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Old 22nd December 2018, 11:54   #1
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Default Kabini - It's like coming home!

Two months after my epic trip to Masai Mara, the bug started biting again. What can I say? This need to experience the forest again and again seems to be ever increasing and the demand to satisfy the itch becomes unbearable after a couple of months. This time around, the usual suspects who generally accompany me were all busy with their personal projects and with the wedding season in full swing, there were not many with free time. However one of my friends said his son can join me if I wanted to go and I jumped. Off we went and as soon as I reached the JLR gates, it really felt like coming home!

JLR's pricing now is quite ridiculous but there is no other option if you want the best safari rides and drivers. Some of us have raised this matter with the Forest Department but all pleas seem to be falling on deaf ears so far. "Make hay while the sun shines" seems to be their motto. Of course, the staff is always genuinely friendly, the food is great, the property is excellent, etc., but it is still a pinch. I hope some sense prevails and the prices are adjusted. On top of all this, the "lens charge" of Rs. 500/- per safari for lenses over 200 mm (and which self respecting wild life photographer will carry a lens under 200 mm?) is another pain in the proverbial. With our usual two night, four safaris stay, this charge of Rs. 2000/- + 18% GST is atrocious. Again, complaints have been made by many, let's see what happens. Enough of the JLR rant and on to the pictures.

A word on my gear. I recently upgraded by Nikon D7200 to the Nikon D500 and this was the new camera's first trip to the wild. I was eager to try out its capabilities and see how much I would gain from the upgrade. My views on the same are at the end of this post. The lens remains my trusty Nikon 200-500 mm which I have been using for almost a year now and totally satisfied with. The exotics are tempting, especially the new Nikon 500 mm PF, but I feel the range on the 200-500 is much better suited to places like Kabini, where the wild life can get really close at times.

Surprisingly, this time we found more birds than in any earlier visit. Or at least we stopped for them more this time, I'm sure the birds are always around. The onset of winter also brings its set of migratory birds from the North, either stopping over on their way further south or coming here to settle for the duration.


A Yellow Eyed Babbler, a cousin of the Common Babbler.

Kabini - It's like coming home!-001-yellow-eyed-babbler.jpg


A pair of Brahminy Starlings seem to be disagreeing about some important family matter. Maybe she wanted another little one, maybe he wanted a new car, who can say?

Kabini - It's like coming home!-002-brahminy-starlings.jpg


In one of the frames in the sequence of shots from which the above was taken, I moved the focus point just a little bit which made the camera focus on the background. I thought I'll include the photo here, to show how busy the background actually looks and what a wonderful job the camera does to manage to get focus on one small blob amidst all the distraction. The lens does an equally wonderful job of rendering the background into a smooth green blur.

Kabini - It's like coming home!-002a-brahminy-starlings.jpg


A female Common Stonechat on a stone!

Kabini - It's like coming home!-003-female-common-stonechat.jpg


A Forest Wagtail, a rare winter visitor to Kabini on the way to warmer climes further south.

Kabini - It's like coming home!-004-forest-wagtail.jpg


The beautiful (and extremely originally named) Yellow Footed Green Pigeons.

Kabini - It's like coming home!-005-yellow-footed-green-pigeon.jpg


A Yellow (or is it Gray) Wagtail presents the perfect profile.

Kabini - It's like coming home!-006-yellow-wagtail.jpg


The typical pose of a Flame Backed Woodpecker.

Kabini - It's like coming home!-007-flame-backed-woodpecker.jpg


A Crested Hawk Eagle (or Changeable Hawk Eagle). Look at those talons and powerful legs!

Kabini - It's like coming home!-008-crested-hawk-eagle-before.jpg


I was experimenting with the new Content Aware Fill in the "Edit" menu in Photoshop CC 2019 (not to be confused with the existing Content Aware Fill which is in the toolbox) and its power is phenomenal. This is what I could achieve with a few minutes of work on the previous photo. Tell me, if I just posted this one would any of you have noticed that the image was seriously edited? I'm not a fan of drastically altering photos like this for whatever reasons, but this is just to show you what can be done and why you should not blindly believe everything you see. Especially on WhatsApp!

