Kambala is folk sports that is unique to Udupi & Mangalore districts of Karnataka. It is held throughout the day with different pairs of buffaloes running in a muddy water managed by a chaser. Most of the Kambala pictures are a cliché of similar shots. I wanted to show the excitement of the Kambala, with a different feel. I wanted the viewer to be amidst the race and feel the excitement, while not getting bombarded with the same type of image.
So I formulated a strategy of going right in front of the finishing line at the elevated sand pit (they call it Manjotti in Tulu language). It gave me extremely low angle view and an opportunity to capture the shot as the buffaloes get peak of their 140 meter track. It also was dangerous as I was right in front of the charging buffaloes. I had just one last second between the click from ground level and jumping aside for safety. It was both scary as well as thrilling experience. Sunlight from the setting sun just sweeping over the Kambala field also helped to illuminate the all the mud and buffaloes in golden hue and make it all look so different. I hope you will see the result and can feel the thrill which is the essence of a good Kambala race
These pictures were from Miyar, a tiny village close to Karkala on Feb 8th 2015 when I went along with two of my friends to capture Kambala there. This Kambala was 12th annual buffalo race also called Lava Kusha Jodukere Kambala. The Kambala or the buffalo race is unique to Udupi & Mangalore districts.
This year controversy cropped as early in the season as Supreme Court gave a verdict of banning due to cruelty to animals in a similar sport called Jallikattu. Kambala events restarted after an intrim stay order from 15th Dec 2014 onwards. Since it is an interim order, final decision is yet to take place and is eagerly awaited. That initial ban caused rescheduling of Miyar Kambala to Feb 8th.
I was able to reach the venue around 3:30 PM which is an ideal time to reach Kambala venue. For the next two hours I took the pictures you see here. Nearing Sunset is best time in my opinion for shooting Kambala. That side light emphasizes the muscular texture of the athletic buffaloes very nicely. Even though Kambala continues throughout the night and on to next day, most of the light will be from the overhead halogen lamps which light up the whole Kambala venue. Capturing high intensity race during such a period needs high ISO, fast lens and other difficulties of low light photography.
I used my Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM fitted to Canon EOS 5D Mark III. This one lens & body combo is so perfectly matched for the low light situation and fast action sports. All the photos here are taken at f/2.8, shutter speed mostly at 1/1600th of second to freeze the water droplets. ISO was kept on Auto and varied with light condition between 100-400. I used AI servo mode using the default 5D mark III settings for AI servo which I found works best in a linear race like this.
I use AF point expansion with Central point which I can manually focus with assisted 8 surrounding points to help focusing. I did not use central focus point, but chose a point of focus either right or left of the centre depending on my composition and angle of approach of the buffalo. Since the Kambala had two tracks this point of focus was changing depending on the direction of shoot.
Read more about Kambala in my previous article Moodabidri Kambala 2015.