Different stages of coffee production.Collecting coffee to bring to the next stage of production.Coffee farm production.

  • Andrew Lyle - February 8, 2015 - 5:31 pm

    in my opinion part of what makes this farm special are the 3 girls who own/run it . unlike a lot of folks migrating to Costa Rica who come w/ loads of money and arrogance these ladies showed up w/ humility and compassion for the land and people . building relationships with both based on respect . i believe these relationships will b the key to Las Las Dueñas success for years to come . much love and respect to you hard working girls , who r living the dream .ReplyCancel

  • Andrew Lyle - February 8, 2015 - 5:35 pm

    Kevin Heslin thank u for the beautiful photographs . they capture the people and the farm so accurately .ReplyCancel

  • Madi Baltodano - February 9, 2015 - 2:53 am

    Beautiful photos, great story.ReplyCancel

  • Madi Baltodano - February 9, 2015 - 2:53 am

    Beautiful photos, great story.ReplyCancel

  • Gail Hull - February 9, 2015 - 5:51 pm

    These are particularly fine photographs of the hard work taking place in a well-managed coffee farm. Never have I seen the Ngobe Bugle (aka Guaymi) people look so proud and comfortable being the subjects of photographs. Congratulations to Kevin and Las Duenas for collaborating with such impressive results.ReplyCancel

    • admin - February 10, 2015 - 12:35 am

      Thanks so much Gail Hull, I really appreciate your kind words!ReplyCancel

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