An elder chimp rests after eating in Tacugama Chimpanzee reserve. For every chimp that reaches Tacugama an average of eight others have died along the way. Once a family group has been been formed, the reserve will look to reintroduce them to the wild but it requires a forest with no existing territorial animals.
Sierra Leone – Photo Tip

Backlighting creates great atmospheric opportunities

Photo by Kieran Meeke

Sierra Leone – Photo Tip Backlighting creates great atmospheric opportunities

Tacugama Chimpanzee Sanctuary was a major highlight of my many experiences in Sierra Leone.

Kieran Meeke
Kieran Meeke Travel Writer

It was also a chance to photograph animals in a country where humans seem to be everywhere, unless you are prepared to go on a full-blown nature expedition. Taking photos of animals in captivity, even when it is a large sanctuary, always has its limitations. Are they behaving the same as animals in the wild? And fences and wires are an issue because they are unattractive elements in any photo.

I had a 80-400mm lens with me, a pain to carry around in the heat but this was one time when it proved invaluable. I had to keep my distance because the mischievous chimps are deadly shots with a stone and hit their target without fail. It’s a useful habit to knock fruit and nuts off high branches.

The afternoon sun was behind them, backlighting the whole scene. This created opportunities for great atmospheric photography that would otherwise not be possible. I pushed the ISO to 800 to help with the light and give me a shorter exposure to stop camera shake. I used the fringe of leaves in the foreground to frame the individual apes while avoiding unnatural elements. It suggests their natural habitat.

It is hard not to ascribe human emotions to the faraway look in its eyes, maybe a touch of sadness at its captivity.

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Feeding time in Tacugama Chimpanzee Reserve is a chance for visitors to see the animals and for the chimps to bond with each other. Highly social, chimpanzees spend their lives in a family group in the wild and it takes a long time to recreate that in captivity, with each new arrival creating stresses. Photo by Kieran Meeke

Kieran Meeke

Kieran Meeke

Nikon D300

Aperture
ƒ/5.6
Exposure
1/320
ISO
800
Focal
400 mm

Feeding time in Tacugama Chimpanzee Reserve is a chance for visitors to see the animals and for the chimps to bond with each other. Highly social, chimpanzees spend their lives in a family group in the wild and it takes a long time to recreate that in captivity, with each new arrival creating stresses.

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