Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Revisiting Agumbe with Photowalk Bengaluru

Got an opportunity to go back to experience the monsoons at Agumbe, this time with Photowalk Bengaluru as a Macro mentor.
Always a pleasure returning to Hingaara, with the warm hospitality, amazing food and rich biodiversity.   

A quick compilation of select images for your viewing pleasure :)

Till the next ride!


Monday, June 17, 2019

Springing back to life! The transition from Summer to Monsoon

Summer this time was particularly harsh. Also noticed a marked decrease in insect/activity.

The dry surroundings with their own adaptations

A gorgeous stick insect
Stick insect, Phasmidae

The striking boxer mantis
Boxer mantis

Sleeping blue-banded bee
Sleeping blue-banded bee

The ants rule the roost
Weaver ants carrying back a dead stink bug

This wonderful seed-pod of an Indian kino tree, the root-like structure within representative of the power and promise of life

An amazingly camouflaged Plataspidae nymph
As flat as one can be! A pentatomidae - Plataspidae nymph

An un-ID'ed Salticidae
ID unknown, Salticid

The transition of summer to onset of monsoon..greens begin to emerge

Grasshopper, blend mode ON!

Non-biting midge,Chironomidae male with it's plumose antennae

A bark mantis
Bark mantis

The first drops being lapped up by this Ichneumon wasp
Wasp for ID

Fireflies out in numbers!
Leaf beetle, Chrysomelidae

Cicadas being their noisy best, after a long subterranean extistence
Cicada, likely Platypleura octoguttata

Leaf beetles seen in plenty
Leaf beetle, Chrysomelidae

The mites not letting go of the opportunity
Bugged by mites! A leaf beetle with mites

The rains also meant an increase in mosquito numbers, here's one sucking blood from my left hand. The proboscis and engorged abdomen turning red with blood.
Mosquito gorging itself on blood

With insect life bouncing back in good numbers, predators made the best of it

The two-tailed spider, Herisilia sp on the bark
Two-tailed spider, Hersilia sp with kill

This two-striped jumper, Telamonia sp female feasting on a blue bottlefly
Two striped jumper (Telamonia sp) female with a bluebottle fly kill

A Lynx spider, Peucetia sp predating on a mantis
Peucetia with a mantis kill

It's a spider-eat-spider world! A Rhene jumping spider predating on a Bomis sp crab spider
Rhene with a crab spider kill

Robberflies rule the aerial space
Robberfly with kill

Robberfly with kill

Keeping the mosquitos/midges in check
Robberfly with midge

Almost every perch/vantage point had a robberfly on it, truly the season!
Resting robberfly, head ON!

Robberfly close-up

The compound eyes which enables such high degree of precision
Compound eyes of the robberfly

The forest floor with the Tmarus snacking on an ant
Tmarus (?) crab spider with ant kill

This season also brings out some spiders rarely seen

The oh-so-colorful Chrysilla
Chrysilla sp, one of the most striking jumping spiders

Asemonea sp
Asemonea jumping spider

Cyrba sp, saw this striking little beauty for the very first time!
Cyrba sp - a Stunning little jumping spider

A curled-up millipede showing how nature works with classic design
The Fibonacci spiral! Rolled up millipede

A lot of arthropod life-cycle revolves around reproduction, fascinating to watch the life stages

Single egg of a common emigrant butterfly
Common emigrant butterfly egg

A caterpillar ready to pupate
Ready to pupate - backlit

But nature had sinister plans, this was affected with a virus known as the "Black death". This caterpillar will not pupate successfully
Ready for pupation, but infected - Black death

A rarely seen caterpillar stage of the Double branded crow butterfly
Double branded crow caterpillar

A looper caterpillar of the Geometrid moth
Looper! Geometridae moth caterpillar

Pupating ladybird larva
Ladybird pupa

A weaver ant queen looking at expanding the colony
Weaver ant queen

Owlfly larvae with those intimidating mandibles
Owlfly larvae

An Ammophila sp wasp carrying back a paralyzed caterpillar to lay eggs inside and bury it. What a welcome gift to the progeny!
Ammophila wasp carrying back a caterpillar to lay eggs and bury!

A Brettus sp jumping spider with her spiderlings
Brettus mom with her spiderlings

Got lucky with this full life-cycle of Coreidae (shield bugs)

Hatched coreidae eggs, the patterns and symmetry is amazing!

