As I progressed on my journey of learning to be a nature photographer, most of my early work was done in morning and evening (as is the norm). So, like any other photographer, I learned to shoot the rising and the setting sun. After that, my childhood love for moon was rekindled and I worked on getting the perfect shot of the moon. Once I grew tired of the moon, my thoughts wandered toward the stars. I came across a long exposure shot of the stars revolving around the pole-star in a travel magazine and was hooked. I wanted a star trail to my credit as well as a shot of the Milky Way.
Now most of us who live in cities and town have forgotten what the night sky looks like. Many of our children have not even seen stars properly, thanks to rising pollution, haze and light pollution. But I kept waiting for an opportunity and the first chance came when I visited Chopta in October for a birding trip. There was a half-moon in the sky and a High-mast solar lamp in the camp provided enough distraction to negate our attempts at long exposure photography. Eventually, me and a few friends walked away from the camp to try our hands at long exposure photography. The snow covered Chaukhamba Range formed a fitting backdrop and despite my shaky tripod, I managed a few decent shots. But that day I realized the value of a good sturdy tripod.
Back home, I was woken up at 1.00 AM by another photography crazy friend. “Today is Amawasya.” He sounded excited, “Lets drive to Yamuna bank for star trails.” At 2.00 AM we found ourselves on the banks of the river as it flowed serenely, forming a natural boundary between the states of U.P. and Haryana. The policemen escorting a high ranking official who was the third member of our gang were slightly apprehensive. “This is the burning ghat”, they complained. “This place might be haunted.” “We will click the ghosts if they come.” I scoffed their fears away. We set up our cameras and aimed at the part where the star were brightest. We got some clicks but then clouds rolled in from west and we had to abandon our efforts.
The next attempt was in December. We drove to the edge of Rajaji Tiger Reserve and set up our equipment on the roof of a friend’s farmhouse. Braving the winter chill, the absolute darkness, the occasional call of wild animals and birds, we tried to create star trails. The extreme cold took its toll and the camera lens kept fogging up making us realize that Star trails are not easy to shoot.
Another botched up attempt at Sattal did not discourage me.
A couple of months back, we thought of trying our luck again and reached a farmhouse in the remotest part of our district. The scenic beauty of the place set in the foothills of Shivaliks enthralled me and I could hardly wait for night to fall. Lady luck smiled and the transformer supplying electricity to the nearby villages burnt out cutting off all ambient light. The stars shone bright as I located the pole star and aimed the camera at it. I tried the wide angle 24mm lens and was lucky enough to catch a shooting star in one frame. Then after a fruitful session switched over to the Fish-eye lens. By the time it was 2 AM and I retired to the inviting mosquito net draped string cot. I left the camera on though. Next morning, when I woke up I realized that at long last, I got the perfect star trail. The later frames had even caught the milky way which was not visible to the eye.
I am now looking forward to catching the Milky Way in all its glory and maybe one day, I’ll be able to do that as well.
About Author: Vivek Banerjee is a full-time paediatrician who is the Managing Partner of Banerjee Hospital in Saharanpur, Uttar Pradesh, India. He is also a notable author. His debut novel, The Long Road was published by Cedar publishers in 2010. His present passion is photography, particularly wildlife photography.