Posts Tagged ‘Canon’

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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The Big Sur Mobile Photography Experiment

Big Sur Sunset (shot when the light was sweetest, per Dan Berman’s advice)

Editor’s Note: On my recent California pet-friendly road trip, I took on a mobile photography experiment. Since shooting landscapes isn’t my strong suit, I decided to push myself out of my comfort zone by asking a few of my friends for a mobile photography tip or two in an attempt to up my landscape game. Featured in this post are some of the images that I got using some of their tips. – Jen

I got a lot of great tips, and really got over my general fear and dislike of HDR (I use TrueHDR) which works really well for clouds. In fact, I’m pretty sure the HDR on my iPhone works better than my Canon DSLR. Another simple tip I got from Shirley Drevich (who can be found on instagram as luckyeye)  is “square format is more forgiving than rectangle.”

From my pal Andy Royston (who can be found on EyeEm as @andyroyston and on instagram as ftlauderdalesun), who shoots beachscapes every morning, and is also a daily feed visit for me :

A few tips really, and some might be common photographic sense…

Always shoot form the shade, looking to to put something between you and the sun – be it a leaf, an cloud, a post – whether shooting at the sun or not. focus on the best lit contrasting element and take the shot on the darker side.

I use Camera+ to adjust the image, using a touch of the ‘HDR’ filter (10/15%) if there are things hidden in darkness that need a little help.

Then hold I down the ‘save’ button and hit the ‘commit edit’ option in the pop-up menu. From that point there are a few landscape-friendly filters; a touch of ‘sun-kissed’ (fade it back from the full effect as its a little strong) or ‘faded’ and ‘silver gelatin’ filters are nice too.

In Iris I aim for a touch of Dynamic Range, which defines colors, then maybe a touch of polarizer too. Sharpen and straighten that horizon…

I love Hipstamatic . Try the Jimmy lens and Jolly flash (hold still after the shutter for that as its got a delay on the flash).

One more – If its clear that there’s too bright a sky for the foreground to show ProHDR really is good. I use road signs or walls to hold it super-steady if I can. Sometimes I’ll work on the darker of the two pics that ProHDR takes, then use blender to knock the image back a bit if the HDR mix is too silly.

The image of a redwood tree I took using Andy’s tips, using the Blender app to blend down the HDR version. I also used my friend, Jaime Ferreyros’s tip to play up the vastness of the tree and how small it made me.

My beach shots I like using tilt to exaggerate even more the immensity between ocean and men. 
 I like to sharpen my images using PhotoForge , then I take my image to Camera+ and if needed, apply the “Clarity” filter for some drama.  I’m not really the warm and fuzzy type of iphoneographer, but do like to create my own “Landscape,” my own “World”.

What I took from Jaime’s advice is to not let rules dictate my style or my world. I don’t really go for realism or perfection, so there is no reason I need to go there with my landscapes. My goal was really to convey my feelings or emotions about the visuals, not to shoot a postcard.

Above image: using Andy’s tip about putting something in the foreground, I thought that this wildflower was a nice detail to add to the vast Pacific ocean and the morning fog clinging to the PCH.

Daniel Berman, founder of the Mobile Photo Awards, gave me two really simple tips.

My #1 piece of advice would be really simple – make sure to shoot when the light is sweetest, end of the day of course. As for an app, try messing around with the grad filters in PhotoFX for some funky sky action.

My fellow Southern Calfornia mobile shooter Roger Clay (can be found on Instagram as Rogered and on EyeEm as @boltamania) has an incredibly unique style. I really liked his tip because it was soooo unusual, and produced some of the best results of the trip.

“As far as Hipstamatic goes try their new W Mag pack . The Wonder Lens and the W40 film combo colors are really nice when the sun is out and really makes clouds pop.

Below are some of my favorite mobile photography shot of the trip, using Roger’s Hipsta tip W Mag Pack combo.

Above: These images were shot along the banks of the Big Sur River behind the Big Sur River Inn . I chose to put my boot tips in the foreground of the shot on the right for some additional interest.

Scarlet along the banks of the Big Sur River, shot with ProCamera.

(shot when the light was sweetest, per Dan Berman's advice)

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