The Elegance of Birds
Birds in India—visiting or endemic are elegant, majestic and come in poised hues of a plentiful variety. I have, on occasion, accompanied birders on their trips and become enthralled by the sheer beauty of birds at dawn and dusk—their forms and colours perfectly blending with the landscape. I draw inspiration for work from their simple yet awe-inspiring beauty—gleaning hues, qualities of elegance, calm and beauty. In Delhi, I was drawn into the world of birds by Radhika, an early client. Another such birder friend is Kuntal Desai who has been an acquaintance since childhood days spent in the ecologically rich Periyar Hills.
Kuntal Desai paints his photographs—mesmerizing visuals of water birds, taken in beautiful, natural surroundings. His art is not confined to categorization or academic birding books—it stretches to include the imagination in wonder and awe of majestic, flying creatures—of birds.
Water birds, photographed in magical morning light and sometimes, in the evening—adding a playfulness to the stillness of lakes they visit. Seen sometimes in flirtatious pairs, sometimes in solemn, awe-inspiring solitude and often in their own commune—egrets, flamingos, cranes and darters – all rousing us to their majestic beauty, to the simple elegance of nature and its beings.
Art, not burdened by monetization, can roam free and beautifully—inspiring all and sundry, just as Kuntal’s photographic affair with the birds does.
Words by Sugandha Das and Shivani Dogra
Images by Kuntal Desai
KUNTAL’S BIRDING WISDOM:
I studied Painting in the Faculty of Fine Art, Baroda and saw a visual link between photography and painting in numerous works of artists and photographers. Naturally then, photography was something I wanted to explore. Coincidentally, I also had friends who are bird enthusiasts whom I would accompany to observe their work. I soon realized that here was a subject that I could have a lifelong ‘affair’ with, and got into it with great enthusiasm.
I photograph birds, because bird photography is a stimulating experience. Right from getting ready on a trip, planning the shoot, understanding the equipment and light conditions and the thrill of capturing an image of a beautiful bird in it’s natural habitat– every step is exciting! You have movement, vast, open natural, wild landscapes and subtle changes in light all at once. I love being a participant in this scene in order to get a beautiful picture of a bird in it’s environs. My paintings have a very similar visual experience.
I was born, brought up, and also started my work life in the tea plantations of South India and Assam. I was sent to a boarding school in the Nilgiris when younger. These were areas of abundant natural beauty and the outdoors have been a part of my life from childhood to this day. I would spend hours on long walks observing the flora and fauna around and soon began to sketch them. I gradually also learnt to spot and identify birds. This background helps my being out for long hours in all weather, patiently waiting for what could be a very interesting sighting of birds and perhaps, if fortunate, a good photograph!
1)A decent piece of equipment is really very essential, with the minimum requirement being a crop frame camera and a 500 mm lens, with spare batteries and storage cards. Learn how to use it. Do not try bird photography without this.
2)Get up early! A 3.30 to 4 am rise is quite normal if you have an hour or drive to your birding spot. So, get a good nights rest and check your equipment well. There’s nothing like early morning ‘magic’ light for a good shot, though evenings can be great too. Do not forget to carry water, a flask of tea or a drink and some light snacks with you.
3)pend your time looking for the bird and photographing them, rather than trying to identify the species or looking into your camera to constantly view your shots. I have missed many opportunities trying to do this, only to find that a bird has come and gone! Be conscious of your environment and the surroundings– these can also be included in a shot.
4)Try to understand your camera and get the maximum you can for a good shot, rather than rely on post processing.
5)Do not hesitate to experiment – play with your camera settings, even if it means a ‘bad’ shot. You never know what you will get!