Rathika Ramasamy Curated

Award winning Wildlife Photographer

CURATED BY :  

This profile is has been added by users(CURATED) : Users who follow Rathika Ramasamy have come together to curate all possible video, text and audio interview to showcase Rathika Ramasamy's journey, experiences, achievements, advice, opinion in one place to inspire upcoming wildlife photographers. All content is sourced via different platforms and have been given due credit.

  • What is your advise to the budding wild life photographers?

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  • How was your journey with Nikon so far?

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  • Which is the gear without which you don't go anywhere?

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  • Is there any research you do before you go to any place??

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  • Which is your favorite place to do photography?

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  • Why did you choose wildlife photography?

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  • How did photography happen to you?

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  • Apart from photography, tell me about your hobbies and interests?

    I love travelling and reading. When I get free time, I surf nature photography forums.

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  • What cameras / lenses do you use and why?

    The main lens I use for bird photography is Nikkor AF-S VR 600mm f/4G ED. It has fast auto focus with maximum aperture f/4, which I can use even in low light condition too. For animals, I use Nikkor AF-S Nikkor 300mm f/4D ED-IF and Nikkor AF-S VR 70-200mm f/2.8G IF-ED. They have midrange zoom lens with 300mm f/4 prime lens. They are easy to be hand-held and are very good when shooting from a vehicle in National Parks. If I have to carry one lens, I use zoom lens Nikkor AF VR 80-400mm f/4.5- 5.6D ED. And in nature walk, I prefer this lens. With VR technique, this lens can be hand held for long durations. I then do not need to carry a tripod. For wildlife landscape I sometimes use Nikkor 17-55mm f/2.8G IF-ED. My main camera bodies are Nikon D2x and Nikon D3. Dx body of Nikon D2x gives me extra focal length that is required for wildlife photography. Nikon D3(full frame) has good ISO performance and helps to shoot even in low light conditions in forests. I use Tripod Gitzo GT-5540LS. As it is a carbon tripod, it is low weight. I also use Wimberley Head II, as I find it very comfortable for large telephoto lenses. When I shoot from a vehicle in National parks, I use beanbag as support. I normally shoot with natural light, but I use Nikon SB-800 sometimes as fill in flash.

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  • What are your favorite subjects in photography other than wild life?

    I am most passionate about photographing birds. If I am not shooting birds, I would love to shoot travel and candid people photography.

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  • What are all the projects you are working currently, when you start a project what will be the first thing in your mind?

    This month, I am going to shoot at Jim Corbett National Park, in June, I will be shooting at Ranthambore National Park. Later this year, I will be shooting at Chilka Lake at Orissa. I have shot in the bird / wildlife regions of North, South and Central India. This year, I want to go to National Parks in East India. I also conduct wildlife photography workshops for new photographers and nature lovers. I have two workshops scheduled at Bangalore and Cochin in August. For any project, I first think of different visualization of subject compositions. As a photographer, I have some dream shots of different birds and animals that I want to capture. And I hope to be fortunate enough to capture my dream shots.

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  • Which photographer(s) has been the greatest influence on you?

    Moose Peterson for his Wildlife and landscape photography. He is among the earliest wildlife photographers to use a digital camera. I also like Arthur Morris for his Bird photography. His photographs are not just documentation of birds. He captures fine action shots of birds with a great aesthetic composition. Lately, I saw landscape images of John Shaw, and they were beautiful. He knows how to play with lighting in taking landscape shots.

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  • Can you please share happiest moments in your career?

    There have been many occasions. DD National had once featured me as the first woman wildlife photographer in India and showcased my work. Many viewers who had little knowledge about birds or photography sent messages that they didn’t know that there were such beautiful birds in India and thanked me for being able to appreciate the beauty. That was the occasion when I was happiest. Another time, a popular Tamil magazine “Aval Vikatan” did a cover story on my photography. It introduced me to my homestate, which made me feel very honored & happy.

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  • What were the biggest mistakes you made when you first started out as a bird photographer?

    One mistake which I made during the initial days was not using a tripod. Because of that, I missed some very good shots. I learnt that tripod is a must for sharp shots if you are using a long tele lens. Also, I used to spend time in the field checking how the photographs came out. Only a few hours in the early morning are good for photography, after which the light becomes harsh. I was hence losing the opportunity to take more photographs.

