Hunting has been a popular sport. It required planning, getting close to the target and fast reflexes for a successful shoot. The beauty of the natural habitat of the hunted species and the thrill of a fruitful outing contributed to making hunting one of the most avidly followed sports through the ages.
Gradual degradation of the natural environments and excessive hunting has led to a virtual ban on hunting. Fortunately, the enjoyment of the thrill of a hunt is still possible once the gun is exchanged for a camera. Photographing wildlife, in their natural setting, is as fascinating as hunting, with the added advantage of being able to enjoy the bounties of nature rather than destroying them.
The skills required by hunters are also a pre-requisite for a competent wildlife photographer. Knowledge of the chosen subject to be photographed, its preferred habitat and the likely places of feeding and resting are necessary to improve the chances of locating the subject. Behavioural patterns need to be understood not only to minimise dangers to personal safety but also to be able to anticipate the movements and actions likely to follow so as to capture the nuances of behaviour, at its best possible moment through the camera.
Standing on the deck of a cruise ship, en route from Goa to Bombay, I was watching the sun rise over the horizon creating a stream of shimmering golden ripples on the sea. Sea gulls flew around and I decided to try and capture them with the manual camera that was there with me then, without the now common auto features. First the difficult light conditions had to be tackled by taking the light readings off the sunlit patch. Next, as the birds came flying towards this patch I would start panning them by following their movement along their flight path through the camera lens, all the time trying to adjust the focus, so that the bird would be recorded as a sharp image.
One sea gull came fairly close to where I was standing, flying at a height slightly below my eye level. The tension built up inside me as I followed it through the camera lens as it approached the sunlit water. As soon as it moved over the golden patch I shot it. The click of the shutter sounded surprisingly loud. The thrill of knowing that I had shot it successfully was satisfying and what added to the joy was that, unlike hunting, as I took my eyes away from the view finder of the camera, the sea gull was still there, continuing its graceful glide beyond the shimmering patch on the luminous sea.