Megh Roy Choudhury is a teacher by profession, a photo geek by passion.
Megh has a unique outlook on the conversation aspects as well as photography. She is outright passionate about the birds. She can spend countless hours and days just to get a glimpse of one bird –a rare bird.
Megh Roy Choudhury is a rare photographer who happens to go to rare locations in search of rare birds. That sums it up for Megh as I understand her in a limited time.
Without much ado, I will take you through this unique photographic journey.
Prathap: Welcome to Nature Photography Simplified, Megh. I am very excited to talk about your rare and beautiful bird photography. Can you introduce yourself to our readers please?
Megh Roy Choudhury:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I –
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
These golden words by Robert Frost triggered the passion for Wildlife in me three years back. It is bliss to bask in the glory of Mother Nature and be one with her beautiful denizens. Being in the wild also helps me to breathe freely in my otherwise hectic existence.
I am based in Kolkata and am professionally a teacher. When photographing birds, I started out with the basic gears like Nikon D90 and Nikon 70-300 lens. For two years they were my faithful companions and they never let me down. I have taken some of my most cherished images with this combination.
Now I use Canon 1Dx, Canon 7D Mark II, Canon 500mm f4 lens and Canon 70-200 f/2.8. My journey into Wildlife journalism started recently as the Editor of Wild Sojourns, an online magazine dedicated to nature, wildlife and conservation. I feel the creative persona in me finds the best outlet through my wildlife photography.
Prathap: You are one of the very few bird photographers from India who have photographed some rare birds. It should be a daunting task to spot them. To photograph them is much more difficult than that I presume.
What drives you to take rare bird photographs? Can you share some of your experiences?
Megh Roy Choudhury: I have always been drawn towards the rare, endangered and threatened species. I sincerely believe that documenting them would also help in conserving these species. And yes you are right. It is very difficult to photograph them in the adverse conditions.
One such experience springs into my mind. When I visited the Jorbeed dump, Bikaner, Rajasthan, I was equipped with my Nikon 70-300mm lens. But I was determined to take the image of the globally threatened Yellow-eyed Pigeon which is very arduous. Those who have visited Jorbeed, they know that it is full of carcass, feral dogs and thorns.
I had to crawl all the way from my car to take the shot. After completing my mission, I realized that I got thorns and scratches all over my body and was bleeding.
The same thing happened in Greater Rann of Kutch. It is the abode of a very rare species called the White-naped Tit with typical habitat of thorn forest. I remember getting pierced by so many thorns while I struggled to get some good images.
Another story I can recollect is that of taking the image of Greater Hoopoe Lark, one that was high on my wish list. The bird is so impeccably camouflaged on the ever stretching desert floor that you have a very good chance to miss it even if it is in front of your eyes!! Only way was to crawl on the desert floor and try to pick some movement. I did it for 3 hours under the scorching sun to make the images.
The zeal to capture the Mangrove Pitta in the Mangrove forest of Bhitarkanika was worth the effort. I gave three days for a single species and eventually recorded some really good eye level images being submerged in the mud of the mangroves.
A chance encounter with the Salt water Crocodile or King Cobra cannot be ruled out here. It was a fun to shoot the Rufous-necked Hornbill at Latpanchar, MWLS, West Bengal. I waited with my bated breath for two full days on a slope where movement was such a restriction that you even find it difficult to go for a loo break.
My slip disc problem goes for a vacation when I travel in the parts of North Bengal, trekking miles after miles carrying the tripod and the lens on my shoulder. The healing touch of Mother Nature works wonders than the prescriptions. In Assam we almost had the chance to be knocked down by herds of Wild Buffaloes and Pachyderms.
All these are soul stirring adventures giving an opportunity to envision life in a new perspective. There are plethora of stories and experiences to share. I can assure the readers that the surge of delight I get after photographing surpasses the pains I go through to achieve it. I immensely relish each and every moment I spend amidst these myriad of winged beauties.
Prathap: I read this fascinating story in your blog about how you took this photograph of an Oriental Dwarf Kingfisher. You fondly call it as “The Jewel of the Western Ghats.” Coincidentally, I call the Common Kingfisher as “Nature’s Jewel” 🙂
It would be nice to know the story behind these amazing photographs.
Megh Roy Choudhury: Photographing the Oriental Dwarf Kingfisher was a mesmerizing experience. It was a long awaited rendezvous with one of Nature’s breathtaking creations. This small jewel is the most prolific hunter and a very dedicated parent. All the images are very close to my heart and were created in the Western Ghats in torrential rain and appalling light conditions.
I had to sit in an awkward position under an umbrella for hours to get a glimpse of this bird. Crippling backache, fear for the safety of my gear and leg spasms due to the forced immobility compounded the situation. I had to use unheard of ISO and shutter speeds and every time I pressed the shutter my happiness knew no bounds. It will always remain one of my most treasured moments.
Prathap: You have some of the most colorful bird photographs. Is there a secret? Your bird portraits are so clean and sharp. What are the key points to consider while making such photographs?
