Start by doing your own research into some of the artists discussed in the coursework. Then, using slow shutter speeds, the multiple exposure function, or another technique inspired by the examples above, try to record the trace of movement within the frame. You can be as experimental as you like. Add a selection of shots together with relevant shooting data and a description of process (how you captured the shots) to your learning log.
I happened to be in the jungles of Ranthambhore recently – never in my wildest imaginations, would I have believed that I will be experimenting in slow shutter speed with a wild Tiger in front of me. It would be a dream but I can never afford to take that chance to miss out on a sighting that is anyway rare and then to mess it up – well no! I will keep my experimentations for any other animal but the Tiger. This is what was going on in my mind when I realised that this trip meant that all exercises for this part perhaps will have to be completed in the jungle. Days were passing and I was lucky to see tigers every day. But I was definitely not willing to do experiment with the shutter speed in front of a Tiger for my fear of losing a precious opportunity and also end up with a failed experiment.
On the afternoon of 25th June 2020, I was on my game drive and was lucky to have spotted a resting tiger as soon as we entered the forest. Since its really hot, tigers do not move until it gets a bit cooler, so not expecting the tiger to move we just waited. Much to our surprise though, this young female tigress was up and about soon and started to walk. There were heavy rains predicted that evening. She gave everyone a great photo opportunity by walking for a long time. After a long walk, she crossed the lake and entered into the Hunting Palace (a palace where ancient kings used to hunt Tigers) dark, ominous clouds had begun to form. As soon as she disappeared into the thickets and could not be seen anymore, the clouds broke and rains began to lash across the thirsty forest. The rain was so hard that it seemed like a cloud burst. It had turned dark in the middle of the afternoon. Every single jeep had left as everyone got completely soaked.
I decided to stay, because my driver and I somehow knew that the Tigress is around and will return. My equipment was lying covered under a thick black plastic sheet, with a pool of water forming over it quickly. The safari jeep is completely open here; I had two raincoats that I gave to the driver and the guide and held an umbrella over my head but it was no match to the crazy winds and rain. Suddenly the tigress reappeared from the other side where we had come to look for her. It was pouring so heavily making it difficult to even open my eyes. Suddenly the stakes had changed. There was a tiger in front of me in heavy rains and all the factors that could add up to make this a recipe for disaster. There were very good chances that not one quality picture would come out of it. We were there alone with the tiger and I wished to make some great images, even though the chances didn’t look very bright.
Thankfully my mind worked and thinking to myself that this would be the perfect opportunity to perhaps experiment with shutter speed, I decided to go for it. I just had one camera body in my hand with a 100-400 mm lens. There was no way I could reach the other equipment as the jeep was full of water and I didn’t want any damage caused to the equipment. The tigress appeared to be enjoying the rain and her mind was set on a hunt from what we had read of her behaviour earlier.
I decided there and then that I want this series to be as raw-looking as possible, I wanted to make these images in my camera. I pumped up the ISO because I wanted these images really grainy and also because of the reason that there was no light at all. The tigress was continually moving, running around, so overexposure might not have worked well. The rain had added a touch of blue to the scene that I wanted to capture so I set my kelvin low, making the temperature as close to the real scene and I played with my shutter speed quickly as I shot the tigress in all her glory. With my mind convinced that none of these shots are ever going to come out well, I was liberated and started to shoot, in the pouring rain struggling with keeping myself balanced and upright in the moving jeep.
The settings on my camera aimed to make these images:
- Appear grainy
- Feel raw
- Capture the feel of the time
- Capture the expressions, the action, the shots as they happened.
- Capture the habitat
- Have the viewer feel the scene
At least these were the thoughts that I had in my mind, even though I felt that none of these would turn out any good I was sure.
The common camera settings for both the images below are:
- Camera – Canon 1DC
- Canon EF100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USML
- ISO 4000
- Shutter Priority Mode
- Exposure – underexposed by 1/3 of an f-stop
- Individual settings are next to the images
The set-up was quite a hilarious one when I think of it in hindsight. I wish someone was there to take a picture of us! It was an open safari jeep – a small jeep not like the ones in Africa. Pouring rain like you can’t imagine, with my guide standing with an umbrella over my head so we could protect the camera; in the jungle protection of your equipment comes first, always and every time. 🙂 I shot handheld of course – it was a miracle that I could shoot at all. Total chaos and no expectations for a single image to turn up even, considering the difficult and low light and overall very tough shooting conditions.
