Advice for photographing the mountain gorillas
For most of us who are lucky enough to have a wildlife experience as magical as going to see the mountain gorillas, capturing the moment on camera is an important part of the experience. So, I wanted to share my top tips on what sort of equipment you should take and how to get the most out of it whilst you are there.
A decent quality digital SLR is the best tool for the job in most wildlife photography and photographing the mountain gorillas is no exception. If you are lucky enough to own a full frame SLR then this is best due to the higher performance in low light situations that you are likely to find yourself in. However, that is not to say that a cropped sensor will not do a decent job for you, in fact for most people the performance would be more than acceptable. It is worth noting that on a cropped sensor SLR your zoom lenses will be extended depending on the size of the sensor. A 1.6x sensor for example will multiply the focal length of your lenses by that factor, this can be especially useful for other parts of your safari, for example, a 200mm lens on a 1.6x sensor would be equivalent to a 320mm zoom (200 x 1.6 = 320), could be handy for that far away cheetah sitting in the sunlight in Tanzania.
When selecting lenses many people elect for long telephoto zooms when travelling on safari. While these are often the best tool for the job when you are in somewhere like the Serengeti, they can be a bit too much when visiting the mountain gorillas. The reason for this is that, ideally, you should be around 7 metres from the gorillas, which is significantly closer than you are likely to be to a leopard in a tree. If somebody else was paying for it (and carrying it!) I would love to go with 2 x Canon 1dx bodies fitted with Canon EOS battery grips, a medium telephoto such as a Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM coupled with a Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6L IS USM. But as this blog and my trips are based in reality, I went with none of those things whatsoever. It is all well and good saying that this is best or that is the best, but I shot exclusively on a Canon 50D with a Sigma 18-250mm f/3.5-6.3, which is significantly cheaper, and lighter.
Essentially, what I am getting at here is that you should take the best equipment you can afford and remember a good photographer with an average camera will outperform an average photographer with an expensive camera every time.
Try not to get to too hung up on equipment and spend some time learning how to use your equipment and this will get you a lot further than just spending money on flashy equipment.