Last Januray, Claire and I took a bus to the remote Nicaraguan town of Ayapal; inflated our pack rafts and started floating down the Rio Bocay for what would be a more than two week journey to the Caribbean Sea.  We didn’t really know what to expect.  What we discovered was a population of indigenous tribes living largely traditional lives in the jungle.

A man poles a canoe down the river Bocay in Nicaragua on a foggy morning with a Ceiba tree in the background.

A man poles a canoe down the river Bocay in Nicaragua on a foggy morning with a Ceiba tree in the background.

DSCF5797 Bosawas shirt.

Taking a break on the Rio Bocay in Nicaragua.

Taking a break on the Rio Bocay in Nicaragua.

Along the northern coast of Nicaragua, bordering Honduras, lies the Bosawas Reserve.  This extensive, largely unexplored rainforest is among the largest in the wester hemisphere, second, only to the Amazon. It is rich in biodiversity, a pristine habitat for many rare and endangered species, and home to two indigenous tribes still surviving in Nicaragua.

There have been years of conflict, between the Maylangna/Miskito tribes and invaders, over the forest’s resources, often resulting in violence. With the ongoing influx of settlers, the two indigenous tribes run a legitimate risk of being eliminated completely.

Between 2009 and 2013, 13 Bosawas natives lost their lives in the fight for control of this

land. A culture centuries old could vanish, and the reserve, although “protected” since 1997, is still proving to be remarkably vulnerable. Deforestation, for example, continues at an alarming rate. Reports have stated that with the current rate of logging, the rainforest could cease to exist in just two decades. The second largest rainforest in the western hemisphere could be gone in less than twenty years.

The Mayangna tribe is actively pressuring the Nicaraguan government to keep this area viable and protected. The tribal leader has traveled 300 km, across the country, to the capital Managua multiple times to protest against the settlers who invade and destroy the reserve.

The country, however, is the second poorest in western hemisphere Central America. People are hungry and desperate, and unfortunately, the reserve is a gem for potential mining and logging operations.

Taking a break on the Rio Bocay in Nicaragua.


Getting Married in the Colorado high country.

It’s beginning to look allot like Christmas in Crested Butte!  I often wonder why more couples don’t get married in Colorado in the Winter.  The wedding photography would be so special in the snow globe of the Rocky Mountains.  Granted it is also beautiful in the spring, summer and fall.  There are so many great outdoor venues for the daring and some quaint spots indoors too.  Basically the Colorado mountains are perfect unless its mud season.  Then I will see you in the Utah desert or the beach somewhere.


How to repair a bent aperture arm on a Nikon camera.

I learned a new way to break a camera the other day, but more importantly I learned how to repair it in the field.  There I was several days from internet access let alone a Nikon Service Center; Who BTW are more often than not a pain in the ass to deal with.

Apparently some Nikkor lenses don’t have a tab to stop them from rotating past the postion (White dot on the camera aligned with white dot on the lens) where it should be removed from the camera body.  This causes the lens to be stuck on the camera in a weird position if you keep twisting even further in the direction to remove the lens the lens will bend the aperture lever.  This is exactly what I did with my 14-24 2.8 on a D600.  This causes an error on the screen since the aperture arm in the camera dosen’t activate the aperture lever on the lens to close the aperture blades in the lens when you take a picture. Since the lens aperture wont stop down; you will be over exposing the image unless you manually expose for the largest aperture of the lens.

So there I was totally baffled with a lens stuck on the camera.  It felt like the lens or the camera mount was broken.  I could feel crepitus inside when rotating it, but every thing looked fine except for the lens was in a strange position on the camera with the top of the lens facing the bottom of the camera.  After much confusion and cursing the lens came off and I could see the aperture arm was bent.  Well I figured I was SOL and I would spend allot of money to get it repaired, but since it was already broken I figured I might as well try to straiten it.  So I grabbed my trusty Leatherman and went to work.  I just eyeballed it and bent it back to what looked like a proper alignment.  It worked and the camera was back in operation in a mater of minutes:)  After the trip I contacted a camera repair shop.  They told me that that is what they sometimes do to repair a bent lever.  So my camera was repaired cheap and easy with a Leatherman.



Which current photographers are inspiring me?

Well there are the classics that I very much appreciate. Henri Cartier-Bresson and Arnold Newman to name only two. They both left large bodies of important work. Then there is the recently discovered Vivian Maier. She lived in their era and left behind thousands of undeveloped “classic” images, but who is making great photographs now?

