A naturalists and macro photographers paradise
The best way to enjoy monsoon, is not by staying back home, but to step out of your cozy place! In South India there is no other better place to do this than Agumbe, its truly a blessed place for nature lovers!
I have been visiting Agumbe during monsoon for the last couple of years and every time, it’s the feeling of wanting more of it, you know!
Bangalore to Agumbe
The roads from Bangalore to Agumbe is in great condition, especially if you are taking the Tumkur->Hiriyur->Bhadra route. If you do want to enjoy the ghat section with scenic views which it provides, then you certainly should take the Hassan->Belur route. Regardless of which route you take from Bangalore, it is going to takes around 7hrs to reach Agumbe
Agumbe is a tiny village located in Karnataka state of India. It is known for its stunning natural beauty, lush green forests, and scenic landscapes. It is also known as the "Cherrapunji of the South" because it receives one of the highest annual rainfall in India.
It is a popular destination for nature lovers, wildlife enthusiasts, and adventure seekers. Trekking, camping, and nature walks are some of the activities that can be enjoyed here. The beautiful sunsets, scenic waterfalls, and serene atmosphere make Agumbe a perfect place to unwind and relax in the lap of nature. It is also the place for macro photographers, as monsoon brings all form of life in the forest.
Few things about Agumbe which I certainly want to highlight
Its located in the Western Ghats, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site
It receives an average annual rainfall of over 7,600 mm (300 in) and this makes it one of the wettest places in India.
It is home to a variety of plant and animal life and it is famously known as the "King Cobra Capital of India" because it is home to a large population of these snakes. King cobras are the longest snakes, and they can grow up to 18 feet long., and one of the most venomous snakes in the world.
It is home to several waterfalls, and of the most scenic being Barkana Falls
And it is a popular destination for trekking, bird watching, and of course for photography
Stay at Agumbe
If you do plan to visit Agumbe, the two places I would highly recommend you to stay are KCRE (Kalinga Research Center) and ARRS (Agumbe Rainforest Research Station) These are no high-end resorts but trust me when you want to be close to nature, you gotta be like one. It is worth a stay in any of these two. This time I stayed at “Hingara” which is another place to explore
Macro Photography in Agumbe
Macro photography in Agumbe rainforest is an amazing experience. The rainforest is home to a wide variety of insects, plants, and other small creatures that are perfect subjects for macro photography
One of the key challenges to photograph in Agumbe during monsoon is the constraint down-pouring, which will be constant for couple of days. From the time you enter Agumbe area, till you start heading back, you will experience rain. It’s a mesmerising feeling thought!
The other challenge is the low light which is mainly due to thick clouds in the sky, all the time. In addition, as the rainforest is very dense, there is not enough opportunity for light to reach the forest floor. This can make it difficult to get sharp images, especially if you are using a macro lens.
Another challenge is the humidity. The rainforest is very humid, which can cause your camera to fog up pretty quickly. This can also make it difficult to focus and take sharp images. I have always struggled with this and hence keep a thick napkin to constantly clean my lens
As most of the creatures starts coming to life after dark, the macro photography in a rainforest really starts in the evening, that’s when the action begins. This means that all the challenges which we talked about, really amplifies
All these challenges for a photographer are a part of what makes it so rewarding. When you can overcome the challenges and capture a stunning macro image, it is a truly magical experience.
A Camera of course, and along with that;
Macro Lens: No exception, given you are going to shoot small subjects, you certainly need a dedicated lens which enables you to take photos of them. A macro lens is a must-have as it will allow you to focus on small objects and get close-up shots. As it will constantly be pouring during monsoon, I would not recommend reversing the lens, but use a dedicated lens or an extender.
Tripod: A tripod is going to be of a great help and will enhance your chances of taking sharper images. It will also help to keep your camera steady and prevent camera shake, which is especially important in low-light conditions.
An External Flash with a Defuser: As there won’t be enough light, even during the day, an external flash is a must and will play a huge role in macro photography. You do need to balance the strength of the light to ensure you are not overexposing the subject.
Other Things to add to your CHECKLIST
Clothing: A good raincoat Jacket, waterproof trousers, and ensure that anything you have are light cloths
Boots: Boots are going to be of a great asset to keep your legs dry and warm. This will enable you to venture into thick forest area, walk into water streams and other places, without a second thought.
Protect yourself from Leeches: You need to make arrangements to keep the leeches away from you. There are many ways you can do so, which you can google and check. I have always worn leech preventive socks and on the top of it, wear boots. This helps cover most of my parts, but does not guarantee a bite though :)
An Umbrella, for sure. You will also need to protect your lens and other equipment from the rainwater and what better way than having a big umbrella. This will cover you as well as the equipment’s which you will be holding.
Waterproof Camera bag: A good camera bag, recommend a sling type bag which is easily accessible and can hold most of your equipment’s.
A cloth to keep cleaning your lens: Wipe off any water droplets or moisture from your lens to prevent blur.
Photography Tips & Techniques
But with sound preparation and practice, these challenges can be overcome. Let me now talk through some of the tips & techniques
Finding subjects: It is going to be a mammoth task to find the creatures even though they may be right in front of you, because they are tiny, they are camouflaged with its surroundings, they don’t move at all, they are hidden beneath the leaves, twigs etc. To be able to find them, a good amount of homework to know the types of creatures available in Agumbe during monsoon, will be very effective.
Choose your subjects carefully - Not all subjects are suitable for macro photography in the rainforest. Look for subjects that are relatively still and that will not be easily disturbed by the rain drops. Also, don’t limit yourself with just the creatures, do pay attention to patterns and other details in everything you see around you
Pay attention to the background: The background can be an important part of a macro photo. Choose a background that is simple and uncluttered.
Get close. The closer you get to your subject, the more detail you will be able to capture
Focus Stacking: Focus stacking is a great technique where a series of images are taken with different focus points, and then combining them in post-processing to create a single image in which everything is in focus. This is really useful when you are shooting at a higher aperture and are unable to get the entire subject in focus
Be creative: Macro photography is a great way to be creative. Experiment with different angles and compositions to create unique and interesting photos. Use torch or other light source to light your subject from behind it, so you can take a silhouette shots
Be patient - It may take some time to get the perfect shot, so be patient and keep trying
Be aware of your surroundings - The rainforest can be a dangerous place, so be sure to be aware of your surroundings and take precautions to avoid getting injured.
Edit your photos: Once you have taken your photos, you can edit them to improve the contrast, saturation, and sharpness
Have fun! - Taking macro photography in the rainforest can be a challenging but rewarding experience. Soak up the atmosphere and enjoy the beauty of nature.