Roy Toft explains why it wasn’t too hard to get this adorable shot of the baby snow monkey

Wildlife photographers are used to waiting hours for the perfect subject to appear, but when your subject is a snow monkey it’s not so complicated. Roy Toft explains that shooting wildlife in Japan can be much easier than in other parts of the world.

The Perfect Subject

Roy Toft: This photograph is a portrait of a little baby snow monkey. If you don’t think snow monkeys are cute, then you don’t know what cute is. Anytime you have a cute fuzzy animal like the snow monkey, you know they’re just made for portraits. (click the image for a larger version)

You want to see those eyes, you want to see that expression. Being a primate, they look a lot like us and you can see those expressions in their face. Along with those wide angle shots you also want to go in tight. You have to get those expressions and see that human side of them as well.

I’ve been going there six years now and I recognize some of the monkeys now. That’s how different they are from one animal to the next. They really are individual, so go in tight. Of course with this shot, with the little monkey putting his finger up into his mouth, that was just a perfect moment to hit that shutter button.

The great thing with snow monkeys is that you get hundreds of these moments everyday you’re out there. You have subjects in front of you all day long. I guess one of the tips I should have mentioned when we talked before is bring tons of memory. This is one of those trips where the shutter button is smoking.

You’re just shooting so many images. Everywhere you go in Japan for the wildlife, you’ll have subjects in front of you all day long. You don’t work five hours to get one photo like in some places. This is a very photo-rich environment, so bring tons of memory.

Audri Lanford: Can you talk for a moment about the light here, because it’s just so spectacular?

Roy Toft: The wonderful thing about the snow monkeys is, as I said, they’re in a valley. You get this almost flat light, but for portraits we want those giant soft box in the sky type pictures to get new shadows and this is wonderful lighting. You get that a lot with the snow monkeys. Because we get snowy weather, we get cloudy weather and because it’s in a valley, you don’t get that direct light mucking up the photo.

You have wonderful opportunities to shoot portraits for hours and hours throughout the day — not just that one time in the morning where you have the nice light and then we’re going to get the rest of the day is bright. You constantly have this subtle lighting that you see in this snow monkey photo.

In Closing

Snow monkeys, without a doubt, are some of the cutest subjects out there. As luck would have it, they’re also one of the easiest to photograph. Their adorable personalities provide countless photo opportunities and the lighting in their natural habitats provides hours, not just moments, of perfect lighting.