Coreidae eggs

Freshly hatched nymphs
Freshly hatched Coreidae nymphs

Coreidae nymphs

The multi hue/colors indicate how recently the nymph has moulted. Red is recent, green/yellow is cool!
Coreidae nymphs

Hope you enjoyed these, it was fascinating and amazing to me, no matter how many times I experience this..oh, the wonders of nature!

Adios till the next one.


Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Macro photography technique

Thankful to be getting a lot of great feedback from different fora on macros, a lot of this has been due to openly shared knowledge and techniques by selfless folks.

Thought it would be only fair to keep "paying this forward"

Will try breaking down technique (or the lack of it :D ) -

1. Magnification: The Zuik0 60mm on a MFT sensor provides decent magnification. However as needed I often add on an extension tube and Raynox DCR 250

2. Focusing : High magnification requires high precision. Most times the camera is set to the smallest focus area selector possible. Contrast on edges/wings/leaves is often used to lock on AF. In tricky situations, I will switch to MF (have configured the FN1 button for this) and sway the setup to bring things in focus.
Staying as perpendicular to the area of focus one's interested in helps make use of the razor thin DoF to it's max.

3. Exposure : Plays a critical role in showing detail and right colors/texture. The black background in most of my images is predominantly due to the overall exposure, I shoot what one would call "full flash photography" - if an image is taken at the native exposure, it would essentially go fully black, exposure is defined by the "reach and intensity" of flash. Plus, most of the insects I shoot are found under thick canopy/shade.
My settings generally are ISO 200, 1/160, f10-13, Flash on ETTL with FEC based on subject
External flash helps add microcontrast and also freeze motion to an extent. I also diffuse the light enough to make it soft, that way both highlights and shadows are decently exposed

Earlier thoughts on macro technique and lighting can be found here -

Thoughts on macro photography with lenses already present in your kit -

Link to the simple two stage diffuser -


Saturday, April 13, 2019

Back on the road again - for fish, food and friends :)

Had been almost 4 years since I'd been on a fishy trip. With vyas in town for a week, quick plans were made for a quick collection trip. Vyas would land from Manila into coimbatore, we'd pick him up and drop him back - some late night planning and came up with a probable routemap.

We ended up with the following -
Bangalore (amazing dinner at Ajay's) - coimbatore (lip smacking breakfast at Vyas') - Anaikatti - silent valley - kuntipuzha - Edappal (stop for the night) - angamaly - muvvatapuzha (stop for the night) - Thissur - Palakkad - coimbatore (Yummy biryani) - Bangalore

Quick list of species we spotted:
1. Dawkinsia filamentosus
2. Anabas
3. Xenentodon cancila
4. Puntius ticto
5. Mystus sp
6. Mesonoemacheilus sp
7. Pseudolaguvia sp
8. Pseudetrouplus maculatus
9. Rasbora sp
10. Garra sp
11. Devario sp
12. Salmostoma sp
13. Chanda / Parambassis sp
14. Carinotetraodon sp
15. Haludaria fasciata
16. Aplocheilus lineatus

Additional wildlife spotted -
A few crested serpent eagles hovering overhead
A few checked keelbacks in water
A stocky looking Tarantula

Here's a short video compilation of some sights and experiences

Adios till the next ride!


Sunday, February 24, 2019

A quick visit to Bharatpur/keoladeo bird sanctuary and chambal

Was in Delhi for an official visit, with flights back to Bangalore on a Friday evening being a problem.
That was the only push I'd need, quickly called Devendra (Iora guest house) at Bharatpur and booked myself for the weekend.
Reached Bharatpur on a cold night, with some office calls to finish.

Thanks to Prema and Madhu sir, I was able to book the cycle rickshaw in advance.
Lalaramji was bang on time, 6:15am, with low lying mist and the famed north Indian winter welcoming us into the keoladeo bird sanctuary (named after the temple)

Light was bad for most of the day, most of the migrants had started their journey back. However, the common ones and the small window of decent light made up for it.

Here's a video slideshow of the top images from the trip (including a whirlwind visit to Chambal, for the gharials and skimmer)
Watch on full screen, please

Some lovely landscapes too!

Thankful to Devendra for arranging everything at such short notice!
Adios till the next blog :)


Sunday, December 9, 2018

Exploring Cintacor island resort, Kurumgad, karwar

Flickr recently changed it's stance on free storage and unlimited web hosting.
To avoid the risk of having broken images in all of the blog, I've decided I'll stick to videos with image slideshows.

