Photography…everyday

Photography has been a deep instilled passion along with my love for birds, wildlife and in recent times, the night sky! Living at the foothills of the Nilgiris (literally translates to blue mountains), I am thankful for the opportunity to make images on almost a daily basis.

The journey thus far has been wonderful and the learning never stops. In the past few months, I have been nurturing my skills in Astrophotography and landscape photography. I stumble upon inspiring works almost every single day.

On the occasion of #WorldPhotographyDay which was celebrated on 19th August, I am sharing a small collection of images, a short Milky Way time lapse video, and a self portrait 🙂

1. Spot-bellied Eagle-Owl | This beautiful species (which also happens to be my favorite) had just hunted a Grey Junglefowl and was taking refuge in the canopy of a tall tree. To watch this spectacular specimen from close quarters for over an hour was nothing short of disbelief! Oh, I almost forgot to mention, the sighting was at a spot few minutes from home.

Spot-bellied Eagle-Owl with a Grey Junglefowl kill | Nikon D850, 600 F4 VR + 1.4 TC II

2. Milky Way | Something I picked up only a few months ago, has turned into a full blooded pursuit. Watching the night sky and especially the Milky Way galaxy is a feeling I hope to put in words in upcoming blog posts. Here, a lone leafless tree stands its ground against the backdrop of the Milky Way along with Jupiter and Saturn…magical!

Lone Tree & Milky Way | Nikon D850, 18-55mm

3. Star trail | I have always wanted to make images of star trails using a single exposure. A dark and still night allowed me to make one with the back drop the hills and the lone tree.

Nikon D850 + 50mm 1.8 (exposure about 16 mins)

4. Neowise | The comet was in the news for a majority of the month of July. Instagram had loads of spectacular images of the comet. Residing in Southern India, the chances of seeing Neowise was going to be difficult due to the monsoon. Dark clouds would cover the sky leaving absolutely no visibility. On a couple of occasions, the sky cleared and I made the best of the opportunity presented.

Neowise | Nikon D850, 50mm 1.8

5. Smooth flow | Fascinated by images of silky smooth waterfalls and flowing streams, I thought it would be a good idea to experiment this genre of photography too. I got myself a 10 stop ND filter and got cracking on some images. This was one of the initial ones. A lot of reading, trial and error went into making these long exposure photographs.

Smooth flow | Nikon D850, 50mm 1.8, Nisi 10 stop ND filter

6. Silky fall | I was wrapping up after the shoot and as I lifted my tripod, the camera swung downwards swiftly from the ball head and hit the metal frame of the tripod. It resulted in a hairline crack and that was the end of the 10 stop filter. After that incident, I make sure the ball head knobs are tight and leave no room for costly errors!

Silky fall | Nikon D850, 50mm 1.8, Nisi 10 stop ND filter

7. Milky Way time lapse | Watching videos of a Milky Way timelapse always gives me goosebumps. Though it is a short video, I am sure you will enjoy this incredible spectacle of the night sky.

8. Self portrait | Well, I am rarely seen in front of the camera, which of course is intentional! On this rare occasion, amidst the forest and a river wild, I felt a self portrait would be fitting!

Self portrait | Nikon D5300, 18-55mm

#WorldPhotographyDay

Week 1 – lockdown 21

On 23rd March, Tamil Nadu state had implemented a lockdown and restrictions across the state until 31st March as a precautionary measure to stop the spread of the Corona virus. The next day, PM Modi announced lockdown of the entire country for a duration of three weeks starting 25th March onwards. Social distancing was the weapon they hoped would contain spread of the virus.

I had just come out of social-media distancing (thanks to a friend who tagged me on a photo challenge). I thought to myself, how about posting one new image every day through the lockdown period.

A couple of coral trees were in full bloom and attracted a large number of winged wonders. I decided that would be a good place to start. Here is a small collection of images from the first week.

Day 1

Colors

A long time desire to make a satisfactory image of the colorful Plum-headed Parakeet (male) finally came true on day one.

Orange and Green

The pretty Vernal Hanging Parrot inspects the bunch of flowers before gorging on them.

Day 2

Spot of Purple

The usually busy Purple-rumped Sunbird (male) stopped moving for a few seconds while perched next to a bunch of coral tree flowers, allowing me to freeze a few frames.

A shade of Grey

An equally busy and tiny bird like the Purple-rumped Sunbird is the Cinereous Tit. This one too, took a break from constant branch-hopping and posed for the camera.

Day 3

A spot of White
Sparkling Bronze

The first image is of a White-bellied Drongo and the one below it, Bronzed Drongo. Both the drongo’s were competing with each other trying to catch flying insects, and at times, ambushing other birds who were preying on insects on the ground.

Day 4

Plum and a Pod

After flowers on a coral tree fall, pods form and offer a variety of birds, especially Parakeets, an unlimited food supply. Here, a female Plum-headed Parakeet feeds on a pod.

