How To Make Photos Of The Monkeys In Ubud, Bali

A monkey, no doubt wounded by many battles, in the Monkey Forest in Ubud, Bali.

While in Ubud, Bali I stayed about a ten minute walk away from the Monkey Forest. It's a dark, green and humid environment that supports around 250 monkeys, divided into two groups, each with a dominant male.

Apparently the big guy's position rarely lasts longer than a year by which time the constant challengers by younger males will inevitably wear him down. So, to all you young folks out there, enjoy the spoils while you can. The clocks ticking!

Winners And Losers In The Animal World

The monkey at the top of this post was showing the signs of a hard life. Close inspection of the image will show a damaged eye and a single canine. His movements also appeared less nimble than many of his compatriots.

Despite the fact that these monkeys are wild animals the Monkey Forest in Ubud is a popular tourist destination. By staying on the dedicated paths and being careful not to make sudden movements or antagonize the monkeys I was able to stand quite close and make photos with a relatively modest 24-105 mm f/4 lens on my then Canon 5D Mark II camera.

A monkey with a large piece of fruit in the Monkey Forest in Ubud, Bali.

This next image shows a monkey enjoying a piece of fruit it had stolen from a smaller monkey. One function of wildlife photography is to document animal behavior. It allows you to explore the variety of ways in which animals relate to each other, in a social context, and to their environment. 


A monkey looks out prior to heading into the jungle at the Monkey Forest in Ubud, Bali.


This next image shows a rather timid monkey taking a look around before deciding whether or not to venture out into the trees. He'd only just been chased away my a larger member of the troupe and the uncertainty on his face is quite clear.

The relatively shallow depth of field in the above image has allowed the monkey to stand out from an interesting but potentially distracting background.

A monkey climbs up a carved wall, featuring scenes of traditional village life, in the Monkey Forest in Ubud, Bali.

The Background Is An Important Part Of Your Photos

In the image directly above I remember spotting our friend moving in my direction up the wall of a temple in the Monkey Forest. I chose an interesting part of the wall as the background and waited for the monkey to work its way up to a position in the frame that would naturally draw attention towards him. It was then just a matter of holding my patience until he turned back towards the camera.

This simple approach is sometimes used by street photographers who find an interesting location and compose their image around that space. Next they wait until an interesting subject or subjects enter the frame before tripping their camera's shutter at, ideally, the Decisive Moment

Here's Your Shortcut To Make Great Photos

The above image, advertising my private one-to-one photography classes, was made from an overlook not too far away from Ubud. Designed to help folks master their cameras and enable them to make great photos of their own adventures these classes are becoming increasing popular. For further information feel free to email me directly

Unless you're craving sun and surf my advice is to head to Ubud and, from there, do what I did: hire a car and driver from your hotel and let him take you to some of Bali's most photogenic locations. The price is extremely reasonalbe and the car I hired was a large CUV that was new and exceptionally clean. What's more my driver was a genuinely decent, pleasant and accommodating guy. I enjoyed our time together so much that I ended up hiring the car and driver three days in a row.

Bali Is A Fantastic Holiday Destination For The Curious

I loved my time in and around the artist community of Ubud in Central Bali. The town is well set up for tourists and the surroundings are beautiful. Best of all is the slow paced lifestyle of the Balinese. They do everything with care and with love, and it's very much appreciated by the many Australians who continue to return to Ubud for the annual holidays year after year. I'm not sure if that's always the case for many of the Aussies who head for a beach holiday in the faster paced and more heavily touristed Kuta. Still, each to their own.

Glenn Guy, Travel Photography Guru