A very generous invitation from Raju sir had Pavan and me make necessary leave plans to explore the amazing Cintacor island resort. An overnight bus ride followed by a boat ride and we were all set to explore the flora and fauna.

Enjoy! Adios till the next ride ;)


Friday, November 9, 2018

The biodiverse Indraprastha - Spider meet 2018

Got the opportunity to be part of this year's Team Saaliga Spider meet at Indraprastha, Mysore. Team Saaliga has been doing some great work in spreading awareness about spiders.
Wriggled out of Bangalore to reach just past lunch time. Was amazed to see myself surrounded by lots of shrubs (and definitely not by chance, this is a result of decades of intent and proper execution). Entering the gates and gazing around I could notice something almost on every single plant/leaf. That was just a trailer, so to speak, of the biodiversity we would feast our eyes on later at night.

A heady mix of researchers, nature lovers - we were in for some great learnings. And for me, personally, not having to feel as a misfit :D
Quick welcome session and introductions set the tone for the highly interactive talks on Spiders. Anatomy, behavior, hunting and breeding strategies discussed in detail, with some great visuals. With new found knowledge, we were all set to observe better in the field. Some lipsmacking snacks followed the official release of Team Saaliga logo by the Mysore DC.

Spilt into two teams, we set out to explore. We wanted to explore and cover a lot of area, but the rich density of life ensured we were moving at a snail's pace. Almost every plant giving something to observe.

We started with this Crab spider (Thomisidae) blending in perfectly on a flowery branch
Crab spider, blend mode ON!

The Social behavior of the Chikunia spider, multiple spiders with their spiderlings in close proximity
Chikunia spider with freshly hatched  spiderlings

Cellar spiders in plenty, many of them holding onto their eggs bundles
Cellar spider, Pholcidae with eggs

Cellar spider, Pholcidae with eggs

Most corners/gaps between leaves were taken up by Orb weavers
Neoscona with web

Wrapping up freshly caught prey with silk from it's spinnerets
Wrapping prey in silk! A tiny orb weaver making short work

Signature spiders were found in plenty too, owing to the abundance in prey the relative size of almost all spiders we found were LARGE!
Signature spider, Argiope sp

Some pretty flowers around!
Flower for ID


Flowers for ID

Dandelion, looking like a bursting firework

A hunstman lying in wait to ambush anything that gets close

A beautiful Dartlet
Golden dart

Palm dart
Palm dart

Mating moths
Mating moths

Freshly moulted cockroach
Freshly moulted cockroach

Weaver ants tending to scale insects
Weaver ants tending to scale insects

Fly resting on flower

A funny looking Derbid planthopper
Derbid planthopper

The wing shape is unique and fascinating!
Derbid planthopper, rear view

Long legged fly
Long legged fly

Cricket nymph
Cricket nymph

Resting honeybee
Resting honey bee

A few more fascinating spiders

Long jawed spider, Tetragnathidae
Long jawed spider, Tetragnathidae

Sac spider
Sac spider, Clubionidae

Wolf spider
Wolf spider, Lycosidae

The devil! Portia sp
The devil! Portia

The Mirror spider, Thwaitesia sp.  Couldn't manage a side-on image showing the "mirror"

Mirror spider, Thwaitesia sp

This beautiful Crab spider

Comes in white too!
Crab spider, Thomisidae

The striking Hamadruas


Brettus juvenile
Brettus juvenile

Perfect moult of a Huntsman
Huntsman moult

If you're a thirsty bee/fly, there's no way you'd notice that camouflage. In fact Sumukha mentioned the UV emission from the spider attracts the bee/fly closer
Crab spider, blending in!

Tree trunk spider, Herennia female
Tree trunk spider, Herennia sp

Two striped jumping spider, Telamonia female.
Two striped jumping spider, Telamonia female

Some images to showcase how effective and critical spiders are as pest control, maintatining the delicate balance in the ecosystem
Crab spider, with honeybee kill
Crab spider with honey bee kill

Parawixia with grasshopper
Parawixia with grasshopper kill

Rhene feasting on Chironomidae
Rhene with non-biting midge kill

Indraprastha is the brainchild of Mr.Chandrashekar, having taken up Organic farming and put it into perfect practice - the place truly is a rich biodiversity hotspot. Species covered here are a miniscule subset. The team was able to identify 81 species of spiders.

The hospitality and great food from Team Saaliga and the APC family was amazing to experience :) Thank you for opening the gates and our eyes to the wondrous world at Indraprastha!