Stories from the Field: Kazaranga National Park, Assam

My childhood friend Sathya thrust his 1D Mark4 camera and 300 mm f4 camera lens in my hand and asked me to step out and spend more time outside my apartment. He was a medical professional. It was July 2012, and his idea was to fill me with quality air and to wrap more sun on my skin. He wanted me to travel more often and photograph birds.  It was 6 months after a week long trip at Kaziranga National Park, which had been my first taste of wildlife. I can still smell the freshness of it all.
Kaziranga is magical.

We stayed at the Wild Grass Lodge amidst the intimidating presence of huge lenses and heavy gear.
The dining hall was filled with Masai Mara and other jungle lores.
I was drawn into my fellow travel mates’ conversations on birds and elephant behaviour.
Animal psychology was a nonexistent subject for me till then. I always marveled at the life of plants & trees. The reasons and roles of their existence and their beauty.
During this trip, I was introduced into the role of fauna into the sustenance of forests and their mutual social struggles; Their mastery of leveraging each others resources, framed by unwritten cooperative laws. Their companionship in fighting extinction. Survival makes strange bedfellows among flora and fauna – from the megafauna to the smallest ant and flying insect.

At Kaziranga, Sathya had trusted me with his 5D mark2 fitted with 300mm f4 lens and taught me the nuances of handling them in modes other than the program mode, the one I was comfortable with up until that point.

During the flight to Guwahati and during the safaris, he taught me with immense patience about aperture mode, ISO settings, metering, white balances, compositions etc. After a couple days of twice daily safaris, I was bored of the routine.
I was more interested in the blue jays, treepies, lapwings, shrikes, eagles, drongos and few more colorful wings. I saw these wonderful birds for the first time in my life.
I saw and heard stories about the enchanting Great Indian Hornbill and the speed and skill of Falcons.
Chasing these birds with a camera was like a dream.

But Sathya insisted we were there to see the Rhinoceros and elephants, and since we can get plenty of these birds in Karnataka he insisted that I focus on the big mammals.
While chasing mammals, I was terrified after two separate encounters with elephants and one bad encounter with a Rhino. I shot them quite nervously and received lots of encouragement from Sathya. We would discuss the days events at a Nepali coffee shop at Kaziranga over samosas and tea every evening. Those evenings, by the highway, were the best part of my whole trip. Those and the beautiful landscapes interspersed between the 3 sectors of Kaziranga National Park.. My mediocre shots received lots of commendation too. Sharpest pictures of elephants he had ever seen, he said. I was tricked into believing I was as good or at times better than my fellow “safarians”. I carried on.

Today, I still know very little about the camera’s capabilities. Without getting into technical stuff, I just shoot from the heart. Two things I know are: (a ) It can produce stunning images even at insanely high ISO, and  (b) It can creep through a heap of clutter and read your mind to seek out and focus on the tiny targets.

 

Since the beginning of 2012, when I began photography, I was happy doing a little bit of macro shoot with my D90.
Coping with the weight of D90 and 105mm macro was very difficult. Since I had serious health issues, carrying weights above 1 kg, for longer than 5 minutes, is difficult. The pain was intense.
Till date, I have been on numerous trips, traveling the length and breadth of this diverse and rich country. I have trekked inside most forests and varied habitats across all states and Union Territories.
But most importantly… my back has become stronger. I can now carry more weight for longer periods of time. I have photographed more than 1100 species of birds within India. Nature has blessed me immensely. It has been kind to my lungs and given hopes to stretch life a little longer.
I wish to take you along on my journey.
I look forward to being influenced by your ‘focus of view’.
I will continue my ramblings here and on my own website.
Hope you enjoy the ride…

 

 

 

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