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Golden Hour with the Gorgeous Bird!

"And what if the bird decides not to sit on that pole today?"

Asked my mother while I was discussing about investing an evening on a boat ride for a sunset shot. To which I casually replied

"Then I will come here again!"

January 2017! My first ever boat ride at Nal Sarovar, and to my surprise, my family accompanied me on a wildlife trip for the very first time.

Inspite of being with my family, I was in no mood of compromising on the golden hour, which has one of the best lighting conditions! Thus, in order to reach the spot well in time, I woke everyone up at 3 am. Within half an hour the group was ready for the trip.

Black-naped Hare

Journey from Ahmadabad to Nal Sarovar was full of fun! On our way we had sightings of Indian Hare, Bluebull, Barn Owl, Spotted Owlet and a Nightjar. With such a positive start to the day, the excitement for Nal Sarovar started building up.

We reached the boating point well before the sunrise. I could feel the thermal shock the moment I stepped out of my car. It took all of us some time to adjust to the bone chilling cold and windy atmosphere.

After completing the booking formalities, we finally settled in our boat and started preparing ourselves for the long waited boat ride!

We were sailing while it was still dark.. The pin drop silence was now replaced by The rhythmic sound of water hitting our small boat .

The landscape was slowly transforming.. We were able to see the golden glow at the horizon.. The chirping of birds started being prominent. The fog was getting thinner..and finally, while we were somewhere in the middle of the lake, we saw the Golden Ball raising.. It was truly one of the mesmerising sunrises that I have witnessed so far.

The water was tainted by the golden light!! How can one overlook the beautiful silhouettes of the birds with the golden light all around them?

And now my 'Me time' began!! For me there were only 2 people on the boat , the Boat guy and myself. The only request that I made to the boat guy was to make sure that the boat is positioned at the right place.

I set my frame with the sun in as a backdrop and was waiting for the bird to pass through. Unfortunately, I missed that shot, courtesy - my super excited family members. By the time I completed explaining them why not to make any sudden movements as I have to shoot with a slow shutter because of the insufficient light conditions, etc etc.. the sun popped out completely! I somehow managed some decent shots!

The first sunrise gave me a brief idea about the type of photos that can shoot here with the sun in the frame during the Golden Hour!

Now, the plan was to chase the Dalmatian Pelican!! The long awaited shot!

The boat guy took out his binoculars and pointed out to at least 10 different birds expecting to see our happy faces.. but to his disappointment, my family members were looking at him with no sign of excitement. Throughout our Journey from Ahmedabad to Nal Sarovar I only ranted about one Bird - Dalmatian Pelican and it was the only bird that my family members were familiar with.

The boat guy understood my mood and decided to chase the pelican only!! In less than 15 minutes he pointed out towards a white dot far away from the boat. As we slowly approached the pelican.. I took out the telephoto lens and started preparing for the shot. Having 300 mm lens was little bit challenging! The bird didn’t really welcome us in his territory. It was trying to swim away as we tried approaching him slowly several times. After few attempts, I realised, chasing them wont be fruitful as it will only consume our time and energy. Rather than chasing the bird, I decided to wait for him to come in my shooting range. The luck wasn’t favouring me today! All the Pelicans were either showing their back or were way out of my shooting range. Though I was not able to shoot them, I was busy observing their behaviour.

Dalmatian Pelican Shot with Nikon D5300 + Nikkor 300mmF4

Leaving closeup shots for the next trip, I decided to shoot the habitat shots. After observing the Pelicans closely and given the limitation of my current equiptment, i decided to shoot the Pelicans gliding over the water surface. After few attempts I managed a decent shot. As we had limited time, I skipped the evening session and came back confirming the dates for my next trip with the same Boat guy.

Next month I visited this place again with a clear objective of shooting the action shots, this time with a better equipment. I was excited to test my new camera. Shooting the birds was easier this time as I already knew their behaviour, flying pattern, activity time, etc. Within couple of hrs, my objective was achieved. Now I had an opportunity of trying some different compositions.

Dalmatian Pelican Shot with Nikon D500+300 mm Lens

While discussing about the area, and other species found in and around Nal Sarovar with the boat guy, I came to know about the various spots around the lake! I could not hold onto Pelicans any further after hearing the name ‘spiny tailed lizard’! Reptiles, being my first love, I decided to go for spiny tailed lizard leaving the Pelicans for the sunset.

Spiny-tailed Lizard

While I was walking though the thorny bushes, a sudden movement on the ground grabbed my attention and I knew that I was on the right spot. Lizards being very shy creatures, approaching them was out of option! All I had to was select a burrow and wait for the lizard to come out.

Lying down - the easiest task was the most difficult this time! While my back was bearing the scorching heat, my elbows and knees where dealing with the thorns and pointed gravels. I was expecting a waiting period of at least 35-40 minutes and the lizard lived upto my expectations!! The Spiny Tailed Lizard finally came out and posed for me. All I had to do was to hit the shutter. After giving us her glimpse, the lizard went inside to remind me of the sunset!

We were back in the boat in no time in search of Pelicans again! Unfortunately, the day didn’t end on a happy note! In spite of waiting patiently for a long time again I could not manage the pre visualised shot! By the time we came back from the boating it was dark! We had our dinner early in order to utilise night time in search of some nocturnal species. Indian Hare, Spotted Owlet, Fox and a Wild Cat showed up to appreciate our efforts!

Spotted Owlet

Next day started with yet another beautiful sunrise followed by some stunning shots of Dalmatian Pelicans, Rossy Pelican, Flamingo, Bar-Headed Goose and many more.. After spending one more day at Nal Sarovar, I came back to Mumbai.

Still the sunset shot remained as a dream!

Rosy Pelican

With a pre visualized particular frame in my mind, I planned a trip again to this place in February 2018!

This time with even better equipment! Having a super telephoto lens was an advantage for shooting these shy birds! Having earlier experience and the clear objective, I decided to shoot pelicans only during the Golden hour. In the afternoon, we encountered Short Eared Owls, Sarus Cranes and few other bids...

Short-eared Owl

After a power nap, we came back fully charged for the sunset. We dedicated this evening only for the pelicans! We were patiently waiting for the sunset with some 10-15 pelicans in the field of view. As the sun started going down, I could feel the adrenaline rush! By now, the pelicans were familiarised with our presence. They were moving slowly towards us. The sky turned into a colourful canvas! I was observing the pelicans movements through the view finder and was patiently waiting for them to come in my shooting range. As I started taking the position to shoot, I suddenly noticed them moving away from us..The speed gradually increased and the flew away! The reason was a speeding boat behind us approaching them head on with all the photographers standing in the boat and pointing towards them. We lost yet one more opportunity!

Dalmatian Pelican shot with NikonD500+ Nikkor 500mmF4

Next morning started with a great positivity! While having a cup of tea early morning by the side of the road, We noticed the Milky Way overhead! I quickly changed my lens and captured the first milkyway of the season.

The Milky Way

After shooting a variety of birds till 4.30, we were finally back at Pelicans again! As the sun went down the bird activity increased. A flock of pelicans just came and landed in from of us! To our great fortune, this time we had no one to disturb the pelicans! We had almost half an hour with this beautiful flock of pelicans. By the time sun was about to set, a graceful pelican just jumped on a pole nearby. As the Pelican was now familiar with our presence, I decided to take the risk and moved my boat in order to have the setting sun in the frame! Finally, all our efforts and patience paid off! After hitting the shutter one last time, the pelican chapter was over!!

Stay Tuned! The Best Is Yet to Come! #ShotBySaleel #Pelican #Sunset #Birds #NikonGears #NalSarovar #Gujrat

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