It was a cold winter morning on 26th January 2014, a Republic Day of India. This year it happened to be a Sunday as well. So it was the only weekly off that most of us had. But instead of relaxing at home, about a thirty photography enthusiasts in Nagpur preferred to gather at wee hours of the morning, near Sitabuldi.
The occasion was Wildlife Photo Shoot and Training Program organised by Sony Alpha Flagship Store M/s Altaf H Vali, in association with Sony India.
I had purchased Sony SLT A58 camera from M/s Altaf H Vali in October 2013 and in the month of December, I got the message from them that they have organised a Photography Training Program on 26th January at Pench Tiger Reserve, Karmazari. Without any hesitation, I got myself registered for the same. Ever since then, I got the regular updates from the Store about tour itinerary etc.
Finally the day came and I reached the Store at 6 am, along with my wife and son. The day, which proved to be a full of surprises later on, began. To start with, the participants were given neatly laminated ID cards.
As per the itinerary, we were scheduled to have breakfast after reaching the resort in Karmazari. Still the food packets containing Snacks and Fruit Juice were distributed to all of us, as a light refreshment in the Bus. We boarded the bus for two and a half hour journey to Karmazari. The staff from M/s Altaf H Vali periodically enquired whether we are comfortable and do we need something.
Because of the poor road condition, it took two and half hours to travel a distance of 90 Kms and at around 9 am, we reached the Resort in Karmazari. The program was arranged at Baaz Jungle Resort (http://www.baazjungleresort.com). It's a beautiful Resort. Breakfast was ready and separate room was allotted for ladies to freshen up.
Immediately after breakfast, the training program began.
Mr. Adnan from Altaf H Vali welcomed all of us and introduced the trainers as well. It was made clear that this training program would not, in itself, make any one of us a professional photographer. However, it would certainly be a step for all of us in that direction to be one.
First part of the training was conducted by Mr. Sameer Ashraf from Sony, who is a DSLT Pro Specialist. We were delighted to know that he has worked for the National Geographic and has even covered the war of Afghanistan. He explained the evolution of DSLT technology. We came to know the advantages of having a Camera with Translucent Mirror. He demonstrated how the mirror moves in DSLR, while it remains stationary in DSLT, enabling us to get more FPS (frames per second). SLT technology also allows the Auto Focus function to work while capturing videos, which is not possible in conventional SLR cameras. Stationary mirror also reduces the time for the Camera to get ready for the next click. View finder, being a Tru-Finder also gives the perfect impression of how the clicked picture would look like, thereby minimising the errors due to trial and error. We got to compare the results of DSLR cameras of other makes, with the same settings and since the cameras were connected to a LCD panel, it was all there for us to see, live. Getting the knowledge of all this was fabulous.
Second trainer for the day was Mr. Chandrakanth Kamath (http://www.idis.in/chan.html), who is a renowned wildlife photographer himself. He started with "What is Photography?" and explained it beautifully that "photo" means light and "graphy" means writing (just like calligraphy). So photography literally means "Writing with the Light". He took us through the Basics of Photography and explained the Exposure Triangle comprising Aperture, Shutter Speed and ISO. He enlightened us with some methods adopted by professional photographers in tricky situations like Wildlife Photography. He emphasised that to be a professional photographer, one needs to have the Right Attitude, Visual Eye, Proper Equipment and Knowledge Sharing Habit as well. Each of these was discussed in detail. He also said that to be a good wildlife photographer, once needs to love the animals and nature as a whole. He explained how "Passion" and "Patience" are a must. He also showed the pictures depicting how, the Patience pays. He shared some thumb rules of photography like The Rule of Thirds and ideal shutter speed at a given focal length (when tripod is not used). He also suggested some recommended settings for us to click the photographs while going for a Jungle Safari.
The formal training concluded with a participation Certificate distribution at the hands of Mr. Masaaki Hori, who is Sony India Head for Digital Imaging Division.
Now it was the time to enjoy delicious lunch and it was a privilege for me to share the lunch table with Mr. Hori, and discuss the future of technology with him.
