How Photographing Monkeys Is Just Like Photographing ToddlersMe Ra Koh
Photographing monkeys is a lot like photographing toddlers — especially considering that neither of them really want to listen to you, the photographer! I’ve found that you’ll want to shoot with a long lens so they don’t actually see you taking their photo (because the moment they do, they run away). When they move, they move super fast which can give you lots of blurry results. But when you do capture that perfect shot, it’s magical. It’s worth all the trial and error you’ve endured!
The Flame Trees are in full bloom this time of year in Thailand’s jungle. I’ve spotted the Langur monkeys snacking on the flowers and leaves above, and I’ve been praying for a moment when I’d have my camera gear near. The moment came yesterday! All five monkeys crawled down into the vibrant Flame Tree flowers and were distracted with snacking long enough for me to set up my camera gear. (Which is funny when I think about it because spontaneous snacks, even a single Cheerio, is a distraction tactic I’ve used countless times to grab the photo I want of a toddler.)
I thought I was photographing photos of three monkeys. When I started editing the photos, I realized there were FIVE monkeys! Can you find all five monkeys?
You probably found the first three. But if you look in the upper left hand corner, you’ll see the other two: a mama Langur and her orange, furry baby! Let’s take a closer look! Look at the baby’s orange, round head and little ear. Amazing!
How did I get these fantastic shots? For starters my camera set-up looked like this:
To capture the Langurs from a distance, I need a long lens. This lens is the Sony 70-400mm. But when I’m shooting with a lens this big, it’s difficult to keep the camera steady while I hand hold it. The weight of the lens can cause the smallest movement when I push the button to take a photo. It’s what we call “camera shake” which will cause my photo results to be blurred. To avoid this, I used the Gorillapod Ballhead X that I can strap to the deck railing (or the front of a vehicle, side of a boat, or a camel’s saddle, the list goes on!). My camera body for these photos is the Sony a99, one of my all time favorite cameras next to the a7R. Using a long lens to shoot from a distance is key to capturing the beauty of wildlife but also photographing toddlers.
I love to use another long lens, the 70-200mm, when photographing toddlers. Being able to back up and zoom in gives toddlers a little more sense of independence which can make all the difference. (Side note, I don’t need to use a tripod for the 70-200mm lens. Much lighter.)
Both of these toddler photos were captured with a 70-200mm lens. I used the lens to zoom in super tight for quiet moments.
But I can also stand at a distance when a magical moment unfolds!
Whether you are in the jungle photographing Langur monkeys or chasing your toddler with the camera, you’ve got to outsmart them. Consider investing in a long lens. Wait until they are busy snacking or playing. Be sneaky about it. They are SMART! And then frame your wild thing in his/her element so they are not stuck in the middle but off centered! This will help add to the overall story.
Who knows? You may get so good at photographing toddlers that one day you find yourself using those same skills for photographing monkeys in Thailand! Strangers things have happened.
Want more help photographing toddlers? Check out my latest book, Your Child in Pictures! It’s the second book in a series that has been bestselling on Amazon for three years!
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