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Top 10 images from 2021

Updated: Feb 22, 2022

Which of my photographs is my favorite ? The one I am going to take tomorrow. – Imogen Cunningham

In spite of everything that was happening, I still managed to do a fair bit of trips in 2021.

Of course, some of the rather exciting international trips that were planned – and one which featured lip-smacking opportunities of aerial photography and stunning hide photography – had to be dropped due to you-know-what but that was only to be expected.

However, with some deft planning around long weekends, a few well timed holidays here and there, I ended up doing a rather decent number of trips.

Traveling was a bit different, of course. The number of flight options had dropped, so planning wasn’t easy, there was usually nothing partaken in terms of food or drink once one enters the airport till the exit. And, of course, innumerable RTPCR tests. Regardless of any rules or regulations, as a matter of caution especially for the others at home, a test is done when a trip is finished.

To use a much abused term – the new normal.

Anyway, thanks to these trips, at least I have a handful of images to choose from and do my annual exercise of selecting my top 10. Its always a tough one to rank them due to the many thoughts that go through your mind while sifting through the photos.

That brings us to the criteria.

It’s an ever changing one, I realize. As I travel a little more up the learning curve, my goals are changing. I did a lot of reading books, blogs by, and listening to, some of the big names in photography ( and not necessarily wildlife photography ) which changed my perspective about photography quite a bit. It broadened my outlook a little bit and for the first time, there are landscapes in my list. Not enough people but hopefully that too will happen sometime. Maybe, the little backgrounder to all the images that I have written will help throw some light on why they made it to this list.

So, without wasting more time, let me dive in.

Oh by the way, I cheated a little bit on the list and put in a consolation prize too ☺

The Watchful Red Fox :

A designer knows that he has attained perfection, not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away – Antoine de Saint-Exupery

I just love images in the snow. I also like minimalism. One of those happy evenings when both combined for the first time ( and hence the sneaking in to the list ).

I was on a trip to Drass, Kargil to photograph the Himalayan brown bear and while we returned empty handed as far as our target was concerned, it was a lovely, memorable trip and the one evening when the red shy fox appeared relatively close by, gave an opportunity to make this image.

10. The Dancing Yellow Eyed Babbler :

What I like about photographs is that they capture a moment that’s gone forever, impossible to reproduce. – Karl Lagerfeld

We had returned from a safari when we noticed this babbler enjoying a dip and a drink at a small puddle of water behind our cottage. The only reason this image has made it to the list is because of its such an unusual image, capturing the bird in such a pose. The delightful pattern of the splashing water was a bonus. To me, it seemed as if the bird is yelping at finding out how cold the water was ☺ – yes, the age old tendency we have to anthropomorphize the wild !

How do you make bird photography different from the standard ones of them on the perch in good background ? Its tough. I got a bit lucky here.

9. The Watchful One :

If you are open to it, mystery will come. If you are not, why should it, actually ? – Lucille Clifton

Photographing in most of the forests is fairly restrictive in the space it gives you to create an image and it is that much tougher when it comes to a tiger. We were spending a blissful morning with a mother and her three sub adult cubs. A contented family that had just gorged on a kill. A little bit of play here, a little stroll there, all of which while being exciting to watch, didn’t translate into a memorable image.

And then this female sub adult started walking out of the thicket, following her brother. While the brother plonked confidently right in the middle of the track, in perfect light and savoured all the attention, she was a little more wary and cautiously stayed half hidden in the shadows.

What could be more perfect ?

8. The Poser

Light, Colour and Gesture are the key components of any photograph. Light and colour are obvious but its gesture that is the most important…its upto you to find the gesture that is most appealing. – Jay Maisel

The Sarus crane is a beautiful bird with some wonderful colours splashed on it and Bharatpur is a lovely place to try to frame some good images. Nothing can be better than capturing them when the pair start their dance. Unfortunately, when they finally graced me with a sighting, only one of them was in a mood to dance and the other was disdainfully ignoring it.

