Saturday, December 26, 2009

E v E n I n G...

  The evenings during the winter in Kaziranga are normally small. Sun will set by around 4:40 and by 5:00PM it will be almost pitch dark!

So during all evening safaris we had only couple of hours and we had to be quick in making images if we want to utilize the amazing golden light well.

We went on Western Range on our first evening in Kazi. I had heard that Western Zone is the most beautiful and picturesque of all the zones! In the beginning it impressed me a bit but not to the full extent until the evening drama started...

 We first headed to a watch tower beside a huge lake on the Western range. There were great white and spot billed pelicans floating far away. Almost impossible to get any images. We almost immediately headed back as we had less time. On our way back Konwar spotted a Rhino grazing very close to the road. It was very quite and hence we all had almost missed it. It was Konwar's remarkable skill of spotting which made him to stop and warn us to remain silent.

  He was very right! After we went silent it started coming closer and closer. Before we were too close to its comfort Konwar started the Gypsy and we were on the move...

  When we hit the main track again there was another vehicle whose guide waved at us to come fast! By seeing his enthusiasm we thought there might be a Tiger itself! It was another Rhino but what made the scene special was the tall green grass behind and the moon in the sky! The light was very pleasing and the mood was compelling.

  We spent around 20min with that guy and I made some close perspectives. This time it was the closest that we got with a Rhino.

The light was getting golden as the sun was getting ready to call it a day. The grass and the trees around had started to glow in the evening light! The reddish yellow glow when falling on the green grass was creating a mesmerizing scenery around! After Bharatpur I had rarely seen such dramatic evening light!

We decided to spend the remaining time of the Sunset on the banks of a lake from where the scenery and the angle was nice to capture the drama.

We all enjoyed thoroughly the mood and the evening colors before Konwar reminded gently that it was time to leave! Ah! The day had ended such wonderfully!

What else could we had asked for in the first day! It was an amazing day!

As we headed towards the gate there was a Tusker in the late evening grazing near the safari track!

The day was over for us inside the National Park!

But back at resort there was a traditional Assamee dance organized. A local group of men and women were performing a beautiful dance around the campfire.

There were many people from other countries as well who were enjoying the dance. I was overwhelmed by the gracefulness of the performers!

  We were all tired! As I closed my eyes the whole day came on the screen of my mind as a collage with various moments that had happened that day...the first sighting of the rhino.... then the charge and the stalemate... then the turtles... then the evening drama and the wonderful the end the wonderful dance performance.... at each and every moment I had enjoyed to the fullest! As my thoughts were about to continue, I heard something....It was the morning alarm!


Sunday, December 20, 2009

As the curtain rises...

After a fantastic and a dreamy trip to Bharatpur last year, the immediate next thing I was thinking was, where's next?

Its almost in the mid of this  year that I narrowed down on Kaziranga. North East had always fascinated me and one of the most famous national parks of India which is also a World Heritage Site  was the obvious choice for me.

I discussed this idea with my friend Dhritiman Mukharjee,a fantastic and a very passionate photographer who has made innumerable number of trips to NE. It is he who suggested to include Nameri also in our list as it is not far from Kazi and believe me we would have really missed a wonderful place if we had not included it in our trip plan. We would like to thank WanderVogel for planning our entire trip and making arrangements so well.

  After a lot of planning and few hick ups now and then,finally we three (Adithya U N, Anush Shetty and self) were sitting in BIAL (Bangalore International Airport Ltd), waiting for our flight which would take us to Guwahati via Kolkota.

A 15min delay in flight, tiring 4 hour journey in air followed by a 5 hours of journey through road made us totally tiring and we just desperately waiting for the time when we hit the bed.

 We reached our resort Wild Grass at 9:00 pm. There we were greeted by a very friendly person who asked if we are from WanderVogels and took us to show us our room. Later he introduced himself as Konwar, the man who worked with Steve Winters for 8months in Kaziranga when Steve was here to photograph the Tigers of Kazi last year. Dhriti had promised me that he would arrange Konwar to us as both -Guide and driver and he kept his words! We were thrilled!

 In Kaziranga jeep safari starts at 7.30AM. Plan was to go on Central range on the first morning and to Western Range in the evening.

As we entered the park, I was amazed by looking at the height of the elephant grass! I had heard and read about it but i never imagined that this specie of grass can grow this tall!! We were standing on the seat in our Gypsy but barely we could see over the top of grass. It was insanely high!

