Black and Orange Flycatcher, Vattakanal

Orange is the new black: Bird photography

I love photographing birds. It feels so exhilarating that I am willing to walk out on any part of my life for it. But first, I must buy a professional camera. Then, figure out a way to make people pay me for it. It’s a pipedream that may take another decade to evolve into a purposeful plan. And even though I can wait, it probably won’t work out in my favor.

Good things don’t happen to those who contemplate. They happen to those who make the first move. And the heart often wants what the brain can’t make sense of. It wasn’t a career I had ever thought about before. Not until I spotted a Black-and-Orange Flycatcher one rainy afternoon.

Black and Orange Flycatcher

Black-and-Orange Flycatchers are endemic to the high altitude sections of Western Ghats. It is difficult to photograph them because they fly back and forth at top speeds.

Many summers ago in Vattakanal, I had managed to sneak up on one. It was an adult male. Wearing bright orange juice stains on its velveteen sweater, he looked angrily at me. Perhaps, he wasn’t happy about being ambushed by an ogre of an ogler. He fanned his tail and chirped as I clicked some photographs of him.

I felt something. It was unlike anything I had experienced before. A state of elation that I was unaccustomed to. It wasn’t the allure of being able to earn a living through this. I wanted to be wide awake and dreaming. I wanted to spend a major part of the rest of my life with birds.

Over the next three years, I spotted one in Valparai and another in the upper section of the Palani Hills. But I wasn’t able to take a photograph on either occasion. They were too fast for me.

Last year, I spotted one in the bird-friendly Adukkam village. I followed the bird to an artificial water body where it hid behind a cluster of tiny branches and leaves. We went back and forth, making eye-contact, exchanging whistles and playing peekaboo. The affair went on for around 30 minutes before I finally got the chance to take a photograph.

Then, it hit me again.

Black-and-Orange Flycatcher, Vattakanal

How wonderful it must be to photograph birds for a living, without worrying about financial or emotional investments. Happy. Calm. Without stress. There is no sadness. No disappointments. No distractions. No unnecessary movements.  And I am led to believe that despite the gloom and doom, the world is full of love.

She’s a
keeper of bees,
a honeycomb in heat;
a trail of wild ember
on the run,
with fig leaves
for fingernails
that tickle the
sepia sun.

(Photographs: Vattakanal, Adukkam)

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50 comments

  1. Here in Texas, we have the Vermillion Flycatcher, trading the oranges for brilliant red and wearing that red cap on top of his black face. It’s hard to say this, but he may be even more striking than our backyard Cardinal.

    I am enjoy my blog-read this morning! I regret I’ve been away so long. Thank you for all of your thoughtful birdies post which all bring big smiles to my face this morning.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. It is on my MUST list for photographing. Alas, he only flies through here, so unless I’m at the right place at the right time (I was last year, but without a long lens), I must go to where he waits for me. West Texas…soon I hope.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. The technique in which you spin your words is remarkable. You sew them into a motif pattern so delightful, that you discover a new layer each time you go over it. Needless, pleasing to the eye and brainwaves.

    I’m inspired by Nicky Romero’s & Vicetone’s lyrics here – Let me see, let me feel. Let me breathe you without a sound. It’s the only thing I’m waking up for now.

    That’s your writing to me. Cheers!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Christy B, thank you for your beautiful post. I am not sure how I managed to miss all these lovely posts. Someone recent told me about a ‘fantastic’ birder who took amazing bird photos with a basic point-and-shoot camera. While he took the best of bird photographs, others with great cameras and lenses to-die-for, barely managed to capture what they wanted to. I thought to myself, that this is perhaps that birder first invested in making a connection with those birds, so he knew them better and more meaningfully than others, and perhaps birds felt the same connection with this bird-man. So it doesn’t matter if you get a cool camera or not, you seem to have made that connection and so your stories and photographs of birds are mesmerizing.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I am glad you’re catching up now at least, shru! I agree that one doesn’t need professional equipment to fall in love with them, and even live amongst them. And you make a great point about how it is important to invest in the connection, rather than the camera.

      Thank you for the support!

      Liked by 1 person

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