Whenever you have that feeling, or worse – knowingly accede, that you are nearing to be a self-proclaimed pompous personage with a haughty know-all illusive air of being utterly proficient in the entire domain of nature photography, it would, in my considered opinion, not be unwise to revisit some of those fanciful presumptions of having reached the pinnacle of prowess by putting this wishful premise to a trifling test. (Phew… what am I doing? A chain of thoughts does not mean an unbroken sentence, ok?)
Clip wings. Bring down to earth. With a thud. Period. (Now why didn’t I think of these lines before undertaking the task of zapping my grey cells for the above preamble?) Back to being hoity-toity; now where was I? The test. So what better way to clips wings than with wings themselves? To further that purpose may I write the background exposition, please.
The passerines have a significant number of members who may not be the fastest of birds, but boy, do they flitter – and how! Flycatchers, bee-eaters, sunbirds, flower peckers – just to name a few – display some amazing moves, be it for catching their prey, insects, or even just for the heck of it (sometimes I deeply suspect that it is a conspiracy to keep birders scratching their heads over which one of their species just zoomed past!). The burst of energy accompanying their sudden, swift, sallied moves – be it perch to perch, perch to ground, perch to air, air to air (reminds you of ballistic missiles, doesn’t it?) – twisting and turning mid-air with powerful beats of their wings, is a sheer pleasure to watch. And capture? As in a photograph? Ahh… now we are warming up, aren’t we! But before I come to the punch, one more petite detail – many of these aforementioned spirited pocket-dynamites are decidedly at their peak forms at dawn or dusk. (So?)
That finally brings us to the test (Yes, the reveal!). So, continuing from the preamble (no, not another protracted sentence, this one), my counsel would be to try and substantiate your hallowed claims of proficiency by labouring to capturing, in the twilight, well, light, any of these birds flitting restlessly in their most animated moods. (Damp squib!) (Really?) There are variations of the test at progressive levels in the game, but the photographer will have taken the hint by now. Clipped. Grounded.
Which brings us to the question – why this discourse? No, I am still a learner, and the syllabus is of mammoth proportions. The germ of this thought was sown when I experienced this failed photo-shoot at hand while attempting to photograph a courting pair of Small Minivet (Pericrocotus cinnamomeus). It was just after dawn, when this lovable pair fluttered into the view of my telephoto lens. But my hope of getting a lovey dovey click was dashed on a rock as hard as the one I was standing on when all they afforded me was a little over two minutes of stage time. And even within that small window, the female detached herself and quickly disappeared into the bushes (probably taking off after a juicy bee, but in hindsight I think it was only to frustrate my objective), leaving behind the male to mock at me. Just as I was thinking of rewriting the script by taking action shots of the male, she suddenly took to stage crying out swee… swee… swee… as if admonishing the male for allowing me to do up his portfolio! Luckily I squeezed out a shot of her before she exited the stage, with the male lamely following behind.
And the dream couple shot? Well… I have just one picture with both of them in it, and to compound my woes, they are not even on the same perch, and consequently, to muddle it further, only one of them is in focus! A shot so far removed from being romantic – if I listen carefully I can actually hear the glass shattering…
– Narendra Nayak © 2019