RIA: Gambia - Animals

Genoma

Active Member
We were looking for a cheap destination in the sun for a holiday. It was either your usual Canary Islands or something different. Gambia sounded different! Flights were cheap and so was accomodation. We went for 2 weeks.

Hotel was basic, given the choice again we would have chosen a different one but there are no "no entry" restrictions on the other hotels, so you can just rock up during the day and try somewhere else, they are happy to have your custom even if you aren't staying with them. We tried a few different ones and ended up spending 2-3 days just resting at the Senegambia hotel pool and bar. But otherwise it was very much walking, exploring and a few organised trips out of the beach / main tourist areas.

First trip was to Georgetown, a 5 hour drive from where we were. We hired a guide to take us there and he organised the logistics, drove us and arranged the boat trip on the Gambia River where we saw wild hippos and the protected chimpanzees. Georgetown was hot! 40+ easily! The car trip was interesting in itself, the boat excursion was great with all the the animal sightings - we kept well away from the hippos! In that heat it wasn't easy however enduring the overnight stop... air conditioning had broken down in our room! We had to sleep on top of wet towels on the bed to keep cool. On the next day, an added bonus; wild baboons sighted from the car near a peanut farm from the road!

Another trip was to a monkey park nearby the hotel. We walked down the beach to it (about an hour walk) then another 2-3 hours to walk around the park trails. Lots of monkeys and Rachel spotted the black headed Heron included below which looks superb (IMHO!)

On the last week we met a bird guide - Mamadou Jallow, great guy, incredibly knowledgeable, ridiculously impressive spotting abilities; god knows how he could see an owl in a tree 100 metres away which took us forever to find with binoculars! He happily tolerated our inexperience with birds, we walked around a river near the hotel for where he knew a few good spots. The Pied Kingfisher below was taken there. As he was such a nice guy we booked the next day out with him to the Salaji forest park and the Tanji bird reserve. Most of the birds below were taken in Salaji.

Gambia itself isn't that picturesque but the markets were interesting. Gambia people are very peaceful and there is almost no crime in the Country. The 4-5 month tourist season is a main source of income for a lot of people, the remainder of the year many return to their family homes where they become self-sufficient again with animal+crop farming.

The only real downer for me was the hassling. If you walk down the beach for an hour expect to be approach at every bar, restaurant, juice and random vendor. It's even worse in the town as everyone will try and 'help' you in return for a tip. Unfortunately kids and teens are also catching on to this instead of staying in school. All of them are very friendly but pushy, and will insist in talking to you, shaking your hand and keeping you for a minute or two to explain what they have to offer. The same will happen to a lesser extent in the hotel areas and restaurants where the staff will often offer you their services as a guide on their days off. Day after day this soon lost it's novelty value...

Otherwise it was great weather, and cheap for a non-standard destination. Wildlife was superb and so were days off near the pool with a beer in hand. Was a great opportunity for my wife to get to grips with the DSLR in manual mode too with plenty of shots to try different settings with. We both took turns taking these and I'll probably be looking for a second Canon body for her now so we can share the lenses. Photography seems to be popular with tourists in Gambia - Chris Packham offers guided bird watching tours there.

So hope you enjoy the snaps, more to come soon!. Feedback and animal/location ID corrections :) always welcome!

1. Black Headed Heron




2. Alpha Male Chimp





3. Young Chimp





4. Pied Kingfisher





5. Piglets in the Woods





6. Red Colobus Monkeys





7. Red-Cheeked Cordon-Bleu





8. Nightjar





9. Monitor Lizard





10. Purple Starling
 
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Steve Kelly

Well-known Member
Wow, great write-up and pics, thanks for that! :smashin:

So much sounding appealing about the place, but then this line gives me the terrors... "air conditioning had broken down in our room! We had to sleep on top of wet towels on the bed to keep cool."... Bear Grylls I aint! :)
That and the constant hassling. Shame about that.

Onto the pics...Many/most of the pics appear well over-exposed to me, but composition and subject are excellent.

Exposure-issues aside, the picks are 1, 4, 5, 7 & 10 for me.
I love pic 1, excellent capture.
 

snerkler

Distinguished Member
Great set, especially 1,5,6 & 9. Looks a great place for wildlife :)
 

Genoma

Active Member
Thanks very much Steve. I'll have a look at the exposure settings although a lot of these were taken against strong light as I didn't have many opportunities to get up early / late afternoon.

