Friday, October 06, 2023

Solapur style mutton kheema balls | सोलापूर पद्धतीचे मटन खिम्याचे गोळे

During my school summer vacation I used to visit every year. My mausi used to make excellent 'kheemyache gole'. Those lazy summer vacations were about doing almost nothing - I used to hang out at my maushi's place and spent time with my elder sister. My mother and younger brother used to stay at my Aaji's place which was nearby. The afternoon's used to be super hot with the tar on top of the roads melting. Everyone used to just sleep off the heat. After 5pm it used to cool down and the town would come awake.

We saw at least a movie each year. Visited my Aajoba's garage to play in the oiled soil. We used to drink sugarcane juice at 'Poonekar Kamte' at Daffrin chowk. I used to go to the Kaljapur Maruti mandir with my Aaji. Sometime even to shop for groceries.

Sometime my cousins from Kolhapur used to also come down. Then it was a lot of activity. Aaji used to get a large basket of 'chokhi aamba' (small mangoes which we suck the juice out of) and all of us had a free hand. Then there was the ice-cream making activity. My youngest mama used to get the ice from the ice factory and then we used to put Aapus aamba and milk and sugar in the ice-cream maker and work it. It was a lot of fun and the ice-cream used to be awesome. We used to go the Park to eat pani poori and pav-chatni.

In the earlier years when I was younger my Aajoba had taken us on several drives to nearby places in one of the many cars he kept building at the garage.

This all happened till my grandparents were alive. My mother used to cry while leaving every year - as did my Aaji and Aajoba both. We used to head back in the Siddheshwar express which left at about 8:30pm. It reached Kurla at about 6am next morning. Then the auto ride to the campus ... and home!

By the time we got back the first rains would have turned the campus into a beautiful heavenly place.

Monday, August 28, 2023

Portrait: Poonam

She loves fish. Drives fast and furious. She is a softhearted person with the soul of a fighter.

I try to look for that fighter, hidden behind the usual light banter and laughter...

Camera: Sony A7R III
Lens: Sony Zeiss Plannar 50/1.4
Light: Portable square softbox with strobe

Wednesday, August 23, 2023

Oriental Dwarf Kingfisher - The Jewel of the Konkan

The Kathikar's had come down from Nagpur. Ravi and Sanket from Mumbai. The ODK - as the Oriental Dwarf Kingfisher is lovingly called in the birding community - was the center of our attention. Samadhan Pawar from Kalle Village on the outskirts of the Karnala Bird Scantuary had a couple of hide's setup. It was my first experience of photographing from a hide. about 8 of us sitting in silence for about 6 1/2 hours! I was the only noisy one.

The birds used to come to the perch (setup opposite to the hide) with the food they caught for their budding hatchlings. They used to rest for a couple of seconds, look around and then pfffft! fly away. Those were the sessions when all the cameras went clicity-click-click-click.

Thursday, July 27, 2023

NEX-3 and the Voigtlander Color Skopar 35 F2.5

I am still not over the fact that this beloved setup of mine is gone forever.

The Sony NEX-3 came out more than a decade (13 years!) ago. I was already a Sony digital user with Sony's first A100 DSLR from 2006. But the mirrorless usecase (and hence the future) was obvious to me so I sold my DSLR and got the Nex-3 with it's 18-55 kit lens.

The reason I came to Sony was that my friend Himanshu had a couple of Minolta lenses. So when I earned my first money and ran straight to the JJ Mehta camera shop we naturally gravitated towards the Minolta cameras. I got the Minolta Dynax 5. After a while Minolta got taken over by Konica and they rebranded as Konica-Minolta. After a while apparently Konica sold the camera division to Sony and Sony continued with the same Minolta A mount. Hence the Sony A100 with the A mount.

Coming back to this setup: the NEX-3 was a fantastic camera. Super light weight and compact - hardly larger than a serious point & shoot. But the lens was long and of average quality. So I went in search of used rangefinder lenses on the forums as the new E mount was adaptable to other mounts. I purchased this Voigtlander Color Skopar 35/2.5 lens from a stree photographer in New York city. This lens, even with the adapter, made the overall package exceptionally compact. People did not believe that it was an APS-C setup. The rendering of the lens was endearing and many of my best photos are clicked with it. I miss it.

