Alexander33

Advice for Gorilla Photography

48 posts in this topic

For photographing chimps @@TheToasterBoy you should go for the habituation day in Kibale. It will give you much more opportunities over the whole day than the normal 1 hour.

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@IamFisheye Any suggestions for Micro Four Thirds for chimps and gorillas?

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I used a Panasonic G7 last year in South Africa and on the Chobe. I was happy with my photos. I mainly used a 100-300 lens. I also have a 40-150 and 12-40. The 12-40 is an f2.8.

 

If the gorillas are as close as I've read in trip reports, I plan to use the 12-40 on my treks later this year.

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Posted (edited)

In Uganda for Chimps I had to use 300 mm for good shots since they were a bit far - only 1 male came close to the group (I was doing the habituation and not 1 hour - though we called it quits at lunch). For Gorillas, I realized 300 is on the longer side. But since it was 2.8 it did give me some great close ups and also for the babies its great. Ideal in my mind is 70-200 f28 for Gorillas. There will always be times when even 70 is on the longer side !

You can check my Uganda album in my website if you wish and the exif should give you an idea of FL used. (More importantly, be prepared to push to the highest acceptable ISO in your camera)

Edited by bushbaby
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I'd be prepared to shoot in both bright sun as well as dark forest. On our treks, the gorilla monkey trek was pretty dark due to high canopy but it was wide open around us. The first day with gorillas was out in the wide open with only dense brush to about shoulder height. I was fighting with sun going in and out of clouds for the entire hour and my photos are indicative of that. I'd assumed it'd be a lot darker. The second gorilla trek was more like the golden monkey day, with very high thick canopy and dark bamboo forest. Our first gorilla group was pretty sedate, so movement wasn't really a consideration, but our second group was active with mating adults and very quick babies. Prepare for any eventuality! I felt that visiting our local zoo which has a large gorilla family that was indoors in moderate light was pretty decent training for the darker day.

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Posted (edited)

Well, a year has now passed, and we are about 3 months out from our trip. Here's where I've ended up:

 

Nikon released a new 70-200 f/2.8 that is getting stellar performance reviews, so I took the plunge and bought one a few months ago. I haven't had a whole lot of opportunities to use it yet, but I've been very impressed with what I've seen so far. It will definitely be my primary lens on the gorilla treks. In the bigger picture, I also think that it will nicely compliment my primary wildlife lens, which is the 200-500, so I've at least convinced myself that this is a good long-term investment.

 

I wish I could have so easily resolved the question of whether I should buy a full-frame camera. We both shoot with the Nikon D7200, and we have a spare D7200 that we use for incidental wide-angle shots and as a back-up should we ever encounter problems. Birds are a frequent and favorite subject, so the extra "reach" we get from a crop sensor camera is a very important consideration for us. I've been able to push the D7200 to ISO 3200 in rainforest settings with decent success fairly consistently (though not always).

 

With that in mind, I have considered buying a full frame D750. Its controls are almost identical to those of the D7200, so switching between the two would be pretty seamless. The D750 reportedly provides at least a 1-stop improvement in ISO performance over the D7200. Being able to make acceptable photos at ISO 6400 would really open up some opportunities for me.

 

But therein lies the rub. Just how many opportunities would there be?

 

The reason I've held off is that I have doubts about how often we'd actually use a full frame camera after this trip concludes. Except on those all-too-infrequent occasions when we are fortunate enough to be riding around in a jeep on safari in Africa, we're on foot, and I don't want to carry a lot of gear.

 

That means, other than in very unusual situations (like a gorilla trek, and with a porter at that), we're taking our crop sensor cameras on the hike in order to maximize our chances with birds, smaller mammals, and the like. And even when we have been in a jeep on safari, I've rarely lamented having the extra reach we enjoy with the crop sensor.

 

Still, the noticeably better ISO performance of the D750 tugs at me. While the new f/2.8 lens will certainly be of use to me in low light, J. will still have the 80-400 f/4.5-5.6 (newest version). This nagging voice in the back of my mind keeps telling me it would be great to pair it with a D750. This trip may very well be the only opportunity we ever have to see gorillas in the wild, and it's important to me that our photos be the best that we can reasonably manage. (Emphasis on the word "reasonably").

 

My brain tells me I shouldn't do it, and that a better long-term plan would be to save the money and apply it some day in the future toward a new generation of DX cameras with improved ISO performance.

 

We'll see if I have the willpower......

