I have recently just completed a first round scouting visit to Keoladeo Ghana National Park in preparation for my first bird photography workshop in Bharatpur in late January. I’m clearly excited about leading this workshop, the images below provide a good idea on what to expect in Bharatpur. Clearly there are vast opportunities to come away with lifetime of memories and learning experience. It is a joy to visit Bharatpur as each visit provides a unique sense and feel to the place.
When I think of winters, it always reminds me of Keoladeo National Park. Located about 220km south of New Delhi, KNP is situated in the floodplains of Bharatpur, Rajasthan. It is a mosaic of grasslands, woodlands, woodland swamps and wetlands. During winters the park comes to life with the migratory birds, the mornings in Bharatpur are very magical, the chill in the air and the misty conditions almost makes the place feel like a place out of a fairy tale.
I like to get inside the park as soon as it opens in the morning, getting on location early allows me to witness the mystical fog and pre-visualize the image in context of the scene, this then helps in setting up the right gear. In the image above, the fog covered landscapes with an occasional bird or two in the surroundings gives a serene feeling. A scene such as this provides an opportunity to capture the silence and the early morning light with a silhouette touch. I waited till a raptor flew in and perched on top of the tree in the far backdrop; this is a good way to give a gentle reminder on the importance of this park.
On a daily basis, lots of ducks and geese continue to arrive in the park. Some of the ones I find very attractive to photograph are the Lesser whistling duck, Ruddy shelduck, Northern shoveler, Northern pintail and the Bar-headed goose. It is a challenge to photograph these birds as they are very often found in large groups, the key is to look for isolated and small groups of birds. This makes for cleaner images as you can avoid overlapping of birds when there is fast action happening. Here some lesser whistling ducks watch and jeere on as two others wrestle it out, it was and will always be a spectator sport!
KNP has about two hundred species of small local birds present through the park and roughly twenty migratory ones. One that is not very common is the Grey-headed canary flycatcher, once I knew the general area they were inhabiting, I set up my tripod and camera gear and waited at a safe distance so as to not to disturb them. By keeping a safe distance and waiting patiently, the birds became comfortable and knew that I meant no harm. The reward was that they came out to the perch more consistently. Here, I worked with fill flash as there was little light falling in the area where the birds were coming in . The exposure for the ambient light was set separately and the fill flash was used to light the flycatcher. The above two images provide a view of the front and the over the shoulder pose. Framing the out of focus flower was the key to coming away with a pleasing image.
Then there are the common birds. The Indian Silverbill/white throated Munia are very sociable and fun to photograph, common birds are all around us and they are beautiful. We don’t see many images of these birds these days, seldom do we photographers realize that many of us started learning to photograph on these very birds. We should continue to look at them and try to photograph their many moods, behavior and interactions. In the image above, I simply wanted to see some action or behavior. Stopping down and introducing more of the background created the textured background.
Bokeh is a great way of adding an artistic flare to image making. It simply refers to the aesthetic quality of the out of focus areas of the image. KNP offers some unique opportunities to come up with interesting images combining birds and bokeh. In the image above, I waited as the sun was setting and positioned myself so the sun was behind the Pond heron. The idea was to have the marshy water out of focus so it appeared as a sea of gold coins that looked ornamental around the bird. In post processing I then reduced the exposure to just give the bird enough definition and highlight the bokeh.
The last image is an ode to all wildlife photographers. The defining character of wildlife photographers is their determination to get out there and follow their passion. For me, the image above is a testimony to their hard work and adversity; it represents their pursuit and hunger to give their best. By underexposing so that only their silhouette is visible, it leaves an impression of all those photographers who are out there pursuing a dream. They aren’t just two individuals but collectively represent the photographic community.
I would like to thank Mr. Chotu Khan for his assistance. He is a resident of Bharatpur and has expert knowledge about the Park.
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