There is always time to try something different

In the heat of the action, we all tend to leave our exploratory self behind and get caught up in the moment. I have found that in this mode one very rarely tends to learn, not just about new techniques but also about the equipment that one is carrying. One of the ways to ensure that one is constantly on a learning mode is to set a target of something new that you would like to attempt on an outing. It doesn’t matter if the “something new” is big or small – what matters is that there is a consciously effort to push the boundaries of ones understanding. It also doesn’t matter if the attempt results in a usable result or not – in the beginning it is the journey that matters most.

What this “new” would be may not be immediately apparent before you head out. But it is important that there is an effort made, early on, to decide what that would be – so as to give yourself enough time to try out this “new” thing.

I had seen some lovely wide-angle perspectives of Tal Chapar shot by Anuroop Krishnan (check his fb page for  these) and that had given me a good idea of what my “new” would be on the recent trip to Tal Chapar. I wanted a wide-angle perspective of the Hardwicke’s Spiny-tailed Lizard in the Ghoshala area outside the park.

Unfortunately, this endeavour was fraught with challenges right from the beginning. I discovered that the Nikon D500 does not have an Infra-red sensor – which rendered the remote trigger that I had completely useless. I had downloaded the Snapbridge app for the Nikon camera before I had left home and it was time to discover how that worked and put it to use in the field.

Easier said than done. My cameras needed a firmware upgrade before I could link them to the app. Thankfully I had downloaded a copy of the new firmware on my Mac before leaving home (to be honest I had done all of this research earlier and was partly prepared). I still had to find a way to get the downloaded firmware into the camera. That was quite easy as someone in the group I was travelling with had a card reader and it was a simple question of getting the new firmware copied into an SD card, inserting that into the camera and let the upgrade protocol take over and complete the process.

The next step was to link my camera to the Snapbridge app, which was also quite a simple process. But it took some time to figure out that one needed to keep the Bluetooth channel open and remember the process flow on both the camera as well as the iPhone. Once set up, I tried using it in the room and got a handle on the remote trigger feature. I could now trigger the shutter in my camera remotely using my iPhone.

The next day, armed with all the equipment and water I would need, I got off at the location I had chosen while my companions would spend the next couple of hours scouting for action. I took some time to settle down and wait, observing the lizards emerge from their burrows. My idea was to target one of them as they scurry back into their burrow when I approach, position my camera near the burrow and wait for the lizard to pop its head out again.

And that is exactly what I proceeded to do, several times over the next 2 hours in the baking heat of the post-noon sun. During this time I discovered the frustrations and wow moments of the Snapbridge app.

  1. The range of the remote trigger is really short. The strength of the connectivity drops off quite rapidly after about 3-4 meters.
  2. Once the connectivity drops off, it is quite a pain to get it going again as re-establishing the connection would take several frustrating attempts.
  3. When you get a call in the middle of this experiment, the connectivity to the camera is lost.
  4. A cool feature is that a Live View is enabled on the iPhone with the remote trigger. So one can be sitting a few meters away and see the frame in the camera.
  5. And one can set focus remotely by touching the object (on the iPhone screen Live View) that you need the camera to lock focus on.
  6. And lastly, the Live View on the iPhone drains the phone battery quite rapidly (I dropped from a 90% charge to a near-20% charge in about 90 mins of use).

I also did discover that the Spiny-tailed Lizards are super sensitive to any threat in their environment, they have to be as it is a matter of life and death for them. So, wherever I would choose to plonk my camera, that specific burrow would be devoid of action – no head popping out, no lizard emerging from the burrow, no wide angle perspective, no joy. Either that or the burrows are interlinked – though there is really no research available that says that they are.

I kept at this for 2 hours, changing burrows frequently so that I do not interfere with one specific individual. But when I finally got picked up I really didn’t have the image that I wanted.

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A wide-angle perspective of the Ghoshala

The time I spent was not entirely wasted though. Sitting for a couple of hours on the ground with Spiny-tailed Lizards all around me, gave me a great opportunity to make nice images of these creatures using my long, prime 600mm lens. Something that I had wanted to do ever since my first visit to Tal Chapar but had never really gotten around to doing. And now I have a much better idea of how I will go about this the next time around.

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Up close and personal with the Spiny-tailed Lizard

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This is how I visualised the image that I wanted to make but filed to make. This is a composite of the wide-angle image of the Ghoshala and one of the lizard superimposed.

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