Monday, July 03, 2023

Blue-eared Kingfisher

What a beautiful bird!

Me and the wife went on an impromptu trip across the Konkan. The daughter had gone to some camp and we wanted to be in the vicinity. On day 3 we went to a remote village called Abloli. Sachin Karekar runs a nice eco-tourism place called Gaarva agro-tourism. Nice stay and excellent local food. The area is thickly wooded and home to many birds. Sachin is an excellent guide to birdwatchin.

These little buggers hung out in the under sides of bushes on the river bank. Very dark spots. They are so quick. I loved watching them fish. But they were too fast for me to capture on camera. We spend well neigh 2 hours prowling the river banks for these photos.

Camera Sony A7R3 with the Sony FE 200-600/5.6-6.3

Sony A7R3 with a Sony FE 200-600/5.6-6.3 G lens

Monday, June 26, 2023

Birds of Phungus Sangameshwar - May 2023

Rufous Wood Pecker

Brahminy Starling

Black Shouldered Kite

Jungle Babbler


Indian Blackbird

Indian Blackbird

White Cheeked Barbet

White Cheeked Barbet


Red Vented Bulbul

Yellow Footed Green Pigeon (हरियाल). State bird of Maharashtra.

Common Iora

Tickel's Blue Flycatcher (Devrukh)

Fantail (Devrukh)

Camera Sony A7RIII with Sony 200-600 F 5.6-6.3 on a Getzo Monopod

Friday, June 09, 2023

The Shekru: A Glimpse of Vibrancy at MTDC Mahabaleshwar

Deep within the lush greenery of Mahabaleshwar, I had an encounter with one of India's most captivating yet elusive creatures – the Shekru or Indian giant squirrel. That early morning, armed with my camera, what I experienced at MTDC Mahabaleshwar was nothing short of enchanting.

When one thinks of squirrels, the imagery that often comes to mind is that of a small, agile creature, darting about with its bushy tail. However, the Shekru is a revelation in itself. Boasting a length of up to 45 cm and a tail that rivals its body in size, this arboreal wonder is truly the 'giant' of its kind. But what truly sets it apart is its resplendent multi-colored fur – a rich palette ranging from deep reds and purples to creams and blacks.

Capturing the Elusive Shekru

Me and Jo woke up early at were taking in the early morning sun-in-the-cool-breeze. As sunlight pierced through the dense canopy, there it was - a Shekru, leaping gracefully from one tree to another. Its vibrant colors seemed even more striking against the backdrop of verdant green.

Thankfully I had the camera with me. It took a lot of patience and slow moving as to not scare it to get some nice shots. It jumped from branch to branch, foraging it's food. Then it climbed up to the higher branches and into the light! Each photograph felt like a story – a testament to the squirrel's survival, beauty, and grace.

For a photographer, every shot is a moment immortalized. But photographing the Shekru was not just about the aesthetics; it was about the narrative. The Indian giant squirrel, though not endangered, faces threats from habitat loss and hunting. Their very presence in a region indicates a healthy forest ecosystem.

The MTDC Mahabaleshwar region, with its conservation efforts and natural beauty, provides a haven for such creatures. And while my photographs capture a fragment of the Shekru's life, they also highlight the importance of preserving such habitats.

As we made our way back to the resort, the encounter with the Shekru felt surreal. It wasn't just about adding another photograph to my portfolio; it was about witnessing the splendor of nature up close.

For fellow photographers and wildlife enthusiasts, MTDC Mahabaleshwar offers a chance to observe and appreciate the Shekru in its natural habitat. And for me, it was a humbling reminder of the myriad wonders that India's biodiversity has to offer.

To the Shekru – the vibrant sentinel of Mahabaleshwar's forests – and to many more adventures that await.


If you're in the MTDC Mahabaleshwar region and love nature, keep your eyes peeled. You never know when you might encounter the mesmerizing Shekru. Just remember to maintain a respectful distance and ensure their safety and comfort at all times.


