I hardly slept the previous night due to the excitement and the anticipation for the next day! The day I always wanted to - my first day in Bharatpur. I had built up loads of hopes about that place. About the light, the location, the opportunities that one gets and what I was afraid of was the fact that whenever I went out setting the expectation high, I always ended up a bit disappointed! Thats why I had stopped setting expectations. But this one was irresistible. Without my obvious knowledge the expectations were set within me and I realized that only the previous night when I was thinking about how I am gonna shoot, without actually being there even once! Because of my past bitter experiences I just set those thoughts aside and tried to sleep calmly...but....failed!
6:15 and my cycle wala Birender Singh was there with two of his friends who will be with Pramod and Shiv. These cycle rickshaw walas are very knowledgeable people and Ganesh had told me that Birender is one amazing guy when it comes to spotting and identifying a specie. After a couple of days I came to know that he has an experience of 17 years in birding and by then I had already realized his immense knowledge about that place. So, after having a cup of costly tea (in-fact very costly !!) at our hotel we hit the road towards the entrance and it was lovely misty. I always enjoy mist a lot. For me it open up hell a lot of opportunities to do many kinds of images. Its tough but I enjoy it.
After taking the tickets to enter the park we hit the main road and it was looking surreal. The Sun was just coming up and the misty atmosphere was adding to the mood a lot. I was lost. I had no idea what to photograph! Spent some time feeling the moment, then decided to take the camera out and it was then I realized the temp was around 6-8 deg! My hands started freezing before I freeze any moments in my camera :)!
Before moving forward tried making some images of the morning mist with Sun but as it was my first day most of the experiments were not worth sharing! Decided to dedicate a full morning on one of the next mornings only for landscape and abstract compositions as the strategy for the day was cover as much area as possible just for the sake of seeing the place and then deciding on where and how to spend the rest of the days.
After few yards got an opportunity to make an image of the Rose Ringed Parakeet with the crescent moon behind it. Made some experimentations but not very much satisfied with the result. The problem was, by the time I realized the opportunity the sun was going up fast and the light was getting bright very fast. So I had very less time to experiment before the crescent moon just vanished in the bright blue sky.
As Birender was telling me that it is the time for the Jackals to come out and we can expect Jackals even on the road, the very next moment we spotted a brave Jackal coming on the road. Self and Shiv jumped out of the cycle and got alerted to make some 'into the lens' kind of images of Jackals. It came nearer, nearer and nearer and went just beside us and all the time it had kept an eye on both of us and we were glued to the TTL (through the lens) view before it came too close for our lenses to focus! Phew! What an experience to start off the day! I had never seen a Jackal till then and what a way to see the first Jackal!
The beauty about Bharatpur and the fact that I love the most is that you can go on foot almost anywhere around as if the place is your backyard and it is this which allows you to make the images with different perspectives. I love this place more then any other only because of this. The light will be fantastic till 10:30 in the morning and till 12:00 you can easily shoot with good light. The light starts becoming soft and wonderful from 2:00 itself and the evenings from 5:00 onwards is more than sufficient to go MAD! Yes I literally went mad that day when I witnessed the golden light of the evening.
After spending some good time around Sapan Mori lake we had our lunch at around 1:30PM. Birender had bring the lunch for all from the hotel we stayed and we had some rest in the noon around the Keolodeo Temple! "Keolodeo"?? What kind of name is it?? And it is a Hindu temple!! I always wondered about these questions! the name surely doesn't sound like that of a Hindu GOD, but then it is a temple! I was totally puzzled from many days. Finally that day I came to know that the temple is of "Keval dev". And those British people who ruled the area called that one as "Keolodeo" for their ease of pronunciation!! Shame! But happy that I got the answer.
Afternoon plan was to search for Sarus!! Last days scenes were still fresh in my mind and needless to say i was excited. We set out to look for them around Kadam Kunj and Hans sarovar. The light was getting better and better and it was then the cycle wala of Shiv waved his hands to come fast as he had seen a pair of Sarus in Hans Sarovar area..... It was a slightly marshy land... After making some images from distant we three decided to spend the whole evening there itself and planned to approach the bird. Shiv was the first one to step into the marshy looking lake and it was not as marshy as we thought. Easily walkable it was.
Our strategy was not to have the eye contact with the bird and to move closed when the pair was busy eating something from ground, may be some grains, shoots and insects which they often eat....slowly...slowly and very slowly we approached inches by inches and the male always kept an eye on us and allowed female to graze without any fear! We were waiting for both of them standing heads up but they were doing that on a rotation basis! Damn!! :) We held our nervous and approached slowly and directly towards them. One point came when the whole bird was just filling the whole frame. Stepping any further would either cut its toe or head in the frame!! I couldn't believe my eyes that we were so near!
We three all decided to take the converter out and shoot from bare 300mm lens! What an opportunity it was!! We did the same by going couple of feet more close! The birds seem un-disturbed and kept on feeding. Then we decided to take another challenge! To go back without flying them away! The birds are very sensitive to brisk motions irrespective of the direction! So it takes almost same time to go away from them if you make such decisions that we made! We became extremely cautious as we all felt it is equally important to back off without disturbing them. Then after some time....there we are back to the same bund where we started and the pair was still grazing happily as if we hadn't gone near to them at all!! Ah! A mission well accomplished for three of us! In-fact five of us?? (including the Sarus pair!! :))
The light was getting golden and couple of Nilgais are grazing in the brown grass which was lit beautifully in the evening light! Some Mynas are having a jolly ride on their backs. The Nilgais were lifting their head often to have a look on us! Enjoyed some time photographing them.
I turned towards the Sarus again to see how it was looking in the back lit condition when the yellow light makes the whole atmosphere glow and I saw that the male is stretching its neck!!! Oh My God!! Its gonna call now.... I just turned my lens towards that and immediately it started calling loud!! Oh what a sight it was!! Then wait..... just in a moment the female finally lifted its head and synchronized its sound in that of males!! I was not on the ground!! Lucky that I was ready to freeze the entire sequence which ended in few 10-15 seconds! The golden glow of the grass the yellow light from the back and the stretched neck of the pair and their loud voices each and every aspect is still green in my memories and I am sure whenever I see the below image, it takes me to the exact moment where I almost went into Nirvana!
After this unforgettable experience, we realized that our cycle walas were calling for us as it was the time to return! Damn!! the day went like anything.... we never realized!!
On the way back the sun set was looking fantastic and a lone cormorant was sitting on top an artistic perch witnessing the sunset alone......
The day was ended.... with loads of memories (and memory cards as well ;-) ) etched into the minds which will go a long way in remembering my first day in the dreamland called
B H A R A T P U R!!!