For those of you asking for photography advice, this is a post I wrote for Fauna about the challenges of photographing the sanctuary chimpanzees.
You can also check this article I wrote for MNN about taking better photos at the zoo.
Post by photographer NJ Wight
Photographing the chimps in the chimp house is exceptionally challenging. The greatest difficulties as a photographer are the lighting and the caging doors. The light is often very high or very low contrast and I work without flash as it startles some of the chimps. The low light demands high ISO and often produces more noise than I would like. The bars are also a real challenge! The trick to shooting through caging is to get the lens as close to it as possible. If you shoot wide-open (f2.8 and f4 for me) you can actually make the wires “almost” disappear-but to do this, the subject has to be at a distance. That’s tricky with the chimps as they generally prefer to be close to the action-all the better to squirt me with a little water. :-) When I can get them at a distance and shoot straight through, it is sometimes possible to make most of the bars disappear, or at least appear faded. When I can’t get it exactly right, I do my best to crop them out or use digital effects to create something “different.”
In the case of the top photo of Jethro, he was enjoying his bowl of grapes up on a high platform. I had to lie down to shoot up through the “port” hole in the door. It was an extreme angle so you can still see discolouration and shadows from the bars as the angle prevented me from getting close enough to them. He was also in low lighting, so there is a lot of noise in the shot. So, I decided to turn the photo into a grainy, antique-inspired black and white postcard. Removing the colour helps reduce the distraction of the colour cast caused by the bars and adding grain works with the already present noise. It’s not perfect, but it takes on a different feel. Jethro is very photogenic so I have a great subject to work with!