Saturday, November 21, 2015

A dawn in the outskirts of Bangalore

"SRS Betta" (!!) a new place for me, was selected by Dinesh for the next day morning shoot. The name first sounded weird and a the possibility of any distant linkage of this name with the popular SRS Travels (a transportation company) flashed through my mind! It was only the next day morning I got to know the name of the place when Dinesh told me - Shri Revanna Siddeshwara Betta.

It was about 5:40 am when we arrived at the place and the sky was still deep blue with some bright stars shining. The East was giving an indication of changing the sky colour soon by bringing in the Sun. Horizon was slowly turning pink.

The place offers very good opportunity for landscape photographers. The two rocky hills stand prominently in the otherwise plane landscape. The nearby lake provides a nice opportunity to get some reflections of those hills, on a ripple-less morning.

As we were making images around the lake the Sun broke out of the horizon. The light was soft and of the kind of typical winter Sunrise.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

~ M A H A B A L I P U R A M ~ Under the silent storm!

Tamil Nadu is getting completely soaked by the recent series of deep depressions in the Bay of Bengal. The satellite images showing the swirl of cloud are painting a really horrifying picture of very heavy rains in the east coast of India. As I am writing this blog there is another warning standing in the parts of southern coast of Tamil Nadu for tomorrow and day after!

Me and my family has seen the beginning of these pouring times in Chennai and we missed the fury of the cyclone by a whisker! All hell started to break loose the day after we left Chennai. On the last day of our stay (Nov 8th, 2015) it had given us a hint about the days to come! Oct - Nov being a regular rainy season in Tamil Nadu (due to reverse monsoon) we thought that it would be a regular rain with a bit more duration and slightly heavy clouds! But the story was different! A dangerous storm was silently brewing in the sky above us and we were happily enjoying our city sight-seeing and visits to popular tourist destinations thinking that they are regular cloud movements!

Mahabalipuram was one of the places where we spent our Saturday (Nov 7th, 2015) morning. The sky was cloudy and it was drizzling intermittently at times. The low moving, rain bearing clouds are always a treat for the photographer, which fills the sky nicely with shades while shooting the temple architecture! I was happy because the clouds were hiding the harsh sun behind them and the light was pretty even. It drizzled a bit while we were watching the main shore temple complex and then again a bit of drizzle while we were at the place of "Pancha Ratha" (complex of five chariots). Though the intensity was a bit high we thought that it is just a momentarily shower and did not take it seriously. But when we head back to the car to proceed to Arjuna's Penance then the fury started! It went on to about 20 odd minutes and at the end we had to abandon the idea of going inside the complex of Arjuna's Penance and started to head back to Chennai. What we saw there was a pre-cursor for the days to come!

Here are some of the images which I made that morning at Mahabalipuram.
(Click on the images to see them bigger - recommended!)

While I pray for the safety of all in Tamil Nadu during these tough times you enjoy these images.


Monday, October 26, 2015

Enter the Distagon!

There is a new companion for me in the field along with my wife and my new D810 and I am happy about it - Carl Zeiss 2/28 ZF.2!

Immaculately built all metal body feels like a piece of heavy rock in the hands. The unique Field Curvature that it exhibits when shot wide open and from close distance from the subject gives a different character to the image, which I have not seen in any other lenses. All this is of course with lovely rich color rendition and a fine micro contrast. The aspect that I personally like the most about this lens is the natural vignetting that this lens produces when shot at f/2. I have used the lens extensively in my recent Gujrat trip and I will be sharing the images soon in this space. Till then I have shared few other images made using this lens. 

Excited to hit the field again!


Saturday, August 29, 2015

One that safeguards

I am not an ardent street photographer, but I like that genre which captures the subtle impressions of day-to-day life.

I happened to be in one of the popular streets of Bengaluru that still maintains the old Bangalore charm in the way it appears and operates - Avenue Road. A paradise for book lovers where one can find all sorts of new and used books. It is a pretty long road and on the other half it transforms into a silver and ornamental jewellery market. The busy and bustling street during the day begins its morning with a relatively calm tone. I was there in those hours this time. I had been to that street many times earlier but not for photography but for the books. But this time I went to see how the day begins there.