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  • Can you recall the first photograph you made that caused you to think WOW – that’s a good shot and if so, what was it?

    My first photograph that I liked very much was of the TajMahal. I had taken it with a point and shoot film camera during my school days. Of course, Taj is so beautiful that it anyway came out very well. My first bird photograph that I loved was a photo of White Egret. I captioned it “SNOW WHITE”. What was specials about it was that I had shot it as jpeg with handheld lens. While it is difficult to get correct exposure with white birds, I managed to get perfect exposure and lovely composition.

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  • What do you think about post processing? What tips would you offer to people to help avoid having to do major edits?

    Yes, I do minimal post processing. I convert raw files to Tiff, do basic contrast, boost saturation, do color correction and sharpening that is it. The final image should not give a over processed plastic look. The processing should be very subtle. Some people may think that it is enough to just take a shoot and whether it is under or over exposed, it can all managed in post processing. Of course if you have time, you can spend on hrs for processing, Instead of spending more time on post processing I would rather spend that time in the field to get perfect shots then itself. I believe that a photograph is a record of a real event, and a good photographer will present the true moment without using any digital tricks. Heavy post processing is fine for fashion, food and other genres of photography. With documentary/news and wildlife photography, you want to portray the real and true moment without any extra manipulation. Sometimes do more post processing for artistic print. This would then come under digital fine art category. I wouldn’t claim that it is wildlife photography. If heavy post processing is done, I think it should be clearly stated that the images are digitally modified. To do minimal post processing, you should get spot on exposure in the field itself. You then photographs that are rich on saturation and have good contrast. To avoid post cropping, one should try to capture the full picture during shooting itself. If there are any distracting objects in the foreground like tree branches, instead of shooting and later on cloning or cropping, you can try moving around a little to get different point of view.

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  • When intending to photograph a specific animal how do recommend preparing? How would you go about learning about the animal and what technical obstacles would you consider? Have you any specific stories?

    Indian sub-continent is one of the richest region in the world, for fauna & flora. We have to prepare before each photo trip that you plan for shooting animals or birds. There are specific seasons and places to go to shoot different animals or birds. For example, if I want to shoot migratory ducks, I would go to Sultanpur bird sanctuary in winter and not in summer. There are specific places to go to shoot different animals or birds. To shoot elephants, Jim Corbett National Park in the North or Bandipur National Park in the South is best. The likelihood of spotting and shooting tigers is much more like tiger photography best time to shoot is summer, because for summer they spend more time on water bodies. In some places, there is the constraint that you can shoot only from a vehicle without getting down. It is then important that the vehicle driver knows where and when to stop for the photography purpose. If I am visiting a bird sanctuary for the first time, I start with exploring the place and spend time looking for good vantage points for shooting birds where bushes and tree branches would not be obstructive, lighting would be effective. If you go to the same location frequently, birds get used to your presence. Last year, I was taking portraits of Water birds at Dadri wetlands in UP where lots of migratory birds come during the winter. Now, getting full frame shots of ducks with the habitat are easy. But they are shy birds and it is challenging to take profile shots. So, I would go early morning with a hide, and sit inside the hide. I did not get any profile shots the first two or three days. By then, the birds got used to my presence. I could then take close shots of Common Teal, Ruddy Shelduck and many other ducks. To get eye level shots, you may have to lie down on ground. Sometimes, you may get a stiff neck, but once you get the shot that you want, you forget everything else.

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  • How much research do you do prior to going out on the field? Is it important to know a lot about animal behavior to get the perfect shot?

    Research and planning are very important before going for any shoot. One shoot know the best months to shoot migratory birds. Before going, I collect a checklist of the birds in that area. It helps to identify and locate birds easily. If it is a new place I am going to, I read trip reports about places. In a new place, hiring a local guide is important. For some places, you may have to get permission beforehand. It is best if everything is planned well before going on the trip. The main rule is to “know your subjects”. It is very important to have in-depth knowledge of animals, birds, their behavior pattern and their habitats. When wanting to capture shots which show action, one has to anticipate the action and has to click the right moment before the action happens. If one waits to see what will happen, we will miss capturing the ‘decisive’ moment. You have to read a lot about your subjects. When you are not photographing, watching them helps to learn more about them. In case of bird photography, we need to know enough to identify birds, to spot and tract them, and to understand bird calls.

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  • What has been your favorite photo location? Are u always armed when on photo location?

