Mountain Gorilla trekking: Up close & personal experience

Mountain Gorilla trekking: Up close & personal experience

After two days of trekking to see the Mountain Gorillas in Rwanda, we were dead-tired, but elated with our experience. Eight of us (the maximum size group that is allowed to visit a gorilla family) had met in Kigali for the unique experience before heading off for our main safari in Tanzania.

Like with the bears we photograph in Alaska, it is hard to describe what it feels like to be on the ground with such large, habituated, animals. We never felt the least threatened – even when one brushed by on its way somewhere – although it certainly caused a rush of adrenaline. Of course the gorillas are much more “human-like” than the bears, and are also fortunately herbivores.

The two treks offered very difference experiences and lighting. The first day was a massive climb, past the bamboo forest and into the mixed forest (what I’d be happy to describe as a jungle), resulting in a lot of tired legs. But the lighting once we got there was quite good (for a rain forest, at least). It was hard to see many of the 40 or so gorillas in the family at any one time, but when we could see them, we could often make out nearly every detail in their expressive faces.

Our first day there was much more light from overhead – when the gorillas
decided to let us see them, of course.

The second day the gorillas were much easier to find, but they were under the heavy cover of thick bamboo. ISO 6400 or better was the order of the day, and I was really happy that I’d brought a Tamron 24-70 f/2.8 lens and my really inexpensive but handy Nikon 50mm f/1.8 for my other camera. Members of the group with Nikon D4 and cameras were feeling awfully good about having lugged their big machines all that way, as they could easily bump up their ISOs as needed. It was at the upper end of my does well, and pushing the limits of my , but both cameras delivered the results – especially after processing with the state-of-the-art PRIME noise reduction capability of .

Even at ISO 6400 it was tricky to make photographs our second day.
A quick Multiply layer of the background helped a lot to allow the gorilla to
stand out from the forest

I’ll be posting more images when I’m back in the USA, but we’re still on safari here in the Serengeti, so I’m just posting a couple for now.