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All Creatures Big and Small

“ Oh so where is your next trip ? “

“Goa in August.”

“ Oh but it would be raining.”

“ Yes. That’s why.”

“ Huh ?”

“ Oh, am not going to the beaches…I am going to look for frogs and snakes and the like”


My journey in photography has been a relatively short one. While I have gone to some rather amazing places, there are lots of really obvious places that I have never been to. ( Corbett, for example…can you believe that?)

And, there have been some subjects or a type of photography that I had no idea about.

Frogs. Snakes. Spiders. Scorpions. etc etc …all of which usually come under a type of photography called macro photography.

Macro photography is close-up photography of small subjects, which could be subjects like bugs, bees and beetles, other than, of course, the frogs and snakes.

Simply put, these are larger than life images of small subjects. Yet, it is not the same as a close up image. A close-up image using a non-macro lens will, of course, make small subjects larger, but a macro lens will dramatically increase the degree of magnification and make even the most tiny detail starkly clear.

Everything about this photography is different.

The lens. The accessories – to name a couple, a flash and a diffuser ( used to soften the light that the flash throws ). The settings. The entire process – you need to get real close to your subjects, ( which is a tad different from photographing a leopard or a polar bear) plus get into all sorts of contortions to get an image.

Even if you zoom in, you won't be able to see the subject :) - its fun to take these images

To be honest, I have always felt there was so much to learn in the usual style of photography, that just this new learning curve seemed too daunting for me and I stayed away.

Till, I chanced upon a video taken in the Western Ghats. It showed a group walking in the rain, wading through streams, chancing upon snakes lying curled up on a twig . Or a pretty frog sitting on a rock.

That experience of walking in the dark, in the rain, walking through streams was something that I HAD to do. Not for nothing did a close friend call me an experience junkie ( or an adrenalin junkie…or maybe both ! )

I reached out to Shreeram ( ) with whom I had done my first phototrip and sure enough, there was a trip he had planned to Goa.

So, off I went.

With a macro lens, something I have never used before, on rent. With a three year old flash that I had never even unpacked ( and had no clue on how to use ). And with a brand new diffuser which I had no idea how to assemble.

What fun it was !

If you are amongst those who wonder how people spot a bird or a cat in the forest, you ain’t seen anything yet. There are these super humans who spot a tiny frog in a bush, or a spider in a crevice on the path you are walking on ! Or a snake. In the dark.

A green vine snake ( and these are really sleek, thin creatures ) was spotted stealthily moving about in the bushes.

We dropped to our knees to lock wary eyes with a spider that had mustered courage to walk out of the crevices on the rain drenched path.

There was a juvenile pit viper on a twig whom we left alone not wanting to stress it out.

My first subject. A green vine snake, still

drenched from the shower. Pretty , aint it ?

I was fascinated by those eyes !! ( How on earth was this guy noticed? It was 8 pm on a dark path )

Picture wise, I started getting a rough idea of what I need to do. A macro lens allows you to focus even when real close to the subject and getting used to that was the first step. I had decided that I will try to get the basic stuff right and not try anything different.

We walked in the evenings, through dimly lit paths, peering into spaces and saw geckos, pit vipers skulking there. We walked over to the small pools of water and saw the gliding frogs mating on the overhanging trees.

This pit viper hung around close to our room. Loved the way he is coiled

The banded gecko. Cooperative chap, waited till all of us got a few decent shots

A female Malabar gliding frog - and a large one - peeps out

The mating of the gliding frog is rather fascinating.

It was a windy night and as the branches swayed wildly, the pair adroitly moved from one perch to another safer one

The male – rather smaller in comparison – attracts the female with his calls. The female chooses the male and then selects a leaf that hangs over a water body. The female then rubs the back of the male, triggering the male to release seminal fluid, which the male then proceeds to whip up into a foam. This process takes 2-3 hours and then the female sets to work. She will build a nest by connecting leaves so that the foam is covered from all sides. An embryo develops and in about a week, tadpoles drop into the water body below.

Cool, isn’t it ?

We walked on misty plains, lifting mossy rocks and checking if there were snakes, eels or frogs hiding underneath. We ignored the slush and the rain and dropped to our knees and try and get images of the Beddome keelback as it darted furiously through the grass or the toad as it peered back at us, rather owlishly, I thought.

A Beddome keelback ( a snake :) ) appears to be as curious about us as we were about it

A rather morose looking frog wonders what to do with us

The term 'wallowing in mud' would be quite appropriate here

We walked through forests, ducking under vines and stepping over fallen trees and spotting the occasional snake darting around in the bushes.

A juvenile rat snake checks out what the reason for the commotion was ( Guess :) )

Unfortunately, I had to leave a day early. This trip, was but just a starter, it gave me a mere taste of how exciting this genre could be.

I will be back.

I will be back to walk in the rain, to walk through the bushes, to peer under the rocks or into the crevices of the walls.

Somewhere along the way, I shall also get better images :).

Yup...I have got a taste for this now!!

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