So indeed when the rains stopped and I could eventually look at the images, I was pleasantly surprised for it kind of captured what I had wanted all along. Amongst my several explorations for this exercise, the one I chose as my final series and the one that I feel captures what I wanted is the series below. Also, I have selected ten frames from the hundreds that I shot to narrate the entire story of what happened that afternoon. I will take you on safari with me and explain each image as we go on.
We were the only crazy jeep left on the scene as we began looking for the tigress who had disappeared just before the rains had started. As we set upon to the other side to search for her, we saw her coming towards us. She was playing around, running, and enjoying the rain like a puppy dog. After a while, she comes and sits down right in front of where we were parked.
The rain continued to pour on her and us and in this image, she shakes her head to get the water off.
She had been in a mood to hunt from the time we met her since over an hour and a half back. The rain is a good time to hunt because the deer cannot be as quick due to the ground being all slippery. She gets up to move.
Scent marking is a form of olfactory communication used by an animal that deposits its odor in specific places to transmit a signal to other animals. Scent marking is mainly defined as a behavior displayed to mark territory ownership. Because the scent remains in the environment for some time, it represents a way of olfactory communication and allows the owner to be identified by a rival even in its absence, reducing the costs of physical conflicts (Gosling, 1982). In this image, she is seen smelling the tree trunks.
A closer up image of this behaviour, with a conscious effort to catch the blue of the environment and the rain drops. The diagonal rain can be seen lashing on the surroundings here.
Here she is seen spraying to mark her territory – although an otherwise common behaviour, it is not a common behavioural trait while it is raining so hard; an extremely unusual behaviour as the rain washes the markings away. Usually, the tigers spray to mark their territory post the rain, but the competition from her mother and sister perhaps resulted in this unusual behaviour. It was indeed a rare behaviour to document and I am quite pleased to have had the chance.
Something catches her eye, she stops in her tracks, two of her legs still mid-air as she then slowly touches her foot on the wet ground below… perhaps the rain will give her the cover she needs – slowly, without a sound she moves like the mist itself. Watching with bated breath, I watch her foot as it lifts up, the falling droplets from it as clear to me as her focus, and then the other foot as she moves it so slowly, stretching it what seems to be like an eternity, making time stand still in that moment. The rain continues to beat against us hard and mercilessly. And yet in that invisibility that the rain created, this magical scene unfolded itself with so much clarity as I looked upon at her with awe and wonder in my eye, like I was seeing this magnificent creature for the first time. But it did seem like it were the first time – after all, it’s not every day that you are blessed with a little magic and more. The tigress is on the prowl.
She seems to be looking at me but she is seeing beyond me – she has her eyes locked on the deer who have sensed her presence and are running around in the pouring rain to make some sense of direction and vision.
She dashes across, coming so close to my jeep suddenly, not allowing me to even change the focal length. The image got cropped because of that but yet it is one of my favorite images as the hind legs raised and she has her eyes locked on her prey, which is beyond our scope of vision. We suddenly lost her. She had moved behind an area where she was no longer visible – we couldn’t see if she was successful in her hunt or not. She was gone and wasn’t back for a while. We were soaked to our bones. I was scared that I would have permanently damaged my equipment. I never leave the jungle before time but at that moment I asked my driver to leave, as I needed some kind of shelter to make sure the equipment was safe. We were both reluctant to leave but we did eventually.
Not going very far though, my driver took me under an ancient and gigantic Banyan tree, where there was some respite from the rain that was beginning to slow down. Hardly had we stopped that we heard frantic monkey alarm calls. We rushed back to where we had just come from and waited. Not more than a minute later, we saw the tigress emerging from behind the thickets with a spotted deer kill in her mouth. The rain had almost stopped.
Thoughts & Reflections
I am pretty thrilled with how this sequence turned out and for the unbelievable fact that I actually had the opportunity to shoot in shutter priority mode with a wild Tiger and got not only some great shots but also got to document some unusual behavior as well. Apart from one shot where the tigers’ legs got cropped because of her sudden taking off and the fact that she came so close to me that I actually thought that she was going to make me her next meal, I am happy overall. I purposely have left the images uncropped and unedited to reflect an experience as close to I had witnessed. And I wouldn’t want to do it any other way. The entire uncropped and unedited image series captures the difficult shooting conditions exactly how I wished it to and represent in my opinion, an experience than just images.
I have experimented with this part of the coursework over several times to trace the movement of time and will include my experimentation in a separate post as this one deserves to be on its own.
Gosling, L. (1982) A Reassessment of the Function of Scent Marking in Territories. Zeitschrift für Tierpsychologie, 60(2), pp.89-118. At: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.1439-0310.1982.tb00492.x (Accessed 25/072020).