A long bill

Yet another variety of Sunbird. This time a Loten’s Sunbird (female). Also known as the long-billed sunbird, hence the caption!

Day 5

Handsome and Colorful

Orange flowers along with incredible colors on this handsome male Plum-headed Parakeet made for a striking image.

Day 6

Splash of paint

What would have otherwise been an ordinary image of a Red-vented Bulbul, changed due to the setting. Blurred coral flowers and green leaves in the background created a lovely paint like effect here.

Surprise visitor

Seeing a branch shaking on the adjacent tree, I was taken by surprise when I saw a Palm Squirrel feeding on a bunch of flowers. Though the squirrel didn’t stay long, I managed some images. First time, I saw a squirrel visit the coral tree.

Day 7

Color of the day
Lady Minivet

The ‘always on the move’ minivets took a break, and on separate occasions allowed me a few frames before going about business as usual. Orange is male and yellow is the female of the species.

Thats all for Week No.1 of the Lockdown. I continue my quest to make at least one image a day and present the second series in seven days.

All images made with Nikon D850 along with a 600 F4 VR lens. Few images have been made attaching a 1.4 TC II teleconverter.

A year on and still Sulking

As I sit in the hide, a familiar call takes me back to a little over a year ago. An evening session and an uncalled visitor; the Scimitar Babbler .

That evening, without warning the babbler showed up, sat on the perch meant for woodpeckers and in a jiffy dived into a water basin behind the hide, splashed and quenched its thirst and then restlessly visited every perch set up and in the end, settled on a branch of a neighbouring tree.

I can tell you quite honestly, I probably held my breath the longest, the camera tightest and prayed the hardest! All because getting this sulker out in the open and sit patiently is not an easy job.

Everyday I hear the scimitar sing, everyday I hope that he visits, everyday I hope for at least a guest appearance, everyday I am left wanting! It has been a year now, and the scimitar still sulks!

Here’s to maybe a visit, maybe a tease, maybe a sighting, just maybe a photograph!

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Image made with Nikon D750 + 600f4 VR atForest Hills Farm and Guesthouse

Shades of Blue

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Shades of Blue | Indian Peafowl (male), Forest Hills, Mudumalai, Nilgiris, Tamil Nadu, India

The mug of coffee sits beside me untouched as I reflect upon the year that passed by.  While travel for photography was restricted mainly to Bandipur, Kabini and of course birding at home i.e. Forest Hills, few new places were explored purely for leisure.

Here’s to more travel, photography and exploration.

Wishing one and all a wonderful 2018!

Mr. Red

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Mr. Red | Forest Hills Farm and Guesthouse, Mudumalai, Tamil Nadu, India

Soft light shone through the canopy of bamboo as one visitor after another came, made their presence felt, posed for photographs and went about their business (foraging). 

Once the coast was clear, Mr. Red decided it was his turn to show off. The usually intimidated spurfowl walked in cautiously but soon settled himself after scanning the area to make sure no other dominating birds were around. As he posed in the lovely golden light, it allowed me to make a few frames as the red turned to gold. 

A regular visitor to the photography hide, the red spurfowls rarely leave us disappointed. Stay tuned for more. 

Greater Gold

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Travel and work kept me away from home for a while. Post rains, a lovely sun-lit morning was a welcome sight and I trotted into the hide to entertain my winged visitors.

To test a recently acquired 1.4x TC, I mounted it on the lens and started making images of a white-cheeked barbet nibbling away on a fruit. A woodpecker landed on the dry stump, as I trained my lens onto the woodie and saw that unmistakable red on the head and I knew there was something odd about this woodpecker!

On closer inspection, I realised the wings were fully golden! This was indeed a different woodpecker….the Greater Goldenback Woodpecker!  The woodpecker explored the stump, hopping around and after a minute or so, took off.

Always a great feeling, when a new winged visitor makes an appearance at the hide 🙂

Image shot with: Nikon D750 + 600 f4 VR, 1.4 TC 

Photography….my elixir of life 

It was World Photography Day yesterday the 19th of August 2017. Memories of my early days came flashing back as I sat by a window and looked at the blue hills slowly being covered by mist. All I was thinking was shooting a time lapse 🙂
IMG_0456.JPGIt all started many years ago with a Hitachi camcorder. My late father had bought a camcorder and my excitement knew no bounds. Small size video tapes were the only recording medium and sometimes those tapes were hard to come by. That camcorder was my constant companion anywhere and everywhere outside the house.

Living in Mudumalai was the biggest advantage. With the traffic through Mudumalai and Bandipur not as crazy as today, it was quite peaceful shooting while parked on the main road. I loved making videos of elephant herds grazing by the road. 
After going to college, the camcorder had multiple users and footage I had shot over a period of time had been erased or new stuff had been recorded over it. I lost quite a lot of elephant and leopard footage.

