So last week we counted down five locations that have Dad drooling. Let’s finish off his photographic bucket list with the top five spots he’s dying to visit.
5. Churchill, Manitoba, Canada:
It’s the polar bear capitol of the world. During October and November, the polar bears move toward Hudson Bay to feed on ringed seals. You can catch a ride on a specially designed tundra vehicle that keeps hungry bears out and people inside. Of course, be sure to bring some heavy-duty winter clothing since you’ll have to roll down the window to shoot out of the vehicle.
Out in the bay you can see thousands of beluga whales that move back from their winter ground to the Churchill the area during July and August. Belugas are curious about humans and playful with their compadres, so great photographs are possible.
Birds also flock to Churchill since it’s part of a busy bird flyway and you can catch the best show of Northern Lights January through March. Churchill has a lot to offer photographers.
4. New Zealand:
Peter Jackson picked a location winner for his “Lord of the Rings” trilogy and “The Hobbit” movies. New Zealand, Jackson’s homeland, is packed with sweeping waterfalls, extraordinary glaciers, imposing mountain ranges, mysterious ice caves and even an active volcano.
Don’t let the Kiwi nation’s relatively small size and remote location (900 miles east of Australia) throw you. The long, narrow islands that make up New Zealand are packed with possibilities. The great news is that a small population makes it easy to escape crowds and photograph that unspoiled scenery. Neither Dad nor I would have trouble finding material for panoramic, stunning images.
In addition to the landscape, Dad’s itching to photograph some of the enormous rainbow and brown trout that call New Zealand home. Western author and fisherman Zane Grey called New Zealand an “angler’s El Dorado”. This gold mine of fish provides super-sized and, apparently very wily, trout. No problem. Dad will employ a bit of movie magic to take that memorable fishing shot.
3. Costa Rica:
Good thing come in small packages and Costa Rica packs a punch. The small country, about the size of West Virginia, is sandwiched between Nicaragua and Panama in Central South America. It boasts shores on both the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea. Best known for its coffee, Costa Rica also contains amazing wildlife and scenery that shouldn’t be missed.
To kick his trip off with a bang, Dad could choose between six active volcanoes to photograph. Maybe he could even do one of those nifty exposures that show the volcano and stars. Or he could photograph the rain forest that meshes seamlessly with the white sand beaches at Manuel Antonio National Park. Or maybe he could do waterfall photographs in the cloud forest near the Talamanca Mountains. Or he could photograph white-faced monkeys at Damas Island Mangrove Estuary. And then there’s the Osa Peninsula with breathtaking views and an equally breathtaking list of wildlife.
With 812 bird species and 45 types of hummingbirds plus howler monkeys, coatimundi, sloths and jaguars to name a few, Dad could spend months happily photographing in Costa Rica. And we didn’t even discuss the mindboggling array of lush and unusual plants that cover Costa Rica from top to bottom.
Dad salivates over Ecuador because 132 types of hummingbirds, the glittering jewels of the garden, that make their home in this South American country on the Pacific Ocean. They come in all shapes and sizes including the sword-billed hummingbird whose beak is longer than its body and the rainbow colored long-tailed sylphs. Ecuador even has a hummingbird that survives at glacier level! Dad would give an arm and a leg to stay at the Guango or Tandayapa lodges or hike the Papallacta Pass trail just for the hummingbird action.
If, by some chance, he managed to photograph all 132 hummingbirds, Dad would still have plenty of photo opportunities. Between the 16,000 bird species and 300 or so mammals make their home in the country, he could spend years wandering through Ecuador capturing wildlife photos.
But the magic of Ecuador doesn’t stop with the animals. The Amazon River flows through the country creating dramatic scenes. On the eastern side of Ecuador Dad could photograph San Rafael Falls, the highest waterfall in the country. The Andes Mountains span seven countries in South America, including Ecuador, and provide dramatic peaks and valleys for landscape images.
Ecuador is well worth a top spot on your bucket list.
Greenland and Norway sandwich the small island of Iceland between them. The country, about the size of Ohio, is one of the most sparsely populated places in Europe. That makes photographers very happy because they have lots of room to capture the volcanoes and glaciers that dot the landscape.
For photographers, Iceland provides an abundance of a key picture ingredient—light. The sun shines 24 hours a day during the peak of summer, providing plenty of time to capture images. Mid-winter has short days of 4 to 5 hours of sunlight, but it makes up for the lack of light with the stunning Northern Lights displays.
Surprisingly for a country named Iceland, the island (on average) doesn’t get as cold as New York. However, visitors may find the daily mini earthquakes a bit unsettling. The Eurasian and North American plates meet here causing the frequent geologic activity.
If you can get beyond all of that, there’s no end to the photographic possibilities. The Snaefellsnes Peninsula holds many treasures including the highest mountain in the country complete with a glacier. Dad could also photograph the multi-cascading Kirkjufellsfoss waterfall, a real stunner, or wander over to the beaches for scenic ocean images. At the Floi Nature Reserve an ancient lava field hosts gobs of birds at the wetlands and ponds. And Latrabjarg’s cliffs house millions of birds, everything from atlantic puffins to northern gannets. The cliffs also make stunning landscape photos. And we can’t forget while in the country Dad also could photograph reindeer in eastern Iceland. When I was a kid, a photo of a reindeer would have gone a long way in convincing me Santa was real.
So there you have it. Dad’s list of ten amazing locations you shouldn’t miss. Now we just need a priceless artifact we can sell for a pile of money and Indy’s plane so we can fly off into the sunset. It would be a perfect movie ending.