The bitterly cold winter breeze had a numbing effect on my exposed body parts as the open jeep negotiated the forest pathways of the Ranthambore National Park in Rajasthan. The slanting rays of the rising sun, struggling to evaporate the wisps of mist still lingering in the air, were just beginning to penetrate the mysterious shadows under the tree cover on either side of the pathway. Turning around a bend we came across an opening in the forest. Right in the middle of this open stretch, spread across a fallen tree trunk, we found this group of langur monkeys basking in the sun.

When photographing wildlife, just as with any branch of photography, one is conscious that the camera records an image on a film, that is, a plastic sheet coated with chemicals that react to light. The now common digital format follows an identical principle. The photograph is invariably an image of light, as it falls on the subject being photographed and, as it is reflected by the subject to the camera. The sun being low on the horizon and behind this group of langurs, with reference to where my camera was, the edges of the bodies of the langurs were brightly lit up creating a kind of a halo around them and thereby bringing a striking quality to this particular image.

The objective of photography is to recognize a phenomenon, to comprehend it in its various dimensions and to communicate such comprehension to the viewers through the medium of the photographic image. The path-breaking naturalist, Charles Darwin, brought to our notice that the anatomies of different life forms are shaped by an evolutionary process. Today, we also recognize that the same evolutionary process determines the continuance of certain behavioral patterns, also. Many animals live in groups. Why do they do so? One of the reasons, as in this case, is that there is safety in numbers.

Most of the langurs in this group are certainly looking in my direction, out of curiosity. But if we look at their body alignment we notice that different individuals are in a position to look in different directions, so that, if a predator approaches the group, one or the other langur is likely to see it and let out its alarm call. Immediately, the entire group would scamper off to safety. Such a strategy of grouping together continues because the evolutionary process finds it advantageous for the survival of each member of the group and consequently, of the species.

The same phenomenon seen in sambhar deer feeding in a lake

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