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 ūüôā

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

Bears on a stroll

Bears

I always looked forward to evenings at Mark’s place (Mark Davidar). To me, Mark was a dear friend and an encyclopaedia of knowledge regarding wildlife. It was always a pleasure listening to his stories and incredible experiences.

Many a session have passed sitting in the verandah beside Mark who was always armed with his binoculars and had this amazing intuition for wildlife movement.

As we sat chatting one of the evenings, Mark mentioned about a certain Sloth Bear visiting the property regularly. She has a cub too, so be on the lookout for them, he said! I acknowledged with a nod. No sooner after he told me, I got lost in my imagination of a mother bear and a cub piggybacking on her.

It must have been past 5.30 pm, Mark trained the binoculars in front of his eyes and calmly stated, Sloth Bear! As I looked towards the trail, I saw two black objects walking at a brisk pace. The mother bear and her cub following her closely. As they stopped and curiously looked in our direction, I made a few images. Moments later, as the sun faded away in the sky, the mother-cub duo also walked away.

Shot in the year 2012, Canon 300 2.8 + 2x TC, 40D

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 ūüôā
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 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.  

The big switch

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Lesser Flameback Woodpecker | Forest Hills Farm and Guesthouse, Mudumalai, India

Finally! Earlier in November I decided to shift my primary shooting gear from Canon to Nikon. I was on the lookout for a Nikon 500mm lens to replace the Canon one.

Earlier in January, a¬†friend insisted I see a¬†600mm lens on sale. I thought ‘why not? No harm in seeing the lens!’. After testing the lens, I started considering this as an option especially for bird photography.

After debating and consulting friends, I decided that the 600mm telephoto was too tempting to let go. Super excited about this lens and looking forward to more birding.

Shot details: Nikon 600mm f4 VR + D7100 at Forest Hills Farm and Guesthouse 

That bird in Yellow

 

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Yellow-browed Bulbul | Forest Hills Farm and Guesthouse, Mudumalai, India

 

About a year and a half ago, I had set up a bird photography hide on my property. Of the multiple species that visited the perch,  the yellow-browed bulbul was one species I had been praying for.

Many months later, sitting at the hide on one of the lazy mornings, I heard a familiar call. Moments later a pair of Yellow-browed Bulbul landed on a perch. A few fickle minutes of exploring the perches, feeding, a quick dip in the bird bath and off they went.

Immense joy and satisfaction fills me for having the much awaited species as a visitor at my hide ūüôā

Shot with Canon 1D Mark 3 + 500 f4 ISForest Hills Farm and Guesthouse

Backyard Leopard

A game of tennis and an intense rally going on. Amma hears the langur go ballistic near the Machaan (watch tower), a few hundred metres away. The alarm calls get louder by the minute. Amma and Aunty Lakshmi, break the rally, drop their rackets and run towards the Machaan while my brother Rahul and I continued playing.

Few minutes¬†later I hear the faint sound of my phone ringing. It was Aunty Lakshmi. They¬† spotted a female¬†Leopard. By the time I got there, the Leopard had disappeared. We went up the Watch Tower and waited. We heard the female Leopard ‚Äėsawing‚Äô….that gave¬†us hope of her reappearance.

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For five long minutes we waited.. and heard all about Amma and Aunty’s¬† sighting.¬† Suddenly there was commotion.¬†We looked towards the water tank and spotted this beautiful male Leopard walking past it. This shot was made when he stopped on the rocks for a few seconds, looking in the direction the female had gone. Oblivious to our presence, he trotted into the Jungle and disappeared. All the action started and ended in about 1.5 minutes. It¬†felt like a lifetime! Words fall short in expressing what¬†you feel when you spot a Big Cat in your backyard.

Shot specifications ISO 1600, Av f5.6, 1/60 secs, EC 0, Aperture Priority. Canon 40D, 100-400 IS

The Gentle Giant

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Elephants have been called gentle giants, primarily because of their graceful demeanour and large size. I’ve had the good fortune to sight, spend time and observe various behaviour of elephants at late Mark Davidar’s (a dear friend and inspiration) home.

img_2482Of the many elephants that frequented Mark’s home, was a tusker who Mark fondly called Rivaldo. He would visit daily to quench his thirst at the waterhole near the house but there was always the more enticing idea of being fed a fruit or two from Mark’s hands.

ele_relaxed_img_7843Though he would come quite close to the verandah where Mark and I would be sitting, he maintained caution whenever there were a few more people around. To see a wild elephant from such close quarters was an exhilarating experience.

On occasions, he would playfully chase away other visiting elephants and wild boar lest they steal his tidbit. And there were times he would have friendly interactions with other elephants especially males.

 

More stories about these gentle giants from home and around in future posts. elephant_comm_sjk_3501

The Rat-tled Snakes

 

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Rat Snakes in Combat | ISO 800, f8, Aperture Priority, Benro GH II mounted on a Manfrotto tripod

One evening when I stepped out for my usual rounds of the property (Forest Hills Farm and Guesthouse), I could hear something rustling within the fallen bamboo leaves towards one corner. As the combating duo made their way inwards, I followed them for an hour and a half witnessing this ritual from far and close quarters. One of the most difficult shoots too. There were very few moments when these two would actually stay still. This one picture was worth the wait.