    My favorite park and the one I visit often its Keoladeo National Park, Bharatpur,Rajasthan. I also often go to the Okhla bird sanctuary which is close to my home. You can find birds to shoot in any season in these places. Yes, I go fully prepared with all my equipment whenever I go out to shoot. I carry a laptop, extra batteries, and extra memory card. If trekking in the field, one has to take precautions against leeches and tiks, and carry basic medicine.

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  • What is the rarest bird or animal you photographed? Are there any on your wish list that you have yet to see?

    It is the Srilankan frogmouth bird, which is a nocturnal bird and camouflages itself very well as it looks just like a dry tree branch.It is endemic to Western ghats and Srilanka. I would very much want to shoot the Great One-horned Rhinoceros at Kaziranga National Park in Assam.

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  • What got you interested in photographing birds and why do you continue to photograph them?

    When I started, wildlife meant animals like tigers and elephants. Very few photographers were shooting birds. But New Delhi, where I live is surrounded by many birding spots. Many migratory birds come to New delhi on their migratory route during the winter season. In the summer, we have residents’ birds to shoot. Bird photography is hence possible throughout year. We have bird sanctuaries that can be reached by a one to three hours drive. This is one of the main reasons I got drawn to shooting birds. When I shoot birds, I wait in the field and I look forward to the excitement for the right moment to come and capturing that. The more I observe them from close proximity, the more inspiring it is. There is a large variety of birds to explore and shoot. Every shoot is different, and I always feel as excited as if it was my first shoot. Love and passion for birds keeps me going.

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  • How can you as photographer help protect the wildlife and conservation?

    Photographs can convey much more than words. Photographs of wildlife connect nature to people, and thereby help increase awareness about wildlife and its conservation. It is particularly important to spread this awareness among youth and children. Photographs depicting damages to the environment make common people sit up and take notice. It can help people understand how certain human activities can wreak havoc on natural habitats and on wildlife. I have contributed my photographs to nonprofit organizations that use them for campaigns to increase awareness.

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  • How can you as photographer help protect the wildlife and conservation?

    Photographs can convey much more than words. Photographs of wildlife connect nature to people, and thereby help increase awareness about wildlife and its conservation. It is particularly important to spread this awareness among youth and children. Photographs depicting damages to the environment make common people sit up and take notice. It can help people understand how certain human activities can wreak havoc on natural habitats and on wildlife. I have contributed my photographs to nonprofit organizations that use them for campaigns to increase awareness.views/interview-with-wildlife-photographer-rathika-ramasamy

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  • What exactly is wildlife and natural habitat conservation & why is important?

    Several species of animals like tigers and birds like vultures have become endangered. Some are near extinction. Wildlife conservation is to preserve these various endangered species. All animals require their good and safe habitats for their Survival, and it is hence very important to maintain their natural environment. Unfortunately, deforestation, indiscriminate mining and industrial activities, pollution and destruction of water bodies and wetlands are all leading to destruction of the natural habitats of animals and birds. We need to educate people about the how valuable wildlife and natural resources are. Though various organizations are taking measures for conservation, we need to do much more. We have to preserve our wildlife and environment for future generations.

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  • Could you tell us where you’re from and how you got started in Photography?

    I was born and schooled in Theni, Southern Tamilnadu. I then did my (B.E) Computer Engineering & M.B.A at Chennai before moving to New Delhi. I started with photography as a hobby, when I began shooting with a camera at school. Whenever I travelled, I would enjoy taking photographs. After seeing my interest, my uncle gave me a Minolto XGI ,Which was my initiation to an SLR. I learnt everything I know about photography on my own. My passion for wildlife photography started around 2004, and I got a digital DLSR NikonD70 + Sigma 170-500mm lens. There was not looking back after that.

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  • We saw your photograph were you have clicked a deer near a water! It has mood, lighting, composition, story…in one word EVERYTHING! How did you manage to get this photograph?

