Sunday, September 11, 2011

His Hisss....My Camera's Love...

© CAPT SURESH SHARMA. All Rights Reserved.


Snakes, though are the most dreaded and despised animals on planet, but still invoke unusual curiosity amongst all of all us. Almost all nature photographers dream to photograph snakes, as much as they love to photograph tigers. Its easy to shoot tigers with your cameras, but snakes are a slightly different game. Rules of the game, are simple, if followed religiously. We need to understand them and respect, follow strict discipline.

My mission, in life is to do `nature conservation’ through my camera and its results. I will let the images speak. I am trying to bridge the gap with my photographs and learning everyday.

Snakes are considered by many as perhaps the most dreadful of all animals on the planet. In reality, they are more scared of you than you are of them. In India, snakes are part of our mythology, yet, the first reaction on seeing a snake for many is panic, fear and thoughts to exterminate it. Fear of snakes prevails due to the ignorance of these useful creatures. Lack of basic knowledge about snakes leads to `fear of the unknown' and then panic, which further leads to disastrous results.

Though sometimes dangerous, snakes can be useful. Snakes play significant environmental role in the fragile ecosystem, also play equally important role in agriculture and the medical field. They control the population of harmful rodents and pests, thus helping farmers. Snakes, like any other living being, too have right to live on this planet.

Snakes do not go looking for people to bite, neither have evolved only to kill humans. Moreover, snakebite also is like any other accident, which can be prevented by being careful and learning about the subject. If we are sensible, we can avoid getting bitten by snakes. They are just like a live naked electrical wire, safe, if one maintains distance.

I love spending hours with my camera in front of snakes and they never disappoint me as my models for photo-session.

ABOUT THE PHOTOGRAPH : Its a rescued Russell's Viper. All the snakes rescued by the The Snake Cell , have to `fire the ramp' with their sexy winding gait at our studio, before they are sent `home' to enjoy their own life, the way they like.

These models are managed by my wife Dr Rajbir Kaur , in front of my camera. Never try photographing venomous snakes alone.

Used Elinchrom strobes and Canon 50 D and 180 mm L series Macro.






Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Snake Cell is more focused now!

I am not sure if I have shared this with you all that The Snake Cell has suspended its snake rescue operation in this region, its been one year now. There have been many reasons, I can share some with you – one I have finished with my research, second the negative and discouraging attitude of people in this part of the country. Third one, there is a snake rescue effort organised by someone else who makes a livelihood out of it, I am very happy that it is supporting someone. I used to do it free, so to support the effort of his gentleman, I have stopped the rescue of snakes now. The Snake Cell has remained self-funded for 13 years for its operations. It will continue to educate people about the snakes and snakebite, which has been the main mission eversince its inception. I have never been in favour of getting it a tag of an NGO, most of you know what most NGOs are doing in India.

The Snake Cell has significant achievements to its credit in these 13 years. And not interested to be decorated with any rewards and awards for its work. We do it for our own satisfaction and happiness, which has no price tag. First achievement, it brought a serious change in the attitude of the press about snakes and snake related stories in this region at least. Before the Snake Cell, the press in the region had only spicy, scary and baseless stories to write about snakes and it made humans despise snakes more. Now, they all do fruitful stories, almost every major newspaper writes one or two serious articles about snakes every season, which are useful for people to understand these wonderful creatures. No one can deny this claim of bringing such a great change, now press will spread (ONLY) good words about snakes and snakebite.

In personal capacity and as team leader of the Snake Cell, I shall continue to spread good things about snakes and their beauty through my humble effort of snake photography. I feel that a good snake photograph does help in bridging the gap between humans and snakes. I am trying hard to do some good photos, I am sure with time and practice, this skill shall be honed well and I'll bring out some meaningful photos.

Undoubtedly, the Snake Cell has added a new chapter in the natural history scenario of the region.


Name of the Snake : Striped Keelback (baby). Rescued from a house.

Photographed under Elinchrome Strobes. Softbox, snoot, grid were used.

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Monday, June 27, 2011

Majestic Indian Cobra !!

© Capt Suresh Sharma. All Rights Reserved



A couple of days ago, I decided to have a bit longer night while working on some important issues. At about 0130 hours, I got a call from a young lady, asking if I am Capt Suresh Sharma from the Snake Cell First, I was a bit skeptical, as it was worrisome to hear a young stranger girl on phone at unearthly hour. First, I thought it was the usual effect of the snake article of the day in the Times of India, where I was part of the article, usually its followed by few such phone calls. So, I reacted in usual manner and waited to hear her first, to know if there was a snake actually. She told me that there was a snake, I had to assess the situation i.e. the gravity of the emergency, type of snake, whether call is hoax or real, any security required, and made her comfortable on phone that she need not worry about the snake, it will not jump on her or chase her, just stand at about five feet and lest he goes off her sight. Finally, on my arrival on the scene, I caught a small common krait. You may refer this photo

After delivering a sort of lecture about snakes and snakebite to the family, I got back home at about 0315 hours, by the time I washed my hands and face to get ready to sleep, it was 0340 hours. Thought, I should check my mails etc. before I go to sleep, as I would be getting up late in the morning. The moment I sat in my chair, my telephone rang up once again. Now, I got a bit jittery, suspecting the call from the girl who called me for snake rescue. As I know, this act of handling snakes mesmerizes young girls and they do get swayed. To my surprise, there was another call for ‘snake rescue’, I had to ask the gentleman that what was he doing at 0330 hours. He told me that while he was going to washroom in his house, he heard a loud hiss under the washbasin in veranda. He was quite shaky when he spoke to me. I asked for transport as I was too tired to drive my own. On my arrival at the sight where snake was hiding, I discovered it was a big healthy cobra hiding behind a flowerpot. I coaxed him to come out and he did oblige me like a gentleman. Now we both were face to face, me with tong and hook, cobra equipped with his well hidden lethal fangs inside his nice hood. Being a gentleman, he warned me enough to be left alone in peace. It was looking majestic, a handsome cobra indeed. I bagged the cobra and left at the same house under an iron pot, to pick up during the day.

