Random thoughts from the desert
We speed on the highway.
A weary landscape lies around us. It lies vast and unattended, hot and searching for a shade. Scraggly bushes pop up chaotically in the middle of open spaces. Trees looking disheveled and unkempt, appear sporadically, effortlessly keeping up the style of the bushes. Dust swirls around, lost, aimless, as if looking for some direction in life.
We take a turn away from the main roads, drive through the narrow roads and lanes of small villages. Old men, with impressive moustaches and unshaven cheeks, many with huge unwieldy white turbans that mysteriously stay perfectly balanced, pause in the middle of their discussions to look at us in a desultory manner. A few wave at my driver in casual acknowledgment.
Our pace through these narrow lanes is slow and it slows further into a crawl when we meet a herd of buffaloes. I smile as I remember my mother telling me, all those decades ago, that asking me to do something is similar to honking into a buffalo’s ears. They. Just. Won’t. Move. You can honk away for all they care.
We break away from the clutches of the village and joyously run into the wide open arms of the desert.
You can look all around and see nothing but wide open flat land. No trees, no bushes, just wide, open land, in shades of white and brown. The only sound you hear is that of the wind, constantly whispering messages into your ears that sound soothing sometimes, urgent at other times.
A small speck in the distance catches our attention. It could be an eagle. They often come down to sit on the ground to take some cool from the earth. Or it could be a rock. What it really is depends on how good your day is. There’s another speck in the sky. Seems like the peregrine falcon. Would we see it launch into one of its spectacular dives ?
We see a few flamingoes. More than a few actually...a few hundreds or thousands. They are too far away but a whole platoon decides to move. Its fascinating to watch. As one, a real large number of them start moving in one direction. You don’t see individual flamingoes move, you feel them move as one single block. And then they break into a run and take off.
Have you seen a murmuration of flamingoes ? Is that even a thing ?
There is a pair of steppe eagles on the ground here. And an imperial eagle there in disdainful solitude. Who do we target? The sun will set soon, the skies are already blushing in anticipation, I need to decide fast.
We see a few wild asses. Do we stay with them till sunset ? Then we can get that money shot of the asses in silhouette against the setting desert sun. As I lie flat on the ground, questions run through my mind. Do I play safe or experiment ? Zoom in or zoom out ? Sharp focus or blurred images ?
I am out, every day, for long hours. Out in the middle of indescribable vastness, where the tentacles of our mighty telephone network have given up trying to grab. For company, I have my driver who is at his talkative best can be described to be taciturn. I still reach out for my phone out of sheer habit, before I realize that I am totally disconnected with the world. This could be how solitude feels like.
I had often wondered how it would be to be on a solo trip.
Here I am, not only on a solo trip but one to the middle of a desert, with a driver who is in love with silence, and with few photographic opportunities to keep me preoccupied…and I am loving it.
Maybe, over time I might agree with Thoreau's line : I never found a companion that was so companionable as solitude.
And, oh yes, I did take a few photographs too.
A steppe eagle, takes off...and I attempt get a sense of wings flapping
An Imperial eagle. Sunsets seem seem to evoke deep contemplation in birds too
A few teenaged wild asses assess me lying on the ground. I passed the test. Guess only an ass would do such things
Should I go for soft, blurry images ?
Or go with really low shutter speeds to get a sense of joy in the games they were playing?
Or underexpose to get that classic silhouette, the golden dust adding to the effect ?
Which of these images worked for you ? Why ? I would love to hear from you.
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