Cactus Garden – my camera’s love !!!

Photo: Capt Suresh Sharma

I have started this Blog to pay my respect and salute Dr JS Sarkaria, the founder of the Cactus Garden, who worked with extraordinary diligence and with exceptional love for these much despised plants (I think, only by we Indians, no offence, please). Whenever, I visit the garden, I do think of Dr Sarkaria, I wish I had met him when he was around. He left for heavenly abode a couple of years ago. (I will be posting about him soon, with permission from his family). He deserves a great place in the history books of the city, as he has given a unique landmark to the city.

I live at Panchkula (Haryana, India) and consider myself as very lucky to be living near its famous Cactus Garden, sadly not very well known amongst the denizens of this modern city, as it should have been. In fact, this garden is unique and special for India. Thanks to all the stupid superstitions, which had some reason to come into practice, people do NOT grow any kind of cactus or succulent at home. Most Indians believe that its not a good omen to grow cactus at home. I agree with a logic for not growing cactus at home, where there is small space and kids are around, its being a safety concern. Lest they get hurt by the steely strong thorns of cactus, if it is grown at home. But some stupid brains have added superstition `since cactus grows in a deserted and arid place, it brings unhappiness like desert in the house and the family’. How silly is that! On the contrary, cactus gives me immense inspiration – it grows in harshest conditions, needs no extra care, still smiles with flowers, fights hard life all alone (sort of alone, otherwise ecosystem does support them to live). In fact, cacti and succulents are great plants to grow for decoration, need far lesser space (not much of spread) and extremely scanty water supply. If you are away for a holiday, most of the cactus varieties can survive for a month without water.

A few years ago, when I visited the Cactus Garden for the first time, as a local tourist, I had finished my visit in less than 15 minutes. But soon after I met Mr K Koshy, IPS, who was posted in the city as DGP Vigilance, an avid birdwatcher, we started pursuing photography as beginners. I realised that Cactus Garden is a great asset to us to explore locally with our cameras, a treasure trove. Eversince, I have fallen in love with the Cactus Garden. Now, I wish to learn about cactus in detail, its names, technicalities involved in its gardening and care. I visit Cactus Garden often nowadays, its staff headed by Mr Sushil Kumar, the supervisor of the garden, extend me superb support, in fact to anyone who who shows interest in the Garden and cactus. Sushil really supervises the Garden with personal touch and care, if there is someone who is attached to the garden now, its he, I think so. Hard to believe how he survives in a government set up. Must be a tight rope walk for him!

During my last three four visits to the Garden, I have been viewing only these tiny flowers (not more than 5mm wide) through my macro lens, which grow in bunch. This cactus bush is thronged by the bees and the work starts with daybreak itself and that’s why the phrase `busy like bee’. I find this place teeming with small insect life also, sometimes I get to see insects moving on flowers only through the lens, otherwise too small to get noticed. Its always very satisfying.

Bee on a Cactus Flower

You will see some nice photos of cactus flowers here, often. I hope you will enjoy and start looking at cactus differently, also hoping locals will change their superstition towards cactus.

Succulents – wonderful subject !

Via Flickr:
Somehow, I have always loved cactus flowers and succulents. They make wonderful photos. Also, I think another reason for attractive photos is that we all get to see cacti and succulent very rarely in routine life.

I am lucky to have been based very close to Cactus Garden at Panchkula (Haryana state in India). Now, I am exploring these wonderful creations of nature, with the help of my camera and flash.


Cactus Photography

Snake Photography

Flash Photography

One More Day, One more Year, One More Flower…make it a Great Day in life…

© CAPT SURESH SHARMA. All Rights Reserved.

Its usual routine summer, like any other year, but never been this hot in April in the past 52 years; that was the the statement by Indian MET department, few days ago. Luckily, last week, nature sent showers to douse the scorching heat, for the moment. Given the choice, people are preferring to stay indoors, so did I. Happy to have got showers early morning, once again. Especially, on the occasion to be happy to have lived life on my terms, like a free bird and did what I like, happy to be lucky that way. And on this day I wish to continue the same style of life. Today, being my birthday, I wanted to upload a flower image and but haven’t done any flower shoot in the past few days, so had to scrounge the hard drives and found one. All my life, my birthdays have been like any other day out of 365. I have never celebrated by throwing parties, money is saved and spent for some cause. Yes, this year seems to be a bit different, as our kids have been asking me, almost everyday, if I was waiting for my birthday excitedly. Sukhmani gave me a hand painted birthday card, so did Chirag, when they got up early for their schools. They both walked into my room very quietly, like a cat and suddenly screamed birthday wish. Yes, that was a great feeling to see them growing as good human beings (our dream) and getting to understand what these special days mean to anyone. We are lucky to be a family which has three special days in a row. Today is my birthday, tomorrow is Sukhmani’s and day after on the 23rd April is our wedding anniversary.