 

P.S. I did consider renting a D750, but the rental for the duration of our trip would be close to $700. For $1800, I could buy a bread-new one. Sure, that's more money, but at least I'd end up with the camera in my kit.

Edited by Alexander33

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I checked some of my best gorilla pics and saw that I was at closer to 5000 ISO to get 300 speeds. With your 70-200 Id assume you can go lower on speeds to say 200 and then your 3200 ISO should work pretty ok. Ofcourse the dynamic range and image quality of FF is quite a bit different. If you also shoot landscapes like I do then going FF is a no brainer.

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@@Alexander33 if you need a bad influence to help sway your decision, the Sony I just bought is far too bulky for me to lug around with me on non-safari trips...so in essence I bought a pretty expensive toy to take on any future safaris and to shoot photos of my cats at home... :o :o

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@@Alexander33 a comment on your statement "I've rarely lamented having the extra reach we enjoy with the crop sensor." - there is no extra reach with a crop sensor. It is only extra cropping ability that a crop sensor has (in case that a crop sensor has same or similar # of pixels). But cropping too much has its own disadvantages, as if subject is too far from the sensor, all kind of interferences / disturbances affect the final IQ.

 

If you are investing into top shelf glass (and that is the right direction) then you should add a FF sensor to your equipment. D750 is known as the tool for everything; go get it and enjoy it!

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Posted (edited)

@@xelas

 

I do understand the difference, which is why I put the word "reach" in quotation marks the first time I used it, but let's not get too technical. The bottom line is, if you take a photograph of a small bird with a full frame camera and the same photo from the exact same place with a crop sensor camera, you are going to get a more close-up image of the subject with the crop sensor camera. In order to achieve the same sized image of that photo shot with the full frame camera, you would have to crop post-production, and depending on the particular circumstances, this could affect image quality.

 

The D7200 and D750 are both 24 MP, so, all things being equal, an uncropped image from the D7200 is likely to be better than an image from the D750 that has been cropped post-production to the equivalent image size of the subject taken with the D7200.

 

If you typically shoot smaller subjects and you can't get very close to them, such as with birds and small mammals, a crop sensor camera definitely has advantages and allows you to capture detail that you might not otherwise be able to capture.

 

This isn't going to be an issue with gorillas that are 7 meters away. A full frame camera with the lenses that we have would be fine -- in fact, probably better. The issue I struggle with is how often I'd use a full frame camera at other times, say, in in Cental and South America, when I need all the "reach" (quotation marks again) that I can get versus the better ISO performance you get from a full frame.

 

Definitely on the fence here.

Edited by Alexander33
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Posted (edited)

(And I'm definitely still learning here, so if I'm wrong about anything, do let me know!).

Edited by Alexander33

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Posted (edited)

@@Alexander33 I think the rabbit lies in this sentence "The D7200 and D750 are both 24 MP, so, all things being equal, ..." ... because the second most important part of the IQ equation, the sensor, is NOT the same.

I have compared images done with D7200 and with D610 in DX mode, and to my eye, the image from D610 has better IQ. But those are only very unscientific, very personal and subjective observations.

When the subject were to be cropped further (above 50%), then the pixel density of D7200 sensor shows its benefits over the D610 sensor

 

Anyway I am not trying to get into too much details. Fact is, a great photo can be done with either camera! Having 3 x D7200, it is time for you to get also a D750 :):D (it is soon nice to help spending other person's money :P ).

Edited by xelas

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Appreciate the book recommendation, IamFisheye -- will check that out.

 

 

 

Well, maybe not. This looks like an incredible book, but the only place I can find it for sale is on Amazon.uk for......£999. Really? Time for Andy Rouse to release a second edition! Or maybe I can find one trolling eBay.

 

Wow, I didn't know it was commanding such ridiculously high prices. I've got a limited edition with numbered signed Giclee print at home maybe I should sell it and buy a D500 :unsure:

 

 

@@Alexander33... if you are still looking for the book, SUPER-LIBRARIAN is HERE!! :P

 

AbeBooks is a used (and new) bookseller. You can get the book from the UK for $25 here ... https://www.abebooks.com/servlet/SearchResults?kn=0956457517&sts=t

 

(I just ordered one.)

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from the little I have heard about this, it is important how you point your camera so the gorillas do not feel threatened

 

I did not take a whole lot of notice of who it is best done, as with my altitude sickness issues, going to see gorillas is something I can't do

 

 

your guide will be able to give advice on this

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@@xelas

 

Fact is, a great photo can be done with either camera! Having 3 x D7200, it is time for you to get also a D750 :):D (it is soon nice to help spending other person's money :P ).

