During the last quarter of 2006 I acquired a super-telephoto lens (Canon 400 f2.8L IS USM). Many people advised that wildlife photographers hadn’t tried that lens and I should stick to the proven 500 f/4. How ever I went ahead and poured nearly 8000USD on this dream lens as a hobbyist. A very similar amount someone would invest on a small car.
A Maruti Gypsy was my other proud possession back then and a colleague from #Accenture – Vijay was my accomplice in these jungle journeys as most others thought Bandipur was a place you could visit once or twice but you have to be mad like Jay and Vijay if you end up there every weekend. At around 4:40PM we realised it was too dark and cloudy and it would perhaps rain on this saturday evening. Smartness prevailed and we decided to cut-short the safari at 5PM thus saving 1500/- INR (around 30USD) and returning early to Mysore – where my parents lived.(Native)
Just when we were cruising towards the Bandipur reception, Vijay altered me of something crazy that was happening. We stopped and observed two Monitor Lizards up in arms. Soon they stood on hind legs (#Bipedalism) and the rigorous battle continued. Very dark and gloomy meant shutter speeds were in single digits. Even the world’s fastest 400mm lens at a reasonably high ISO of 400 (Back then on a Canon 30D) gave me a 1/4s exposure. I fired a few shots (All of them vertical compositions) and realised I was fighting a battle I couldn’t win. At such a slow speed I couldn’t freeze any action. It was frustrating. I was missing a great opportunity that I would probably never witness again and here I was dabbling with my camera controls. I took a funny decision then:
I decided to click 4 pictures in Manual mode by using a 1/60sec shutter speed which was a few stops down to what was needed. How would the pic turn out? You are right – it was a pitch dark photo where I couldn’t see head or tail of the reptiles in combat. I kept my camera aside and watched them for a while hearing them hiss and battle while they faded away in to the undergrowth. I looked at Vijay’s face and he gave me a smile we would then call a “Harami” wala smile. Economics / Cost cutting as an idea vanished at this sight and we ended up doing the safari till 6PM. Who would calculate costs when in front of such a spectacle?
We rushed home and the first thing I did was download the files and I just opened the 4 dark pictures in Canon Digital Photo Professional I would use then. I simply increased the brightness of all of them and here was this one. A pleasant surprise. Little did I realise this photograph would be the delimiter between my journey as a hobbyist and a professional. In a couple of months this was framed on the Sanctuary Asia magazine’s cover and it almost felt like scoring a century on one’s debut. My first ever published image. Most of you know how life has changed after this.