We first went to a watch tower beside a lake where we saw the first rhino of our trip. It was grazing in peace. There were some mynas and egrets around it. Needless to say that we were excited, afterall it was first time for all of us. We were unaware that we will be spending full 30min in a stalemate situation, just an hour later.      

We started from watchtower after 30min and entered a semiwooded area. 'Khalij Pheasant female' Konwar whispered. It has just crossed the jeep track. 'Wait and be ready, now the all beautiful male will come out' he predicted and switched off the gypsy engine. And there it was, coming out through the ferns and bushes, carefully looking around as though he was crossing a busy national highway. He was really beautiful! This was one of the species high in my wishlist.

  After a few hundred meters we saw Assam Roofed Turtles and Tent Turtles basking in the mid day sun. There were quite a number of them.

After a dip in the water for few minutes they used to climb a dead log which was in the water and allowed the body to dry. Nice little creatures they are. As there was nothing to add to the frame, along with Turtles, to make it interesting,

  I decided to make images of the Turtles from behind a bush by finding a small opening through which I can see them in the frame and rest of the frame filling with the foliage around. I found this technique producing some interesting results.

  It was almost 11.00 by the time we started from there and the next patch of landscape was again the tall elephant grassland. There were distant calls from Crested Serpent Eagle and Pallas Fish Eagle and we have sighted the first Pallas Eagle in flight, quite far off.

  As we were moving slowly, Konwar stopped the Gypsy. There was a huge female Rhino standing on the road ahead. She was massive and was having her pre-lunch snacks! :) As soon as she saw our vehicle she became alert. No need to say it was ditto on our part as well. Rhinos are known for charging and in Africa more deaths are reported from Rhino charge than any other animal! Thats the reason why the Forest Dept sends an armed guard with each of the safari jeep.

  After seeing us she adjusted her position and now she was standing completely facing our jeep. Konwar had already shut the engine down. For the next 20 min no move from that side and no move from this as well.

  Gypsies after gypsies gathered behind us. There were almost 10 vehicles behind us (Thanks to the weekend crowd). Konwar decided to try taking our gypsy a little further and see if she goes away because of our approach. But as soon as she moved the jeep for coupe of feet, the Rhino came charging for few steps and stopped! Konwar dint take further chances as the massive had made its statement clear - "STAY AWAY!".


  After few more minutes of stalemate, the forest guard prepared his gun to fire in air. The lady was now standing right across the road. Then the gun fired! Now she knew what she has to do! She just ran into the thick elephant grass. It was an experience to remember!

  It was approaching 12:00 as we headed towards the entrance. A lone Grey Headed Fish eagle was watching us leaving the Central Zone of the park from distance...

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Back from the wonderlands of North East!

I am back after a week long trip to some of the wonderlands of North East India. We covered Kaziranga, Gibbon Wildlife Sanctuary and Nameri National Park from 28th Nov till 6th Dec.

The mood of Kazi was fantastic. Misty mornings and the lush green grassland with tall elephant grass everywhere. Everything seemed very picturesque. Every evenings were very colorful.

Gibbon WLS gave us a good feel of the typical NE forest which once dominated most of the land before it was exploited heavily  for logging and tea plantations. Good that at least 27sq km of area is left for the Hoolock Gibbons to roam around in the thick canopy.

Nameri is considered as the most picturisqe National Park among all the National Parks of NE. Jia Bhoroli river flows on the edge of the park provides a fantastic opportunity to witness some of the rare birds of NE India.

Lots to talk about and loads of images to share!

Stay tuned...


Friday, November 27, 2009

Leonids 09, some by products!

Even though the Leonids plan went into vein, my trip to Kodachadri and Madodi proved quite useful.

On the night I left Bangalore, Adithya called had called me just to say that its raining like cats and dogs! But when I landed there early morning and looked up, the stars and the clean sky welcomed me! I was delighted....OK, as the below promptly turned cloudy every morning once the Sun came up! :)

Adithya's place (Simha Farms) is a wonderful place if you want to photograpgh some of the Western Ghats species. Malabar Grey Hornbils, Racquet Tailed Drongos, Small Sunbirds, Hill Mynas, Malabar Parakeets and what not! This time it was the hornbils and the yellow browed bulbuls which were in plenty. Just before the Sun rise morning sky turns very much colorful and Adithya told me that its almost everyday scene here! Lucky him!

