Bird photogrphy | Spotted owlet at Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary

I had a Nikon D7200 camera with a 200-500 lens — and not a single photo was sharp. I had shutter speeds in excess of 1/1000th of a second, I tried holding the camera in different ways, using a monopod, adjusting my stance, pressing the camera harder against my cheek but the photos did not improve. The stabilisation on the lens couldn’t be faulty, could it?

In spite of being kitted out in thermal innerwear, a warm jacket, two pairs of gloves on each hand and a faux fur aviator hat on my head, I was still cold. 

Bhupendar showed up outside my hotel on time, at 6 o’clock. It was still dark and we were the first people to roll into Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary that morning. There was a thick fog in the air, and we couldn’t see very far into the distance.

There was no bird activity anywhere around us. Birds start getting active once the sun is out—because that’s when insects start coming out of their burrows to feed and birds can prey on them!

The occasional creaking sounds of Bhupendra’s pedals disturbed the silence as we continued to roll along the thoroughfare waiting for the sun to come out. 

When it got brighter we saw a spotted owlet sitting inside a hollow branch of a bare tree.

It looked very comfortable sitting there, and seemed unlikely that it would come out on a morning like this. I stood there making a few photos hoping that it would hop out—even if it were for a few seconds. I stood there under the tree and turned in the opposite direction to look at some green pigeons. 

“LOOK…LOOK…” there was a buzz in the air!

Our little owlet had flown out and perched in the open on the adjacent tree. And I gathered my wits and started clicking some photos, it did a little jig, as if it were grooving to a dance number of the nineteen nineties.

Wonderful! However my photos were not!

I had a Nikon D7200 camera with a 200-500 lens—and not a single photo was sharp. I had shutter speeds in excess of 1/1000th of a second, I tried holding the camera in different ways, using a monopod, adjusting my stance, pressing the camera harder against my cheek but the photos did not improve. The stabilisation on the lens couldn’t be faulty, could it?

It was a beautiful day for photography but I couldn’t make a single decent photo—and I couldn’t understand why! All my photos were out of focus.

A few months later, I went to Bandhavgarh National Park to see tigers — and even there I couldn’t get the sharpness that I expected out of my lens—no matter what I tried.

It was only when I got back from this trip that I realised what the problem was—it was the poor quality ultraviolet filter! I cannot tell you enough how important it is to use a good quality UV filter—what’s the point in using cheap filters on good lenses? It’s like driving around in a Ferrari with flat tyres!

I have more wildlife vlogs on my Youtube Channel, The Open Image.

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