After the initial few shots one thing caught my attention. A lock. Nice and old it was. Sitting on a contrastingly bright grill. I made an image of that. Then suddenly I started seeing so many of them all around! One by one, they were all different! They all had different features and characters. They were in various shades and shapes. Some looked like they had attitude and some were looking somber! Some were completely rusted and some were fantastically shiny! There were so many of them with so much different from each other. But they were all there for one common reason. That was the reason of their very existence - Safeguarding. They were all united by this one common reason. Thoughts were running into my mind and I decided to make some images before the day no longer needs them!

It was an interesting time for me. Let me see when I can be there again!


Sunday, August 16, 2015

Nature In Focus 2015 award and other buzz

It was on the evening of July 4th at Chancery Pavilion, Bangalore.

Nature In Focus team was announcing the winners of their photography contest. Kalyan Varma and Rohit Varma were on the stage. 

There were around 25 large prints were put up outside the main hall. We were told that those were the prints of the images that had made to the finals and beyond! I was thrilled to see three of my images there!

The ceremony started and the winning images were displayed on the huge screen on stage. The winning images were indeed amazing! 

There was an anxiousness in the atmosphere when the award ceremony started! 

Several crossed fingers and numerous eager eyes to see who would get what. None of the invited knew for which award they were called for! That was the secret organisers had guarded so much.

When the category of Animal portraits came, I was called for the 'Special Mention' award for my image of Indian Rhino that I made in Kaziranga few years back. 

Next was the turn of Wildscapes. I was called on stage as 'Winner' in the category of 'Wildscapes & Animal in its Habitat', for the image of Alpine Swifts in the backdrop of Unchalli Falls! I was excited!

Then the final moment came - to announce the 'Photographer of the Year'. All fingers crossed again. And then the name was announced - "Ashwini Kumar Bhat, for the image of Wire-tailed Swallow with the reflection of the ripples, titled - 'The Ripple Effect' ".

"Ripple Effect" - Photographer of the Year award

"The Dare Devil" - Winner, Wildscapes & Animal in its Habitat

"Golden Rhino" - Special Mention, Animal Portraits

You can find the rest of the winners in the below page of NatGeo Traveller India.

Another update is that our images of Glowing Fungi from the forests of Western Ghats have found a place in BBC Travel! 

Below is the link:

Our original story about these glowing forest floors can be found here:

Hope you enjoy these.


Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Yosemite - My impressions

If I were to rate a place that I visited during my short stay in the West Coast US then Yosemite would be second on my list, after Death Valley. The sheer diversity of the landscape is so enriching that I bet even the most conservative photographer would come back with a high number of excellent images.

Yosemite was the next one in our plan, after Death Valley, during our stay in Sunnyvale. Having been driven to Death Valley and having been spoiled by the tremendous photo opportunity that Death Valley presented, the expectation from Yosemite was no less. Apart from its grand vistas and beautiful waterfalls it had another unique attraction to us - the Giant Sequoia, largest tree specie on earth. Since Sahana and me are big time tree lovers, seeing this huge mammoth was high on our wish-list. Areas around Mariposa Grove inside the Yosemite National Park have many of these giant trees.

The time that we planned to visit Yosemite was in the third weekend of December 2014. By that time it has already snowed in some parts of the region. The route to Glacier Point, one of the most famous and iconic spots in the Park, was closed. Same was the case with Mariposa Grove. At least that's what their website was telling the previous day of our visit. This made our hopes of seeing Giant Sequoia bleak and needless to say that we were little disappointed.

Our plan was to reach Yosemite Valley by noon and spending some time in the valley and exploring the photographic opportunity at various points. The next day morning was planned at Tunnel View, another famous spot, and then based on the previous day's experience deciding what to do next.