 Several of my photo sessions and birding walks turned quite fruitful either in terms of photography or in birding. We got to get a glimpse of the elusive and colorful Malabar Trogon. It rained that afternoon as well. We had plans of making some long exposure images on the nights of 16th. Thanks to the clouds which made sure that we go to sleep at the right time by not allowing to photograph anything.

Just before starting to Kodachadri we got to photograph Hump Nosed Pit Wiper, a poisonous snake found in the jungles of Southern India! Its quite small in lenth and quite inactive during the day.

 Our fate of what happened during the D-Day of Leonids was already told by me earlier. But even if we dint get many of the planned things, we did get some wonderful play of clouds and early morning Sun. I had made a time lapse of few sec length which I will share sometime later. The same clouds which had ruined the show that night, now gave some  spectacular show with the Sun above and the forest below. Some parts of the forest was looking like the Cloud Forest of Mexico! The ambiance was very much refreshing. It was healing the deep wounds a bit, caused last night by the same clouds!

We packed our stuffs at around 8 and started our journey back. Kestrel was there to say Good Morning, but we were looking for his cousin- Amur Falcon which was found there last December! But all our search dint yield any fruitful results.

 We were back by 11.00, with mixed feelings of some distressed failure and some good scenic moments.   

I am leaving to Kaziranga (Assam) tomorrow. I will be spending 4 and a half days at Kazi and two days at Nameri. Hoping for some good time.


Monday, November 23, 2009

Patterns - Revealed!

So, thanks folks for all your guesses, which either made itself to the 'comments' section or into your minds silently! :)

So as most of you have guessed, as water droplets, or mist or drizzles or whatever you have imagined, it is only partly correct! These images were that of the condensed steam which will remain in the underside of a steel plate which we all normally use to keep on the hot vessels such as for hot milk or for hot curry, in kitchen!  :)

Everyday, just before starting to office my mother gives me hot 'kashaya' from a hot steel vessel and before pouring the kashaya into the cup she always used to keep the steel plate which was covering it, in front of me and then pour the kashaya into the cup. I always got attracted towards the pattern of the condensed steam but no luck with time to shoot as I was already late to my bus...well almost always! ;) said earlier, one Saturday finally I got the chance and mood to capture this wonderful patterns using some of my lenses. Some images that you have seen are made from macro lenses and some from normal 50mm lens and some from the kit lens - 18-135mm (all with or without extension tubes).

There are patterns all around us. Seeing them and moreover identifying them in the busy crowd amidst our ever busy life gives so much of pleasure. Once we start 'seeing' these patterns the world around us magically transforms into altogether a different place...try believe it!

Note: In the last image, the lines on the water surface is in fact the reflection of window pane, beside which the plate was kept!


Friday, November 20, 2009

A starry disaster!

It was at 3:00 in the afternoon when our driver Raghu started the jeep to head to the peak of Kodachadri. The previous two days it rained heavily during the day time but the nights were amazingly clean. It was this fact which made us feel good and have positive mindset.

We were at the top by 5:20 PM and as soon as we are out of the Jeep the locals at the top were screaming to drive a Gaur away from the vicinity. After sighting the massive Gaur and rushing to take a closer glimpse of the hulk and failing miserably (thanks to the screaming and noise making locals) we were back in track at 6:00PM.

Then it was a time to transfer our things to the peak which is a steep walk of almost a kilometer. Our strategy was to pitch the tent first and then go back and bring the gears. The total weight of all the things that we carried, combined was not less than 40kilos. It was still cloudy and at times it was getting very much foggy as well.

Unmoved by the very frequent changes in the conditions, we pitched the tent and we were all fearing that it would go in air like a parachute if we pitch even a single peg of it loosely. It took quite a good amount of time and effort to make sure that the tent is secure and safe. Though the wind was terribly fast at times, the tent stood on the ground, even though slightly deformed at times! It was very much important for us (probably as imp as the camera itself) because in that part of the western ghats, if it rains, it washes away everything and the nearest safe point was 1 kilometer down the top! So our prime focus at first was to have a stable roof and then start photographing the things above that! :)

It was very windy and we have made our best effort to pitch the tent firmly and took the courage of leaving it for having our dinner at ‘bhattara mane’ 1 km down. After having dinner we took all the camera and related things and headed back to the peak and by Gods grace the tent was intact but distorted a bit, not of very much worry.