    This is one my favorite images, taken one fine winter evening at Dhikala grassland in Corbett National Park. There are only a few photographs that you fall in love with as soon as you create it. This is one such photograph. I enjoy photographing silhouette shots; they challenge your creativity and aesthetic sense. This photograph was taken in February 2012. Corbett in winter is a magical experience. Corbett is one forest where you can experiment with your creative side of photography. From morning to evening, this forest gives you something interesting and exciting to photograph. Whenever I stay at the Dhikala forest rest house, I would spend time near the grassland during the evening safari, from where one can capture the beautiful sunset. Actually, I was looking for a herd of Deer to come to the Ram Ganga River for water and was waiting to take a silhouette shot. Instead, I spotted this lonely Deer on the banks of the river. The evening sunlight made the water reflect a golden color. I wanted to capture the silhouette of Deer against the golden water background. I applied the rule of third in the composition, keeping the subject off center. I never get bored seeing this image, which always gives me a calm and serene feeling.

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  • You conduct workshops on a regular basis. Could you please describe how participants will benefit from your workshop as opposed to learning on their own?

    I conduct wildlife photography workshops regularly. In the workshop, I teach participants about: How to prepare and plan for photography trips, and How to choose the best equipment How to create the photographs instead of just documenting the subjects I share my knowledge of the field and techniques of wildlife photography. There is also a field session, in which participants get immediate feedback from me.

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  • If one wants to become a professional photographer, what necessary steps should one take?

    Frankly, there is no straight answer. Only a few photographers pursue wildlife photography as a full time profession. I would suggest that one specializes in one or two other genres of photography that are more remunerative along with wildlife photography. One can start with a profession, where you can spend more time with wildlife, such as a conservationist, naturalist, etc. If one wants to be a pro, one needs to have good business sense and marketing skills as well.

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  • What is important in making a great photograph? Is it the camera, the lens, the photographer, or all?

    I always say that: "It is the person behind the camera that matters. A camera is just a tool to help capture the scene" Good basic photography techniques combined with good aesthetic skills are required. Good knowledge about the subject helps to get the best photographs. Patience and perseverance are a must.

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  • Recently one of your photographs titled “snake fishing” was featured in Nikon India Pro Photo Gallery. Would you like to share your experience with us about making this masterpiece?

    This image was also taken at Keoladeo National Park in Bharatpur, Rajasthan, India. While I was on my usual lookout for birds, I suddenly sighted three snakes trying to catch fish. These were at a spot where a tree’s thick foliage blocked all the sunlight, except in a small area. One of the snakes was busy catching fish and gulping them at lightning speed. I wanted to capture the moment just before it caught a fish. When I tried to focus on the fish it was trying to catch, the snake’s head looked blurred. When I focused on the snake, the fish went out of focus. I tried to focus on the snake’s eye to get a clear picture of both. I finally captured the action of the snake splashing the water and catching the fish. I was shooting with manual exposure and spot metering.

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  • What is your view on Nature Conservation? How can we, as wildlife photographers, help to protect our Mother Nature?

    Conserving wildlife habitats are important to balance the biodiversity. Deforestation, poaching, demands for endangered animals, increasing market for forest products, are all taking a heavy toll on our forests. Photography is a powerful tool to record and document wildlife. Beautiful wildlife photographs are used by NGOs engaged in conservation efforts in their campaign to increase awareness about issues.

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  • This photograph of Pelicans in their habitat is a Classic. Would you like to describe your thought process behind the composition and the story?

    This shot was taken at my favorite bird sanctuary, Keoladeo National Park in Bharatpur, Rajasthan, India. This was taken in February 2013. The habitat in the sanctuary gives you an opportunity to work on your subjects. I followed some Pelicans for few days. I was taking the usual documentary pictures – in-flight, landing and takeoff shots. However, this wouldn’t give any indication of the habitat where they were taken. I wanted to capture the habitat too. After some searching, I spotted a place where I could sit and watch them. There were small bunds, where the Pelicans were resting in the afternoon. I located one such bund, and I kept watching it for some activity. The picture looked like a painting due to the misty background. White color Pelicans and the dark color background complemented each other. I got the symmetric look by keeping the Pelicans in the center of the frame. It was cloudy and the filtered sunlight was an added bonus, giving a perfect contrast for the scene. After a long wait, a few of the Pelicans stood up and started preening. And I got one of my favorite Pelican shots the way I visualized it.

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  • “Snow White” is your first favorite bird photograph. Egret is my favorite bird too. Would you like to talk about that photograph?

    Yes, thanks for reminding me. I had got my first long tele-lens, Sigma 170-500mm, and I was at the National Zoological Park in Delhi. I sighted this white Egret near a water body. I was trying to frame vertically to include the branches of a tree. Fortunately, I got a green background. I could then capture this shot “Snow White”. I was happy that I got spot-on exposure, without blowing out the details. After that, I have taken many pictures of Egrets, but this one is still special.