The air conditioning issues was a single night to be fair but was hell, especially after a long day. Otherwise near the coast air conditioning isn't really an issue at all, there was a constant cool sea breeze in the evenings and night.

The hassling is a problem though, it's friendly but wears thin after a few days, it's impossible to go for a quiet walk anywhere if you aren't already with a guide. It's the real reason I would find it hard to recommend Gambia to others looking for some relaxation in the holiday.
 
D

Deleted member 241106

Guest
Excellent set, not a bad shot amongst them, nice and crisp with great colour and composition. :thumbsup:
 

Lancia34

Distinguished Member
Great photos there, No.2 is amazing and 5 and 6 are my other picks :)

Africa and being hassled go hand in hand unfortunately, just how they are over there with tourists. Can be a bit tiring sometimes, especially when they following you for ages but can;t distract from the beauty of that continent, probably my favourite place on earth :)
 

Dancook

Distinguished Member
all beautiful photos :) #1 is my favourite - lovely colours and composition
 

shotokan101

Banned
great stuff - too hard to choose favourites - though quite a few seem a bit bright/overexposed for the main subjects to me
 

shotokan101

Banned

Lancia34

Distinguished Member
The brightness probably more accurately represents how the light actually was though maybe a little bright in some of the bird photos.
think the lighting looks great in the two chimp pictures, really adds to it :)
 

shotokan101

Banned

Genoma

Active Member
Thanks guys the feedback is very much appreciated. Exposure wise I can see what you mean. I was afraid that it was due to just have recalibrated the monitor! Truth is trying to balance it in Lightroom doesn't really work, the histograms believe it or not do look balanced, it was just shot in very bright sunlight and in most circumstances they were just taken when we were walking around (tipically not in the early morning or late afternoon) so the light is very harsh and hard to get the beasties to turn to face the right way! :)

Just so I know you do mean the whites being blown out rather than the entire picture being too bright? Feel free to post an adjustment as I'm still a bit worried the latest calibration is a bit dark and I'm overcompensating.
 

shotokan101

Banned
Well think that you're probably accurate about the histograms but from a few I've looked at the EXIF for you've used spot metering (and manual exposure so I guess you had the histogram on view?) so this has tended to give very bright highlights in some shots given the lighting conditions that do tend to distract me personally from the subjects in some cases - in fact despite what's already been said I find the shot of mother/child monkey possibly the worst in this case despite the subject being quite well exposed (as you'd expect from spot metering I suppose) and my personal view would be to use some selective exposure adjustment to tone some areas down a little - possibly just dropping the highlights or whites a little in LR might do it - obviously a personal thing though...

Would be interested in hearing why you shoot the way you do - not critical just interested :)

I'll see if I can show an example of what I mean when I get some spare time.

Still a great set of unique shots though :)

Jim
 

Genoma

Active Member
Thanks Jim, this is precisely the sort of feedback I'm after. As background, I am a beginner, only started photographing in anger with A DSLR and doing post processing at the beginning of last year.

I was trying out the metering settings on the trip and given a lot of the subjects were small I went with spot. I was also finding that evaluative and partial with the strong white backgrounds was darkening the subjects too much.

Just had another go with LR to tone down highlights and lights, it does make the glare a little less distracting on the infant's back but starts to introduce some weird grey artefacts around the white areas in the tree:

 

shotokan101

Banned
That looks much better to me - much more detail in the highlighted/backlit fur areas - also I don't think that's necessarily artefacts as such but possible just more detail recovered from areas that were nearly blown out and showing as a white area before.

I tried a few tweaks myself and came up with a very similar shot to your tweaked one above - I also did one more step and adjusted the white balance in LR to "auto" from "as shot" to see what it looked like and while I personally like the appearance better only you can say whether it's more or less representative of the colours you actually saw on the day and more importantly if you like it or not :D

Let me know if you want to see my versions and I'll PM you links - no point in cluttering up your thread :)

Jim
 
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shotokan101

Banned
Okey Dokey - will PM you the two links

Jim
 

shotokan101

Banned
forgot to mention that I PM'd you the two versions :)
 

BubbleDouble

Distinguished Member
Great set and great adventure by the sounds of it. Never really considered Gambia as a cheap destination, might have to look into it...
 

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