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Years later, I got my hands on a friend’s Canon film SLR, tried, tested, failed, learnt and then finally went digital after two years. What started in 2005 has not stopped. Cameras have come and gone, lenses have been upgraded, the quality of images have improved, but the passion for wildlife, birds and photography….that has not changed. And I hope it never does. 

An ode to Elephants

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Mudumalai Tiger Reserve

Living in the jungle comes with its own perks. One wakes up to the chirping birds, different ones in different seasons while some days one goes to sleep hearing the tiger roar somewhere. Some afternoons langurs go ballistic with their alarm calls and deer sipping water at the water hole break into a run. Amongst all these wildlife moving in and out of the property, there is a consistent visitor almost every evening and at times during the day. That’s the gentle giant! Whether in a group or solo, elephants come in and go as they please.

Despite the three long decades of residing here, every time an elephant comes by, it leaves the onlookers in total awe. The graceful walk, the patient grazing, the gentle eyes and the stoic appearance… they never cease to amaze me each and every time I see them.

Yesterday was celebrated as World Elephant Day. At home, we celebrate elephants whenever they wish to be celebrated. All they do is walk in and start the party!!

The Hanging Parrot

A beautiful green coat, a striking red beak and an exotic blue patch on the throat sums up this little birdie.

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Mr. Handsome | Vernal Hanging Parrot, Forest Hills, Mudumalai, India

Preparing myself for the parrot’s visit to the fruiting Singapore cherry tree, I got myself in position and waited. Sure enough a parrot landed on the tree and got to business right away. Hanging like a bat, the parrot proceeded to feast on ripe cherries.

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Hanging High | Vernal Hanging Parrot, Forest Hills, Mudumalai, India

It is indeed a beautiful sight to see these parrots negotiate branches carefully, hang upside down and feeding. The Vernal Hanging Parrot is one of my favorite birds!

Images shot with: Canon 40D + Sigma 500 f4.5, Feature image with 40D and 300 2.8 + 2x TC

 

The scimitar never called

Mosquitos were feasting on me as I waited in the birding hide for the brown-cheeked fulvetta. A number of these skittish birds were occasional visitors. The drying river bed few metres away from the hide worked in my favour. Evening sessions which were usually non-productive started attracting birds due to water availability at the bird bath.

Few fulvettas appeared cautiously, took a dip in the bath and left. A white-rumped shama would disappear somewhere behind, only to perch on a stump few minutes later and dry itself. An old bird bath that was removed and left behind the perches had collected water and was hosting birds! Must bring that bird bath to the front, I made a  mental note.

And then in a flash, a bird appeared…yellow beak like a curving sword and the unmistakable colors! One of the shyest birds, and a skulker; Indian Scimitar Babbler had made a quiet entry. The presence of this babbler is known by the continuous calls but always stays hidden behind thick foliage.

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Hopping down from the tallest stump, it disappeared into the old bird bath. All I could see was splashes of water and I hoped for it to sit out in the open to dry itself. A painful wait ended with the babbler sitting on every perch at the hide and finally settling for a branch on a tree nearby.

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Ignoring the sound of the shutter, the scimitar babbler calmly dried itself while I made some images. Once done, the babbler made a quick exit, leaving me with a wide smile. A quick review of the images left me smiling wider. I finally had pictures of the skulker.

Shot at Forest Hills Farm and Guesthouse with a Nikon D750 and 600 f4 VR II

Its raining…babies

It has now passed two years since I set up of the bird photography hide in Forest Hills Farm and Guesthouse with the assistance of friends. Without doubt, it is the Red Spurfowl that attracts most attention and is by far the most popular visitor.

One morning while waiting expectantly for birds to turn up at the hide, the red spurfowl (male) walks in and inspects the surrounding, seconds later the female walks in with three chicks! With the excitement levels already high seeing the spurfowls, it was joyful to see the chicks along with them.

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Red Spurfowl (female) with her young | Forest Hills, Mudumalai, India

A chick poses for a few seconds while the mother, father and other siblings forage for food.

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Standing tall | Red Spurfowl (chick) | Forest Hills, Mudumalai, India

As if the spurfowls with their young were not enough, in walks a Grey Junglefowl (female) with a young one by her side. It was tough deciding which family to shoot!

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Grey Junglefowl (female) and her young one | Forest Hills, Mudumalai, India

The young junglefowl chick strikes a pose before getting down to foraging business.

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Striking a pose | Grey Junglefowl (chick) | Forest Hills, Mudumalai, India

With the activity of the young ones only started, stay tuned for more posts and pictures.

Equipment used: Nikon 600 f4 VR + D750 mounted on Benro GH2 Gimbal head + Manfrotto tripod.