Most Memorable Images 2018 (Blog 1 of 2)
On this chilly winter evening, as the heater besides me fails to keep me warm, my fingers are trying desperately to put to words that goes through my mind. I am reminded of a simple, but such a powerful quote by Oogway, from one of my favourite movies “Kung fu Panda”
“Yesterday is history, tomorrow is mystery, but today is a gift. That’s why it’s called the present”
It’s hard to imagine how many today’s I have wasted thinking about my many yesterdays and imagining my infinite tomorrows. How many presents have I lost to my memories and imaginations. But not today, today as I go through my memories of the year 2018, I go to recollect and present before you some of my best images from the year 2018.
In this 2 part series, I present before you some images. Images that may not be the most beautiful of what I have produced, but it’s the experiences behind these images, which make them so special and close to my heart.
Himalayan Black Bear
The various stories I have heard about Himalayan Black Bears from the people in the Himalaya, has left me in Awe and respect for this massive mammal. Whenever I venture to some high altitude forests, this is the only Mammal that I am really scared of. In my heart there is always this silent prayer that I never ever come face to face with him. But last winters, I came to know of a spot that this guy regularly comes to feed to. The locals told me the best time to spot him was very early in the morning, but also fiercely warned me not to venture to this area alone, because this guy had a history of attacking people in the vicinity. He had on several occasions chased and injured people strolling on a nearby road. When I recced the spot in the evening one day, I concluded that if I was to get a clean shot, this nearby road was the only spot from where I could. Not heeding to their warnings and despite being scared to death, here I was.
The winter was at its peak and at this altitude of 2000+ Meters, it was killing me. Shivering as much in cold as out of fear, very cautious and alert to the slightest sound around me, I hoped for this guy to show up. To show up at a spot where I could get a good shot and he did. Out of nowhere he appeared from behind a rock and posed for a few seconds. I was scared, excited and thought I was hallucinating, all at the same time. He posed for a few seconds and then left behind the same rock. And yes, when I saw him, I was scared, really scared. He was a good distance from me and was on a totally different ridge but still I was scared.
Of all the birds that I have seen, heard of and shot in the Himalaya of Uttarakhand, this is one species that is revered a lot, is hardly seen, let alone photographed. Frankly, although I always have dreamt of shooting a Cheer pheasant, I have never really searched for it. For me it’s so high up on the pedestal that I don’t even bother trying. So when I stumbled upon this group, my first reaction was of shock and awe. I was blown away on seeing them so close in person, and before I could come to my senses, they were off and disappeared inside dense thickets in the forest beyond. Since then I have spent countless hours at the location hoping to shoot them, and they have never disappointed me. This was one shot taken very early in the morning, before the sun was up.
My most memorable experience with them was nothing short of a miracle. This morning, before dawn I positioned myself below a rock and was waiting for them to come. They came, and how they came, not in ones or twos but in a group of 8 to 10, juveniles, females and males, all 20 feet infront of me. Ignoring me, they spend the next 30 minutes feeding and then to top it all, one by one crossed to a forest patch, less than 10 feet away from me. Seeing them so up close and the trust they had put in me, I was moved beyond words. That morning still brings a chill up my spine. As the sun rose behind the mountains, I smiled and thought, what a beautiful morning this is and how blessed I am.
Sunrise at Chandrashila is always amazing. As winters approach and weather gets colder, the colours in the sky before sunrise are to die for. This morning too was no exception, the purple, magentas, pinks and oranges in the sky were something right out of a fairy tale book. It’s like nature opened it pallet and painted the sky with all the shades of colour it had in its arsenal. When the sun finally came up, this flock of Himalayan Vultures started very slowly rising from the valley below and in no time were flying well above 4000 Meters, as if soaring to the mighty Himalayan mountain peaks in the distance.
Now I have for years, had this desire of capturing a Himalayan Vulture in flight with a major Himalayan Peak as the backdrop. As soon as this Juvenile came in front of this beautiful Peak of Janhukot, I fired off a blizzard of shots. Janhukot has a special place in my heart, shaped exactly like a fountain pen nib, I find this peak to be one of its kind and extremely elegant. Shooting this Vulture right in front of Janhukot was a dream that finally came true.
I distinctly remember, when I visited the temple of Kartik Swami for the second time, one aged lady came to me and said “Be careful, if you go to Kartik swami often, he may make you your own”. Four years, and more visit than I can count later, I can say, that aged lady didn’t lie that day. In that moment she probably prophesized my relationship with the temple of Kartikswami. There are some places in the Himalaya, that are the closest to my heart and Kartikswami is one of them. It’s the only place where I have spent countless hours doing nothing, but listening to the silence of the wind. I sit here and all the worries and problems I have in my material existence just vanish. It’s one of those places that I am one with nature, one with god, one with mountains and at peace with myself.
It is here that I came across these Yellow-throated Martens. Although Martens are quite common throughout the Himalaya, they tend to be extremely shy and difficult to photograph. But here they, I think are at home, just like me. Over the months, these Martens have, I guess sort of accepted my presence in their home. They feed when I am around, they scavenge without giving a thought to my presence around them. It’s like a special bond we have developed over time and just like I feel at home with them, I believe they feel the same with me too. This wide angle shot is one of my many favourites, which I have taken on my multiple visits to this divine place.
This concludes part 1 of my 2 part blog series title “Most Memorable Images 2018”.
Do check out my second blog of the series coming day after tomorrow.
Please do share the blog if you like the article. 🙂