The Story of Shikra(Accipiter badius)   2 comments

Shikra 1_sRGB

I got into birding and photographing birds, quite by chance, around three years ago. However, my interest back then was primarily to identify these winged beauties and I was quite content with capturing their low resolution jpeg pictures from my point and shoot camera. Life changed a bit when I got myself my first DSLR and a zoom lens. Along with the DSLR came the desire to capture better and closeup pictures.

Once, during a visit to Bandipur Tiger Reserve, around that time, I was busy trying to shoot a flying White Rumped Shama. Though the conditions very foggy and the lighting really far from ideal, I was shooting at high shutter speed to capture the bird in flight. As the safari jeep moved forward I spotted a Shikra, perched at eye level, on a naked branch of a tree and right in front of us. I quickly whistled the driver to stop the vehicle, got up, focused and let loose a flurry of shots. The bird did not last on the branch for long and flew away within moments. With tremendous excitement I immediately switched on the replay button of my camera. But alas, tragedy had struck. In my enthusiasm I had forgotten to reduce the shutter speed and even though the bird was static and was quite close, the ambient light was quite poor and the resultant image was a dark blob. Even in this underexposed image the eyes of the Shikra were sharply visible and shining through. It was indeed a heart breaking moment as this would have been my first real full frame shot of a raptor. To make matters worse we didn’t get to see any tigers during that day’s safari and I kept lamenting this lost opportunity.

After returning home, I used my limited knowledge of Picasa to try and salvage the image without much success. Any boost to the exposure was yielding an extremely grainy picture. My desperation was such that I read up on quite a bit of available literature to resurrect grainy and underexposed frames. But no real luck. I sent the raw files to more seasoned photographers requesting for help. Their efforts were much better than mine but still fell short of what I was hoping to achieve. The net result of all of this was that Adobe got one more convert into the world of Photoshop. I downloaded PS but realized much to my chagrin that the power of this tool not withstanding, it still required a lot of patience, practice and time to master.

Anyway, fast forwarding to today, I recently upgraded to a Nikon D750. And I was en-route to a place called Carolyne Tea Estate in the Nilgiri mountains to test my latest acquisition. We had to pass through the Bandipur forest. Mid way through the forest, I saw this Shikra on a quite similar perch. The bird was of same species, the perch was similar and it was the same forest. However, the foggy conditions had been replaced by bright midday sunlight. Again, poor lighting conditions for photography. I just couldn’t help remembering my earlier tryst with the Shikra while I was busy photographing this one. It seemed almost pre-ordained that my first full frame shot of a raptor with my new camera be that of a Shikra in the Bandipur forest. While the photo tuned out to be reasonably exposed I still keep wishing the light was more mellow and golden. As they say – human wants are unlimited !

2 responses to “The Story of Shikra(Accipiter badius)

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