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!!