Ranganathittu December 2016 Photography Trip Report

Not often do you get to blend fun, learning, art and travel all on a weekend. But when you do, you mustn’t miss it for the world. And that’s what the participants of the Ranganathittu Nature Photography Masterclass did: after learning the basics of photography, they set out to the Bird Sanctuary comprising small islets to tame the advanced skills of wildlife photography.

When the group arrived in Ranganathittu, little had they known what surprises lay ahead in time for them. But with an anticipation to have a productive weekend in terms of photography, they were welcomed by the Tour Skippers Santosh Saligram and Harsha Narasimhamurthy. The group of participants were briefed about the place and what to expect and look out for by the Skippers, and after a session of self-introduction, they headed for lunch.


Wildlife Photography: Pelican in Flight, Ranganathittu

© Jhansi Papudesi


A classroom session followed lunch, in which the basic technical details of photography were discussed, which would help the participants to make memorable images during the course of the Tour.

The group set out to the Bird Sanctuary and two boats were waiting to take them on the calm waters of the river Kaveri, around the islets. Each Skipper accompanied by six participants each got on to the boats and as they sailed on, they saw a lot of bird activity happening simultaneously. A lot of cormorants were seen prancing around, to begin with. They heard a stork-billed kingfisher calling from one of the islets and sailed towards it. Although they couldn’t photograph the bird, they had a fulfilling sighting.

Big flocks of pelicans were found perched elegantly on the treetops, and a lot of fruit bats were found hanging upside down in daylight, too.


© Surej Nair


When a huge Indian marsh crocodile sun-basking on a rock was spotted, the group was delighted. Even as they were thrilled, they had a great opportunity to photograph the croc from the eye-level instead of photographing it from an elevated level under the tutelage of the photography Skippers who were with them on the boat constantly guiding.


Wildlife Photography: Crocodile Basing in the Sun, Ranganathittu

© Harsha Narasimhamurthy


Further on, a few Eurasian spoonbills were spotted standing on the edge of a rock. This was a great opportunity to make some evocative images of the birds in the beautiful, golden morning light. Their trembling reflection in the water and the scattered light like shards of glass dancing made the images all the more stunning. The Skippers helped the Photo Tour participants make images of bright subjects against a dark background by playing with the photography element of exposure.


Wildlife Photography: Back-lit Image of Eurasian Spoonbills, Ranganathittu

© Harsha Narasimhamurthy


Next to enchant the wildlife enthusiasts were a bunch of openbill storks. After the group made some exotic images of the openbills, they found more pelicans that looked like they were eager to come down to the tranquil waters and offering some action to the vision of the Tour participants, and the group had a lovely time watching the birds in action.

When the group got a glimpse of the pied kingfisher, they carefully approached the pretty bird to photograph it into vivid frames. The group was guided by the Skippers about the settings needed for the subjects in shade and about focussing the subject.

Meanwhile, the boatmen alerted everyone that peacocks had appeared on a tree and guessed with their acquired knowledge that they would fly anytime soon. As they all waited a few minutes, their time paid off when not one but seven gorgeous peacocks flew dramatically to the other bank one after another. This was the perfect time for the Skippers to impart their knowledge and experience of making images of birds in flight.


Wildlife Photography: Peacock in Flight, Ranganathittu

© Harsha Narasimhamurthy


While the vibrant hues of the peacocks were admired to their hearts’ content, Skipper Harsha Narasimhamurthy spotted a smooth-coated otter as it made a surprising entry on a rock. This was a moment to put to test the skills of an alert wildlife photographer as the otter dived into water only after being visible for a couple of minutes. The quick action had to be captured keeping not only the technical details in mind but also the aesthetic part of making art – composition.


Wildlife Photography: Smooth-coated Otter, Ranganathittu

© Harsha Narasimhamurthy


Three adorable river terns were found hovering playfully and the participants made some charming pictures of them. As the sun went down, some backlit images of more Eurasian spoonbills and crocodiles were made by the group.


© Surej Nair


Once the participants got off their respective boats and came on to the river bank, Skipper Santosh Saligram taught the participants how to make exotic panning images in low light. Participants loved this experiment as it yielded beautiful results as they excitedly photographed more cormorants, egrets and pelicans into panning frames.

The view of the winged beauties returning to their nests in the supple evening light was the perfect ending for the first day in Ranganathittu. The group returned to the hotel and after they gathered for tea, they were in for another learning session on more photography concepts, including artful composition and auto focus. A delicious dinner later, they all hit the hay with much anticipation for wonderful sightings and images the next morning.

The second day of the Masterclass in the Ranganathittu Bird Sanctuary started early, with two boats taking them deep into the islets embellishing the river. The morning mist hemming the water like a dreamscape helped the participants enjoy making some serene wide-angle images and the winter moods thus started to sink in.

The boatmen guessed that the pelicans would be coming down to water at a particular place, drawing from the experience of knowing the behaviour of these birds in changing seasons. The boats were positioned side-by-side waiting for some action of these winged beings in the wild. A while later, as if on cue, some pelicans swooped down to drink water and collect some twigs for their nests.


Wildlife Photography: Pelican in Action, Ranganathittu

© Harsha Narasimhamurthy


The Skippers helped the participants to make some flight shots of the pretty pelicans, with their wings spread out, splashing water around them – a sight that’s arrestingly beautiful. These pelicans looked like they flew in from a distant dream in the golden morning light. The group experimented photographing the birds against the light to capture the wintry mood as well.

More Eurasian bills were found and photographed in the morning. Some evocative back-lit images were made by the participants, who later captured stork-billed kingfisher perched on a lamppost into beautiful frames.

At the parking lot, a little pale-billed flowerpecker was adored by the group. A red-whiskered bulbul perched at the corner of an open branch lured the participants into practising composition. Later, the customary group photo of the Tour Participants along with the Skippers was taken in the bird sanctuary itself.

The group had a scrumptious breakfast at the hotel and checked-out, excitedly carrying some wonderful experiences to be safeguarded as memories in the mind and also in memory cards!


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