I wasn’t complaining and a vertical composition ( to cut out the uncooperative mate ! ) with the mist and the poor light combined to show the proud pose of this lovely bird.

7. The Vanishing Road :

Always shoot it now. It won’t be the same when you go back – Jay Maisel

We were returning one evening after spending the time looking for the red panda at Singalila and photographing the absolutely lovely birds around, when both the quality of the light and the fog struck me. I got off the jeep to walk back to our lodge in the hope of getting some good scene. I love the way the light plays here and the manner in which the road vanishes into nothingness into the horizon.

What gave even more value to this image was the fact that I never saw this combination of light and fog on any of the other evenings there. Again, the one important rule to take advantage of great light when it is there.

6. The Monk :

“There are no rules for good photographs, there are only good photographs.” – Ansel Adams

I was walking around the Lamayuru monastery enjoying the silence, the unique atmosphere that monasteries always have when my friend called me over. On the opposite side was a monk slowly walking up a path, the deep colour of his robes sharply contrasting against the duller colour of the rocks. In my mind, there was another contrast – the roughness of the rocks and the calmness of the monk.

The usual visual rule tells that you should leave space in the direction the subject is facing, allow the eye to travel down that. However, monks and monasteries have such an ancient history that I felt it more appropriate to try to show that in the image. Leave all the space behind the monk.

Rules are sometimes meant to be broken.

5. The Admiring Thrush :

You don’t make a photograph just with a camera. You bring to the act of photography all the pictures you have seen, the books you have read, the music you have heard, the people you have loved. – Ansel Adams

We were driving down the hillside at Latpanchor, a lovely little village in Darjeeling when a sudden movement caught the eye. It was a thrush, quite far away but looking through the eye piece, cutting off the rest of the clutter, the image was such a lovely one. Briliant morning light, lovely colours of green and yellow contrasting with the dark brown of the tree and the bird sitting as if admiring Nature’s beauty around it.

It’s a common little bird. In a fairy tale like setting.

4. Spot the Leopard :

The art of photography is all about directing the attention of the viewer. – Steven Pinker

We had such fantastic sightings at Bera. All my previous bad karma with leopards got wiped out here. And, such fantastic photo opportunities, very different from the standard images you get from the place. What made me choose this one from the large pile of photos I have, is simply because in my mind this image captures how this beautiful animal merges with the place it has chosen to make its home. The leopard isn’t very noticeable. At first glance, you might even miss it.

But it’s always there. Watching.

3. The Hunter :

Don’t shoot what it looks like, shoot what it feels like – David Alan Harvey

A hillside. A leopard. A setting sun. It was magic that was waiting to happen. The only question was, if it will happen when the light was still half decent.

It did. A majestic creature about to start its hunt. Lovely golden light in the background.

The one big mistake was not observing the top of the many plants pretty close by to our vehicle. They have crept in, in that fuzzy manner on the right. I could have removed it during post processing and I must admit that I was sorely tempted to, but…maybe there are some self imposed rules that I don’t want to break.

2. Reflections :

A good photograph is knowing where to stand – Ansel Adams

Bharatpur is where magic can happen for photographers. Where light waltzes with mist, where shadows flirt suggestively and reflections look at you boldly. Everyone was headed to the usual point where you take sunset pics and I stayed where I was, looking at the waters and at the birds flitting around.

What I like about this image is the sense of mystery. Your eyes could be drawn naturally to what you think is the bird and then you might notice the bird elsewhere, sunlight filtering through its wings.

  1. Tranquility

The camera is an instrument that teaches people how to see without a camera – Dorothy Lange

The forests are such a beautiful place, where tranquility and the serious battle for survival dance together all the time. We were driving down one of the usual tracks in Kanha when this scene caught my eye. No tigers. No leopards. None of the big animals that one usually lusts for. Instead it has the most commonly found citizen of the jungle. The deer. Along with the usual early morning sunlight and the light mist, the scene seemed perfect.

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