Kabini - It's like coming home!-009-crested-hawk-eagle-after.jpg


A Golden Oriole. Not a good shot, just a record. He was too far away and the background was too cluttered.

Kabini - It's like coming home!-010-golden-oriole.jpg


A Hill Mynah. Again not a good shot. The call of this bird is piercing and is audible quite a long way away.

Kabini - It's like coming home!-011-hill-mynah.jpg


A Hoopoe. This is a very common bird and found all over the forest.

Kabini - It's like coming home!-012-hoopoe.jpg


A Coppersmith Barbet. A very colourful member of the rather plain barbet family.

Kabini - It's like coming home!-013-coppersmith-barbet.jpg


A juvenile Spotted Owlet barely awake in the morning.

Kabini - It's like coming home!-014-spotted-owlet.jpg


An Indian Koel with its evil red eyes. This is the guy with that super melodious song that drives poets to flights of fancy.

Kabini - It's like coming home!-015-indian-koel.jpg


We also spotted many other species, like Sunbirds, Coucals, etc. but no good shots of them.


On the last evening safari, we are roaming the forest fruitlessly and are on the verge of returning back to JLR. We are near the power line waiting for some action. A handsome lone spotted deer stag slowly walks up the incline. These guys are so common that usually no one bothers photographing them. This time though, I have nothing else to shot, so I use him for some practice.

Kabini - It's like coming home!-016-spotted-stag.jpg


A zoomed out shot to get the actual power lines into the frame, which also includes a peacock on the opposite side.

Kabini - It's like coming home!-017-power-line.jpg


This location is probably the most familiar spot to Kabini regulars, since it is somewhat centrally situated and is generally where the vehicles congregate to exchange views. It is also the place where tigers and leopards have been spotted very often and most importantly Blackie area. This time we are the only vehicle there and just whiling away the time, when we hear a single Spotted Deer alarm call. Just one and not repeated. With nothing else to do, we decide to head towards the call which is coming from the double salt pit direction. Lo and behold!

Kabini - It's like coming home!-018-tigress.jpg


This is the temple female, of the first litter of the back water female. So called because of the temple gopuram shaped mark above both her eyes.

Kabini - It's like coming home!-019-tigress.jpg


It is around 5:45 PM, quite late for this time of the year when the light fades fast. I am shooting at ISO 3200 to get a decent shutter speed even at maximum aperture which is only f/5.6 on this lens.

Kabini - It's like coming home!-020-tigress.jpg


Salt forms an important part of any animal's diet and they love licking the salt crystals collected at these pits at various places in the forest. These pits are not man made, contrary to popular opinion and are quite natural.

Kabini - It's like coming home!-021-tigress.jpg


A few minutes later, she's had enough salt and probably wants a drink of water so she quietly disappears into the forest.

Kabini - It's like coming home!-022-tigress.jpg


The equally famous Tiger Tank is close by and we are reasonably sure she's headed there for a drink, so we head there too. But she has decided to go elsewhere and does not put in an appearance.

After seeing so many tigers and leopards in the wild, it is still an adrenaline rush to spot one walking its domain, like the regal animals that they are. It is this rush that keeps me coming back again and again, to Kabini, to other places like this.


A brief word on the Nikon D500.
The one single factor that may push anyone to upgrade from an equally capable camera like my Nikon D7200, is its phenomenal auto focus system. It acquires focus almost instantly in even quite dark situations, like the one with the tigress above. The photos look bright enough because of the post processing on them, but the actual conditions were quite dim.

Secondly, once focus is acquired, it just refuses let go. I use the continuous auto focus mode with 3D tracking if necessary and the way it keeps the focus point on the subject is a joy, no matter where the subject moves in the frame. It is your responsibility to keep the subject in the frame obviously. That's about the only thing the camera cannot do by itself!

