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

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 around… 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.

WEEK 2 – LOCKDOWN 21

As another week goes by, the number of cases keep rising. I continue with my quest to make a new image everyday and appreciate nature’s wonders at such dark times. Here is a small collection from week two.

Day 8

Hello purple

It was late evening when the Purple Sunbird (male) decided to drop by for a shot of nectar. In the process, he obliged the photographer waiting patiently.

Backlit romance

I noticed a pair of Bar-winged Flycatcher-shrike moving from one leafless branch to another. As the two of them shared a moment, I managed to click a few frames. The round bokeh circles added more drama to the background.

Day 9

Green with envy

I was keeping watch on the coral tree brimming with activity when some movement on the adjacent tree dew my attention. Rising from my chair, I slowly made my way towards the tree. Couple of green birds were perched together. Looking through my lens, I discovered that they were Jerdon’s Leafbirds. This one is the male.

Lady purple

The lady Purple Sunbird sat poised, after a shot of nectar, before taking off and raiding other flowers.

Day 10

Streaky throat

A colourful woodpecker i.e. Streak-throated Woodpecker with shades of yellow, green, red. Based on my observations, this species spends quite a bit of time on the ground looking for tasty meals in comparison to other woodpeckers.

In full view

Here, one can clearly see the variety of colours on the streak-throated woodpecker. The red cap on the head differentiates the male from the female who has a black cap.

Day 11

Coppersmith

In recent times the ‘tuk tuk tuk’ call of the coppersmith has been resonating in my backyard. That evening, the Coppersmith Barbet stepped out into the open and displayed its incredible colours.

Hoodie

Striking yellow and black accompanied by a lovely call… that is the Black-hooded Oriole (male) for you. Usually shy, this one made a quick visit to the coral tree.

Day 12

Rooster’s tail

When light hits the tail of the Grey Junglefowl, it reveals the mind bogling colours that make up the rooster’s tail. I always wonder, why was this species given such a drab name!

In a spot of light

It is early morning and beautiful soft light hits the surface of a rock. Moments later a Spotted Dove alights on it to take the spot.

Day 13

Go green

A bird you hear almost all day long in the jungle and even in urban settings. While I was in Bangalore, I had a White-cheeked Barbet regularly visiting an avocado tree just outside my apartment window. This one however is a junglee!

Angry bird

Probably the nosiest birds (in my opinion) one can come across. Typically moving around in batches, they create quite a racket too. Looking at the expression of the bird here, I think Angry Birds drew their inspiration from the Jungle Babblers.

Day 14

Life on top

For a couple of weeks, this Crested Hawk-eagle has been surveying the area from the top of that tree. Staying motionless for hours except occasionally moving its head to the left or right. I enjoy making such images of the solitary species when the opportunity presents itself. 

Calling out to the lovely ladies

Yet again a late evening encounter with the Purple Sunbird (male). The metallic colors were on display as he was calling out (probably to the lovely ladies out there).

That is all for week two of the lockdown series. I look forward to sharing more pictures and stories for the coming week.

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

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

Monsoon Magic

I love the game drives into Bandipur during the monsoons. Wildlife amidst lush green surroundings and drops of rain is such a refreshing sight. On more than a few occasions, I got lucky witnessing some interesting behaviour and action, other times, pure joy of making images in the rain drenched forest. I have picked a few such moments!

myna_kill_bnp
Headless | Bandipur Tiger Reserve, Karnataka, India

Off with your head! A jungle myna displays its hapless victim.

mongoose_kill_jk12043
Bandipur Tiger Reserve, Karnataka, India

Stripe-necked Mongoose devours a snake that saw no escape

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King Pool | Bandipur Tiger Reserve, Karnataka, India

A long gone king poses in his pool close to the safari track

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Heavy soaking | Chital – Bandipur Tiger Reserve, Karnataka, India

A beautiful stag stands still enjoying the generosity of the rain gods

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Kingfisher | Bandipur Tiger Reserve, Karnataka, India

Post rains, a white-throated kingfisher contemplates its next move.

This year the monsoon has finally made its presence felt. Time to make the best of what the jungles have to offer. Bandipur, Kabini…we just have to see!

 

In search of the Shaheen

On a beautiful afternoon, we ascended to ‘shaheen point’. Mahesh, Avinash and I were doing a trip after a long time. A short walk through tea bushes and we reached our vantage point i.e. a cliff with beautiful landscape around it. Dusky Craig Martins and Swallows hovered around us but none wanted to give their wings a break and perch on the ground for us.

