Sunday, January 09, 2005

Barbara Johnston: Wet cameras and elusive monkeys

January 9, 2005
Main Camp, Gran Caldera de Luba, Equatorial Guinea

Just when I thought I couldn’t hike another kilometer yesterday morning, our guide Esteban Muatiche who was leading Gail Hearn, Wayne Morra and myself during an 8-hour census, froze in front of me, and pointed to where a small group of black colobus monkeys were eating berries high above on a tree. I completely forgot about my aching back, tired legs and blistering feet when I looked through my camera with a 500mm lens and captured this beautiful primate for few brief moments before he spotted me and disappeared into the rain forest.

Without a doubt, this has been the most challenging assignment of my career. The greatest challenge has been protecting my camera equipment from the extreme heat, humidity and heavy rain showers. Fortunately I packed a lot of silica gel and Ziploc bags! Also I never leave camp without my camera raincoats, which completely cover the camera body and lens, leaving an opening for my hand. The rain storms move in quickly and come down hard, particularly on southern end of the island, and there is no where to run for cover. Also, shooting in the rainforest offers a hosts of other obstacles: low light, severe backlight on the monkeys high in the trees and the dense foliage. It’s very difficult get a clear view and focus on the monkeys.

Tomorrow morning we leave the Gran Caldera de Luba and hike six hours back to Moraka beach, the work boat St. Tammany will pick us up the following day and bring us back to Malabo. I only wish I had a few more days in the caldera to try to capture the elusive drill that I only saw for one fleeting moment yesterday. I remember seeing a shadowy figure in the distance that could only be a drill, but by the time I picked up my camera to focus, it vanished as quickly as it appeared…. As Gail Hearn explained…“They know your limitations.”
-- Barbara L. Johnston
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