Thirdly, that sweet 10 FPS allows you to get more shots in between and kind of ensures that you get at least one keeper per set. The difference between the 7 FPS of the D7200 and the 10 FPS of the D500 may not seem like much, but believe me it makes a big difference. ISO performance is pretty good too, as is evident from the tigress shots taken at 3200. Added to this, the humongous 200 frames buffer with the super fast XQD card lets you shoot as many frames as you want before the camera slows down. I found that number a big overkill since I rarely shoot more than 10 or 15 frames in one go, but it is good to have that buffer.

It is worth the upgrade, if you don't mind plonking down Rs.1,20,000/- for just the body. I wish I had this camera on my Mara trip, although my D7200 is no slouch when it comes to performance. I still have that one, can't bring myself to let go of it. Maybe I will use it as a second body with a different lens like a 24-70 which I sorely missed. I am still undecided on it.

As ever, I hope you people enjoy these photos as much as I enjoy taking them. Until next time then, bye and drive safe.
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Old 22nd December 2018, 12:24   #2
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Default Re: Kabini - It's like coming home!

Thread moved from the Assembly Line. Thanks for sharing.
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Old 22nd December 2018, 12:54   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Stryker View Post

JLR's pricing now is quite ridiculous but there is no other option if you want the best safari rides and drivers.
Yes, it is frightfully expensive. We paid Rs 12,000 pppn, and that too after a discount of 10%, if memory serves me right during 2014. For the log cottages, overlooking the river. Has this increased now?

Quote:
...the food is great, the property is excellent,
The property is excellent, and the Viceroy Bar was quaint and cozy, though there were no patrons when i visited it. However the food was just okay, at least to our taste.
Quote:
... the "lens charge" of Rs. 500/- per safari for lenses over 200 mm .. With our usual two night, four safaris stay, this charge of Rs. 2000/- + 18% GST is atrocious.
i wish we stop this bureaucratic mindset of charging everything on a 'capacity to pay' basis. An unnecessary hassle and time wasting process. Some National Parks have a separate charge for 'video recorders'. Don't they realise that all modern DSLRs now come with video capability? And secondly, why is GST applicable for camera and lens charge? There is so sale or service offered? It is our equipment.

At one park, there was different charges for 'personal' and 'commercial' equipment or photographers. I had a tough time explaining to the person that i was an amateur, particularly when i showed him my equipment. Don't they realise that amateurs are crazy?

Quote:
The lens does an equally wonderful job of rendering the background into a smooth green blur.
If taken with the lens wide open and at short distances, the bokeh is good, but not comparable to the primes.

Quote:
I was experimenting with the new Content Aware Fill in the "Edit" menu in Photoshop CC 2019
I use LR 6, the perpetual licence one. I find it irritating that Adobe has stopped the perpetual licence and is pushing customers for the 'rental' model. It makes sense to have your customers hooked, and that is precisely the reason i don't want it.

Quote:
I hope you people enjoy these photos as much as I enjoy taking them.
Yes, enjoyed the photographs enormously and may i add that they were very good. And enjoyed the report too. I note that you did not do the river safari. One gets awesome shots of ospreys hunting and of course other river birds.

Thank you for sharing.

Last edited by earthian : 22nd December 2018 at 13:00.
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Old 22nd December 2018, 17:49   #4
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Originally Posted by earthian View Post
Yes, it is frightfully expensive. We paid Rs 12,000 pppn, and that too after a discount of 10%, if memory serves me right during 2014. For the log cottages, overlooking the river. Has this increased now?
Not sure why you paid 12K pppn in 2014. If you take a tent (which is quite big and very comfortable) it is about 9K incl taxes now. Regular rooms are around 12K. It used to be 6K and 9K earlier. Of course this is inclusive of two safaris per day and all three meals.

