My soul can find no staircase to Heaven unless it be through Earth's loveliness
Colorado offers some of the best fall colors! Aspen trees, at various phases of their transition to fall, display some dazzling greens, reds, oranges and yellows. While driving around Crested Butte area, my wife and I came across a forest of aspens. The sun was going down, and the light could not have been more perfect. Low sun with its rather soft light was illuminating the yellow leaves from behind the forest. It was hard to decide where the camera should be pointed. Beauty was all around us. I took a few shots, but then noticed this "arrangement" of the aspen trunks which seemed to be leaning towards each other. I thought the composition was very interesting. And the image was created. I was very excited to display it on the web page of National Geographic (at that time. Now, unfortunately they have moved away from web pages to INSTAGRAM), and eventually thrilled to find out that it was featured in DAILY DOZEN of National Geographic!
National Geographic, DAILY DOZEN, March, 2015
I visited Lake Moraine in Banff National Park a year before this image was taken. I had seen nothing like this before. Such blue glacial water, with such grand mountains right in front of the lake. Sometimes the reflection in the lake would be just perfect. I had told myself I will return to this place, to get the best image that I could. And so I did. A frined and his wife were accompanying my wife and I on this trip.
On this particular day, my goal was to capture a gorgeous sunset, with mountains lit with soft sunset, with perfect reflection in the lake as I had imagined all along. Well, more often than not, nature has its own plans. I had everything set up, and had been waiting for that moment to arrive. And sure enough, suddenly, as is true of mountain areas, the weather started to change. Clouds flew in, it started drizzling, and all my plans for "that" image were ruined!. But I had to take "some" pictures, now that I had spent all this time and energy for the image I wanted. Half heartedly, I kept pushing the shutter. The wind had RUINED the reflection I was hoping for. It was around 8 pm or so. "Surely nothing will happen now". I started packing my gear to end the day. Suddenly, for whatever reason, the wind died down and I see this scene. Not knowing how long these calm moments would last, I decided to hurry it up. I set my tripod/ camera at the edge of the lake, but it "just did not feel right". So I rolled up my pants, and decided to get into the lake, ever so gently, so not to disturb the calm of the water, to get the shot as close to the water as possible. So I did, and MY GOD the water was cold! I froze my legs for a couple of minutes, could not last longer than that. I had to get out, as I felt my circulation cutting off. But hey, in the process I got this image, which I was not planning for, but sometimes you get the best image when u least expect it!
National Geographic. Daily Dozen. August 2017
"Flight of a Snowy Owl"
I could not have picked the WORST week to try and see the Snowy Owls. Having seen images of this magnificent owl on websites and magazines, I had made it a goal to try and capture the image of the Snowy. But just did not know how to find them and where to start. After months of struggle about the information, finally an extremely nice photographer guided me to the place where I could photograph them if I was lucky to find them. I took my chances, and set off . When I arrived in the city, the forecast for the whole week was "snow and cloudy"! I was miserable, but I just had no choice. "I have not come this far for nothing". So I would go out daily, in blizzards and snow, to try and find and photograph A SNOWY OWL. I did find a couple, but with horrible weather, I just could not get any clear shots, although I was more than thrilled to get ANY images at all!
This image was created on the second last day of my trip, the ONLY day that was sunny out of the 7 days that I was there. This female was sitting far in the field, and every time I would slowly inch towards her for a closer image, she would kind of fly away from me and sit farther. With difficulty, I would get a little closer and she would do the same thing. It was as if she was challenging me. "Catch me if you can!" That day I found out how hard it is to walk in the snow with heavy shoes and clothes. Exhausted of this effort, I decided to just stand a far from her and take whatever images I could. I had my camera focused and was shooting just some customary images, with her sitting down, when suddenly she flapped her wings and started flying straight towards me!!!! I did not know why, but luckily I had the awareness to keep pushing the shutter and hoping to get her in focus. Boy they fly fast and silent!! She passed probably about 10 feet away from me and went to my back. I turned around and only then realized that she was threatening another Snowy to get out of her territory!! I could not capture that encounter, as it happened within few seconds and I had my camera in the other direction, but I will always cherish this image, which happened out of PURE LUCK!!