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  • From humble beginning in 2004 to being one of the most successful Wildlife Photographer of today, how do you describe your journey as a photographer and a person?

    It has been a really wonderful and adventurous journey. Photographers usually start with big animals and then go for small birds. It was the other way around for me. I started with bird photography, and then moved to shooting big animals. I never imagined that a casual family picnic trip to Bharatpur in 2004 would lead me to this profession. I saw wild birds for the first time and fell in love with them. Birds are fascinating and I became more passionate towards them. I had a chance to visit most of the national parks in India, Kenya, and Tanzania. I came across some wonderful wildlife moments. I felt really blessed, doing what I loved the most. As a person, I have become more patient and appreciative of simple things in life. I have got used to living with basic amenities. I had a chance to meet some wonderful people, got lot of appreciation from fans and friends. I still have a long way to go, with many more places to explore and many more species to photograph.

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  • Many more Indians are travelling to wildlife areas. What are your thoughts on that?

    It’s a great thing. It enables people to appreciate forests and animals. It also brings in big revenue and generates employment in the villages and towns where these reserves are located. Hobby photographers also help keep track of animal presence and numbers, since it’s difficult for authorities to constantly track their movements. However, hobbyists should follow the rules of good wildlife tourism. This includes things like not disturbing or harassing the animals, not using plastic, staying at eco-friendly hotels and so on. As long as these things are done, greater wildlife tourism is a very good thing.

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  • Since you spend so much time out in the field, does it get lonely?

    Well, I don’t need urban comforts like air-conditioning or movie theatres at all; I am used to doing without them. But in the old days, since there would be no mobile network, I would miss talking to my mother and husband for days at a time. But whenever I am back in town after an assignment, I try to catch up for it by meeting or phoning up relatives and friends. But 2-3 days into it, I miss field life again (laughs). I guess you can’t have everything.

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  • Does conservation automatically become a part of your job?

    I always tell others that to be in this field, you have to have love and empathy towards wildlife and nature. I admit that initially, I was focused more on clicking good photographs. But as I learnt more about India’s forests, its flora and fauna, I also became aware of environmental concerns like deforestation or pollution. I believe today that photography is a conservation tool to create awareness in the media. A rhinoceros can’t talk; so we have to talk on its behalf. And we become Nature Ambassadors in the process. And it’s not just about saving animals. When you save tigers, you also save the forest and environment they live in. And that eventually benefits us humans as well. That’s why whenever I am called for a talk or workshop, I spend at least 5 minutes dwelling on the conservation aspect—whether my audience likes it or not (laughs).

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  • In the last 15 years, what was your most memorable shoot?

    There were two, actually. In 2010, on my first visit to the beautiful Serengeti Park in Tanzania, I sighted a pride of female lions and cubs, sleeping on a tree. It was a touching scene that I still remember. And in 2012, I spent five days watching elephants at Jim Corbett, coming down from the mountains for water and grass. It was a pure joy to watch the elephants play with each other, protect their young, and engage in mock-fights. It is one of the best photographs I’ve ever taken.

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  • What fascinated you about bird photography?

    When you think of wildlife, large animals like tigers and elephants come to mind. I love elephants—they’re my second-favourite thing to shoot after birds. But until I saw the birds at Bharatpur in 2004, I never knew nature could be so colourful. Like us, birds too show love and empathy to each other, they fight and play.

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  • So what are the most important skills for a wildlife photographer?

    Subject matter knowledge is the main thing. You need to know the region, the animal’s breeding patterns, habits, where it is likely to be found, and so on. The second thing to learn is patience. For six years, I visited the Jim Corbett National Park every year, but never saw a tiger. I finally saw one in 2011, and after that I’ve been lucky to see them many times.

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  • What are your memories of your first professional wildlife shoot?

    My first professional assignment wasn’t a wildlife shoot. It was actually for Jawaharlal Nehru University in 2006. They wanted me to photograph the birds in the campus, which has lots of greenery and forested areas within. I spent three weeks, going out every day in the early mornings to look for birds and eventually spotted 70 resident bird species. The University selected 12 photos for their 2007 calendar. The assignment was challenging, but it gave me a lot of confidence and experience.