Quote:
Originally Posted by earthian View Post
If taken with the lens wide open and at short distances, the bokeh is good, but not comparable to the primes.
I was shooting at 500 mm. The new 500mm f/5.6 PF prime will give you more or less the same bokeh, since that is a function of the aperture and not of the focal length. But the cost of this lens is around 2,50,000/- and if you want a wider aperture, the 500 mm f/4 costs a whopping 6,50,000/-. My lens cost me 75,000/- so I guess I will remain happy with the bokeh I'm getting!


QUOTE=earthian;4516468]
Yes, enjoyed the photographs enormously and may i add that they were very good. And enjoyed the report too. I note that you did not do the river safari. One gets awesome shots of ospreys hunting and of course other river birds.[/quote]

Thanks. I normally don't go on the river safari since there is usually more action on land, but yes I know what you mean about getting good shots of water birds.
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Old 23rd December 2018, 10:07   #5
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Default Re: Kabini - It's like coming home!

Always a pleasure to read your log. Nice information on post processing, gear, and wild life education. Nowadays in the urban world, many do not know birds beyond Chicken and Crow. Little we know, Tigers eat things other than meat and water. Thanks a ton.

Last edited by Thermodynamics : 23rd December 2018 at 10:23.
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Old 23rd December 2018, 14:57   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Stryker View Post



JLR's pricing now is quite ridiculous but there is no other option if you want the best safari rides and drivers. Some of us have raised this matter with the Forest Department but all pleas seem to be falling on deaf ears so far. "Make hay while the sun shines" seems to be their motto. Of course, the staff is always genuinely friendly, the food is great, the property is excellent, etc., but it is still a pinch. I hope some sense prevails and the prices are adjusted. On top of all this, the "lens charge" of Rs. 500/- per safari for lenses over 200 mm (and which self respecting wild life photographer will carry a lens under 200 mm?) is another pain in the proverbial. With our usual two night, four safaris stay, this charge of Rs. 2000/- + 18% GST is atrocious. Again, complaints have been made by many, let's see what happens. Enough of the JLR rant and on to the pictures.



If you are looking for an alternate to JLR, check out the Bison, JLR allocates safari seats to them. And they are quite reasonably priced. Planning to stay there in our next trip.

Yes our last trip to Kabini and Bandipur were mostly birds. Spotted a spot bellied Eagle Owl.


Bandipur is proving to be a lucky ground for us. However we were able to spot a leopard in our last visit to Kabini right on the road very near to the entrance of both zone A and B.

Pls do give a heads up when you plan your next visit, we shall try to align our travel accordingly. Would like to listen to your Masai Mara experience.
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Old 23rd December 2018, 17:28   #7
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Default Re: Kabini - It's like coming home!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Stryker View Post
Not sure why you paid 12K pppn in 2014.
Just checked out their tariff. We had stayed in the Maharaja cottage, It is much more expensive now:

Kabini - It's like coming home!-screenshot-20181223-17.18.42.png

Quote:
... since that is a function of the aperture and not of the focal length.
That's right and that is what i said. When i said "Wide open", i was referring to the largest aperture, as is said in photographic lingo.

However, your statement that a f 5.6 500mm prime would give you the same bokeh as a 200-500mm f 5.6 may be debatable.
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Old 23rd December 2018, 18:57   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Thermodynamics View Post
Always a pleasure to read your log ... Thanks a ton.
Thanks, Thermodynamics. It is an absolute eye opener when a first time visitor to the forest, especially a child, sees so many different birds and goes "Waaaw!!" About the salt, all animals and birds have to have salt in their diet. Sodium is an essential chemical and salt is the simplest way to get it. You can see in the Yellow footed pigeons shot that they too are at the salt pit, getting their share.

Quote:
Originally Posted by varunanb View Post
If you are looking for an alternate to JLR, check out the Bison, JLR allocates safari seats to them ... Pls do give a heads up when you plan your next visit, we shall try to align our travel accordingly. Would like to listen to your Masai Mara experience.
As I mentioned, tourists from any resort other than JLR are generally accommodated on a large 20 seater Canter vehicle instead of the six seater fully open (except the top) safari vehicles. This is more like a bus, it is not convenient for photography. Unless of course, there is no crowd, which at Kabini is extremely rare. So check with the Bison people first, to avoid disappointment.

