The Swinger

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The Swinger

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I titled this photo ‘The Swinger’ for an obvious reason:  I caught him in mid-swing (Duh, I’m nothing if not original).  I’ve posted this image before, both on this blog and also on Facebook,  but I really like it.  First, because of the natural Spider Monkey behavior it records and second, because it was a damn difficult shot to get.

The setting for this image is the jungle-shrouded Maya ruin of Yaxchilan, on the Rio Usumacinta, which separates Guatemala from Chiapas, Mexico.  It takes about 45-minutes to reach the site by river longboat, but it’s a scenic trip and it feels like you’re there in a flash.  Pulling up to the riverbank you are greeted by not only the ruins themselves, but also by exotic birds, insects and both Howler & Spider monkey’s.

Shooting monkey’s in the wild is a whole lot different than shooting them in a zoo.  For one thing it’s dark, even at high noon, because of the thick canopy overhead.  So low light is a real challenge.  Monkey’s are typically high-up, and often moving fast.  There is also a lot of clutter in the canopy—leaves, branches, twigs—all kinds of things to block your view, and confuse your camera’s autofocus.  And finally, as you’re looking high-up into the canopy you’re not paying much attention to your footing, and run the very real risk of tripping over large tree roots, slipping on very wet jungle trails or simply running smack-dab into a tree at full tilt (none of which is a good thing).  That’s why I like this shot, because I got The Swinger doing what he does best, and I got it in spite of the significant challenges involved.

Photographer’s note:  Captured in CameraRAW with my Canon EOS 5D Mk2 camera and Canon EF 400mm f/5.6L USM super telephoto lens.  I knew that I would be moving and shooting fast so I set my camera on TV-Priority @ 1/500s (Shutter Speed Priority), and my ISO on automatic.  The aperture (f-stop) would be set automatically by the camera, but I was certain it would remain wide-open at f/5.6, because of the low light, and that the ISO would then increase as required.  Final recorded camera settings at shutter release were:  1/500s @ f/5.6, ISO 3200, FL=400mm, TV-Priority, Handheld.  If I had a do-over I would have taken my external flash with Better Beamer flash extender.   That might have provided a bit more lighting on The Swinger’s front, because he was backlit with what light there was, and allowed me to reduce the ISO somewhat (hopefully decreasing some of the noise/graininess). But given what I had on-hand,  and the rapid shooting conditions, I am well-pleased with the final result.  RAW conversion and edits completed in PSE11; special attention was paid to the lack of lighting in the shadow areas (adjustments to overall exposure, shadows and highlights). 

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2 responses to “The Swinger

  1. I know nothing about monkeys or photography, however I do like the fact your are advertising one of my favorite authors “Brandon Sanderson” above! I read the first book in the series, and look forward to the book mentioned above (coming out on 3-4-14). Steve you know I am impressed with your talent to photoraph and then improve the image through “some magical software that I don’t even udnerstand”, and after following you for 1 1/2 or 2 years, you finally got my attention with your advertisement! LOL. Just messing with you buddy. You know I miss you in my day to day life, but following along on your blog helps me with my “Steve fix”. Say hi to Joel! “Actions before emotions…”

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