3 weeks down in Kampala, Uganda.
After being on river Nile in the first week, the itch to get out again was getting uncontrollable. Not much activity post work hours. Nusrat fateh ali khan and Abida Praveen are good company often but they technically are outside the entertainment category. Me and a couple of friends decide to take off for a trek into Mabira forest. The rain forest is about a couple of hours drive north towards Jinja. We reach the registration office at 10am, pick up the trekking maps and set off on the blue trail.
It was smaller of the trails with very many old Figs. These trees have seen centuries go by from the above and many a civilizations pass from the below… funny thing, they jus sit there… Steady and absolutely grounded. I don’t want to know their biological names, i don’t care. Jus wanna capture their form and texture in my memory.
Large old fig’s, fascinating shapes and sizes, the roots especially.
Thanks to deforestation, we dint see animals at all! Heard mating calls of monkey’s… that’s probably it.But just as each forest has its own aroma, Mabira was dense. Its fauna was probably taking cover from direct sun, but was very much present in its sound; chirpy, welcoming.
The red trail was the longest and deepest. Obviously least taken. so we decided to get on it. Deeper regions had a thicker texture. The interesting parts came about where the forest opened up slightly to invited spools of sunlight. Both water and sunlight in the same place, and it was magic to butterflies.
My lens decided to chase the butterflies. The wild ones, the pretty ones, all kinds of bright colors and texture to compliment the dark-green-grayness of the forest.
Lesson1: The prettiest ones happened to be the most difficult to get. Pun and metaphor intended 😉
…but I have good stamina and patience for a chase …and with butterflies it’s an intellectual chase 😛
I was particularly awestruck by the blue-green ones… they had a certain illumination to their texture that was in contrast to the dull green of the forest. I started to look for their habitats. Essentials were water and sunlight.
Take position, adjust shutter, aperture, focus, take aim
Alright, so these fellas like playing games. I am gonna wait for them right here.
Tick tick 2mins
Tick tick 5mins
5 mins feel like 5 hours in a forest, probably because you are trying to not make a movement for the longest time in your life. And the ladies don’t turn up!
Fak it. I’ll try the next possible location.
A little bit of a walk, a little bit of experimenting with the lens, a little break, hunt for spools of sunlight and water and….
Take position, adjust shutter, aperture, focus, take aim
FACK! This time I was much faster! It was like being in a 3D version of the film The blue butterfly (a brain hemorrhaged kid chases a blue butterfly in Coasta Rica).
By this time we are approaching the last phase of the trail. This is probably the last spot with ample water, sunlight and lots of these beauties. I hide behind the tree, take position and wait.
10 mins. Common buddy, no giving up this time.
One by one, the ladies come gliding in. the problem is that my camera is set with an exposure for the sunlight area, and they decide to directly park in the shadow!
Fish. Quickly change exposure. Take aim and
But they are still around, jus messing with my happiness. So I try to capture them flying with a long lens – 200mm.
All out of focus.
Damn. Obviously. Its a 200mm lens and they fly at the speed of thought.
The soil under my shoes is marshy with recent rain. With every slight movement, my shoes go half an inch deeper.
Spotted. 4 of them are sun bathing close by. I slowly lower my self near them. My lens is in its minimum focal distance – 1.3 meters. By this time I am part of their setting… so they take me easy.
Lesson2 – the pretty ones need security that you gonna stick around …not just fool around and vanish 😉
My colleague is bored of waiting and keeps yelling for me from a distance ahead. I warn him not to come in the vicinity. It’s a critical mission and probably my last chance.
The ladies look super fascinating in their flight. But the moment they land, they fold their wings upwards and close them.
I can’t shoot while they fly… too fast to focus. They close their wings when they park. Now what!?
I give up and leave.
Heavy with the guilt of giving up… faltering along the trail… every step only getting heavier.
Damn. No way I am leaving without a shot of the pretty blue one.
Turn around. Track back to the spot.
By this time, am family. They are faffing around me… jus not showing their wings! So, wait. Observe.
10 mins later.
Aahaan…this is something I dint notice before! This is what they do just before they decide to fly! Open their wings and flap them slowly …and poof!
Take aim. And wait for them to fly.
15 mins later.
Damn! They are just chilling now. wings closed! My hand begins to shake holding the lens stuck to my eye for so long. I am so close to them and they don’t care of a potential danger!
Whistle. Shout. Blow. Make noise.
No acknowledgement at all. Jus continue chilling. Am being ignored now!
Lesson3: When u give too much attention to the pretty ones, they decide not to care all the more.
I throw a little twig to encourage some movement.
But jus for a moment. One of the blue beauties lands on a large leaf. Wings closed.
Sunlight ok. Exposure ok. Take aim… wait.
…at that very moment, slowly, the wings begin to part and open downwards. Teasing to close slightly and then opens again. It was epic. It was a moment of limbo. My right index finger goes crazy on the shutter.
Nature is so insecure. I have experienced this several times over… Nature gives in but likes you to feel that you have earned it.
Final Lesson: A chase is fantabulous when you chase it to the end
Below is a GIF animation file. I compiled this epic opening-of-the-wing into a single animation. This is what it looked like. Its in a loop and will play several times over if u like to watch…. jus wait for it to load! Its 5MB so might be slow on a slow connection. Or jus save the GIF as it is and watch once download is complete.
Something interesting happened at the end of all this. I met more of these beauties on my way out …but my interest in them had dwindled quite.
I hope this quirk is confined to the fauna of Mabira forest 😉 Maybe jus being pretty is jus not it 😉
Maybe i need to return to the forest to find out