Shooting birds good for them, do it this way

Shooting birds good for them, do it this way

A third-year law student at Noida’s Amity University, 20-year-old Shikhar Mohan is just like any other student who goes to his college five days a week and concentrates on his studies.

In the weekend, however, Mohan garbs a different mantle altogether, and becomes a guide-cum-trainer for bird photography enthusiasts at National Zoological Park, better known as Delhi zoo.

A member of a group called Seek Sherpa since August 2015; Mohan has been taking people who are interested in bird photography for walks in and around the sprawling zoo area and teaching them the basics of bird-photography as well.

“Today we started off our walk around 10 am. I explained the participants about the exposure triangle i.e. aperture, shutter speed and ISO in the camera, and how to use it to capture a good image,” says Shikhar Mohan.

Birdwatching has been around in the country for long. But until recently it was restricted to only a few people. Over the past few years, though, birdwatching in the form of bird photography has moved out of bird sanctuaries and into our cities, as more Indians discover the joys of spotting a bird and capturing it in their cameras.

Owing to a large green cover and a water body in the form of a lake, Delhi zoo attracts large number of migratory birds, especially during the winter.

“Species like shot painted storks, spot-billed ducks, great white pelican, pond heron, egrets and black kiks can be seen here. Today we spotted two of the most endangered stork species of the world, greater adjutant and black-necked stork,’’ adds Mohan.

A tour which lasts around three to four hours includes a 30-40 minutes’ session in which Mohan explains to the participants the nuances of camera and bird photography -  like the behaviour of the birds, and when to click and when not to. He also tells them how the bird will respond to the movement of people.

The response of the participants, according to Mohan, has been positive. A lot of them have repeated their walks with him.

“The greatest joy as a guide-cum-teacher I receive is when I see the photos clicked by the participants start getting better with every click, I feel like I have justified my job. They also write to me about expressing their views of the walk and also their wish to do it again,” he says.

Camera talk
Costing Rs 600 per person, the bird photography walk happens only on the weekends.
“Although, the enthusiasts come mostly for bird photography, some of them also want to click animals like tigers, lions and their cubs. The infamous white tiger which had killed a boy in 2014 is particularly very popular among the amateur photographers,” says Mohan.

Mohan is in his first year of professional wildlife photography though the photography bug bit him three years back when he turned 17.

“In 2012, on my 17th birthday, my father gifted me a Nikon P-510 point-and-shoot camera.  First I started clicking photos of dog, watch, TV randomly on automatic mode, and found the concept of freezing time in an image quite fascinating,” says Mohan.

“Gradually I developed an interest in the mechanisms of the camera and started learning about it from the internet. I practised what I had learned and applied it in the camera. When I graduated on the manual mode, I realised that the camera was holding me back, and I yearned for a more advanced one,” says Mohan.

Completely immersed in his love for photography, having an advanced camera had become an obsession for Mohan. He started saving the pocket money which his mother gave him in the hope of buying an advanced version of the camera which he had.

“I had stopped eating out in the college and used to save whatever money my mother used to give me for lunch. When I had saved enough, I went ahead and bought my first digital single-lens reflex camera (DSLR), Nikon’s D-71000, for Rs 55,000,” Mohan recalls.

Like Seek Sherpa, there are other wild-life photography groups in Delhi who arrange walks and tours for photography enthusiasts. These include Delhi Photography Club, Indian Photographers’ Club, and Delhi’s College of Photographers.

Terming it as a positive trend, senior bird photographer Anand Arya thinks that as more people getting interested in bird photography, the awareness to protect the ecosystem will also spread fast.

“The positive thing about it is that if people start to love nature they will better understand the importance of environment conservation. But there has to be a limit to it, it should not get overtly commercialised,” Arya adds.