After Tim Hetherington died I watched his “Diary” more than a couple times. Since then I have been shooting allot more video on my iphone. Tim’s work along with legendary war photographer James Nachtwey. Sometimes makes me want to catch the next flight to a war zone to cover the conflict that never happened while I was in the military. These guys were and are very dedicated to their work. Photography that has made a difference.

I once had a portfolio review by a very well established photographer. One of his comments was that when the composition got hard I would tilt the camera. In other words I should keep the horizon level and look harder rather than take an easy way out. I took it with a grain of salt, but still question myself when I tilt the camera today. I remember the first time a saw a Ragnar Axlsson image. I don’t know where I saw it, but it was an image of an old man rowing a small boat. It is still burnt into my mind. The eyes of the man in a such a surreal setting. A testament to the power of the still image. From his latest project : “Last Days of the Arctic” You will notice a few images where the horizon is way off axis. If the composition works he doesn’t care if the horizon is so off it looks like the world is ending. This has added a little validity to my own tilting horizons. In this long term project Rax documents the people and their life styles of the vanishing arctic.

Renato D’Agostin seeks a different or fresh perspective of over shot subjects. For his project “The Beautiful Cliché “ He achieved just that of Venice. A very over photographed place. He says photographers had given up on finding a new vision there. Any idiot can go to a location and get the classic shots that have been taken thousands of times before. You arrive check out a couple post card stands, buy a map and check your watch to see if you have time for coffee before sunset. How creative is making the same thing that someone else has done? Like Chase Jarvis said; “Don’t try to be better; try to be different. Different is better.” That being said; I can see a little influence of each of these guys in some of my own current work.

Although sometimes as photographers we compete; we are really a giant collective that feeds the organism that is photography. Pretty pictures are important to me, but I would like to be creative and to help make the world a better place. That really makes me wonder what Sebastião Salgado is up to.

The ultimate river trip photo kit.

Are you going on a white water adventure river trip and want to take a camera? What camera should you take and how can you protect it from the water while rafting?

I was a river guide for a few years. Running rivers became an addiction. I still try to work a few trips a summer on the Middle Fork of the Salmon river in Idaho. In my opinion it is the best 6 day trip in the U.S.A.

I prefer pelican cases to protect and transport my cameras on the river. They are solid, affordable and while I don’t believe there is such a thing as waterproof they are very water resistent. They are not bulletproof and require maintenance and common sense. Pelican recommends that you replace the “o” ring every year. The pressure it exerts against the lid is what creates the seal and keeps the contents dry. Like an old sleeping bag it becomes compressed over time and needs to be replaced. Of course sand, hair or a camera strap hanging out of the case will allow water to enter. Some people like the Watershed bags with the padded liners for their camera gear. I use Watershed bags for my clothing and non crushable items on the river. They really are the only DRY bag, as opposed to the semi wet bags with the traditional roll down top. I used to throw a tripod, wrapped in soft goods, in my dry bag. It usually settles towards the outside of the bag risking damage to the tripod and abrasion of the bag from the hard tripod rubbing it. That problem was solved when I got a Gitzo Traveller (5 section) tripod. It is sturdy and supper lightweight, not to mention almost pocket sized.

The kit ready to grab and scout a rapid or go on a hike.

The Gitzo will fit in a Pelican 1450 case along all the Fuji X series gear and a bad ass SureFire headlamp.

Lately I have been enjoying the Fuji X series cameras. They are small, light and offer superb image quality. I started with an X100 and lately have been using the X-Pro 1 and it’s three prime Fujinon lenses (18,35 and 60mm). Im not sure what will get left behind to make room for the Samyang X Mount compatible 8mm f/2.8 Fisheye lens. I’m excited to see some third party manufactures making gear for the X mount and can’t wait to try out this lens. I am wondering what else is in store for the X series. X-Pro 2?

Here are some images from my time on the Middle Fork of the Salmon this season working with my friends at Idaho River Adventures.

Hating on winter from Astillero.

It seems I picked a good winter to miss early season skiing in Colorado. While friends at home are dreaming of snow, but biking into the new year. I currently find myself floating around Nicaragua shooting for NGOs. I’m a big fan of one way ticket, no literary, travel and this trip is that.

It seems the more I travel the faster I head to the places other travelers avoid. Like Astillero. There isn’t anything to do there except extreme chillin and you can’t have a meal without gallo pinto. OK it’s not exactly party central and you have to wait for high tide to clean the garbage off the beach, but it’s a real deal working town.