 

So true! In fact, if memory serves me correctly, it was I urging you to upgrade about this time last year. But then, what happens when they come out with the D7300, D510, D760. Oh, my. I will be headed toward bankruptcy if I don't exercise some discipline. (I'm just not sure I'm going to manage it this time!! :unsure: ).

 

 

@@AmyT

 

 

 

AbeBooks is a used (and new) bookseller. You can get the book from the UK for $25 here ... https://www.abebooks.com/servlet/SearchResults?kn=0956457517&sts=t

 

(I just ordered one.)

 

 

Yes! A few months ago I actually found one for about that same price, maybe less, perhaps from the same dealer. Not exactly in brand new condition, but still......It's an inspiring book. You'll enjoy it. Thanks!

 

 

@@bushbaby

 

I checked some of my best gorilla pics and saw that I was at closer to 5000 ISO to get 300 speeds. With your 70-200 Id assume you can go lower on speeds to say 200 and then your 3200 ISO should work pretty ok. Ofcourse the dynamic range and image quality of FF is quite a bit different. If you also shoot landscapes like I do then going FF is a no brainer.

 

Thanks for checking on that ISO. ISO 5000 with a 300 sec. S/S -- yikes, that's cutting it close. Thanks for checking, and I agree with your assessment. It's all a matter of trade-offs and compromises, isn't it?

 

Totally agree, for landscapes, full frame is the way to go. So far, my landscape photography has merely been incidental to the nature and wildlife on which I'm focused. It's nice to get a few environmental and landscape shots, but they've been so few and far between, having a dedicated camera body for that just hasn't been worth it. But now that I'm faced with this decision, it may push me over the edge. We'll see.....

 

By the way, thanks for the link to your portfolio earlier. Beautiful work!

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Posted (edited)

On 4/5/2017 at 7:32 PM, Alexander33 said:

Still, the noticeably better ISO performance of the D750 tugs at me. While the new f/2.8 lens will certainly be of use to me in low light, J. will still have the 80-400 f/4.5-5.6 (newest version). This nagging voice in the back of my mind keeps telling me it would be great to pair it with a D750. This trip may very well be the only opportunity we ever have to see gorillas in the wild, and it's important to me that our photos be the best that we can reasonably manage. (Emphasis on the word "reasonably").

 

My brain tells me I shouldn't do it, and that a better long-term plan would be to save the money and apply it some day in the future toward a new generation of DX cameras with improved ISO performance.

 

We'll see if I have the willpower......

 

 

Well, so much for that.....

 

Camera.jpg

 

All it took was a "Mother's Day Sale" last month -- with a free battery grip thrown in.  (And it's been a mighty long Mother's Day -- the sale is still going on, which perhaps lends credence to the rumor that Nikon will soon release a successor to the D750. The D810 was on sale, too.)

 

Edited by Alexander33
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13 minutes ago, Alexander33 said:

 

Well, so much for that.....

 

Camera.jpg

 

All it took was a "Mother's Day Sale" last month -- with a free battery grip thrown in.  (And it's been a mighty long Mother's Day -- the sale is still going on, which perhaps lends credence to the rumor that Nikon will soon release a successor to the D750. The D810 was on sale, too.)

 

 

I have been very tempted on the D810 sale, but am holding out to see what the new version has in store.  I am hoping it announced in time to be able to get one before my February 2018 safari.

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Congratulations on your new addition, @Alexander33!  I look forward to seeing the product of your purchase!!  ;-)

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@cjt3

 

Thats always the rub, isn't it?  The next best thing is always just around the corner, and can be yours -- for a price......

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@Alexander33, I am sure that D750 won't let you down.

 

The low-light performance and the impunity with which you can boost shadows and exposure over a DX still amazes me.

 

But as far as better low-noise performance from DX is concerned, I have read that the current crop (IE the D500 sensor) is very close to what is technically possible in that department. Any major improvements from here on in will have to come from as-yet-undiscovered radically different technology. 

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@Peter Connan

 

For me, that would certainly be a relief financially!!  (Then again, when one looks at the technological advances made in photographic equipment over just the past 10 years, optimistically speaking, who knows what's on the horizon?)

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Yip, and there are certainly other systems in the camera that could still be improved upon. So I doubt your pocket (or mine) will feel any real relief, I'm afraid.

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So happy to return your favour, @Alexander33 ! Using a full frame, even an entry-level model like D610 is a special treat, and I am sure that in the future, you will have three back-up bodies :D!

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