As per the plan we reached Yosemite Valley by noon. We filled petrol (Gas, as it is called in US) to our vehicle in the last point at El Portal, before entering the National Park. The drive along the Merced River was pleasant and enjoyable. As we entered Yosemite Valley we were stunned by the sheer beauty of the place. One side you have huge mammoth-like mountain - El Capitan, and the other side you have series of rocky peaks and to add to the whole view you have huge water falls on either side of the valley. The beauty and the joy was much more than what we had expected!

After spending some time in the first meadow in the valley we went straight to Visitor Center. Visitor Centers are the best places to get accurate information in all the US National Parks. The staff there are normally very well informed and they help you to make your experience better and pleasant. The staff at the Visitor Center told us that due to no snowfall in past few days Mariposa Grove was opened for visitors on the very same day morning. That was a welcome surprise for us and we decided to head straight to Mariposa Grove and then coming back to Tunnel View by sunset.

Mariposa Grove didn't disappoint us at all. We both were bowled over by the sheer size of the Giant Sequoia trees. We walked along one of the smaller trails to see the largest Giant Sequoia in Yosemite - Giant Grizzly! We also saw various other types of pines like Sugar Pine, which has the longest cones of any coniferous trees. The information boards all across the pathways are excellent sources of information about the tree and the region.

Satisfied with the experience of seeing the largest tree specie on earth, we head back to Tunnel View. By the time we reached Tunnel View the sun had already set. We were not disappointed as we planned for visiting the same place again the next day morning. Hence we headed straight to the place where we had booked our stay - Curry Village. It is an excellent place if you are looking for a budget accommodation, where you are given a nice tent with an optional heater facility. Completely tired by the activities during the day we just wanted to rest our heads against the pillow. The next day morning was waiting.

Tunnel View is another iconic point in Yosemite National Park. That is a point where every tourist has a photograph and almost the same photograph :) ! That morning was no less beautiful. The cloud was still hovering in the valley beneath and the distant sky was turning light pink. After some time, the high clouds spoiled the morning glow but the clouds in the valley were still providing plenty of opportunities for every photographer to explore possibilities. We spent about two hours by enjoying image making process and soaking in the atmosphere of the place.

The rest of the day was spent in exploring various other spots and some trails in the Park. The prominent one which we enjoyed was our visit to Mirror Lake. The name was accurate and meaningful to the place. The lake indeed was a mirror, reflecting the high glaciers and the peaks in its water. The ripples were not often and hence the beauty of looking at the neat reflection was a sheer joy for quite some time. We enjoyed making some images at that place.

Post lunch we headed to few other spots to view Yosemite Falls from bottom and stopped at few places to make some images enroute. Our plan was to witness another sunset before we start heading back to Sunnyvale, which was about four hours of drive from the Park. We decided on a place that is beside a river from where you have a clear view of the El Capitan on one side and the other peaks on the opposite side. The river in the foreground was adding nicely to the whole scene. Our decision of spending another sunset paid off as the sky was turing very vibrant. The red glow of setting sun was falling directly on the imposing structure of El Capitan and its vertical side was reflecting the radiant glow. A set of small cloud was giving a nice scale to the whole scene.

After making few images at the spot we suddenly decided to go to Tunnel View once again before the twilight fades away. By the time we started to head towards Tunnel View, which was about 3 - 4kms from the place where we were shooting, the glow was quite at its peak. But we knew that the scene would be much more appealing from the place where we were going now and we were not disappointed! When we reached the place the sky was having post sunset glow and the whole valley in front and the sky above were bathed in pink afterglow of sunset. That light was there for few minutes before it started to fade away by giving place to the evening blues!

By the time we started back from Yosemite it was about 5:30PM and it was already dark! But what we had witnessed that evening was something truly special.

The majestic El-Capitan, beautiful Yosemite Falls, serene Yosemite Valley and those HUGE Giant Sequoias have etched memories of Yosemite experience forever in our lives.

Asking me if I want to go there again?
- Why not? :)