Field Experiment: Camera Visuals of Apes

By Mike Frazee

Last year I took a trip to the Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle, Washington. I wanted to go and see the baby elephant that had been born there not long ago. As I was touring through the other exhibits I of course eagerly came to the Primate area.

It was a nice day and several of the gorillas were in the outdoor area set up for them, that is when the idea struck me to do a photography experiment. How easy, or difficult would it be to get a photograph of these gorillas in an outdoor setting?

I had a simple camera - a point and shoot Pentax - so I had no control over the exposure settings. The only added feature was a telephoto lens but since I wanted the photos to be as close as possible to the naked eye I did not use it.

Picture #1 - In the open - Photo is un-touched in either conventional or digital manners. I am surprised at the loss of detail in the scanning and posting of it here. Anyway, this is a photo of two gorillas in plain view in the center of the photo. They simply appear as dark objects, in the actual photo it is easier to see them.


Photo #1

Picture #2 Partially concealed - Again in the center of the photo where the twisted ropes start their twist on the left side and behind the ropes is a gorilla. And also once again, just a dark object, this time however the gorilla doesn't look much different than the areas of shade in the picture







Photo #2













Picture #3
Quite concealed - Even though the gorilla in this photo is not even trying to hide it is even more difficult to find him. He is again in the center of the photo vertically and a little above center horizontally. He is looking directly at the camera and his face is the dark area behind and just below the light colored objects that are shaped like an upside down slightly flattened out V.

I was surprised when I received the photos back from the processor. The exposures are good, but if I handn't made a note of where the gorillas were in the photos I would not have been able to say for sure where, or what they were in the number two and three photos.

Photo # 3

While this was just a simple experiment the photos do not show what is more easily seen in real life. I also noted that in photo number three that if I had not watched as the gorilla had gone into the brush, I probably would not have been able to find him, especially if he would have sat very still.

No wonder our big friends are so hard to photograph. For the most part I believe that they are trying to hide and know quite well how to conceal themselves in their surroundings.

Courtesy Michael Frazee