” It’s not about the Image”

A monthly blog series about one of my most favorite image every month. This is post 5 of a 12 part series.

Today I would like to share a small story about a shot, a shot which I took last month in Chopta. It’s not a spectacular shot, in fact it’s just an ordinary shot of a Himalayan Tahr. I took this shot at a point well known to Birders as “Monal Point”.

For people wondering what “Monal Point” is , it’s a spot on the road, some 3 kilometers ahead of Chopta, as you go towards Gopeshwar. Between October/November and March/April, you can readily see lots of Himalayan Monals, Koklass Pheasants and Himalayan Tahrs around this spot. It’s right on the road, so it’s pretty easy for anyone to just drive to this spot, point the camera and take shots of Monal, Koklass and Himalayan Tahrs (the same shots, that have been taken a gazillion times😐)

This is how a typical conversation goes

Bird Photographer 1 (BP1) : Ok, I got the shots I came here for, what next?

BP1:  In his head (Wow, the number of likes I will get for this shot, it’s gonna be ground breaking)

Guide/Birder/Tour Organiser: Wow, congratulations sir, didn’t I guarantee that you would get shots for sure. Now, are you happy?

BP1: Sure, I am extremely happy. Now what next?

BP2: All this is ok, but you also guaranteed that we would get shots of some Mammals, apart from Tahrs, what about them?

Guide/Birder/Tour Organiser: Oh no problem sir, we will drive further along this road and I will make sure you get those shots, pakka. Come let’s go.

BP2: In his head (BP1, the likes on my image are going to be epic, just wait and watch)

Meanwhile, the scared Himalayan Tahrs, who come to the spot to lick salt off the rocks and drink water have no idea what happened and thinking that they might be harmed, scamper quickly to the steep slopes above. Some of them might still be thirsty, but hey the whole forest belongs to them, they can drink water anywhere, who cares.

Just look at this shot, look at the bokeh on this shot, look at the creamy green background, look at the sharpness of my shot, wow, I fired same 14 shots in a row. I have plenty to pick up from. I can’t imagine how popular this image is going to be on social media. Now….on to the next species!!!! 😉

Can someone tell me, whatever happened to experiencing the wonder that just unfolded in front of your eyes? The Himalayan Monal, the colourful male that you just saw, most of the people in India will never ever see it ever in their lifetime. I hope you were amazed at how artistically, colorfully and divinely the creator (Nature) made that bird to be? Did you actually awe in wonder, how it’s a miracle that despite its huge size and body, the Tahr walks on steep mountain slopes, as if he is taking a walk in the park.

Did the majestic flight of the Monal, leave you gasping for air, or were you too concerned with the shot that you missed.  The mountains around you, the spectacle that we call Himalaya, i hope you didn’t miss that miracle, nature has played all around us. Were you able to feel the valley echoing with of calls of Monals, Koklass and yeah, also a multitude of a zillion other birds you missed, because well.. you were too concerned with shooting the “exotic species”. If you didn’t, I guarantee you this, you might have the shot, but you missed the whole point of being there in the first place.

So coming back to my story, that morning, I reached this spot well before daybreak. As I approached the spot, I saw a group of Himalayan Tahrs, grazing above the road. I knew they would come for drinking water and sat some distance from the spot. Hesitant at first, slowly but surely, they came to the designated spot. Meanwhile, I very slowly inched towards them. In less than 40 minutes, there I was sitting less than 30 meters from them. They by this point were oblivious to my presence and continued whatever they were doing for a long time. I just sat there, awed by their presence. Looking at them moving smoothly along the steep slopes, it was as if gravity didn’t exist.

When I have moments like these, I dread hearing two sounds, first humans chatting, and second, the sound of vehicles approaching the spot. When I hear these sounds, the quite understanding that me and wildlife around me had established, ceases to exist. They also become very alert and scared.

I heard that dreaded sound of a Vehicle approaching the spot. Somehow, I instinctively knew they were here for shooting Tahrs and Monals. Now, don’t get me wrong, that area is public and everyone has the right to drive and stop their vehicles anywhere they want. It’s just that I was in a meditative state and that vehicle broke my meditation.😅😅

The next thing that happened really surprised me (I am sure the Tahrs were surprised as well😁). The car stopped directly behind me (I was facing the Tahrs). In less than a second, I could hear camera shutters, going in at ultra-high speed. They fired non-stop for 30 seconds or so. Meanwhile, I was just sitting there, camera to my side. I glanced behind and the look on their face said, what the hell is this guy doing here, not shooting. I smiled, they smiled, by this time the Tahrs had scattered off in all directions.

The conversation that I described earlier, ironically a similar conversation ensued. In less than a minute they were off to catch their next elusive species. The tahrs in due course did return and I spent another 30 minutes with them. Eventually i slowly backed off and continued back to my hotel content and happy. If you are wondering, whether I took shots. I did, this one stood out among the rest.

" It's not about the Image"

A Himalayan Tahr Male

Hope you like the image and story. If you do, please do share.

Please do check out my other blogs here and click here for upcoming expeditions.


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