Category Archives: Nature

The Western Tragopan – A Painting : Acrylic on Canvas 15″ x 19″

SOM_6937-headerAlmost a decade ago, in 2006, I, along with a Danish friend,  made a series of exploratory treks into the remote Himalayan jungles of the Daranghati Wildlife Sanctuary in Himachal Pradesh. We were conducting a preliminary survey for the presence of the elusive and rare Western Tragopan. The locals call the Western Tragopan the Jujurana or the king of birds (Juju = bird and rana = king), in my opinion a much more appropriate name for such a regal bird.

In all we must have spent about a month in the mountains. It was tough but it was also one of the most enjoyable experiences of my life. You can read a more detailed write-up about those treks here http://somendras.com/?p=283 .

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The Common Kingfisher – A Painting (Acrylic on Canvas) 15″ x 18″


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We were birding around Kaza, in the Spiti valley, on a clear and sunny afternoon late in September. Despite the sun, there was a chill in the air. It was late in the “season”, and the bird activity had slowed down substantially. Most migrants had already left for their winter abode. There were patches of ice on the stream, the night temperatures were already dipping below the freezing point.

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Views of Nanda Devi and other Himalayan peaks from Berinag

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During the initial days of the Raj, Britishers were not allowed to buy land in Kumaon. In 1827, a Dr. Royale petitioned the British Government to allot a vast area of non-farming land in Kumaon to Europeans for tea gardening. In 1837 the British Parliament passed a bill allowing Europeans to keep private property in India and Lord Baton, the then commissioner of Kumaon ordered that hilltops with suitable climatic and soil conditions be given free of cost to Britishers for tea gardening as some people had found tea plants growing naturally in these areas. Thus started the tea gardens of Kumaon.

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The Pink-browed Rosefinch – A Painting : Acrylic on Canvas 19″ x 23″


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Chitkul, the last village in the Baspa valley, is a birdwatchers’ paradise. It is one of the few places in the western Himalayas that are higher than 3000m and are still accessible by road. To top it all, it is located in the Raksham-Chitkul wildlife sanctuary.

I have spent a lot of time birding in the areas around Chitkul. The Pink-browed Rosefinch (Carpodacus rodochrous) is a common but very beautiful bird of this region. I have spent hours observing this bird in and around Chitkul. This painting is inspired by a sighting of a male on a dry bush. In this painting I have tried to capture the experience of seeing such a beautiful bird while alone in the wilderness of the Himalayas. Hope you enjoy it.

 

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The Spot-winged Tit – A Painting : Acrylic on paper 8″x11″

Spot winget tit 2817 headingIt was early in the season. We were climbing a steep trail near Chitkul in the Baspa valley on a clear day. A cool crisp breeze was flowing. The landscape was waking up from its winter slumber, and getting ready for the summer. Snow was still lying in the spots protected from the sun but in the sunny patches flowers were blooming.

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Rushing Torrents II

IMG_7870 headingMy fascination with rushing torrents shows no signs of abating! What better place to photograph fast moving streams of water than the mighty Himalayas. During my trips to the Himalayas I always stop and try to capture the essence of the innumerable streams rushing down from the heights. This is the second collection of images of Rushing Torrents. The images were captured on my visits to the Himalayas in the last couple of years. I find them quite moving!

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The White-bellied Redstart – A Painting (Acrylic on Canvas) 15″ x 18″

White Bellied Redstart SOM_4539 headingI saw this male White-bellied Redstart (Hodgsonius phaenicuroides) near Chitkul in the Baspa valley, Himachal Pradesh. It was skulking in the undergrowth, rummaging about in the dampness for insects. It would give fleeting glimpses and then disappear back into the shrubbery. I decided to sit very still and wait patiently.

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The White Throated Tits – A Painting (Acrylic on Canvas) 15″ x 18″

White Throated tits SOM_4536 headingIt was a crispy cold December day. I was on an assignment, to photograph the Forest Rest Houses of Uttarakhand. After photographing the Janaki Chatti Forest Rest House I had decided to trek up to Yamunotri. Although the pilgrimage season was over and the shrine would be closed, I was curious to visit the source of the mighty Yamuna.
After a long and steady walk I was at the highest point of the trail. The track passes through a very old oak forest, crosses a ridge and then descends to the Yamunotri shrine. The forest was silent and the birding had been quite slow.

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The Red-headed Bullfinches – A Painting (Acrylic on Canvas) 15″ x 18″

Bull finchesSOM_4533 headerIt was the beginning of the monsoon season. We were birding along the Taluka – Naitwar road, a few kilometers from the Naitwar village, in the Govind National Park (Uttarakhand). Birding was slow, possibly due to the intermittent showers we had been having throughout the day. We were walking along a stretch of the road that travels through a nice broadleaved forest. The shade of the great trees made the forest floor quite dark.

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The Solitary Chukar – a painting (Acrylic on Canvas) 15″x18″

Chakor SOM_4540 headerOur car was nearing Khab, a small village at the point where the Spiti river meets the mighty Sutlej river, while on our way back from a long visit to the Spiti valley. We were driving through some of most treacherous roads in India in my Alto (a small 800cc car). I was on the driving seat, concentrating on the road, which wound along a narrow gorge far above the Spiti river.

Suddenly a Chukar (Alectoris chukar) ran down the hillside, crossed the road and paused at the edge. The car was slow and I managed to stop it without startling the bird. Although we were quite close, the Chukar stood very still and looked back at us enquiringly. I bought my camera up very carefully and managed to take a photograph before it jumped off the edge of the road and glided down to some rocks far below us.

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The Himalayan Mountaineering Institute at Darjeeling : Some memories

Header CRW_5781In May 2004, on a sudden whim, I signed up for the Basic Mountaineering Course at the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute in Darjeeling (HMI). In retrospect, it was a great decision. Although I was well past my prime, I was older than most of my batch, I was also physically quite fit and very keen. I enjoyed the course and I have very fond memories of the time I spent at HMI.
 

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Memories from a trip to the Kumaon Himalayas

Sunrise over the Humalayan ranges, as seen from Chaukori.

Sunrise over the Himalayan ranges, as seen from Chaukori.

While reorganising the images stored in my backup disks I stumbled upon these pictures from a long and leisurely road trip across the Kumaon Himalayas.

 

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Exploring the Zanskar Valley

It was late in September 2011. I was in Leh on a dream assignment. The assignment was open ended. I was to make my own itinerary and travel to places of my choice at my own pace. The idea was to make a nice portfolio of images from Ladakh. I was alone in my trusty Bolero 4×4 jeeep and I had already covered the main Indus valley and the Nubra valley.

I was planning to leave for Zanskar when, I came to know that my friend Tribhuvan was in Leh. We met at his favourite restaurant for dinner. When he told me that he and his friend, Charles, were also planning to go to Zanskar, I proposed a joint “expedition” to Zansakar.

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