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Looking for the 2022 Top Ten


With photography, I always think that it’s not good enough” – Lynsey Addario


I agree.


Still, one should look at what one's work, review it, select the ones that are on the top and think about what made them click. And with all that in mind, I sat down on my annual exercise of selecting and then ranking my selection of the top ten images.


This is something I love to do, even if , honestly, I find the ranking a little difficult and frustrating. There is also the difficult task of leaving out some images that I am really fond of. What I look forward to though, is to read what all of you feel about the ranking – there is usually little agreement with my rankings and reading the different perspectives you share is instructive.


2022 has been a year when I did a remarkably low number of trips. Just two. However, when the trips are to Mara and Svalbard, there isn’t a shortage of images to choose from.


Destination wise, the two locations could not have been more different in terms of the opportunities it offers. Mara throws up spectacular light and conjures dramatic skies, all of which can be utilized to experiment with different takes on what is in front of you. Svalbard is different. The light is consistently stable on most days, the skies are mostly spotless. Most of the experimentation I could do was with composition and occasionally I tried my hand at a slow shutter speed, creating blurred images.


So, how did I choose my ranking ? I went with two broad parameters – first, how impactful is the image and second, what is MY stamp in making the image ? I shall elaborate a little bit on the second one for each of the images.


So, lets jump in.


#10 The Haunted Tree


“If you don’t capture the moments, they will be gone forever.” – Lailah Gifty Akita


We were drained. Physically and emotionally. It was the end of a long day, it was also the last evening of our trip and the energy levels tend to flag when you know the trip is ending. You start thinking of the return trip and being back at home.


We were driving back to our camp, in a contemplative mood when we saw this sight. A rather full moon cavorting around in the sky, giving it an unusual shade of deep blue. A haunting tree, with its leafless branches spread around like countless ghostly claws reaching out with evil intent. And a pair of crowned cranes on the tree, right on top. Mesmerising.


We just had to get out of our vehicle to position one of the birds just right.


I think it’s a pretty impactful image but then, anyone would have taken the same image in similar circumstances. Hence, #10.


#9 The Take off


You don’t learn to walk by following rules. You learn by doing, and by falling over - Richard Branson


The black guillemots fascinated me. They will forever be flying around, wings flapping so furiously that I was almost expecting them to fall off at some point. I experimented with slow shutter speeds, which can be frustratingly difficult at any point, but when one is doing it for the first time as I was, the patience that is required, is of a different level. I failed. Over and over again.


And, then I got this image. Of a guillemot taking off. The over exposure is due to the slow shutter speed. That, and the light, ensured that the water surface looks stark and white. A fuzzy image of the bird taking off, and the blurred wings, the ripples behind it, the hazy reflection, all give a sense of motion.


Its not a strong punchy image. Maybe, a bit dreamy. But its got what I wanted. Hence.


#8 The Bombing :


A better camera won’t do anything to you if you don’t have anything in your head or your heart – Arnold Newman


I must admit that I have a soft corner for the tern.


Its such a magnificent bird, flying tirelessly from the South Pole to the North Pole and back all through the year. I desperately wanted to take some good images of the tern of it flying, cos that’s what it does so bravely all the time.


We were on land, trudging up to a group of walruses doing what they do best – laze about. We might have been a little close to where a few of the terns were nesting cos a couple of them started dive bombing some of us rather aggressively. We moved away quickly, but I was happy that I had the presence of mind to turn around and squeeze off a few shots of the bird while it was pirouetting about.


A high shutter speed, a little over exposure and there… the Arctic tern, in flight, a splash of grey in a sea of white, as stark as the landscape it flies over, frozen in time.


#7 The Evening Drink


Great photography is about depth of feeling, not depth of field.”~ Peter Adams


A typical Mara sunset was about to happen. In front of us were the remaining cheetahs from the famous Tano Bora coalition. Resting. And just when we were about to give up on them budging, one of them got up and sauntered upto a nearby stream for a drink.


I like the sense of drama and mystery here. The background feels as if the sun has put fire to the grass. The water dropping off its chin adds so much…when will it fall off ?


#6 Skies on fire


“I never have taken a picture I’ve intended. They’re always better or worse.” – Diane Arbus


A leopard up the tree with a kill. We were hoping that it will come down around sunset and give us an opportunity. We positioned ourselves perfectly after judging the slope of the tree which the leopard will use to position its descent.


We were lucky. Not only did he descend but a little later he climbed back. Giving us totally different backgrounds. One has the subtle colours of the skies that I am in love with, and the tail curls up just perfectly, and there's this strong sense of impending action. The ascent, on the other hand, has all the furious, intense drama that a Mara sunset sometimes conjures.


I prefer the descent, but wanted to hear from you – which one do you prefer ?


#5 Tranquillity


“ Its not what you wish for…its what you do about it”


There we were, on a Zodiac that was gently swaying to the quiet rhythm of the waves, in the most beautiful light we ever experienced, setting off a soft, bluish hue all around us. It was tranquil. And we had a polar bear on the beach in front of us. What more could you ask for ?


How does one try to capture the overall feel of that morning ?


A little over exposure helped. The subtle lines of the glacier in the background. The contrasting pebbles in the foreground. Everything adds up to capture an image of this lovely creature, at peace in its home.


#4 Framed by light


"The eye is always caught by light, but the shadows have more to say" - Gregory Maguire


An intense storm was brewing. The skies had darkened in a sense of foreboding. The male lions hunkered down in the grass, patient to wait it out. As I looked around, I saw the sole lioness, perked up in total attention to something in the shadows.


A little bit of under exposure and enough space for the darkness and the sliver of light outlining the lioness and the top of the grass.


I felt, its a rather unusual and intense image.


#3 A sketch


“The picture that you took with your camera is the imagination you want to create with reality.” – Scott Lorenzo


Late morning. Harsh light. Lousy background.


Not at all ideal when there is a leopard up the tree which was readying itself to come down. But, its criminal to let go of such an opportunity ! I had an end result in mind, I overexposed while shooting and obviously, got a good sharp image, then worked on it in post processing, along with some help from a good friend.


What I like about the image is that this is exactly as I had visualized it while taking the image. I wanted it to look like a bit of a pencil sketch.


#2 The Glare


“The worm’s bad luck is the bird’s good fortune.” - Matshona Dhliwayo


This image was pure luck.


A lioness, already irate at having lost her kill to the hyenas, was moving down to a stream for a drink. As our vehicle roared up the incline on the opposite side, she looked up, intense irritation writ all over her face. We realized her discomfort and immediately retreated and in that matter of a few seconds, I could squeeze off a few shots. I had nothing to do with this creation other than possibly the speed to take a few shots, but I do think the result is rather impactful.


The deep green with the shadows lurking in the background contrast sharply with her tawny skin and those eyes, staring straight at you, pin you down.


#1 The Eye


“Thus, shadow owes its birth to light.” – John Gay


I do seem to have got quite a few leopards up on a tree this time ! Here she was. On a tree, right above us, restless and walking up and down the branch. I got the idea of under exposing a heck of a lot and thought that I could get a shot of the sunlight filtering through the leaves and falling on her eye. The slight hint of her skin in the background just adds to the image.


To me, this image captures what a leopard is all about – stealthy, cautious, alert.


Plus, of course, the satisfaction of getting exactly what I had intended to.


Over to you now...what are your thoughts ? Do share them in the 'comments' below and I promise, I shall reply to everyone :)

 

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