After lunch, we boarded open Maruti Gypsy for Jungle Safari. We were given the option to carry extra demo lenses to try in the Jungle. However I preferred not to carry any of these costly items not belonging to me, and experimented with my 70-300 mm lens only.
The calmness in the Jungle was fabulous. We were able to enjoy the "Flora" but not much fortunate to enjoy the "Fauna". It seemed as if all the animals were enjoying the National Holiday. We were able to see only the Spotted Deer, Wild Boar, Monkeys and Nilgai.
After returning to the Resort, we enjoyed the High Tea. Before going into the Jungle, spontaneously Mr. Adnan had announced a competition with prizes for top four photographs clicked in the Jungle. So each one of us was asked to submit only one best photograph. This process was a bit time consuming since it took us a while to select the photograph and get it downloaded in Mr. Sameer's laptop. Then the trainers selected the best four photographs and prizes were distributed. The bumper prize for the Best photograph was sponsored by the Resort as one night all expenses paid stay with family and one Jungle Safari. After that, we boarded the bus again for return journey and reached Nagpur at 10 pm.
It was an exiting day for all of us. I came to know how illiterate I was in photography before attending this training program. We gathered some knowledge and made new like minded friends as well.
Now I would like to share my some of my thoughts on "Buying a Camera".
E-Commerce v/s Assisted Buying: Personally speaking, I am the one who prefers to buy most of the things online. With e-commerce on the rise, you get many lucrative deals while buying online. However, I would still resist to suggest the readers to buy a camera online. When I visited M/s Altaf H Vali in October before buying a Camera, I was a novice and was completely unaware of the DSLR/DSLT technology and certainly was not in a position to make informed decision on my own, which is a must in buying online. The staff in the Store (especially Mr. Rajeshwar) properly guided me and gave all the necessary buying assistance. It took me two or three visits to M/s Altaf H Vali before arriving at the decision to buy. I was stunned to know that there might be some Warranty Issues in products bought online. When a multi-national company like Nikon has put the following notice on their website (click here to check this URL on Nikon India website), it must be carrying some weight:
PLEASE NOTE THAT FLIPKART (FLIPKART INTERNET PRIVATE LIMITED) AND SNAPDEAL (JASPER INFOTECH PRIVATE LIMITED ) ARE NOT OUR AUTHORIZED PARTNER/DEALER IN INDIA FOR NIKON PRODUCTS.
So I would recommend the readers to buy such high value items from authorised dealers or flagship stores wherein you get buying assistance, after sales services and chance to attend programs like this one. Especially, Photography is the field wherein you need to literally establish the relationship with the dealer to plan your post camera purchases like lenses, tripods, flashguns, various filters, other accessories etc. And this relationship has to be mutually beneficial. And I see this training program as an effort from M/s Altaf H Vali to fulfil their side of the obligation in this relationship.
Brand "Sony" in Camera Technology: As far as my understanding goes, Sony is certainly giving a tough fight to the likes of Nikon and Canon. Especially after the acquisition of Konica Minolta in the year 2006, Sony has increased it's market share exponentially. The world certainly seem to have moved ahead from DSLR to DSLT or mirrorless technology. Both Translucent (SLT) and Mirrorless have their own pros and cons. Mirrorless ones are compact and easy to carry. But that comes with a limited space for lens manufacturers to give the required precision. DSLT/DSLR Cameras are somewhat bulky, but they give the professional look to the camera. This is needless to say that Nikon and Canon are equally good and it's a matter of choice. Making informed decision is more important.
All in all, at the end of this, I would still rate myself as being on level One on the scale of Ten (before this program, I must admit that I was on Level Zero). So it's a beginning for me. I am thankful to M/s Altaf H Vali, especially Mr. Adnan, for arranging this fabulous training program. I am also thankful to the trainers Mr. Sameer Ashraf and Mr. Chandrakanth Kamath for sharing their knowledge with us. And a big Thanks to Mr. Masaaki Hori for spending a day with us in his busy schedule.
Disclaimer: This post is neither about recommending to buy from a specific dealer nor about recommending brand "Sony". I have just shared my personal experiences.