The sky was very clear and what a place that is for star gazing! Absence of even the slightest of light pollution, we could easily identify the milky way and some other stellar formations. We took our gears out and decided to do a trial on the long exposure and calculation for the time lapse. By that time we were almost sure that we are going to have a blasting time ahead! After about an hour of different trials, adithya and self decided to cam down a bit and take a bit of rest.

Milky Way

The next moment when I opened my eyes, it was 12:40AM! Just about the time when the Leo rises from the horizon! With all excitement I opened the tent and dumbstruck by the scene out there!! The sky was covered by clouds! Damn! Back to bed again, as if it were a bad dream! Woke up at 1:15, sneaked out of the tent…. Worse! Back to bed! It was getting cold and cold. All the time the wind gust was so huge that the sound from the fluttering tent was enough to scare away the Gaurs which occasionally come there for grazing!

2:15AM and we have decided to have some camp fire to warm ourselves up. Thanks to the continuous fog and small drizzle, the woods was wet and luckily we had kept few inside the tent. With good amount of work we finally were successful in bringing the fire up! All these things happened under the shade of the thick clouds above!

3:30AM, few of the brightest stars were visible just over our head and few in the North. Being close to the coastal, the wind direction was almost always from W –> E. So there is very little chances of the clouds in the East moving to North which seem clear. Adithya decided to continue sleep for a while and I have decoded to set up my camera facing east for sometime.

30 min later the sky in the North east cleared very slightly. I was keen. It was like that for about 5 mins. But no luck with any streaks. Clouds were back again.

At around 4:15 again a bit of the clearance in the eastern patch. I was on a long exposure and thought that my 12mm would cover that. As I was looking there…… there went a long streak! Wow! I thought my camera would have captured that, but I had missed that one by as close as few centimeters away from the right edge of my viewfinder! A big disappointment for me! Wait after that yielded nothing mut disappointment and frustration! I hit bed again at 4:30!

5:30, something was sounding very loud! Initially I thought I was dreaming but it dint take long to realize that it was pouring outside like mad. Huge outburst of rain clouds and the tent was reverberating with the sound of the raindrops hitting the plastic roof! After the disappointing time with the farther stars, we were expecting a good view of the nearest star rising at least! But the rain washed away every possibility of witnessing the famous sun rise of Kodachadri….

Nothing was fruitful for any of us. All the pain in getting those heavy things to that top and managing to spend the cold and windy night at a place which is a grazing land of the Gaurs, went into veins with the Gods of the rains having no mercy on our efforts.

What remains after this project is the immense brainstorming and knowledge gathering activity that went behind in executing it and the overall team effort that was put behind. If it were a win we would all be proud of it. But I am sure we are equally proud of this failure as well, or rather as Ganesh puts - we are all very proud of this ‘successful’ failure!

Three cheers to the team and their Herculean efforts first… then another three for Harsha for making this happen…

I am proud to be a team member of Leonids 09!

UPDATE: Yesterday night, when revisiting the long exposure images that I made, I noticed that without my attention I had caught one meteor!! Below is the update:-

So, finally looks like I too have one in my kitty. In the below image observe a small streak (!!) near the bottom right. The direction of the streak is quite different than the motion of the stars around. So I strongly suspect that it must have been a meteor strike. Harsha is also suspecting the same thing. It could be the third one for the team!  

This was in desperation when in spite of the cloud cover I was keeping my camera open for long exposures. For the bare eyes even those stars were also barely visible!


Thursday, November 12, 2009

Sriharsha Joins the team!

There is an update on the Landscape Wizards front. We are all excited to welcome Sriharsha Ganjam into the team LW! Apart from being an avid Nature and Landscape  photographer, he is a passionate star gazer and has a very rich experience in that field. Now that adds a new dimension to the team.

 H (Sriharsha) is our captain of the Leonids 09 project as well :), after all he was the one who educated us on this event!  Now if your question is 'Whats Leonids??' then I am sure you will also be equally excited as we all are once you know what it is! It is one of the most spectacular events in the astronomical calender - the meteorite shower or rather a meteorite burst! This year they peak on Nov 17th and 18th, yes very few days are left! The shower is predicted to start at around 3AM at night and all predictions say that we are going to have a wonderful Nature's Firework!

  Now, around 15 Nature Photographers have teamed up to capture the event from different locations across Karnataka using time lapse photography and long exposure images. Sounds very exciting isn't it? yes it is! But...

