Painted Bush-Quail

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Sometimes you don’t get the photograph.

Most times, really. For every photograph posted on this blog there are perhaps fifty others like it that will never see the light of internet because I had forgotten to adjust the ISO, shutter speed, the exposure compensation. Or perhaps because the angle wasn’t right, or because I had clicked just as the bird flew.

It used to frustrate me, and, to be honest, it still frustrates me. A lot. You blame yourself, almost: I should have done this, done that. Post-photograph depression, I call it.

But this last year, I’ve put down the camera a lot more. Because at the end of the day, there is something inherently selfish about a photograph: about creating a remembrance for yourself, and you alone, reducing the realness of the scene in front of you to a couple of pixels, nothing more. You see the world through the viewfinder, not your eyes.

These are two painted bush quails I saw in the Western Ghats last summer. It would take quite a large suspension of disbelief to call it a good photograph. (Perhaps categorize it under experimental?) But it’s ok. It really is.

A good photograph would have immortalized the moment in such a way that the viewers would understand the bird the way I wanted to see it. In this way, I am understanding the bird the way I saw it: in the cooling dusk, hiding in the shadows, frantic, tense minutes of silence, of have they moved there? or there? are they behind that branch, that leaf? The endless thirty seconds in which they scurried across the road on neat red feet, a cartoonish picture, the gradual release of breath as they disppeared into the vegetation on the otherside.

It is not a good photograph. But it is a good memory, a very good memory, and sometimes, I am learning, that is enough.

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