On my ‘blogversary’ I share my amazing experience of witnessing a dark sky and my first attempt at successfully capturing it. I kept this few months old, much-treasured moment for this special day. It was the dark night of Diwali far from all the lights and sounds of the city in the forest of Dubare. We stayed in the Jungle Lodge and Resort property – Dubare Elephant Camp, in close vicinity of the gentle giants.
As our preferred destination, we generally choose a quiet place to spend our Diwali. All thanks to the noisy firecrackers that trigger our sound sensitivity and in turn open up an amazing opportunity to explore the quiet places around us. So this time we selected Dubare Elephant Camp of JLR. I apologise for sharing my experience so late. But as I mentioned earlier I was waiting for a special day to share this moment which became very special to me.
I have been to the Dubare Elephant Camp before while on my visit to Madikeri. It was a day tour then to see the elephants’ bathing and feeding rituals. (Read my post to know about my previous visit experience.) This time we stayed in the camp in a peaceful setup across the river Kauvery within the cover of large trees.
Dubare Elephant Camp is located beside the plantation forest of teak where a large open area is dedicated to the keeping of the elephants. Most of the resident elephants are those who were retired from their forest job in the logging operation. While some were abandoned by their herd as a baby. There are even elephants that have injured themselves badly during bullfighting.
Our activity began with the forest safari which went through the elephant area. A very thick fog cover shrouded the surroundings in the morning. We waded through the fog watching different elephants involved in their own activity, some busy grazing, some lazily waving their trunk (probably they just woke up from their sweet slumber). One among these was the naughty ‘Karuna’ as told by our motorist.
He was in a playful mood as he supposedly stays always. He is said to be in his twenties. He performed all types of entertaining moves as if he was an actor on the stage and we the audience. He danced and showed us various exercises while staying at his own place. We were highly impressed by his moves and wished to meet him during the bathing ritual. All elephants in the camp except two are male. The mahouts and their families stay in small settlements in the vicinity of the elephants.
These elephants are now domesticated and trained. Many of these elephants are the famous and prestigious Mysore Dasara (read Dussehra) elephants. All the adults are completely trained while the babies are in the process of learning human commands. One among the little ones was struck in a forest fire watching its mother die. We were deeply saddened to hear about the baby elephant who is now three years old.
As we entered the forest we could hardly see anything other than the opening within the trees or the dirt track for the passage of vehicles. Our motorist was talking about the forest and the resident bird and animal species when all of a sudden a herd of Gaurs (Indian Bison) came running from one end and crossed the path to reach the other side of the forest. There was a large gym bro (the bull 🙂 ) among the herd. The bull Gaurs are massive with an average weight of approximately 1500 kg. The Gaurs fall under the Vulnerable list and have been extirpated from certain South-East Asian countries.
As the Sun came up the fog cover was lifted and the forest glowed in the warm aura of the rays. We returned back to our lodge after a good time in the forest watching some pretty birds. Then it was the bathing time of the elephants and I was waiting to see playful Karuna and his activities in the river.
But that day it was the bathing turn for other elephants. Among them, there was a little one too. The naturalist and the Mahouts were cautious about his moves and did not allow anyone to come close to the baby as it was yet to be trained. Even though it was in the process of learning, it behaved well with so many people around.
For the rest of the day, we visited Madikeri and by early evening we were back to our peaceful stay across the river. As the darkness approached we noticed the pitch-black sky. Immediately I made a plan to see the open sky away from the foliage cover. To my biggest surprise, I could see the dark sky in its darkest possible form.
I could also see a faint cloud-like line across the sky. And yes, it was my dream-come-true moment, the much-awaited Milky Way. For the clear sky and the dark sky, I travelled far and wide even to the remotest Hanle in Ladakh. But luck was never with me. This time I was blessed with the luck of a dark and clear sky and I was able to try my hand at photographing the night sky for the first time.
I requested our JLR employees to allow me to go to a clearing near the elephant area that was past the property gate. They did not allow me to go out beyond the gate but one of them accompanied us in the darkness till the gate within the property that was clear of the foliage cover to get a reasonably good view of the open sky.
I set up my camera with the kit lens (as it was the only widest lens I had with me) for long exposure shots as we spoke to Ram, who accompanied us to photograph the night sky. It was good to know that Ram was a new recruit and was in his training period as an accountant. His father is also a JLR employee posted in Kabini. (Read my Kabini experience.)
I was pleased with the outcome as I checked the camera images. We returned back not waiting much longer. After I returned back home and completed the post-processing of the photographs, I knew where I had gone wrong. I will try to fix them when I get another opportunity of a dark and clear sky, probably I will be able to share a better image than what I am sharing today.
As a novice, I feel my image will be tolerated by any experienced and expert astrophotographer reading my blog and evaluating my photograph. I hereby end my post and my happy experience of a dark night sky in Duare on the occasion of Diwali.