Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The Perils of Photographing Monkeys

I mentioned earlier in the week that I saw a lot of monkeys in Cuyabeno National Park.  Something I failed to mention was that my lack of photos was mostly due to the fact that photographing monkeys is probably a lot like photographing some celebrities.  Monkey are high maintenance.  They need zoom lenses, the right setting, good lighting, crazy shutter speeds, and soothing noises.  They need freedom and maybe a good snack spread. 

Most of my monkey photos lacked these things.  They look something like this:

"Hey there blurry monkey.  In my hurry to photograph you, I didn't realize that I practically bokeh-ed you out of the photo.  Now you look like someone's house cat.  Maybe the close-up of the leaf will be enough to confirm that this was, in fact, set in the rain forest."

Unfortunately, compared to my other photos, that one looks like something out of National Geographic.  The majority look more like this: 

There once was a pair of two monkeys sitting here kind of cutesy-like with their tails hanging down.  Then they fled like a thief in the night.  In between photos of caterpillars and tree frogs, I have long series of these.  Everything else about these photos is so focused, well-lit, or well-framed that I honestly had to spend time thinking about why I had so many photos of leaves.  Then I realized what they were.  They are now called the Pointless Tree photos. 

Of course, none of these unsuccessful monkey photos are even that upsetting until you consider this:   On the day of our departure my camera batteries died.  It was the same day that a family of 20 or so monkeys crossed RIGHT OVER OUR BOAT.  Even the tiny local baby on board pointed and said, "monos, monos!"  I just sighed.  I contemplated asking the guide to sift through my suitcase for my camera.  Maybe there was still a tiny bit of juice left in those batteries.  I knew there wasn't.  I cursed myself for trying to photograph the bats in our bathroom the night before.  I tried to tell myself that I was really just enjoying the moment.  I didn't have a shutter speed to worry about; I was just experiencing pure, unadulterated monkey observation.  It was lies.  I'm bitter.  I wanted that cool monkey shot.

If ever you are in the forest, know that if you bring anything less than a $700.00 camera, the little monks will elude you time and again.    But also know that you will be in Ecuador, and you will have so many photo-worthy opportunities that a $700.00 camera will be worth it.  If on these same travels you should see someone near the side of the road selling shirts that say, "Monkeys:  so badass pink river dolphins are just okay next to them," buy one.  It's my business.  I'm saving up for a $700.00 camera and another trip to the rain forest. 

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