Wednesday, June 07, 2023

Pratapgad from Mahabaleshwar

In the morning we took a walk to the 'Sunset Point'. Its a plesant walk down the road from the MTDC. The morning light was falling on Pratapgad. There was a fair amount of atmospheric haze. We got an unusual look of the gad from so far away. The picture below is an 100% crop. We can see the temple and I can even see the hotel were we uaually have food when we visit!

Monday, December 12, 2022

Kairas | Methamba | आईच्या हातचा कायरस | मेथाम्बा

I am so glad I recorded this video of Aai and I wish I had many more of these. Just to see her cook brings out the taste in my mouth.

Sunday, December 11, 2022

At the wooden gate

We had a nice time at Kalekar's camp. The daughter had managed to do the Pawli-Kanta himalayan trek and she was very proud. It was a tough trek for her age. It was good to meet her trek mates again.

Wednesday, November 30, 2022

A peaceful sunset

We travelled to Karde beach near Dapoli. A few families from our building. A quiet restful time. I had taken my new levelling base and the Lee reverse GND filter to try out some sunsets. This time in the Konkan is very drab - gone are the dramatic skys and crisp rainy days of the monsoons. As winter sets in, so does the haze. It's all dull. The sky, especially is colourless and boring. But I had to try.

To get this shot, me and Appa travelled to a high point between the Karde and Ladghar beaches. From this higher perspective we got a view of the rocks below. The haze and the RGND combination rendered the horizon dark.

It was a peaceful sunset. No drama. No excitement. Just peace.

Tuesday, October 18, 2022

Portrait: Mitra Rima

Rima is a photographer and traveller. Even when she is working on her day job as a software artisan, you can see the distant landscapes in her eyes.

The photo tries to take peek at the inner struggle between the dream and the reality...

Camera: Sony A7R III
Lens: Voigtländer 35mm F1.2 Nokton SE
Light: Ambient led cealing lights

Sunday, October 09, 2022

The Mammals of the Deccan Grasslands

Indian Grey Wolf

The Indian Grey Wolf, also known as the Asiatic Wolf, is a subspecies of Gray Wolf that ranges from the Indian subcontinent to Central Asia. Though once abundant, populations have declined drastically due to habitat loss and persecution. The Indian Grey Wolf is listed as endangered on the IUCN Red List. It is a protected species under Indian law.

Despite its name, the Indian grey wolf is not always grey and its fur may be reddish, brown, or black. The Indian grey wolf is a social animal and typically lives in packs of six to ten individuals, though larger packs have also been recorded. It's natural prey used to be deer, wild boar and grassland birds. But now it's poultry waste or livestock from the human habitations which have encroached it's domain

The wolf has a bad reputation and has been persecuted by the loocal shepherds who long roamed these desolate grasslands - or maalraans as they are locally called - with their heards of sheep or goats. Their dogs brought diseases to the wildlife.

Not only the wolf, these grasslands are home to a variety of mammals. The Bengal fox (Vulpes bengalensis), also called the Indian fox is found here. The Indian Hyaena is a feared predator with recent videos of them attacking some people going viral. But it's an essential part of the ecosystem. The black buck and the chinkara used to roam these grasslands in the thousands not a 100 years back. They still can be seen around.

The region around Saswad and Bhigwan has suddenly become quite popular for the weekend wildlife enthusiasts. People from as far as Bangalore fly in with their huge lenses to get the wolves on record. This influx of tourism is good for the local people who are earning a lot of money suddenly. But it has also led to internal competition and then unethical practices to get the photos. Unless we practice sustainable tourism and help protect these grasslands they might end up being just a hen which laid gold eggs which was cut open.

Further reading :
1. The Wilds of Saswad: The Vibrant Grassland Near Pune
2. Dawn to Dusk on Deccan Grasslands
3. India’s Savanna Grasslands: The Unsung Tale

The wolf in the bajra

Bengal Fox / Indian Fox

Bengal Fox / Indian Fox