If the word DETERMINATION was ever applied to the fulfilment of a hobby then, surely, we saw the embodiment of this in Tal Chohan’s presentation to SYPC last night, those who missed it must try to speak to those of us who enjoyed it, on so many levels.
We start our photographic lives in many ways and here we saw enthusiasm grow by visiting zoos, taking images of common species and learning to use the camera, to express the artist within him. As his expertise has grown so has his desire to create that image that pushes back the boundaries, this can only be achieved by a combination of technical skill, imagination, patience and dogged determination.
Part 1 – local wildlife with a difference
Shooting in RAW and with use of Faststone, Lightroom and Photoshop Tal has always sought to create “something different” we were shown a superb image of a kingfisher, pin sharp and stunning – but he did not stop there he captured super detail of the bird’s feather structure, it felt close enough to touch and feel the texture. Could this be bettered? Indeed, his great intuition was rewarded with a back lit, sunset, with the bird shaking off the water drops from a catch giving the impression of a starburst from the fish within the bird’s bill. Spoiling us we now saw images of an owl at sunset, which we could see in its eye. Taken using live view focus, the owl was over exposed by 2½ stops, exposed for 1/15s, this effectively turned night into day!
Next his subject was the kestrel, by placing his camera carefully and controlling it from a phone app he was able to take precision close ups using a fish eye lens, set with a level horizon, to minimise distortion, and f2.8 with limited depth of field – result – amazing. Other superb shots followed.
The rules of photography, which we embrace so willingly, were also laid aside last night with an unforgettable image of an owl peeping around a tree trunk on the left side of the image with 90% left empty to the right. Observing minute details and being carefully prepared allowed him to shoot the kestrel taking off at an exposure of 1/4000s to freeze the wing tips, only possible by studying the bird’s habit of defecating immediately before take-off.
Without exception each image that we were shown exhibited unique expertise. Silhouettes and side lit images were there to amaze us including a cheeky fox who, subsequently, sunk his teeth into Tal’s camera body, then made off with the control cable until a brief chase allowed him to recover the situation (and some expensive equipment).
As the first part drew to a close, we also saw squirrels at RSPB Formby, encouraged by dog biscuits, more owls and fine images taken off Skomer Island, in unusually calm seas, of puffins kissing, Manx shearwaters, razorbills and seals all in the golden reflected light in mid-July.
Part 2 – Tigers in the jungle, central India
Tigers are an umbrella species, all creatures fall under their shadow and protecting them says much about us. No doubt they are iconic being culturally important and appearing widely in art and Deity. In 1974 a system using locals in India established a paid guard system, they work on the jungle creating fire stops and prevent poaching and seek and destroy snares.
The first image was a type of water buffalo, the Gaur, a huge animal but a prized source of food for the tiger, this was followed by a Sloth bear, covered in seeds, demonstrating its little-known role as a pollinator. A leopard presented himself and stayed with the motor jeep for 20 minutes from a nearby water hole. Skill in tiger tracking was described but, at all times, safety was foremost. Animal alarms calls from monkeys, peacocks and deer all signify that that a tiger is present.
We were now spoilt with images of tigers in their jungle habitat, walking towards us, monotone images with resting tiger giving almost a painted appearance. A tigress resting on boulders, heated by the burning sun, A huge male strolling along by a water source, A spotted deer not realising that a crouching tiger was nearby.
Tal now presented his tiger portraits. A cub lazily viewing some squawking parakeets in the trees, a male and female side by side, their physiological differences made clear by the author, A tigress wearing a radio collar had provided valuable information for 10 years ensuring that tourism was not affecting these tigers. Artistic abstract images showing the specialised nature of their markings was an unexpected treat, particularly noting the way the markings divide and return together, a peculiarity to this reserve.
Action shots which, of course, are difficult to catch were described, soaking wet with a background echoing the tiger’s stripes but were, in fact, water reeds, a cub jumping up to a twitching leaf, 3 cubs with collared mum, all so fascinating.
Next, the subject was the bold superstar tigress, Maya, soon to be the main character in a documentary. The images showed her walking, at sunrise, through the forest, training cubs. Finally, a fine male waiting in a lake with only his head visible, it is known that his brother was nearby and they have formed a hunting coalition. The tiger swam gracefully along and the photograph of its head with a clear reflection was only to be described as wonderful in detail and colour, taken by the 400mm f2.8 lens from shoulder height, the lens rested on a cushioned jeep crossbar
The entire evening was full of surprises, a delight from start to finish presented by a photographer with real heartfelt passion. His range of workshops, images and charity work for the tigers is available on his website:
Tal describes himself as a Photographer, speaker & trainer.
He is all of these and more.
A memorable evening.