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  • What is one destination you’ve never visited, but would love to visit—either as a traveller or as a photographer?

    I’ve wanted to go to Sabah in Malaysian Borneo for 2-3 years now. Sabah and the Mt. Kinabalu region are very rich in flora and fauna, especially orangutans, clouded leopards and also many birds. I hope to make a trip there soon.

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  • Tips for young photographers?

    Watch animals and birds and try to understand and identify their behavior. Note down the details for future reference. The best place to start is from your nearest zoo, park or reserve.

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  • What are Rathika’s memorable photographic experiences?

    Carry a compact camera with a good digital zoom. Any entry level DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) is easy to operate. Carry a good field guide and binocular to watch animals and birds.

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  • What are Rathika’s memorable photographic experiences?

    This was in Jim Corbett National Park where I spotted a tiger with its kill in a water body. Jim Corbett Park is a thick jungle and spotting a tiger is a special moment. Keoladeo Ghana National Park in Bharatpur, Madhya Pradesh, has several species of birds. A pair of Sarus Cranes dancing is a memorable capture.

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  • What are the easiest and most difficult birds to shoot?

    The urban habitat birds like peacocks, doves, owls and parakeets are easy to capture. The family of crake birds is very difficult to capture as these birds are very shy in nature.

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  • How can you capture a flying bird?

    Birds are always moving and perch only for a few seconds for a rest. To capture them, always follow them through your camera viewfinder. Bird movements are caught by using the continuous and auto focus modes on your camera. Once the focus is locked by the camera, click and take the shot. If the bird is flying, bring it into your viewfinder, select fast shutter speed on your camera and then click to capture the flying bird.

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  • When should you click birds?

    The best time to click birds is early morning and early evening, because birds are most active during that period. The natural light is also good for a picture. The waiting period for a perfect shot is not fixed. Sometimes you have to wait for hours or even days. Proper planning is required to get that perfectly timed shot.

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  • Any instance when you were scared in the forest?

    Elephants can be dangerous. I had one such experience at the Jim Corbett Park in 2005. I was very keen on shooting a tiger and was looking for it. We reached the narrow road, where on one side was the thick forest and on the other, the deep valley. And suddenly we saw an elephant coming towards us. The driver stopped the vehicle and for several minutes we all sat scared and motionless. We thought it was the end of the road for us, but to our relief the elephant turned and went back. It was a jubilant moment to have survived. I shudder to think that in a split second the elephant could have tossed our vehicle down the valley.

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  • In what manner are Indian forests different from African forests?

    In India, the forests are very tough. And because they are very dense and comprise gigantic trees, the light is very less. Since photography is all about lighting, it makes the job of a photographer difficult. But African forests do not consist of huge trees, so one can shoot from morning till evening. As for birds, since they are different from one country to the other, I have to know what to find and where. The knowledge has to be thorough, because there's no one to help you. One miss and all is gone in a second! Even though the guides in India and abroad are quite knowledgeable, a photographer has to be a good naturist and must have a sharp eye.

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  • As a photographer, what changes do you see in forest environment since the last decade?

    Earlier, there was no need for pre-bookings. But these days lots of people visit the sanctuaries and even take pictures, so though there is more awareness among the tourists, the sanctuaries are crowded. The advantage now is that vehicles are fitted with GPRS and radio communication system, which is very beneficial. If a vehicle spots a tiger, the driver is able to inform others about the location. Since I have travelled extensively to almost all national parks and bird sanctuaries, the experiences are invigorating.

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  • What is the scope for a career in Wildlife Photography in India today? Can one pursue it beyond a hobby?

    Wildlife photography in India is still nascent, but is growing. Only a few photographers pursue wildlife photography as a full time profession. I would advise that you take up wildlife photography only if you really love it. Wildlife photography is not only about learning technical aspects. You have to spend a lot of time in the field, and you have to have in depth knowledge of the animals and birds.

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  • You were working as a software engineer earlier. How did the transition to a wildlife photographer happen?

    After my marriage, I moved to Delhi. I started photography as a hobby and became passionate about it. I was first doing travel photography, and then in 2004, I started with wildlife photography. It is not easy to take up a field that is very different from one’s education, but I wanted to pursue what I was passionate about.

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  • How does a student who’s in college and very serious on pursuing photography as a career, start off, what are the key steps to be taken and necessities to ensure before you take the plunge?

