Colourful Afternoon

Filtering through all my photographs to set up the new ‘Wildcatch’ site I came across a shot I took back in March during our stay in Sri Lanka. It wasn’t a good picture; but it brought back vivid recollections of a rather memorable afternoon; memorable … and colourful.

Having been to Sri Lanka previously and not seen Indian Pitta I was keen to see one last March. Indian Pitta is a tail-less large thrush sized bird with plumage akin to a cross between a Kingfisher and a hummingbird.

We were staying in a wonderfully wild place close to Yala National Park. Wild animals wandered freely about the lodge … including Elephant. Walking in the grounds and on the adjacent beach had to be done with more than a modicum of care, especially at night. Bumping into several tons of flaying flesh in complete darkness goes against all recommendations.

I had heard Pittas giving their distinct calls from several places around the area and we decided to go for a walk along the approach track amid some deep scrub. This was my best chance of getting to grips with this very colourful winter migrant.

After whistling the call for a while a bird responded. We waited patiently and chose an area beside a large rock, about the size of a small house, where it would show if it did come close.  We waited for what seemed an age when what can only be described as a flash of brilliance passed through our field of view.  We searched through our binoculars where we thought it had landed. There was a silence as we willed our optics to pick a way through the foliage. The Pitta then hopped into view. The silence was broken with our gasps of delight. The bird showed only briefly, but we saw it. I smiled all the way back to the lodge and I’m still smiling now thinking about that afternoon.

It was only later that evening we discovered others returning in vehicles along the track some 30 minutes after we left, had seen a Leopard sat on the large rock where we had been.

2 Responses to “Colourful Afternoon”

  1. Jan 25, 2012 at 3:07 am

    I just checked out your website and am truly impressed! I would love to know what kind of equipment you use, how long you’ve been shooting, and what kind of training you’ve had. OK, I’m being selfish. In my near-retirement age, I’m teaching myself how to use my Nikon DSLR and am having a fabulous time doing so … but I have yet to produce the kind of image that causes me to say, WOW! Your images do that.

    • Jan 25, 2012 at 10:37 am

      Mona – thank you for dropping by and thank you for the complements.
      As well as the wordpress ‘Letter from Norfolk Site’ I also have a site just for photographs at ‘Wildcatch Photography’ perhaps you would also like to take a look there. I also have the ‘Wildlife Tours and Education’ pages which give details of my tours and courses; but you would be less interested in these offerings given where you are and where I am.
      To answer your questions I use Canon equipment. To be honest there’s little to choose between Nikon and Canon and photographers tend to gravitate to the familiar. I mostly use a semi-pro model such as the D60 or D40 because it’s cheaper and importantly lighter than the professional models. Invariably I make use of a 100-400 5.6 zoom which is a great all-round wildlife lens – anything from Blue Whale to Butterflies. Given the light in Norfolk is not what it is in Arizona I also frequently use a 400 Prime 2.8.
      I have a diploma in photography and have been taking photographs since the age of 5 (I still have my first – taken with a box brownie) although I started the tour business up around 4 to 5 years ago the real use of photography came on the back of that when I noticed 95% of participants had a digital camera and only 5% of them knew how to use it. The photography courses were born.
      If you can manage to put behind you the workings of taking the photograph and getting the correct exposure making this second nature, you are released to concentrate on your subject. Some sort of training and discipline to enable this is essential along with some form of training in the use of Photoshop or your chosen editing programme would be a benefit. There must be some night school or college local to you that does one or both?
      Once you have the knowledge, the spirit inside you will do the rest. Develop your own style. Some of the things I now do would horrify my tutor; but he photographed models, products and food for magazines in controlled lighting conditions. He was able to position his subjects and take hours over getting the lighting and exposure just right. I sometimes have less than a third of a second to react to a Teal as it springs from a small pool or photograph a dragonfly as it zips past at ‘warp 9’. When you know the extent of the rules you know how far you can bend them.
      After that, with wildlife, it’s about getting close. Being part of your subjects environment, being quiet and above all … being lucky.
      I wish you well with your photography Mona. I hope you feel able to say WOW! to some of your own shots soon.

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Jan 2012


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