Photographing Chimpanzees

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Our chimpanzee cousins, assuming you believe that humans are descendants from apes, involves going to your local nature park, zoo or nature preserve and photographing these often gracious apes. Unlike most animal photographic projects which involve photographing animals and avoiding the inclusion of any parts of the enclosure, this one counts on you purposely including parts of it.

It is difficult and expensive to travel to the chimpanzee's natural environments so parks provide a viable alternative and because these creatures can often be very playful, these locations can prove to be very amusing and a reliable source of good images.

Your project should begin by identifying some of the behaviors of these chimps and some of the meaning associated with each individual behavior. Also research their family hierarchy and this will give you a good idea of what to look for.

Recording images of their facial features is important as they can appear to be very demonstrative. A good tip is to record images of their eyes in close up with the aid of a zoom lens. Their eyes much like our eyes can often show emotion and intention.

Most captive animals are very used to human presence and they often just ignore us and go about their business. This are very good opportunities to catch them doing any of their activities. Good images are those that record instance of interaction between males and females, females and their young , interactions between young ones and young ones often playfully annoying the adults.

Although some of the facial expressions that you will see seem to mimic our own they are often something else completely. For example when they grin and appear to be smiling it is really a sign of fear or discomfort. Pay attention not to label your images incorrectly and this is where research often comes into play.

AS far as including parts of the enclosure do so with the goal of showing how they use it to their advantage like what are their favorite resting places, their play area and primary vantage points from which to survey their environment.

Chimps, much like ourselves, avoid the midday Sun and will find shaded ares to get away from it. This can prove to be a challenge for the photographer since using your camera normal readings may give you areas of underexposed and over exposed elements.

Focus on the main subject; the chimpanzee(s) and lock the readings, then shoot as you would normally do. This will ensure that your main subject is appropriately exposed and you can always crop the image if you need to.

Interesting scenes can present themselves when conflicts due to positioning within the pride arise as often you may witness fight between males and some females. Scenes featuring females coming into heat and male courtship attempts can be valuable shots to submit to most nature publications and stock photography houses. Try not to miss any and always be attentive to your subjects.

This project like most others requires you to be on location for an extended period of time so patience is a virtue and so is persistence. Your subjects are not going to pose for you and rarely act in photogenic behaviors. Let them get used to seeing you and sooner or later you will just become part of their "surroundings" and more opportunistic scenes may present themselves to you.

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Most parks and zoos have special viewing times that are available at a special rate. Photographers are always welcomed. It is worth investing in the time and money to be allowed to take your photographs during these times which are mostly before the park opens and right after it closes to the general public. Some even include feeding times and these can provide a bounty of good images.

Another alternative which I have personally found worthwhile is to join your local zoological society and they often include benefits not available to most, with access to the park during non regular hours and year round fee free entrance.

Most of the time the price for joining one such organization is a little more than $150.00 for the year with certain exceptions and when you consider how much the fee is for a one time entrance this makes sense.

Take advantage of such deals. Remember that it will allow you shooting times when the zoo or park is less busy, often provides a knowledgeable staff member which can provide valuable information and insights into your subjects behaviors, and gives you the opportunity of photographing a host of species as many times as you want.

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© 2012 Luis E Gonzalez

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Comments 3 comments

nybride710 profile image

nybride710 4 years ago from Minnesota

Love the kissing picture! These are great.


MichaelGallinger profile image

MichaelGallinger 4 years ago from Detroit, MI

Nice, love your writing skills, I am a fan.


KimberlyLake profile image

KimberlyLake 4 years ago from California

Great Hub. Jane Goodall's books are an excellent resource for looking into the lives of chimps too. Her books are a great read! Voted up.

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