  When we started planning of this project , in September the only worst fear was the retreating monsoon from the East Coast. If there are thick clouds in the sky then the only place left would be the top of an aircraft! And that worst fear looks coming alive now! :(  The West Coast being hit with the Cyclones and I am hearing the news of continuous showers from that side. Weather of Bangalore is also not much promising.

  As we are trying long exposure images and time lapse, the light pollution is a very big problem and that the reason why we have chosen the places far from the cities and city lights. Myself is heading towards Kodachadri where I will be trying to capture the event with resident - Adithya Biloor. With the clouds in the picture we are not at all sure on if it would be a success or a successful failure! Our fingers are crossed!

  Hmm, I have come quite a long way in the deviation from the main topic! :)

 A warm welcome Sriharsha!

 He has written a very nice article on Landscape Photography: Myths and Realities.

 A very good read.... Read on...


Patterns are all around!

Patterns are everywhere and they excite me! In Nature there are plenty and we just have to look around keenly to recognize and enjoy them.

Off late when I am sitting at home, while reading or studying; when I get bored I try to see if I can find any pattern in the things around. The painted wall with the window pane, the book shelf with different colored books arranged on it, the contrastingly colored door and the wall, the tiny patterns of threads on the curtains and many more like these.

It was from quite a some time that I was observing some fantastic patterns on a thing which I was seeing almost daily just before leaving for my office. But as I would be in a hurry at that time I was always postponing the idea of photographing it. It was on a Saturday when I was at home and saw the pattern again! Wow! I had time!

They looked very abstract and beautiful. Partially Natural and partially man made! When I converted them into Black and White some pattern looked very interesting!

So, what are these? Any guesses?

I will answer after few days....

Till then let me know your guesses :)  I dont think its a tough guess!


Monday, November 2, 2009

Yana - a bewitching wilderness.

For the people who dont know, there is a wonderful place called Yana in the Uttara Kannada district of Karnataka. Amazing rock formations which are standing right in the middle of the evergreen forest. The forest around is so thick and dense that you can find leeches even in the hot mid summer!

    Pramod, shiv and self were there in this monsoon as a part of our western ghats trip this season. Even though I had been there 5 years ago i dint have a complete memory of how the place was exactly (I was not into photography then). So I was also as excited as Shiv and Pramod.

   We reached there by around 7 and it was slightly drizzling. After sitting inside the jeep for around 15min we decided to walk in the rains itself. It was mild and we were hoping that it will stop soon. So it did. When we reached the place we all were totally dumb struck by looking at the beauty of the place. The main rock - Bhairaveshwara Shikhara was looking so huge and majestic that none of us could talk literally for some time. The rock is huge and it is surrounded by lush green and dense forest. The monsoon mood was in the air and everything around was wet.
      Notice a tiny looking reddish spot on the right side of the tree, its a Scarlet Minivet!

  The bird life in the place was so much active that we saw Ruby Throated Bulbuls sitting very near to us. The scarlet minivets and the Yellow browed bulbuls were almost everywhere! They seem oblivious to our presence and kept themselves busy in finding some food for the morning. As we all were keen on making some landscape images all we could do was just enjoy seeing them. A Malabar Whistling Thrush was busy singing in various notes and it was giving a melodious background score for the scenary out there. Soon it came out and sat on a tree trunk for sometime and disappeared into the woods again. Then came an Emerald Dove in a sudden bullet like speed and went back into the woods in the same speed! After sometime we realised that at that time we were the only humans in the vicinity. Probably the Dove was not expecting the two legged creatures at that early time of the day and  we probably have surprised them.

  The local poojaris of the temple arrive at around 10:30 and till that time the place belongs to various birds and probably for some mammals as well, we dont know!

   As the Sun started rising slowly above the forest canopy and over the rocky formations, Pramod had a wonderful idea of the image below:
 It was around 10:30AM by the time we were little exhausted, more mentally than physically. Frankly, none of us were expecting Yana to be this much full of opportunities.... and we have not even explored the cave like path which runs around the temple!

  The place is full of opportunities for a Nature Photographer and it is currently in my must visit place for the next monsoon as well.

  Started back from the place at around 12:00PM and all I remember later was the wonderful time we had there and the way our Jeep driver drove back us to Sirsi... all the time above 80 or 100 kmph, in those curvy wooded road!!