The journey to 500

Little did I know, when I clicked a picture of a Purple Sunbird a few years back, that this would start a journey that would take me to places that I had never heard of before, meet a bunch of new friends who share a similar passion and develop what seems like an interesting and passionate hobby.

Purple Sunbird, Jaisalmer, 05-Jan ’13, Nikon D7000 | 55-300 f/4.5-5.6 @ 300mm

At the time I clicked the pic, I was super happy about the result and shared this widely with family and friends – I am much more critical and wiser now;-) A few months later, on another family trip, I got lucky and made an image of the Grey-hooded Warbler that I still love (despite all the technical flaws in making it).

Grey-hooded Warbler, Satoli, 13-June ’13, Nikon D7000 | 300 f/4 + 1.4 TC

Thats when I decided to enrol for a quick weekend photography course to learn how I could learn to handle a DSLR well enough to capture more moments like these. Thinking back, that was one of the best investments I have ever made.

I followed that up by signing up for some photo-tours and on a Bharatpur tour, early in 2014, I photographed my 100th Indian bird, the Siberian Bluethroat. It was a fleeting shot of this beauty in rather harsh light, and this individual didn’t even have the distinctive blue-throat.

Siberian Bluethroat, Bharatpur, 07-Feb 2014, Nikon D7000 | 300 f/4 + 1.4 TC | ISO 400 | f/5.6 | EV -1/3 | 1/800

Of course, I managed much better pictures of the Bluethroat over the next couple of years. The learning experience on these field trips were tremendous and I was lucky to have found phenomenal teachers on these trips (over the years) and a great bunch of folks who where all at various stages of their personal learning journey.

Siberian Bluethroat, Bharatpur, 09-Feb’16, Nikon D7200 | 600f/4 | f/8 | ISO 640 | 1/200

A few months later, on a magical trip to Pangot and Sattal, I snagged my 200th bird – the stunning Rufous-bellied Niltava. This was my first trip to that part of the hills and I had fallen in love with Pangot even before I took a picture – pristine forests, barely touched by the human endeavour, I would end up making atleast 2 trips a year since then.

Rufous-bellied Niltava, Pangot, 25-May’14, Nikon D7000 | 600f/4 | f/4 | ISO 1600 | EV+2/3 | 1/80
Rufous-bellied Niltava, Sattal, 03-Jun’16, Nikon D4 | 600 f/4 | f/5.6 | ISO 4000 | EV +1/3 | 1/200

By now the bug had well and truly bitten me and I kept looking for newer places and more opportunities to capture these wonderful creatures. My 300th happened as we were rafting down the Jia Boreli river in Nameri while I was grappling with trying to photograph from a bobbing inflatable raft and still get the composition right. That’s when I learnt that trying to click these birds with black-and-white is quite a challenge.

Goosander, Nameri, 19-Jan’15, Nikon D7100 | Tamron 150-600 f/5-6.3 @600mm | ISO 400 | f/6.3 | EV -1/3 | 1/3200

The run to the 400th seemed to take forever. Possibly because I was repeating most of the places that I had been to. And, I must say, that it was a relief to reach there on a family trip to Ranthambore – a tiger-trip that got converted to a birding one thanks to a pliable family, a good birding guide and some great luck with spotting a tiger within 15 mins of our first safari. The White-bellied Drongo it was.

White-bellied Drongo, Ranthambore, 18-June’16, Nikon D500 | 600 f/4 | ISO 3200 | f/5.6 | EV +1/3 | 1/500

Given how long it took to get from 300 to 400, I reckoned that it would be quite a while for the next milestone. Surprisingly, it didn’t take quite as long – I got there a couple of weeks back on a trip to Chopta. The actual sighting happened on the trek down from Tungnath. And it turned out to be another lovely bird this time, the Bar-throated Siva.

Bar-throated Siva, Tungnath, 22-Apr’17, Nikon D500 | 300f/4 PF + 1.7 TC | EV +1 | f/8 | 1/320

I wonder how long the next milestone will take….

2 thoughts on “The journey to 500

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