Posts Tagged ‘animal’

10 Photography Tips for Gorilla Trekking in Rwanda at Volcanoes National Park

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Head scratcher in Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda

If you are planning a gorilla trekking safari to Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda, you are going to want to document your experience with a camera or three.

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There are less than 1,000 mountain gorillas in the world today

Here are some tips on how to get the most out of your gorilla trekking safari photography.

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I took some of my favorite images on my iPhone 6s plus

Weather conditions for my treks ranged from rainy (think Gorillas in the Mist) to very contrasty when it was sunny. The contrasty day was the most difficult to photograph.

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This mountain gorilla walked right by me

Tip #1 Hire a Porter

Porters are available (tip them US $10 per day) to help carry your gear/backpack and help you through steep and difficult parts of your trek. I would highly recommend using one. Not only are you supporting the local community, but there are a few times when it’s helpful to have someone spot you when you are climbing on a step rocks.

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A juvenile gorilla swinging in the bamboo

Tip #2 Make Sure You have Pockets

The protocol for gorilla trekking safaris requires you to leave your daypack, backpack or camera bag about 100 meters from the group of gorillas you will be interacting with that day. This means that any gear you intend on using during the one hour you get to spend with the gorillas needs to be on you. Make sure your pants (most likely rain pants) have pockets for any accessories or spare batteries you might need.

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Mother gorilla and baby (image shot and edited on my iPhone 6s plus)

Tip #3- Bring Your iPhone or Mobile Phone

Some of the best photos I shot during my gorilla treks were taken using my iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s plus. Mobile phones are great for wide angle photography, and you will be getting up close with the mountain gorillas. iPhones (and most mobile phones) are best at shooting wide angle images and are easy to carry. This makes them an an excellent choice for photographing your gorillas trekking experience.

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Portrait of a mountain gorilla (taken on my iPhone 6s)

Trekkers in Volcanoes National Park are supposed to stay 7 meters away (approximately 23 feet) from the gorillas. The gorillas, however, do not follow this rule. Some will walk ride by you or even touch you. You can only photograph these sorts of interactions if you camera can focus when it’s close to the subject. My iPhone 6s was great at photographing at these short distances, where the lens I had on my Canon required more distance.

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Gorilla laying on it’s back

Tip #4- Pack a few lens wipes

You’ll visit the gorillas on their turf, which is not a clear hiking path. The ground will be covered with vines and leaves and possibly mud. I tripped once each of the three days I was with gorilla trekking. While my falls weren’t painful, a few of them did leave my lens or cameras a bit dirty. Fortunately I brought a lint free lens wipe with me each day so I was able to wipe down my cameras and return to shooting promptly.

I shot this video of a mountain gorilla munching on bamboo on my iPhone 6s

Tip #5- Shoot Some Video

Your mobile phone is a great option for this. Even if you are not an experienced video shooter, this is the time to give it a try. Make sure your microphone is on so you have some of the sounds of nature. If you don’t like the sounds when you review your video later, you can always add music later.

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Tip #6- Bring a wide angle zoom lens

If you are bringing a DSLR camera, you’ll want to have a wide angle zoom lens that can focus quickly with you. I got good results with my Canon 24-70 mm lens.

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I photographed the young mountain gorillas above using my Canon 24-70 wide angle zoom

Tip #7- Bring a Shower Cap

A humble shower cap is one hotel room amenity I always take and stuff into my camera bag. Shower caps can be used to protect your camera body in rainy or damp conditions, which are very possible if Rwanda. Rwanda’s rainy season is from March- May, but I had a light rain in early December. A plastic bag can also do the trick but in Rwanda has a ban on plastic bags. So if you don’t have a clean plastic bag available, grab a shower cap from your hotel’s bathroom instead.

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Gorilla chilling out in Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda

Tip #7- Disable Your Flash

Flash photography is not allowed around the gorillas. Be sure you know how to disable the flash on your camera or mobile phone and do so before you get to your group of gorillas.

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Baby gorilla from the Hirwa group framed in vines

Tip #8- Look for Creative Ways to Frame Your Shot

The mountain gorillas in Rwanda have some very human behaviors, but they won’t pose for you. Look for angles that will allow you to frame the animals creatively. I found the vines and bamboo helped create interesting ways to frame the animals.

Ideally you want to be able to focus on the gorilla’s eyes. It is unlikely that the lighting will always be ideal for this. Apps like Afterlight and VSCO‘s clarity and shadow save adjustment features can help enhance your gorilla photos during your editing process. If you’re shooting with a DSLR, this can also be done in the editing process if you use Lightroom or Photoshop.

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 Tip #9- Shoot a Variety of Shots (including group shots)

Much of the time you’ll be in front of one or two gorillas. Try and look for a variety of images, including group shots. These might be harder to compose due to other trekkers in your group, or lighting conditions might not be ideal. Group shots help round out your coverage and give a sense of how the gorilla family interacts. If you have a clear shot of a group of gorillas moving, try capturing it on video as well as in stills. It helps give a sense of place.

I shot the video above of the Hirwa group of gorillas on my iPhone 6s 

Tip #10- Don’t Forget to Shoot Landscapes and Details

In order to best cover your gorilla trekking experience, you’ll want to include a few landscape shots which show the area. If you have any sort of zoom capability, you’ll also want to get a few shots of details. When the largest silverback gorilla in the world did not want to show me his face, I took a photo of his vast back. If I could not see an animal’s eyes, I tried to zoom in on a detail like feet, hands, or toes.

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A landscape of the some of rural countryside in Rwanda

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This gorilla didn’t wouldn’t show me his face, so I photographed his feet

My gorilla trekking guides offered to take pictures of me each day. This is a better and safer option than taking a gorilla selfie.

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Here I am photographing the mountain gorillas in Rwanda

Yes. You get really close.

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Meeting Icelandic Horses: A Photo Essay

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Cuddling Icelandic horses

Editor’s Note:

Anastasia Chernykh is the social media manager for My Life’s a Trip. She is also a very talented photographer. Anastasia lives in Kharkov, Ukraine but we met up in Iceland in October for a photo trip. I’ve asked her to share some of her images from our trip. I hope you enjoy this post she wrote about the highly photogenic horses of Iceland.

– Jen Pollack Bianco

It’s not common to see an animal roaming the cold landscape of Iceland, unless it’s a sheep or a horse. While the first ones I met were easy to scare and too shy to pose for a photograph, the latter are among the friendliest creatures I’ve ever met.

They are small in size, more like a pony than horse. They are incredibly calm and will allow you to pet them for a cube of sugar or a handful of grass:)

Icelandic horses claim to be among the oldest and purest breeds in the world. Brought to the island by the first settlers between the 9th and 10th centuries, they soon became the sole breed in Iceland. To prevent the disease, Icelandic parliament prohibited the import of other breeds to the country over a thousand years ago. Even though the animals originated from Iceland, those that were exported are not longer allowed to return.

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Having easy access to the fresh grass, horses still prefer to eat out of hands

Icelandic horses come in many different colors, for which there are over 100 names  in the Icelandic language.

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Not all horses are that into people

There are a few horse farms in South Iceland that offer horse riding tours (around $100 for 2 1/2 hour tour) and horse rentals.

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Lined up for a sweet treat

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A dapple gray Icelandic horse

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Horses under stormy sky

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These guys are familiar with camera

If you’re not ready for a riding lesson, consider at least a few minutes stopping for a few minutes when you come across a herd of these beautiful horses  if you’re driving around the Iceland. You won’t regret it!

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Making new friends in Iceland 

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