Hypno-Toad, a Crazy Storm, Johnny Walker and The Milky Way.

Volcán Arenal, cloaked in cloud, with lightning bolts erupted to the left, starfields multiplying above, and the quiet goings-on of local Costa Rican villagers beneath.Technically not a great starscape, but my first ever attempt back in 2011 and left the exposure running for too long (101 seconds) and was so captivated by the open skies that I didn't re-take this view.  Fond memories, though.Development notes: this uses a graduated filter added in post, and a wire has been cloned out of the lower left corner.

Hypno-Toad, a Crazy Storm, Johnny Walker and The Milky Way… not the usual way to celebrate ten years of marriage, but it was certainly memorable and I would not change it for the world.

Our ten year wedding anniversary plans changed at the last minute – we were supposed to be watching Atlantis take to the skies in Florida, but the shuttle flight was rescheduled and we were therefore lumbered with a return flight to Florida which we had to take. We therefore took the flight and then connected at last minute to San Jose in Costa Rica – a move which was largely last minute, but became one of the best travel decisions we’ve made.

Counting the pennies, we booked ourselves into largely cheap and spartan accommodation – but refused to compromise on views and experience. That’s how we found ourselves in a tiny one bed hut on the hills surrounding Arenal Volcano on the evening of our tenth wedding anniversary. After zip-lining through the rainforest that afternoon we’d settled on a nice steak in the restaurant that evening,  followed by a whisky on the plastic, rickety chairs outside our accommodation. As the sky blackened, we were treated to a welcome cool breeze and the distant sound of thunder. As the temperature  dropped, huge cane toads emerged from the undergrowth and gathered around our feet, their frantic burps never failing to shock me out of my seat. Shining the torch on them illuminated their yellow eyes in a hypnotizing and enchanting way – I felt myself crawling closer and closer to them to try and take a picture, only to run screaming as they hopped fearlessly towards my face. As the toads were largely winning the battle, I decided to head off in search of armadillos and bats – finding both, literally, on the doorstep to our hut. Feeling very happy with myself, and after a few trips back to the bar to restock my ‘lemonade’ (ah hem), we started to set up the camera to take some timelapse and video, as well as capture some astrophotography.

The views were out of this world. The clouds parted and about 1am we were treated to a totally clear sky above the volcano. The Milky Way was visible with the naked eye and all around us stars twinkled like fairy lights.  This was one of the first times I had ever seen the night sky so clear. I was transfixed and in love.

After many hours studying the typography of the region on the internet, and scouring over local maps, we had chosen this specific accommodation because we knew there was no towns, hills or accommodation directly between us and Arenal Volcano, therefore we knew that light pollution would be at a minimum and the landscape ideal for some nightime shots.

I love this image, but cannot take any credit for this. This is all Alistair’s hard work. It captures the view we had perfectly that night – the only omissions are the streaks of fork lightening as they bounced off the sides of the volcano, and the thunder bolts which vibrated through the ground like after shocks.

Ali would say that, technically, this is not a great starscape – that he left the exposure running for too long (101 seconds) and because he was so captivated by the open skies he didn’t re-take this view, but I love it – brings back very fond memories.

Additional images from our time in Costa Rica are available in our Taraji Blue photo gallery. We welcome your feedback and comments.

If you’re planning a trip to Costa Rica you might find our Costa Rica blog of interest – it contains detailed reviews of trips and routes to take and the accommodation available.

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