Today, I take pledge to devote my life to promote the cause of nature conservation and peace, with the help of my camera. This year, I will devote 100% to Nature, especially snakes and flowers. I pray to get more strength and willpower to accomplish my mission to contribute to the cause of nature conservation.

On this day, I wish the world to be a better place for peace and with healthy ecosystem.




DR JS SARKARIA – creator of the Cactus Garden.

Day light. Outdoor.

THE GREEN FRAMES – framed photos to raise funds for the Green.

Cactus Garden is Very Special to Me!

Via Flickr:
The Cactus Garden of Panchkula, which is named after Dr JS Sarkaria, founder and creator of this amazing landmark, has a special place in my heart. I admire this place and Dr Sarkaria, all the time. I have only one major regret in life that why I did not visit this place when Dr Sarkaria was alive. He was a true leader and and a great man who was the most suitable example of how one works with passion and love. He could work for hours non stop, even the young would make an excuse and give a slip to take rest. I hear great stories about him. I wish someone could write about him in detail.

I used to visit it quite often, but circumstances have kept me away from venturing there with my Canon. I have posted this photo, which was clicked in the past.

This was done in day light, outdoors.

My Website

Cactus – a thorny beauty !

Cactus Photography
The Green Frames

Mammillaria Twins from the Cactus Garden!

Via Flickr:
© CAPT SURESH SHARMA. All Rights Reserved.


Today in the morning, I visited the Cactus Garden for a leisurely walk, basically to explore if there is any flower to bloom during the day. If yes, then I could deploy all my efforts fully prepared. Sometimes, its hard to predict, as many cactus flowers are there for only for few hours, to bloom for a day. I could see these two yellow flowers getting ready for the day to smile, lying hidden in a secluded place. I rushed home to get my camera gear and try my luck. No sooner did these twin flowers start to bloom, the clouds started building, bringing the light and temperature down drastically enough to stop the blooming of these flowers halfway. Never mind, I am still happy with it.

Thanking and revere Dr JS Sarkaria all the time.

Cactus Photography

Nature Photography

Snake Photography

THE GREEN FRAMES – framed photos to raise funds for the Green.

Lithops Succulent Shining Bright… Under Elinchrom Strobes…

Via Flickr:
© Capt Suresh Sharma. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.


Today, I went to the Cactus Garden, to scout around for some flowers and my usual haunt to find some solace (after having riddled by recession). Its one of my most favorite places, to photograph and to get peace. Above all, when I admire and photograph at the Cactus Garden, I feel, I am paying respect to its creator Dr JS Sarkaria. The Cactus Garden is a priceless gift by Dr Sarkaria, for all of us. About two days ago, when my wife and me visited the garden, I had seen one or two plants, which could give flowers to my camera, soon. Most of the times, I visit the Garden to scout around for flowers, without my camera, to save on logistics. Today, being cloudy in the morning, I went to the garden, in the afternoon with sun peeping out a bit, and found this Lithops succulent was flowering in a way I wanted it, on my previous visit. I rushed home to get my photo-gear, as I had extremely short time at my hands being in the afternoon (flowers in cactus garden start closing very early), was fumbling and scared of handling equipment in such a rush. I had to perform a super fast set-up of my equipment. I worked on the camera, cards, batteries and tripod; my wife had to work like a `light boy’. She is my biggest support – also chief consultant for the quality of the images. Amazing, she has learnt about how to set up Elinchrom studio lights and background etc. all by herself. Now, she is a photographer in the making. We work as a team, now.