Natural Habitat Adventures. Wildlife Photo of the Day, June 2016 (a little different sequence of images but same series of shots)
"The Eye of the Pelican"
This was my first ever use of a "prime lens". I had just recently bought a Sigma 300 mm f2.8 used and was itching to try it. I had done quite a few test shots. My wife and I went to Florida for a week's vacation. Seeing these pelicans on the edge of the bay, I decided to focus on this one. The pelican would flap her wings every now and then after a short flight/ catching a fish or two. I decided to keep shooting while wing flapping was happening.
Later on when I was viewing my images, I saw this one and thought how cool it looked that I was able to catch the eye through the very fast flapping of the wings of this magnificent bird. I had to post it on national geographic website and felt extremely honored to have been recognized for it.
National Geographic, Daily Dozen.
"The Look of Innocence"
The story behind this image could not be farther from a fairy tale! You see, I had been to Churchill, Canada back in 2015, where I saw Polar Bears for the first time. However, I did not see the "cubs" as I had hoped for. I had seen so many images of the new borns on various prestigious magazines and I really wanted to see them. So I contacted a company. They had a wait list for 4 years, as the access to this place is limited to less than 20 photographers for that particular week. I was disappointed but I put myself on the waiting list.
I had forgotten about it when one day at work, I received THE call. "Do you want to go this year? We have two cancellations". "Yesssss, of course" I said. I immediately started planning for the trip. Got all info on layers of clothes and stuff. While preparing, I started dreaming about how magnificent an image would be, of the mom polar bear with cubs peaking through her legs, sort of like, her legs framing the cubs. "what are the chances?". I knew that I was SIMPLY hoping against hope.
Finally the day arrived to depart. I felt very nervous about this trip. I had never done anything like this. I was told temperatures could easily go down to minus 20s. Also would be in a very isolated "lodge" with not much contact with the rest of the world for those 7 days of the trip. There were no guarantees of seeing the cubs, as nature is nature and she does not time herself to our needs.
So much to tell about this trip. Such an experience to share. Perhaps I will write it in a blog some time. But I will cut the story short here. This mom was our first one that we saw, I believe on the 5th day of our trip. Before that, we were very nervous as to whether we will see any bear at all!
Needless to say, our small group of photographers were in awe of this sight, and all of us were clicking away, from a safe distance of course. The mom had to lead these cubs to her hunting grounds, to Hudson Bay, as she had been hibernating in the den for many months (at least 4) and had not eaten anything for that duration! However the cubs were very small and the distance of hundreds of miles seemed too much for them. She would rest probably every two to three miles, as the cubs could not keep up. Before this image she was laying in her "day den" and was resting for hours, with cubs playing around her, climbing on her and fighting with each other. It was such a sight! Right around, 3 pm or so??she suddenly got up as if to start walking. But she stood there for quite a few minutes like this, perhaps making sure that it was safe to leave, sniffing around, perhaps for Male Polar Bears. Cubs have been known to be killed by the male Polar bears, sadly. The cubs, realizing, that it was time to move, starting hanging closer to her. It was that moment that I thought "it JUST MIGHT HAPPEN". So I had my eye stuck to the frozen camera body. I am told, that temperature on that day had reached MINUS 52! It was EXTREMELY painful to try and take pictures for me (I think I was ill prepared in my clothing for this kind of temperature), but I just could not let this moment go. And then, IT HAPPENED! One of the cubs started peeking at us through her legs, for perhaps 40 seconds or so. I have many images of this scene. But none better than this one where this cub is looking curiously at us. There is a second cub behind him, hard to see. This image is a CROP of the full image where you can actually see the mother with cub between her legs (posted in PORTFOLIO) but this is what I had envisioned MANY MONTHS before this shot was taken, and that is how I had to crop it. Frozen tears in my eyes, at that very moment, is an understatement!
National Geographic, Daily Dozen, March, 2017
World Wildlife Fund website
Taken in Wapusk National Park, Manitoba, Canada, this was one of those moments in my entire life of photography that one only dreams of! Whether temperature was minus 30 or minus 50, I was taking these shots!! The temperature actually was between minus 35 to minus 45 this day, to my recollection!
National Geographic. Daily Dozen. 2018
The Telegraph, U.K Pictures of the Day: 24 January 2018 - News
Outdoor Photographer Magazine: Photo of the Day: Feb 2018. Photo Of The Day By Nadeem Sufi - Outdoor Photographer