On the Ground with Chimpanzees & Mountain Gorillas

Emily Deemer October 19, 2013 0
Chimpanzee in Uganda

Chimpanzee in Kibale Forest National Park, Uganda. © Marcia Goldstein

Nat Hab guest Marcia Goldstein recently returned from our Great Uganda Gorilla Safari with some remarkable photos on the ground with mountain gorillas in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest and wild chimpanzees in Kibale Forest National Park.  We had the chance to catch up with Marcia to find out how exhilarating it was being eye level with these rainforest primates, and to snag a couple photography tips of course!  Scroll down to see the interview and more photos.
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Have you been on other Nat Hab trips before this one?

I have!  I’ve been on your Churchill polar bears, Alaska’s grizzlies, Wild India, Svalbard trips.

And have you always been a great photographer or did you just pick it up recently?
I am NOT a great photographer but have a great point and shoot camera!

Not a great photographer?  I beg to differ! Did you pick up some good photography tips on this tour?
One of my fellow travelers is a professional photographer who gave me a few tips. Although many of my early photos were shot on Auto, he told me that he was asked to teach a class which he would entitle: “You can’t get an “A” using “A”. I think the chimps were still on “Auto”!  That’s why I love my camera!

Mother and Baby Gorilla

Mother and baby gorillas in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, home to almost half the world’s mountain gorillas (roughly 300). © Marcia Goldstein

Any photography tips you want to share with our readers?
Lighting is the main consideration. My “tutor” had me use Aperture mode and adjust the ISO according to the light.  The gorilla shots were all done in that manner but I think “auto” would have been good too…

Did you have a great zoom lens or were you just super close to the chimpanzees and gorillas?
My CanonSX50HS has a great digital zoom. In fact, my tutor, with all of his lenses said that I had a better zoom with my camera than he did with his huge carrying case of choices. However, we were close – the chimps were only about 10-15 yards away.  One gorilla was so close that she pushed me out of her way but most were not nearly as close! (She is the one with the mean face that I took as she walked towards me.)

Chimpanzee in Uganda

Chimpanzees lounge with their feet up just like we do. © Marcia Goldstein

Wow, that must have been exciting!  What else surprised you about the chimpanzees and gorillas?
I did not realize how fortunate we were to see the chimps so close! After our encounter with them, I was told that it is extremely unusual to see them on the ground. They are usually up in the trees and very difficult to see. Although I was thrilled to be able to see them at “eye level” at the time, I was even more thrilled to find out that this was a relatively unique experience!

What was your favorite part about the trip?
Seeing the mountain gorillas after climbing up the mountain for almost 4 hours was thrilling.  It was grueling, but actually seeing them in their habitat doing what comes naturally was worth every step of that trek!

Baby gorilla in Uganda

A curious juvenile gorilla peeking through the foliage. © Marcia Goldstein

What destinations are next on your list?
We have 3 Nat Hab trips planned for 2014: Yellowstone Wolf safari, Secluded Botswana, and Wild China.  Of course Nat Hab is our favorite for seeing the various wildlife.

I’m jealous of your 2014 trip lineup, it sounds amazing!  Thank you so much for taking the time to tell us about your primate expedition and for sharing some wildlife photography tips, Marcia!

If Marcia’s photos have inspired your inner-photographer, check out our line of Natural Habitat Photo Tours for wildlife photographers of all levels.

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