Picture Perfect
Published in - Sanctuary Asia, Vol. XXXI No. 5 October, 2011

Reference articles wildlife India articles wildlife photography India natural history writings India articles on photography articles on natural history write up wildlife photography nature education study material wildlife photography wildlife experience natural history publication literature nature wildlife photography best destinations wildlife India best places wildlife India best writings Indian wildlife reference material national park sanctuary India

Sanctuary's photographers and writers are not merely our skeletal framework, they are our lifeblood. Dr. Anish Andheria has helped shape this magazine over the past decade, often subsuming his own work to showcase that of others. On these pages he shares a smidgeon from his collection, while proffering practical advice on how you could come back with images that are just that much better.

1. Royal Bengal tiger Panthera tigris: The tigress was much too close. I thought about using a wide lens, but on an impulse took this tight close up. The rock and dry leaf litter added texture to the image. The rest of the credit belongs to the tigress. A word of advice: Refrain from taking tight portraits too frequently. That is what photographers shooting in zoos tend to do! Wildlife images are most evocative when you can actually see the natural surrounds in which your subject lives. This image was shot at 260 mm, though I had a 400 mm lens. Location: Pench Tiger Reserve, Madhya Pradesh Camera: Nikon D300s; Lens: Nikon 80-400 mm VR zoom lens; Shutter speed: 1/160; Aperture: f 5.6; ISO: 320

2. Spotted deer Axis axis: In my reckoning the finest images emerge at ‘magic light’ – when the slanting, filtered, golden rays of sunrise, or yellow-orange shafts of sunset wash over the landscape. And, if you are lucky to have had an afternoon thunderstorm, the quality of natural light and the image crispness that emerges is indescribable. A word of advice: When shooting side-lit subjects in fading light you need to underexpose the image by one or one and a half f-stops to accentuate textures and to prevent brightly lit areas from being ‘burnt’. Location: Kanha Tiger Reserve, Madhya Pradesh Camera: Nikon D300s; Lens: Nikon 80-400 mm VR zoom lens; Shutter speed: 1/400; Aperture: f 5.6; ISO: 400

3. Greater one-horned rhinoceros Rhinoceros unicornis: Most often when your subject looks ‘into’ the picture the image ends up looking more appealing than one ‘looking out’. One way to achieve this is to leave greater space in front of the subject, even if this means the animal winds up off-centre.To test this out, experiment with your own camera and also look up books published by the finest wildlife photographers. A word of advice: Visible horizons behind your subject can be distracting, especially if they are tilted or if they divide your image into two equal halves. Take it from me, try not to bisect either the animal or the larger image itself into half. And take care to orient your frame so that the horizon line is not slanted. Location: Kaziranga Tiger Reserve, Assam Camera: Nikon D300s; Lens: Nikon 80-400 mm VR zoom lens; Shutter speed: 1/800; Aperture: f 5.6; ISO: 100

4. Asian elephant Elephas maximus: Had I directly metered the dark-coloured elephant, both the subject and the background would have been overexposed. By metering for black and underexposing by one f-stop, I was able to work towards a more desirable tonality. A word of advice: Elephants are fascinating, almost hypnotic subjects and for some reason they seem to allow close approach. But please do not underestimate their speed and their skittishness. Never try to cut off an elephant from the trajectory it is following. Always give it enough space to move around you and never, ever use a flash at these gentle giants (or most other mammals for that matter) or their less gentle side may emerge. Location: Nagarahole Tiger Reserve, Karnataka Camera: Nikon D300s Lens: Nikon 28-105 mm zoom lens Shutter speed: 1/125 Aperture: f 5.6 ISO: 400

5. False vampire Megadermalyra: These false vampire bats suspended from the roof of a watchtower was a lucky image that came my way. Despite its limited power, the camera’s built-in flash has often proved useful for me, particularly at relatively close ranges in dim light. The flash invariably adds just that glint in the eye to bring the subject alive. A word of advice: Always carry more spare batteries than you think you will need for your external flash unit. And always clean, check and repack your camera bag in advance to ensure that you have all the equipment you need for the destination you are visiting. And, never, ever dump your batteries in any wildlife destination. Dispose them off safely back at home. Location: Mudumalai Tiger Reserve, Tamil Nadu; Camera: Nikon D200; Lens: Nikon 28-105 mm zoom lens; Shutter speed: 1/60; Aperture: f 5.6; ISO: 200; Flash: Inbuilt

6. Rhesus macaque Macaca mulatta: When shooting against a bright background your main subject will inevitably be underexposed. One way to deal with this is to move farther or closer to the subject. Here, by moving closer to the macaque I was able to increase the proportion of the dark trunk in the frame when compared to the pale blue sky. Another way would be to switch from matrix to spot metering. A word of advice: When shooting under thick canopies where the amount of light and the light intensity of the frame constantly vary, set the camera metering system back to the ‘matrix’ mode, if you earlier opted for spot or centre-weighted metering option. Location: Dudhwa Tiger Reserve, Uttar Pradesh; Camera: Nikon D300s; Lens: Nikon 80-400 mm VR zoom lens; Shutter speed: 1/200; Aperture: f 5.6; ISO: 200

7. Giant squirrel Ratufa indica: Giant squirrels are normally timid and shy, but some that live relatively close to human habitation sometimes allow a surprisingly close approach. A telephoto lens pressed directly upwards along a vertical tree trunk helped me obtain this unusual angle. A word of advice: Never feed or bait wild animals to get a better shot. Not only is this prohibited by law, but can endanger the animal. Location: Bhadra Tiger Reserve, Karnataka; Camera: Nikon D300s; Lens: Nikon 80-400 mm VR zoom lens; Shutter speed: 1/250 Aperture: f 6.3; ISO: 500.

8. Garden lizard Calotes versicolor: All too often people presume that relatively small life forms must necessarily be photographed using close up (macro) lenses. But naturally dramatic results are much more likely if a telephoto is used. Apart from the fact that the shallow depth of field helps frame the subject by blurring the background, the subject is much more relaxed because a huge animal (you) is not approaching too uncomfortably close! A word of advice: Always use a tripod while using a telephoto lens. Location: Pench Tiger Reserve, Madhya Pradesh; Camera: Nikon D300s; Lens: Nikon 80-400 mm VR zoom lens; Shutter speed: 1/400; Aperture: f 8; ISO: 100.

9. Indian flapshell turtle (Lissemys punctata): Shooting small, ground-dwelling, subjects while standing or sitting may not be the best way to get a good image. Try instead to position yourself at the eye-level of the animal. And if that means getting down and muddy on your belly... so be it. Slow moving subjects like turtles actually afford us the luxury of using shorter focal length lenses for short working distances. In some cases a flash thanks to the brightness and clarity it brings into play, breathes life into images that would otherwise look dull in natural light. A word of advice: While fixated on a subject in the wilds by lying on the ground, ensure that you have a partner looking out for you as a prowling large cat, elephant or rhino might otherwise give you a nasty surprise, or worse. Keep a look out also for tiny creatures that you may crush! Location: Tadoba-Andhari Tiger Reserve, Maharashtra; Camera: Nikon D200 Lens: Nikon 28-105 mm zoom lens; Shutter speed: 1/60; Aperture: f 5; ISO: 200; Flash: Inbuilt.