I may be going again around Republic Day weekend, will let you know via PM.


Quote:
Originally Posted by earthian View Post
However, your statement that a f 5.6 500mm prime would give you the same bokeh as a 200-500mm f 5.6 may be debatable.
I haven't seen any definitive proof that the 500 Pf delivers a far better bokeh. Unfortunately, bokeh depends on so many things like distance between subject and background, atmospheric conditions, type of background, etc., etc, that unless the same shot was taken by both lenses at the same time with the same equipment and exact same settings, it would be very difficult to make a factual statement that one delivers better than the other. Of course, considering that the 500 PF is nearly four times the cost of the 200-500, I would certainly expect better optical quality from it.
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Old 23rd December 2018, 20:17   #9
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Default Re: Kabini - It's like coming home!

Another of your tiger census series

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Originally Posted by varunanb View Post
And they are quite reasonably priced. Planning to stay there in our next trip.
If the price works out cheaper than JLR then its great. I had found other resorts quoting more than JLR for stay + safari (through JLR) combination.

Quote:
Originally Posted by earthian View Post
Just checked out their tariff. We had stayed in the Maharaja cottage, It is much more expensive now
Few years (~ 8) back, tents were around 4K per night. It has been a steep increase from then.

Last edited by Gannu_1 : 24th December 2018 at 10:46. Reason: Removing unwanted spaces.
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Old 23rd December 2018, 23:11   #10
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Mesmerizing isn't the word, birds are one of the most beautiful creations of God and these pictures reiterate the same. I am not an expert , however I do like the picture of Yellow Oriole.
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Old 24th December 2018, 10:35   #11
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Extra charging for lens ranging above 200 MM is a common phenomena across Karnataka,and I find it ridiculous.I remember paying Rs.300 extra last year at Ranganthittu just because I was carrying a 150-600 MM lens
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Old 24th December 2018, 10:41   #12
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Another of your tiger census series
Thanks, mpksuhas. I am asked the same question by many friends too. "Have you completed the census? How many are there?" etc. I've given up trying to make them understand what it means to go tiger chasing in the forest.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Chillout View Post
Mesmerizing isn't the word, birds are one of the most beautiful creations of God and these pictures reiterate the same. I am not an expert , however I do like the picture of Yellow Oriole.
Thanks Chillout.
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Old 24th December 2018, 13:05   #13
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Ah! Stryker strikes again! Wonderful captures and yes - you got lucky again with the Striped cat! So you've had a great year with photographing wildlife and I guess you're getting better with each outing to the forests.

Yes - I can totally relate to your tales of "getting drawn towards the forests again" and I am trying hard to control that very itch! There are some places that make you come back again and again and Kabini is surely one of them! The Himalayas would also, probably, come under that category for me apart from these wildlife excursions. There's something about the Himalayas that just makes me want to visit them over and over again!

Looks like you've mastered the D500's AF system. The 7200 is a lovely little beast on its own - and if at all you plan to depart with that, please please please let me know - I'd be happy for an upgrade myself!

As always, I am planning a trip around the late Feb-early March time frame next year - but if JLR keeps jacking up prices like this, I'd be a office-chair-happy-spectator.

Until next time, happy clicking!
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Old 24th December 2018, 18:31   #14
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Ah! Stryker strikes again! Wonderful captures and yes - you got lucky again with the Striped cat! So you've had a great year with photographing wildlife and I guess you're getting better with each outing to the forests.
Thanks, Vishwas. I haven't seen any more of your travelogues. Too busy? I know what you mean by "office-chair-happy-spectator"! I'm one for almost all the travelogues posted here on T-BHP.
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Old 26th December 2018, 15:21   #15
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Default Re: Kabini - It's like coming home!

Excellent pics! a real treat for eyes! keep travelling and keep clicking
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