Usually, younger photographers think that doing attractive photographs of cactus is as simple as visiting the Cactus Garden in a rush and then the moment you see a flower in the middle of those thorns, just pull out camera and go `click click click…’ Let me tell you, photographs are created and do not happen, quite an effort goes into making the soul cherishing photographs, which could draw anyone’s attention. One needs practice, walk around in search of your subject, try to locate the right subject which could offer good photographs, then carry out visual rehearsal about all angles which could make you good photos. Its practice which will hone your any skills, be it photography, horse riding, flying, painting, etc. As we Indians say in reference to our classical music and dance – its `reeyaaz’ (practice), and nothing else. So its practice, which trains your eyes to see good images even in simple subjects and light. Simply by buying a camera, one doesn’t become a photographer.

REMEMBER: Photos are NOT made with cameras in quilts, only love could be made in quilts. So, you decide what you want to do… To seek photos, you have to take your camera out for a walk! Be rest assured, camera sitting in your cupboard makes no photos, may accrue fungus on its optics.

The best way to do photography is – make your progarmme on the previous day (if you are working nine to five, then keep thinking the whole week about where to shoot), get your kit ready (it needs quite a bit of preparation for good outdoor photography) get up early on the weekend, carry your kit, drive to your cherished location an hour before you expect the light for your shoot to get ready. Remember, creative photography is not done in groups, no matter what you say. Only routine basic photography (pull out your camera and shoot), can be done in groups; more than two photographers is a crowd. Its not me who is advocating this, all experienced photographers say that. Most of the seasoned ones will prefer being alone, with their camera.

One can learn the `nitty-gritty’ and technicalities of equipment handling from the internet and books, but how to achieve good photos is a long and treacherous path, which one has to tread holding an experienced hand. Its almost like going to the Mt Everest, not all succeed, in spite of all required equipment and logistics in place.

I think, its A matter of passion and patience…

Elinchrom strobes, main key light with snoot and grid, the second one with grid and bandoor, background set-up.

What is Lithops? Lithops are commonly known as `flowering stones’ or `living stones. These are true mimicry plants: as their shape, size and color makes them look like small stones in their natural habitat. Theses plants blend very well among the stones, as a means of protection. So, grazing animals, which would otherwise eat them during periods of drought to obtain moisture, usually overlook them. Even Lithops experts, sometimes find it difficult to locate these plants in the field, because of this unusual element of deception.


If you wish to have this image as `Screen Saver’ for your computer, please write to me and I will send it across.

Dr JS Sarkaria – Creator of the Cactus Garden

Dr J S Sarkaria joined the army shortly after outbreak of the Second World War.  He was a Captain in the I.M.S. (Indian Medical Service) and was in the frontlines during the entire Burma campaign.  His field hospital was once virtually bombed out of existence by the Japanese, with very heavy casualties, and he was mentioned in dispatches for his bravery under fire. Sometime after the end of the war he joined P.C.M.S. (Punjab Civil Medical Service), and post-1947 his first posting was in Palampur.  He served subsequently in a number of stations: Amritsar, Rewari, Simla, Sirsa, Ludhiana, Simla again, Bhatinda, Nangal, etc., etc.

When he sought premature retirement he had been Medical Superintendent of Rajindra Hospital, Patiala for 2-3 years. Previous to that he had served in Chandigarh as Assistant Director of Health Services and Drug Controller at Chandigarh for some years.

He had obtained M.S. (Master in Surgery) early on in his service, when he was posted in remote Rewari (Haryana), a feat in itself because (at least at that time) this degree was very demanding even for people posted in medical colleges.  My father was acclaimed as a brilliant surgeon and had a fantastic amount of energy and drive.

Single-handedly he converted — through donations that he sought from the public directly — the ramshackled and run-down civil hospital in the desert town of Sirsa to a really good facility.  This was during the Chief Minister Mr Kairon.  He was quite impressed when he came there for an opening ceremony.  It is a great pity we now have very few (even in those days such people were rare) government officers with this kind of dedication and drive, which Dr JS Sarkaria had.

The biographic details of Dr Sarkaria, that are directly relevant to the Cactus Garden pertain to the years after he took retirement from P.C.M.S.  Quite a lot about these is in his book on this garden. The book can be accessed via this Link.

More will be written about Dr JS Sarkaria later, probably with photos, after I get these from his family. I have written this as extracted from the e-mail sent to me by Mr Karanbir S Sarkaria, son of Dr JS Sarkaria.