Posts Tagged ‘Fuji’

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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Exploring the Pacific Northwest: Visiting Oregon’s Multnomah Falls

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Multnomah Falls is Oregon’s 620 feet year round waterfall

Last week I went to Portland and got a chance to explore the Columbia Gorge. Among Portland’s many charms is how close it is to some spectacular nature, including Multnomah Falls. Multnomah Falls is Oregon’s tallest waterfall, and ranks as the second highest waterfall in the United states. Only Yosemite Falls is higher.

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Vista House in Corbett, Oregon

Located less than half hour’s drive outside of Portland along the historic Columbia River Highway, Oregon’s tallest year round waterfall is not only gorgeous, it’s extremely user friendly. Multnomah Falls is visible from the freeway and it’s an easy walk if you want to get up close and personal with the #1 tourist site in the Columbia Gorge.

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Overcast weather adds atmosphere to the Multnomah Falls hike

If you’re going to walk to the waterfall, wear appropriate footwear. Waterfall spray and the wet Pacific Northwest climate mean that hough paved, the trail does have pools of water and puddles that are unavoidable.

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Reverse view of 69 foot drop of the second tier of Multnomah Falls from above Benson Bridge

The downside of being user friendly? Multnomah Falls is popular destination and often crowded. If you want to avoid the crowds, nearby Wahkeena Falls can be reached by foot and is significantly less popular than Multnomah Falls.

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Looking up at the top tier of  Multnomah Falls

The Multnomah Falls Lodge has a visitors center, gift shop, and restaurant and is nestled at the base of the falls.

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Scarlet and Zeppelin enjoyed exploring the trail to Multnomah Falls

The paved trails are also pet-friendly, so expect plenty of dogs to be enjoying the scenery as well. Dogs need to be kept on a leash at all times, but there was plenty to sniff and keep my two labs excited about on this nice day hike.

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Benson Bridge over Multnomah Falls adds to the cliffside drama

If you’re planning on photographing the waterfall, bring a wide angle lens. I shot mostly using the 24-70 mm Canon zoom as well as my iPhone. I also got a few good shots with my Fuji X-30.

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Misty morning scenery in the Columbia Gorge

I tried a few shots using my Moment Lens wide angle 18 mm lens attachment, but had uneven results due to vignetting. My fingers are crossed my replacement Moment Lens Case corrects this issue.

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The view of the top tier of Multnomah Falls from above the Benson Bridge

I was wowed by Multnomah Falls. It’s not as powerful as Igauzu Falls but it’s steep drop and tree-lined cliffs are dramatic. Plus, it’s close to Stumptown Coffee, vegan cheese, and and the cajun tots that seem to be on every menu in Portland. It was a nice place to get in a little sightseeing, morning hiking and get some good photos.

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Happy hikers at dog-friendly Multnomah Falls.

Multnomah Falls

Multnomah Falls Is easy to reach from Portland. Take I-84 eastbound for approximately 30 miles. Follow signs and take exit 31 (an unusual left-side exit ramp) off I-84 to a parking area. There is a path under the highway that leads to the falls viewing area. Lower trails are paved.

 

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