WildZests: January 2012

Monday, January 16, 2012

The Beauty Of Black N White!

We say most animals are color "blind", but isn't it true that we can't see things the way they see it!

A simple scene can look magical in grayscale while it may look just ordinary to the naked human eye. Shooting B/W isn't an easy game, you need a strong composition and a perfect balance between the blacks, whites and grays. In today's digital age, we rarely choose to shoot b/w and that's because the camera anyways captures the color details when you shoot RAW. However, it is important that you actively look out for the potential of a possible B/W print while you process your images.

With wildlife, it's primarily about documenting the shot in the most natural form and unnatural color processing etc may look odd. However, black and white still maintains it charm and does give the picture a different feel altogether.

Tech Specs:

Canon 1D Mark IV + Canon 600mm F4 L IS with a 1.4x TC
Shot at 840mm, 1/160s, F8 at ISO 100

Nilgai @ Velavadar

Friday, January 13, 2012

Blackbucks of Velavadar!

I've been to the Jayamangali Blackbuck Reserve quite a few times earlier and my experience with the blackbucks there was always that they're too shy and would always maintain a good distance from the car. The terrain also made it difficult to position yourself for a good angle to shoot. I was hoping that things would be different at Velavadar!

It was a pleasant surprise to see that the blackbucks are seen in quite high numbers at Velavadar as compared to Maidenahalli, to add to that, the grassland give a very nice feel to the surroundings. The bucks are quite used to human presence and though they're not exactly friendly, they're not too shy either. You'd not see them curiously wanting to come close to you but the distance they maintain is good enough to get some close up shots of these beauties.

I was so keen on getting a silhouette shot of the blackbucks with the sun setting in the background, but you simply can't get them to be where you'd like. It's a matter of positioning yourself and waiting for the perfect setting, but it's not always a success when you have limited time at hand.

I must admit that watching the blackbucks grazing for prolonged periods isn't a very exciting thing, but they can spring up quite a few surprises at you. Jumping Blackbucks are a treat to watch and if you can get a shot with them in the air, you're done for the day! I tried that a few times but failed to get a crisp shot, they're either too fast to focus while they jump, or too close to get them fully in the frame. Apart from jumping, even the mock fighting drills can get you some interesting shots. I got lucky with these two males wanting to be captured on camera. To be honest, it was difficult to get them both in the frame since I was shooting with a 1.4x TC on the 600mm, but with a little bit of adjustment in my position I finally managed to fit them in.

Tech Specs:

Canon 1D Mark IV + Canon 600mm F4 IS L with 1.4x TC
Shot at 840mm, 1/160, F8 at ISO 100
Blackbucks Fighting

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Velavadar - A must see in Gujarat!

My trip to Gujarat was initially planned to spend some time photographing the migratory birds that arrive during the winters, most importantly the Flamingos that are seen in the Rann. Velavadar got added to the itinerary since it's a grassland reserve and apart from the Blackbucks that it's known for, it is also the world's largest roosting site for the Harriers.

My expectations from the park visit were quite simple,

- Explore the place in a relaxed manner, keep atleast 2 days to roam around
- Focus on the quality of pictures for what's there in front of you rather than searching for the rare wolf
- Come back with at least a couple of shots worthy of a large print on the wall

The sanctuary is pretty small at just about 34sq.kms and there are well made trails that run through most parts of it. The forest department allows you to explore the park by obtaining a permit that is valid from sunrise to sunset. Most cars can do these trails, alternately you could even decide to take a walk. You are however not allowed to deviate from the tracks even if you're on foot.

The park is spread over both sides of the road that connects you to the Forest Office from the main highway that goes to Bhavnagar. The forest office is located on the dry side of the park while the opposite side is more of a wetland. Both sides have diverse sightings too, the dry side has more of the blackbucks and neelgai while the other side has has a waterbody that attracts a lot of waders, storks, pelicans etc. The harriers are found almost everywhere in the park but getting close to them is a big deal, they're pretty shy and would take off the moment you start approaching them.

Given that it is a grassland, you can get a really clear shot of your subject and most times you can choose the angle too. Sunrise used to be at 7.30AM while the sun went down at 6PM, the golden hour light is really magical and can be utilized to it's full extent. The grass was drying up and had a nice pink tinge to it which made for an excellent background.

Here's a shot of a male Bluebull (neelgai) in the golden light.

Tech Specs:

Canon 1D Mark IV + Canon 600mm F4 IS L with a 1.4x TC
Shot at 840mm, 1/125, F5.6 at ISO 200

Bluebull in Golden Light

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Happy New Year - 2012

I know it's a bit late to do new year wishes, but it's been a while that I've updated my blog and it's good to start with it!

It's been a pretty crazy travel since the third week of December but very rewarding too. The second half of December was well spent exploring the wildlife in Gujarat and most importantly the birds over there. I'll have a short travelogue posted from my trip once I've gotten things wrapped up, but till then...stay tuned!!!