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 šŸ™‚

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

A bunch of landscapes

On most occasions, it is the phone camera I whip out of my pocket and take a picture of either a beautiful landscape, a waterfall or even fallen leaves or flowers. In simple terms, anything.

For someone like me who is invariably carrying a telephoto lens everywhere, it is convenient to use the mobile phone. Mind you, the phone cameras these days produce some stellar images.

The following images are taken using a mobile phone camera. Edited on Snapseed app, results are worth a watch. 

Rising Sun ~ Zuluk

Waiting to photograph parrotbills, I looked around to see if any other birds were in sight. Down the valley, the clouds moved apart and let the rays of sun out, this magnificent and unforgettable sight was captured. 

Shot on iPhone 8

Bandipur ~ You beauty

A pond beside the busy Ooty-Mysore road which on most occasions is quite inconsequential to passers by, can transform and turn into a thing of beauty. On one such evening, clouds gathered, their reflection on the water, greenery aroundā€¦ it was breathtaking. I shot a panorama on my phone. Every time I see this image, I am reminded of a line from John Keats’ poem ‘a thing of beauty is a joy forever‘.

Shot on OnePlus 7

Bhupen Hazarika Setu

Earlier in March this year, I was leading a private tour to Mishmi Hills and along the way, we crossed the longest bridge in India over water which connects the two states Assam and Arunachal Pradesh. The sun was setting and the sight on display was just impossible to ignore. Dramatic clouds over the Lohit river and the vibrant hues of orange, blue and yellow on display was a spectacular sight.

Shot on OnePlus 7

Mishmi Hills

There is always a mystical feeling about mountains. Their sheer magnificence transports you to another world and you stand there lost in admiration. I felt like that again, watching the mountains in Mishmi turn golden as the sun set one evening.

Shot on OnePlus 7

Mountains and Sunset – Forest Hills, Mudumalai

Not too long ago, the setting sun threw in an incredible array of colors along with dramatic clouds leaving me spellbound.

Shot on OnePlus 7

Black Stork by the Lake – Padam Talao, Ranthambhore

The lake and the sky were in sync and enhanced the effect of the blues in the landscape. May be the Black Stork also stood by the lake admiring the beauty of its surrounding.

Shot on OnePlus 7

Never short of drama

Beautiful clouds hovered above the hill and the land below. As the evening progressed and the sun was setting, the golden light transformed the scene and left me with a feeling that this should last forever.

Shot on OnePlus 7

I am left amazed at what simple clouds, light and shadows can do to to an everyday scene.

Week 3 – lockdown 21

We are into the third week of the nation wide lockdown and same with my series. Not all days are fruitful, sometimes activity is less, and at other times, there is nothing to make a photo appealing.

I was updating my blog on the 20th day and PM Modi announced that the lockdown will be extended until 3rd May. This adds to my dilemma on what to post everyday.

Here is the collection from week three.

Day 15

Thirsty

It was a pleasant surprise to see a Streak-throated Woodpecker (female) land softly on a nearby tree and then at the saucer for a water break. Last week’s post had images of the male.

Forest floor

I spotted the melodious White-rumped Shama from my window. This shy species usually sticks to bamboo thickets but came out into the open to forage on the forest floor for worms and insects. A spot of the white rump is visible here.

Day 16

Glowing yellow

Soft short whistles announce the arrival of yet another delightful species called the Yellow-browed Bulbul. Glorious morning light took this image a notch higher.

Crown prince

In recent times, I have noticed regular activity of the Yellow-crowned Woodpeckers. Pecking on barks of trees, drilling holes on the trunk, the male would find a tasty snack and feed the female. This one here is the male.

Day 17

No grey areas…just colors

Last week, I posted only the tail, this time it is the full bird. Yet another vibrant species. While the name is Grey Junglefowl, this one has an astounding array of colors.

Mirror effect?

For a change, both the White-cheeked Barbets stood their ground and posed for a few seconds.

Day 18

Unexpected visitor

Out of nowhere, this Malabar Grey Hornbill landed, sat for a few seconds and took off. This is the male (notice the orange bill), the female has a pale coloured bill. In another sighting, I saw two Bronzed Drongo’s chasing a hornbill too. I guess expect the unexpected in the wild. 

Spiky hairdo

Lesser Goldenback Woodpecker male (full red crest) lands on the ground for inspection.

Day 19

The brahmin

An interesting name given to this species…Brahminy Starling. If you notice the extensions on the black head, that is what gives the bird its name.

Lesser gold

A female Lesser Goldenback Woodpecker (half red crest) takes a break from drilling the branch while looking for some titbits.

Day 20

Filling the blank

A purple sunbird (female) fills the spot by landing on the branch which had no pods on it. One can gauge the size of this tiny bird in comparison to the pods.

Junglee

A puffed-up Jungle Myna contemplates its next move.

Day 21

Play of light

Yet again the barren rock has an occupant. Spotted Dove in lovely morning light.

Woodie

The streak-throated woodpecker (female) latches onto a tree trunk before alighting to the nearby saucer to quench its thirst.

That concludes my three week quest to make images and post every day during the lockdown. To all my friends, family and viewers – stay safe!

All images made with Nikon D850 along with 600 F4 VR lens.

Bears on a stroll

Bears

I always looked forward to evenings at Markā€™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

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. 

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 Ā 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.

Scimitar_1_ADI3493

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.

Scimitar_2_ADI3511

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 IĀ 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.

Spurfowl_Chick
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. Ā 

Birding by the bridge

The stream which flows at the entrance of Forest Hills Farm and Guesthouse attracts a host of birds. Commonly sighted birds are Malabar Whistling Thrush, Brown-cheeked Fulvetta, Black Drongo, Red-vented and Red Whiskered Bulbul, etc. 

One evening I was treated to wonderful sights of the White-rumped Shama and female Indian Paradise Flycatcher. 

Shama_DSC4368
White-rumped Shama (male)
 A White-rumped Shama poses on a steel pipe. It was nice to see this otherwise shy bird sit comfortably in the open despite my presence. 

Flycatcher_AP_F_DSC4670
Indian Paradise Flycatcher (female)
The extremely restless Flycatcher flying from one perch to another, offered a few seconds to freeze some frames. 

More from the bridge in future posts…

Among the Top 100 | WIPA 2017

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Watch your step, kid | Sambar and Fawn Silhouette – Mudumalai Tiger Reserve, TN, India

In the recently concluded Wildlife Photography competition held by popular magazine Better Photography in association with the best in business; Toehold Travel and Photography Pvt. Ltd., I was pleasantly surprised to know thatĀ the above picture had been nominated for the main category of the competitionĀ from over 7000 entries. The image can be foundĀ here.

A personal favorite from my collection, this image was made way back in the year 2012. Post sunset we were returning from an evening drive and spotted the sambar and her fawn on the edge of the hill. The blue sky in the background and stillĀ figures presented an ideal opportunity to make a silhouette. Underexposing a few stops, and getting the focus right with the light rapidly decreasing, I managed this.

Shot with: Canon 1D Mark III + 300 2.8 IS II, 2x TC IIĀ