Sugata (Ronji) did his Bachelor of Engineering from AEC, Guwahati and joined Indian Oil Corporation after graduation. The urge to do something new took over after two years and he went to the USA to get a Masters Degree in Agricultural Engineering. While he was pursuing his degree, he picked up a few hobbies: home brewing of beer and cooking being a couple of them. Even post completing his degree, the urge to experiment did not rest. As soon as he was back home in Assam, he spent a season, trying to grow vegetables in uninhabited sand banks which emerged in the flood plans of the Brahmaputra during winters. He managed to get a good harvest but as a business it was not sustainable and somewhat of a disaster. Soon, he started studying canine behavior and trained dogs for a few years. He absolutely had no inclination for a regular 9 to 5 job and when he started to run out of money to sustain his idiosyncrasies, Sugata started his restaurant business. He currently manages two of the most popular restaurants in Guwahati. In addition, in the last two years, he picked up photography as a passion and has done some amazing work, especially with birds. We were lucky to have a small conversation with him, mostly with respect to his photography, and it was very inspiring.
How did you get into photography: I had developed a debilitating back ache somewhere along life’s journey and that was preventing me from ticking off a very important item of my wishlist: trekking in the Himalayas. A friend convinced me that if I planned well, I could could still do it. Soon after a few months of preparation I set off for the mountains armed with strips and cans of painkiller drugs. This trek was to Panchachooli Glacier in Uttarakhand and I got hooked on to nature. Shortly before the trek, I had bought myself a Canon Point and Shoot camera and had developed an interest in shooting exotic landscapes. This was my first quality camera and it saw me through several treks till I I bought myself a Nikon DSLR in September 2012. Soon after i picked up a 55-300 zoom to give my 18-55 company.
Your work with birds is amazing. How did you get into birding and how did the passion evolve: Guwahati is surrounded by forests, and after buying the telephoto lens, it was only natural that I get drawn into bird photography. Initially, I could not even identify common birds like Bulbuls, Jungle Myna and Orioles. So I started having a ball of a time collecting lifers by the fistful (the beginning days are the best for birding). Visits to Maguri Beel and Dibru Saikuwa National parks were an eye opener and I realized the vastness of the hobby. I was very impressed when our guide said that he had seen close to 300 species. That gentleman was Binanda Hatibaruah, today considered to be one of the top bird guides of India. I still remember his excitement when we spotted the Falcated Duck.
Finally after going to the Mecca of Birding, Eaglenest, a couple of times and several other places, I realized that I get maximum pleasure from going out birding in Guwahati. So over time, birding became a sort of a regular 2 hour twice or thrice a week morning activity for me. The solo walks in the Forests surrounded by greenery and looking for birds had become a rejuvenating factor in my life. And the forests of Guwahati surprised me with some gems every once in a while. Besides, beautiful flowers, insects, butterflies, occasional mammals, sunrises and sunsets complemented my forest therapy.
Any tips for aspiring birders: Actually, today when I was asked to present myself as a birder I don’t know whether I can be considered one. I do not even have a count of the number of species I have seen. I like wandering around in lonely places and while at it keep my eyes open for birds. If it is to be, the bird attracts my attention and once in a while I get a photograph. And Guwahati having significant avian diversity in its surroundings it is possible to get species which are rare and sought after by birders. Coming to that, getting a rare species really is a upper. Some of my most priced photographs are noise laden images of rarities, the image of the Pale-headed woodpecker being one of those, and getting it from a nontraditional birding area (near Nongpoh) is the icing on the cake.
What equipment do you currently use: I use a Canon 7Dii with a 400f5.6 for my bird photography.
Besides birding, what do you do in your free time: These days I am not doing much birding, mornings being devoted mostly to cycling. I would love to do some long distance travel on a bicycle and am preparing myself for that. Somewhere back in time I quit playing the Sitar and the Guitar, and I hope to pick them up again someday soon.
Few quotes you stand by: “Birding is something we do for enjoyment…. So if you enjoy it, you’re a good birder. If you enjoy it a lot, you’re a great birder.” Kenn Kaufman.
“It takes a long time to grow young.” Pablo Picasso
“Working is a waste of time.” Nasif.
Some of Sugata’s beautiful shots follows. Just hit next on the slider. 🙂
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