Photography Day

image By Wayam Magazine 18 August 2023

A Hobby is defined as an activity regularly done for pleasure, in one's leisure time. I think the definition of a hobby should be extended. It should be defined as an activity that may not be done regularly but is something you would want to do in most of your free time, which gives you satisfaction as well as leads to personal growth and improvement. When a hobby really becomes a passion, then it becomes a way of life. You start imbibing the things needed to excel in that hobby and it changes your way of thinking and approach to things. 

My hobby is birdwatching and nature photography. In 2005, I went into the jungle for the first time with some friends and I was totally hooked. It started a desire to see more and more of the wild. I soon developed a very keen interest in nature and nature photography. In the initial period, I was really blessed to have 2 things which are of utmost importance in the pursuit of any hobby. i.e.: opportunity and guidance. Opportunity came in the form of the wetlands of Uran which was a heaven for birdwatchers. Uran had an interesting landscape comprising wetlands, marshes and grasslands and provided ample scope for me to develop my technique. Guidance came in the form of friends and expert birdwatchers, who taught me to identify birds, study their behavior and appreciate them. 

I have always had an interest in photography. Combined with my new interest in wildlife and birdwatching, the outcome was predictable and I got hooked to Nature Photography. My passion slowly transformed from mere birdwatching to bird photography. Over the years I started going to more and more remote places for shooting rare species. Whenever you do something good, there is a desire to show it to people and exhibit it and I started posting my images in a nature photography website called “indianaturewatch”. Very soon I started receiving kudos for my photos. People started connecting with me for photography tips, equipment related pointers, about places to go to for wildlife and bird watching etc. The network really blossomed. As more and more people started asking me for guidance, so my desire to give the right advice went into high gear. I did a lot of research and extensively studied the subjects of birdwatching and photography. This process developed a life of its own and has been a continuing source of inspiration and advancement (in photography) for me. It is truly said that if you want to really know a subject, you must teach it. Only when you prepare to teach it will you go in depth and understand the nuances of the subject. It is now not unusual for me to go to a wildlife resort and have people come up to me and say that they have seen my work on various forums and been inspired to get into nature photography. That is really rewarding.

 This hobby of mine has taught me much more than just the subject though. The first is humility. Man lives in a world that he has created. He is surrounded by things which he has made and hence has the arrogance of power, that he can change things at will. There creeps in, a feeling of invincibility. However, when you go to the jungles of India, when you see the mighty rivers and tall mountains and interminable dense jungle, you realize how tiny and insignificant you really are, compared to the rest of nature. Whether you buy a new car or get a new job or watch a new movie, is of the smallest significance to nature. It does not change the rhythm of the waves one bit, it does not affect the heights of the mountains even an iota. Your life on earth and all your endeavors are but a whiff of memory for Mother Nature.

Another thing that this hobby teaches you is immense patience. The pursuit of excellence in nature photography (especially while staying within the boundaries of ethical photography, especially not taking photos of nesting birds) takes a great deal of dedication, effort, and patience. One of my favorite images is that of a bird called an Oriental Dwarf Kingfisher. These beauties migrate to forests around Mumbai just at the start of the monsoon to build their nests. While searching for nesting places, these birds are very frisky and rarely sit at one place for long. It's easier to photograph them when they have a nest with chicks.  However, doing so runs a risk of disturbing the birds and causing them to abandon their nests and chicks. For that reason, I never do nest photography and it is extremely difficult to photograph the ODKF otherwise. It took me 4 years of effort to finally take a few images because even though I spotted it many times, there was always  a very small window of opportunity to take photos!! 

I:\photography\tiger photography\hobby_L057.jpg
Perseverance is of course a very necessary quality in all pursuits but especially so in nature photography. We had heard about a group of Indian skimmers that had come to Jamnagar. Skimmers are usually best seen and photographed in the Chambal ravines. They had come to Jamnagar after almost 5-6 years so we resolved to spend a couple of days on the weekend looking for them. When we went to the place they were last seen, we could find no trace of them. It was possible that they were in passage migration and had alighted at Jamnagar only for a couple of days and were now on their way. 
Let me digress a bit…. Many times, when I have told people where to find a particular bird, I get a call some days later saying that “I didn’t find anything there, where did you say it was???”. It must be understood that “BIRDS CAN FLY” it is expected of the birwatcher to do a thorough search in the general area indicated as we can't hope for the birds to sit in the same spot for days on end.
So after a detailed search of the surrounding coastlines, we finally located a group of around 30 birds on a distant shore. There was no apparent route to go there so we had to forge a route through thorn forests. Thereafter, we spent 2 whole days, morning and evening, crawling on the wet sand to get photos of them. After all this effort, I got only 2 decent frames. 

I:\photography\tiger photography\hobby L131.jpg

One important aspect of nature photography is opportunity. Events in nature happen at their own pace and there is no timetable for it. You just have to create the opportunities and that means going into nature and going for photography as often as possible. There is a large “luck” factor in action nature photography. I see too many photographers who practice their skills only when they go to sanctuaries and reserves. If they want to learn and excel, they must revisit the same old areas and subjects and bring a fresh perspective to already photographed subjects. 

I:\photography\tiger photography\hobby_L018.jpg

There are many such lessons from nature photography and surely any other hobby you would pursue. It is when you strive to excel at something that you start recognizing your shortfalls and start working at improving them. This creates a change in you and your approach to things. It naturally affects people around you and initiates changes in them as well and it becomes a chain reaction. If you are totally immersed in your hobby, it becomes a way of life. You must yearn to excel at it so much so that you are prepared to bring about changes in yourself. 
To budding nature photographers, I have a few suggestions to make
Respect Mother Nature in all your pursuits. Do ethical photography and do not damage the environment.
Keep learning, keep reading. Aim to improve your craft, revisit the same old subject but try to see them in a different light/angle
Don’t get obsessed by equipment: While there is no doubt that better equipment can enable you to take good images in challenging conditions, good equipment does not automatically make you a good photographer. The camera and lens is only a tool, the photography must come from within you.
Enjoy nature and the process of photography. Do not get obsessed with getting “that” shot of a bird or animal. 
Ultimately, you will excel as per your efforts, dedication, and commitment. Do not bind your hobby within the limits of yourself, rather unlimit yourself to embrace the boundaries of your hobby. Only then will you progress, excel, recreating yourself anew, get a sense of deep satisfaction and accomplishment, and even become a mentor and a guiding light to all who marvel at your passion and want to follow in the same path. 

-Girish Vaze

My Cart
Empty Cart