May 142012

Shooting in RAW

I’ve read a few articles on whether you should shoot in RAW or JPEG. Today’s photo is a good illustration of why you should shoot in RAW if your goal is HDR. I fired off three bracketed exposures, as I usually do when shooting handheld. However, the gorilla was moving to me so quickly that I could never combine these three exposures. RAW to the rescue. I was able to use the standard exposure to create the rest of my exposures. At the standard exposure the gorillas faces were far too dark. By expanding this image from -2 through to +2, I was able to recover this detail.

Today’s photo: Coming Through

I’d like to be able to claim that I carefully set my camera to blur the gorillas left hand and show movement. The reality is, with a gorilla bearing down on me, playing with the camera was not the first thing on my mind. Getting a few shots and getting out of the way was priority. I wouldn’t say I was particularly scared of a gorilla attack. I was more worried about being the asshole that gets in their way and disrupts their day. Nobody wants to leave a bad first impression with a silverback. After firing off a few shots I stepped quickly out of the way and directly onto Chris’s foot. You can here his muffled scream 29 seconds into this video. In this case I’m glad I didn’t succeed in freezing the gorilla’s motion. It’s blurred left hand makes it clear that this silverback is coming straight at you.

Group of mountain gorillas coming through the green foliage with a silverback really showing quickness in Rwanda.

If you’re interested in buying a print: click away!


Apr 042012

This gorilla is the same as the first of the gorilla shots I posted. After I’d shot the first photo he moved to this position and paused for a moment before he and the big guy behind him began walking towards me. I felt the guides hand on my shoulder and stepped back accordingly. The gorillas casually walked over the spot I’d just occupied and only a few feet from my current location. Amazing.

Group of gorillas surrounded by greenery in Rwanda

Mar 122012

HDR Tutorial!!

For those of who have been waiting on my HDR tutorial I’ve finally gotten installment one online (thank you Brooke for the gentle nudge in the comments). This will take you as far as taking photos for HDR processing . I’ll be working on the processing portion this week. I got on a pretty good roll and am hoping to continue with that momentum. Right now I’m focusing on getting step by step instructions up. I’ll be adding screen captures to make it all a bit clearer and making changes as I get questions.

Candid Moment

I concentrated on catching the gorillas eyes while photographing them. They’re so expressive and remind us how close they are to us. Despite that, I like this photo. It really gives the feeling of looking into their world, watching them go about their daily business which is how we spent most of our time with them.

Group of three gorillas in Rwanda doing their own thing surrounded by greenery


Feb 182012

When you’re told you have to stay 15 feet away from the gorillas unless they approach you, you think that sounds reasonable. In reality though, once we were there I don’t think there was a moment that I wasn’t within 15 feet of a gorilla. The silver backs are particularly intimidating. But in a moment like the one captured here you can see their soft side, playing with one of the little ones.

Silverback gorilla's soft side playing with a young gorilla surrounded by greenery.

Jan 162012

I haven’t had time to work on any photos from Prague. So, I’ve reached into my file of completed pictures. This may be my favorite photo from my entire time in Africa. When I walked over to try to take this photo her entire face was covered by a leaf. Then, she reached up and moved it just long enough for me to grab three exposures

It’s snowing here, I’m hoping it sticks but it doesn’t look too likely.


Face of mother mountain gorilla sleeping with her baby on her shoulder in Rwanda.



Dec 282011

It sounds cliché, but there is little in the world that is anything like visiting the mountain gorillas. The whole experience leaves you feeling like you’ve somehow spent an hour in an alternate dimension. Two and a half weeks earlier I was sitting in my cubicle in Bermuda. Now, five days before returning to work I’m surrounded by 24 wild and endangered mountain gorillas. They go about their daily business, seemingly unperturbed by your presence. But then, without warning, one of them decides to lock eyes with you. They look at you in a way that makes it really feel that they are engaging with you. Ultimately, they make a quick assessment of their new visitors. Then, as sharply as they’d turned their attention to you they continue their daily activities: munching on bamboo, cuddling with the children, or, as in my friend Cameron’s case, laying down and snoozing right beside you. Incidentally, the gorilla snoozing next to Cameron was the big boss of the group – the toughest of three silverbacks. He decided to take his nap shortly after he’d charged Cameron, who could do nothing but stand his ground. I’m not sure Cameron had the same experience when locking eyes with this guy as I did with the subject of today’s photo. I wanted to capture the moment when the gorillas calmly lock eyes with you and hope I’ve succeeded in the below photo. Feel free to post a comment and let me know what you think.

We were lucky in that we got to visit the Susa group, which are apparently the descendants of the group of gorillas that Dian Fossey lived with. It’s also the largest group and hardest to get to. On our three-week journey through Africa everyone we met that had heard anything about gorilla tracking in Rwanda told us that this was the group to see. As such, I made a point of asking our guide to try to make this happen. Upon arrival at the headquarters you are assigned a group and don’t typically get to pick and choose. He returned my question by asking if we were fit because it is hard work. We assured him we were capable with a couple nervous sideways glances. He agreed to try to arrange this but couldn’t make any guarantees.

He was correct, the walk up was tough but really made the experience all the better. Rwanda is a beautiful country, lush and green everywhere. It seems like every inch of ground outside of the national parks is farmed. Our walk took three hours and was straight up the side of a volcano. The first half of this was through farmland planted with potatoes and flowers that looked like daisies. Our guides informed us that they’re used to make insect repellent. The second half was through thick vegetation with the man in front using a machete to widen the path. The hike was an experience in itself and I intend to share a few pictures from our ascent in the future. Of course, I also have lots of gorilla photos I’ll be spreading out over the months ahead.

I’m working on adding some additional pages to the site including photography and travel tips.

Mountain gorilla of the Susa group in Rwanda locking eyes with the photographer.