We laid our cameras on the ground and soaked in the fresh air, soft sun and beautiful scenery. The falcons are usually seen on that rock, Sivalingam Anna mentioned. We looked across to another hill and saw a couple of rock protrusions. That is quite a distance away, I thought! We shall go across to that hill once we sight the falcon. Activity typically happens after 4.00 PM, Sivalingam added to his previous statement.

Thus began the waiting! Since the martins and the swallows wouldn’t give us an opportunity to shoot, we pulled out our phones and made pics of the the landscape. We added a few selfies too! There was excitement momentarily, when Sivalingam heard the falcons and pointed in their direction. Far across the hills, a tiny speck was flying and it was gone before I could see it.

Little after 4 PM, Mahesh pointed towards a rock. There is something on it, he said. Sivalingam looked through his binoculars and confirmed, Shaheen Falcon! The picture below is shot with a 600 mm lens and will give you an idea of how far we were.

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Shaheen Rock | Shaheen Falcon, Nilgiris, Tamil Nadu, India

The next thing I know, the four of us moved swiftly across to the opposite hill, walked again through tea bushes, a couple of culverts and loose soil. As soon as the falcon was within our sights, we relaxed the pace and slowly moved to a safe distance before we set up our cameras.

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Poser | Shaheen Falcon, Nilgiris, Tamil Nadu, India

The falcon, aware of of our presence sat unflinchingly and posed as we made images.

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A beauty | Shaheen Falcon, Nilgiris, Tamil Nadu

A closer look of this mid-sized raptor.

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Powerful Talons | Shaheen Falcon, Nilgiris, Tamil Nadu, India

The entire sighting must have lasted about 20-30 minutes and towards the end, another falcon swooped down and our friend on the rock finally took to his wings and soared into the skies.

The best part: I was seeing this species for the first time. A day which started with the search of the Kashmir Flycatcher, ended with an incredible sighting of the very beautiful Shaheen Falcon!

Thanks to the unrelenting efforts of Sivalingam Anna, birding and wildlife enthusiasts have the pleasure of seeing and making images of such species.

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!

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

Hunter vs Scavenger 

The late tiger popularly known as Prince had made the Mulapura waterhole a favourite cooling off destination. Hoping to catch a glimpse of him, our safari jeep and it’s occupants decided to wait there.

Across the waterhole at a distance, I spotted a crested serpent eagle perched on a bamboo branch. Because it was not an uncommon sight and neither an uncommon bird, I almost gave it a dismissive wave.

The movement of another bird had caught my eye! A jungle crow had perched itself on a lower branch. Wondering how the eagle would react, I kept my eyes on the scene through the telephoto lens.

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Action unfolded almost immediately! The crow began harassing the eagle with continuous attempts of flying into the eagle. The eagle responded by opening its wings and following every movement of the crow. This went on for almost a minute and finally, when the eagle had enough, it took off from the scene.

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It was only then I realised what was actually going on. As the eagle flew, I noticed something hanging off its leg…a snake. The serpent eagle had hunted a snake which was clutched in its powerful talons. Sensing an opportunity, the crow tried bullying the eagle to steal its meal. Warding off all attempts of the crow, the eagle decided to take its snack away and eat it someplace safe!

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Visiting forests is not all about big cats. Drama like this makes makes an uneventful safari an exciting experience.

A new King

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Basavankatte Male | Bandipur Tiger Reserve, Karnataka, India

Scattered drops of water falling out from the sky disappeared into the baked safari track, leaving no trace. The summer had taken its toll on Bandipur with most of its waterholes in a pitiful state. Looking up, I wondered, is there any respite for the jungle from this heat?

It was as if someone above was listening to me! An hour into the drive and the scorching sun finally hid behind dark clouds, claps of thunder pierced through the forests, heavy drops of water landed with a splash and soon we welcomed rains. As we took cover and quietly rejoiced, the forest was turning a new leaf and someone was going to proclaim himself King!

Continuing on our safari, we passed many puddles of water and our driver-guide had to carefully negotiate the slippery track. Few hundred yards ahead, a huge male tiger walked on to the track and occasionally went about, scent marking his territory. Watching all this in the drizzle, we decided to inch closer. Sensing the proximity, he turned around and gave us a deadly stare!

At that moment, everything including the rain stood still! It was as if Lord Indra himself had stopped the rains and silenced the thunder to announce the arrival of the new King!