Next day, I invited Gurbir Singh Brar a very spirited, passionate and enthusiastic Flickr friend. He loves photography as much as I like and love it. I like two things about him, he is passionate about photography, secondly he loves to work with good camera equipment. It’s a very good quality, which many people do not have, in spite of the fact that some have money and love photography.

Early morning, we were out and had a nice session with our handsome Cobra model. It was challenging me with its loud and clear hiss, majestically erected hood. Suddenly, with heavy overcast, light had gone bad and had to use Speedlite flash. I treated him with water to drink, so he was ready to pose. Not to miss, I sprayed some cool water for bath and to calm him down. Now, our model was looking fresh !! After some time, cobra understood that we mean no harm to him and was quite calm and gentle. It’s a technique to communicate and assure them that you mean no harm.

It was the first photo session for Gurbir Singh Brar with any snake. He was quite excited. More you may ask him yourself

To most of you, it will look like a risky photo session. Most will say, I must have overlooked my safety book Snake Photography No, I will never overlook that.

I love this shot.



Friday, June 24, 2011

After a Long Wait, Russells' Viper Ablazes the Ramp Under Our Elinchrom...

Via Flickr:
© CAPT SURESH SHARMA. All Rights Reserved.


Eversince, I got my Elinchrom set up, I have been dreaming about my much cherished photo shoot with this handsome snake, Russell’s Viper. Its a challenge as well, herpetologists will agree with me. I have dreamt about this shoot, many times, even while being in deep sleep, such has been the mesmerizing effect of this handsome snake’s beauty on me. Also, I must admit, I just can not stop shooting snakes till my camera batteries or memories cards exhaust. Love it all the time !

This kind of shoots are carried in mind all the time, till accomplished and are refined in mind almost everyday. I executed this shoot with meticulous planning and preparation. My wife did the `model management’, choreography and `cat walk’ for this handsome young Russell’s Viper. Good stage management! Its not easy to manage a Russell’s Viper for a shoot, especially young ones. The easiest to shoot with camera is the Cobra.

We had to set up the stage and every piece of equipment was in place and displayed in a tidy manner, can not afford any confusion whatsoever, when shoot is in progress. We had to wear ankle shoes and proper thick trousers, which I have earmarked for such shoots. Its not that snakes will pounce on us or chase to strike. Its always better to be well prepared, to prevent accidents. Even our Sawyer snakebite first aid kit was placed in such a manner that its clearly visible. We had discussed everything in detail before the music of loud hiss was brought on the stage. First, we had to extend some hospitality to our model i.e. arranged a visit to a special Spa, served him a drink, etc. We had to arrange a rest room for our model, so he could take rest for a while, between the shoots and we could reset the lights and stage. It worked smoothly. We had to make him comfortable, that is by assuring him that he is in the company of safe people, had to negotiate with him, tough to negotiate. Probably, all the animals say, never trust a human being!

We did this kind of shoot after a long time. All of you can do it if you understand snakes and the subject of Snake Photography. Good discipline is the key to successful snake photography, no magic.




TECHNIQUE FOR THIS SHOT: This snake was rescued from a house. Shoot was organised indoors, under Elinchrom strobes. No artificial background was used, though was ready in place. Controlled light, just like spotlights, was managed with the help of snoot and grids. This kind of well controlled lighting made the background dark and this effect of black background was achieved.

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Cobra's Hisssss.... My Camera's First Love...

Via Flickr:
© CAPT SURESH SHARMA. All Rights Reserved.

Long ago, cobra's hiss would have made me run for life (may be with wet pants....), but with time it has all changed. After my chance meeting with Satish Bahskar (famous turtle man, who gave up IIT in the 3rd year or so for research on turtles) at world famous Croc Bank located at Vednamelli village between Chennai and Mahabalipuram (Mammllapuram). And then it changed further as I met Dr Indraneil Das (Herpetologist) Rom Whitekar (Snakeman of India) and Shekar Dattatri (wildlife film maker).

On one of my first outdoors with Satish and Dr Das, when I held a snake for the first time in my hands and the moment it moved up on my bare arm, it gave me a strange feeling and I dropped the snake as my instinctive reaction made me do. In a very stern tone, Dr Das warned me `if you can not handle a snake, do not ask for it'. That was the last day when felt uncomfortable with snakes. Can you believe now, I handle these snakes with ease, though with super extra care, its not worth getting bitten for fun. I am more comfortable with snakes than dogs. Most may not believe that.

Now, I love being with snakes and my camera, than a pretty girl in my company. I love to photograph cobras, they are known as The Good Snake (Nalla Pamboo - Tamil name for cobra). When they hiss and model in front my camera, that is the sight I love the most, they put my ramp on fire.....

DECLARATION : Friends, all of my photographs have become the property of THE GREEN FRAMES , an outfit at its infancy as of now, but passionately devoted to support the Green (soldiers and nature ).

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P.S. I have been `off Flickr' for quite sometime now. I could not comment on anyone's photos, as I was busy with THE GREEN FRAMES , its my sole mission now. I know, comments are always reciprocal and many of you must have even forgotten about my photos here. I am sorry, I can't help it, I have to give almost 20 hours a day to THE GREEN FRAMES .