I planned on meeting a contact after one night in a sleepy fishing village. That was five days ago. Before I pushed my cash reserve down to the last $5 and decided it was time to either get a job lobster diving or catch the bus, for two hours, to the nearest ATM. There is something special about being the only gringo in town. After the 1st 24 hours of wondering around sticking a giant camera in peoples faces. The locals have heard about you and wave you over to photograph the new baby or things they find interesting themselves.

My first night I had beers with a lobster diver. Who promptly invited me to go out on the boat. Two days later I was wondering if he would even remember the plan. Well I went on the boat and would have gone diving if it wasn’t for the ear infection. When I was leaving town the boat captain asked if I needed money for the bus.

BTW: OSHA doesn’t exist in Nicaragua and lobster diving here isn’t for pansies.

I think I might have just found a long term project. Now I have to call the contact and apologize.

Stay loose and go with the flow.

The Townies of Crested Butte.

This project started one morning; when as I walked up to my trusty 1970‘s Schwinn bicycle.  I noticed the way the handlebars of two adjacent vintage bikes seemed to be holding each other in a loving embrace.  I wasn’t in a rush so I spent a few minutes observing as the light changed.  I came back later in the afternoon to shoot the same handlebars again.

In the town of Crested Butte old beater bicycles are the norm.  It’s like they all migrated here to avoid a genocide.  Many bear scares from previous lives in far away places.  Now they live the life of a refugee.  Most are rusty and worn.  Many are unridable and are tossed to the side like victims of a death march.  Others are cannibalized so that others might live.  This town is a crowded refugee camp of vintage bicycles.  The more I looked the more I saw.  As I got closer and visually explored the craftsman ship of times gone by, the more entranced I became.  “Townies” is the culmination of many hours roaming the streets of Crested Butte capturing the art of these old bikes.  Prints and a book are available in the gallery above.

Long Exposures with the Fuji X100.

I have been pushing the limits of the Fuji X100 a bit lately. I find the sensor to be far superior to the similar pixel count sensor of the Nikon D300 which is a bit dated compared to the X100.  The X100 does especially well for long exposure images such as star trails or moonlight scenes that require 30 minutes or longer.


How do you shoot night time exposures?  1. You are going to want a sturdy tripod or some way to hold the camera in the desired position for long periods.  2. You need some way to keep the shutter open for the same time.  In the case of the X100 you need a classic screw in cable release.  Im using the one that I have used with my Nikon FM2 for years.  I really like the blend of retro style and killer digital technology.  Once you have a scene framed a little guess work and experimentation is required for a correct exposure.  I can never seem to take notes for myself; so good luck. Framing can actually be very difficult in the dark since you have probably just been looking at a screen and ruined your night vision.  A bright flashlight is great for illuminating the scene so you can see it to visually frame and focus or you can focus with the distance marks. I really want a X-Pro 1.

How about a photo shoot over lunch?




So you want to star in or make some pictures that don’t suck?  Meet me at high noon for the show down.  Ya?

Photography is just time and light, real simple.  More time allows more light and the inverse right?  Well yes, but then there is the quality of the light.   The quality along with composition is what really matters for your images.  The quality of natural light isn’t the same throughout a season or a day.  Composition like quality is totally subjective;  you know how someone will love your worst image and someone will hate your best.  High noon could be the perfect time to shoot a shootout scene in a hot desert.  That being said most people prefer to look at the warm color temperature of early morning or late evening when the sun is lower in the sky and the light has to travel through more atmosphere.

The magic or golden hour as its commonly know is the hour after sunrise and prior to sunset.  This is when you should be shooting especially if you want images that align with current fad of super warm, washed out, backlight, lens flare with the sun in the frame.

So high noon is only going to happen if I want to make some crappy images as reference for future shots or its winter and i’m really far north, think iceland, or maybe in a studio or shade.





Shooting the 2011 24 Hour Mountain Bike Nationals.

When I heard the course for the 2011 24 Hour mountain bike nationals was moved to a city park.  I thought to myself; ”This better not be a lap in the grass around the playground”.  I mean shooting bikes in a playground could be really cool, but probably not with Josh Tostado.  I was covering the event for Velo News, USA cycling and Mountain Bike Action.  When I rode the course to scout for locations I was pleasantly surprised with the course its was a real beauty with enough tech that I walked some spots on my scout lap.  It consist of mostly single track rather than allot of road like the Moab course and is way harder than the Leadville 100 course which is a joke of a mountain bike ride.  Colorado Springs is lucky to have such great riding in town.


I cant wait to shoot it again next year.  I hope to check off all of the shots I missed this year.