Megh Roy Choudhury: Two factors which matter the most are the stability and exposure. I mostly use the tripod while photographing in the wild. With the telephoto lenses it gives the stability which is very much required. Also in low light conditions you need not worry and can safely shoot with slower shutter speeds.
Getting your exposure right is the single most important thing in bird photography.
You need to study the light conditions, background and the subject and individualize the exposure in each case. One such experience was in Ganeshgudi in Karnataka, where different birds land in front of you on different perches and the light conditions change from bright sunlight to total shade very quickly. It was a real tough challenge to get the exposure right in each shot. You also have to change the settings accordingly.
For example when I am shooting birds in flight, I change my metering to the evaluative metering, when there is uneven light I go for center-weighted or sometimes spot metering.
Prathap: You have mentioned in one of your photo description that “Ground level shots are real wonders.” I am a great fan of ground level or eye level shots in bird photography.
This photograph of a Ruddy Turnstone was taken with a great pain. Would you tell us the story behind it? Also let us know why it is important to take eye level bird photographs?
Megh Roy Choudhury: It always is very desirable to get a ground level or eye level shot. You will end up highlighting the subject, eliminating the distractions and create soothing fore and backgrounds.
Ground level shots help you to highlight the subject, eliminate the distractions, and create soothing foreground/background.
Many times in case of mammals, eye level shots create the same effect. This Ruddy Turnstone images were taken in Coasts of Kutch. It was a very busy customer and I had to crawl with my gears for a better part of an hour on the beach to create this image. Same thing happened during shooting the Greater Flamingo in Little Rann of Kutch. The outcome was exhilarating.
Prathap: Tell us about the importance of nature conservation, Megh. As a teacher you have made every effort to bring awareness to common people and kids alike. What’s your suggestion to our readers? What are the different ways to bring this awareness?
Megh Roy Choudhury: Conservation starts with creating awareness. I aspire to create love for nature in people. Many of my friends who see my pictures are getting attracted to watching birds and photography.
You can’t preserve something you don’t cherish. I also believe that inculcating this feeling in children is the best way ahead. Accordingly I formed a group of young enthusiasts and took them out for nature walks. I also did some presentations in the schools in my neighborhood for spreading awareness among the children. The response is overwhelming.
Conservation starts with creating awareness.
More and more youngsters are getting involved in the activities. Presently we are organizing and coordinating various nature and conservation related activities through our organization Wild Sojourns.
Prathap: Can you suggest our readers some best bird photography tips?
Megh Roy Choudhury: Here are some best bird photography tips:
- Keep it simple.
- Don’t hurry to take your shots.
- Be patient and poised.
- You must let the birds come to you.
- Make it a point not to disturb the subject and its habitat at any cost.
- Study the birds, their behavior, feeding habits and the habitat thoroughly.
- Also respect the presence of your co-birders and photographers.
Always feel confident about your gears. Know and try to get the best out of the equipment you have. Try to have more on-field experiences. This will help you to learn through the trial and error method and improve your skills.
In bird photography we are dealing with very elusive species but if the conditions permit visualize and pre- compose your shots. Try to relate a story through your images which will make it more lively and vibrant. And the most important thing is get your exposure right.
Behind every single shot there is a lot of dedication and hard work.
Remember nothing can be gained easily. Behind every single shot there is a lot of dedication and hard work. My passion of wildlife is taking me to places where I interact with people, get to know their way of life and culture, be a part of nature.
In nutshell, I’ve emerged as a better human being after I have embraced nature.
Prathap: One last question, Megh. Would you share your experience of photographing one of the rarest mammals – the Red Panda?
Megh Roy Choudhury: A trip to the Eastern Himalayas is always guided by the zeal to sight one of the most elusive mammals, the Red Panda. It is classified Vulnerable under the IUCN Red List. Very few people had the opportunity to photograph this animal in the wild.
I trekked around the dense jungles of Singalila National Park in West Bengal quite a number of time in the quest of this rare species. Finally luck smiled at me when I was there in April 2015. As we were trekking downhill towards Garibas, a cowherd informed us about a Red Panda. I climbed down the slope cautiously and finally sighted the Red Panda. My heart started beating erratically and limbs frozen. The Adrenalin rush was too much to control. When I woke up from my trance, I was the blessed one being bequeathed with the divine opportunity to photograph one of the rarest mammals in the wild.
Prathap: It was pleasure talking to you, Megh. Thank you so much for taking us through a unique photographic journey. We wish you a great success. What’s the best way for our readers to keep in touch with you?
Megh Roy Choudhury: Thank you so much. It was a pleasure talking to you too. I am honored to be a part of Nature Photography Simplified. I will also take the opportunity to thank all readers and hope they will be benefited from my inputs.
Happy clicking to all of you. Cheers!
You can keep in touch with me through Mail, Facebook or Instagram
My mail id is firstname.lastname@example.org.
My Facebook profile is https://www.facebook.com/megh.roychoudhury?fref=ts
Instagram profile meghroychoudhury
Isn’t it a unique photographic journey?
Share your thoughts and questions in the comments. I am sure Megh will be glad to answer them.