    A degree is a must.  If you want to take up photography as a career, a technical degree in photography is necessary to get started. There are different genres of photography like fashion, advertising, photo journalism, travel, etc. You should choose the genre that you really love. These days, you can rent photography equipment. This makes it more affordable to get experience with a high end camera and lens.   Once you know the basics of photography, you have to attend workshops. If you want to specialize in fashion photography, for example, you can attend fashion photography workshops to learn the tricks. To get hands-on experience, it is best to get training through working with professional photographers. You have to take up topics on your own, choose subjects, and shoot a lot and experiment to find your own style. You can create an online website and showcase your portfolio of work. There are many free websites where you can share your work. Your portfolio of work is your visiting card for prospective client. It should reflect the best of your work.

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  • With the emergence of high pixel cameras in cellphones how is photography on cellphones different from those taken on a DSLR?

    The quality of photograph taken by DSLR is different from those taken by cell phones having high pixel camera. Pictures taken by DSLR always stand out in terms of quality, size and printing. The purpose of photography is not different only the equipment is different. It has been changed by the technology. Before we used film which took atleast two to three weeks to develop but now in an instant I can see my photograph that’s the difference. Today the equipment is different but the process and the purpose will always remain the same.

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  • The photograph of Pelicans in their habitat is a Classic. Would you like to describe your thought process behind the composition and the story?

    This shot was taken at my favorite bird sanctuary, Keoladeo National Park in Bharatpur, Rajasthan, India. This was taken in February 2013. The habitat in the sanctuary gives you an opportunity to work on your subjects. I followed some Pelicans for few days.  I was taking the usual documentary pictures – in-flight, landing and takeoff shots. However, this wouldn’t give any indication of the habitat where they were taken. After some searching, I spotted a place where I could sit and watch them. There were small bunds, where the Pelicans were resting in the afternoon.  I located one such bund, and I kept watching it for some activity. The picture looked like a painting due to the misty background.   White color Pelicans and the dark color background complemented each other. I got the symmetric look by keeping the Pelicans in the center of the frame.It was cloudy and the filtered sunlight was an added bonus, giving a perfect contrast  for the scene.   After a long wait, a few of the Pelicans stood     up  and started preening.  And I got one of my favorite Pelican shots the way I visualized it.   ( Source: google.com )

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  • One of your photographs titled “snake fishing” was featured in Nikon India Pro Photo Gallery. Would you like to share your experience with us about making this masterpiece?

    This image was also taken at Keoladeo National Park in Bharatpur, Rajasthan, India. While I was on my usual lookout for birds, I suddenly sighted three snakes trying to catch fish. These were at a spot where a tree’s thick foliage blocked all the sunlight, except in a small area.  One of the snakes was busy catching fish and gulping them at lightning speed. I wanted to capture the moment just before it caught a fish. When I tried to focus on the fish it was trying to catch, the snake’s head looked blurred.  When I focused on the snake, the fish went out of focus. I tried to focus on the snake’s eye to get a clear picture of both. I finally captured the action of the snake splashing the water and catching the fish. I was shooting with manual exposure  and spot metering. [caption id="attachment_386" align="alignleft" width="381"] Snake Fishing   ( Source: google.com )[/caption]

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  • What are your favourite places in India to capture the images of wildlife photography?

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  • Among so many genres of Photography, why you went for wildlife photography ?

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  • What are your tips for aspiring Wildlife Photographers out there?

    Be versed with the basics of photography for that is important to scale up in any form of photography. Have an in-depth knowledge of animals and birds, their habitat, and behavior patterns. This helps to get good photographs within the fraction of second you are given with to capture a moment. Specialize in a particular subject you love in wildlife. Strictly follow the ethics of wildlife photography. Be patient & perseverance, and go on enjoying the art of wildlife photography.

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  • How do you plan for a shoot?

    I do a lot of homework when planning for the shoot, especially about the place I am going to shoot. The environment is something that is there already and you can plan around it perfectly unlike the reactions of animals, which will be spontaneous and can’t be planned. I make sure I am aware of the natural history of the place, the weather conditions, and the allied factors. Research and planning are very important in every way. If it is a new place I am going to, then I take extra care. I read trip reports about the place, collect information on its topography, the best seasons, and lighting conditions etc. Sometimes I need to plan it before two to three months to have the bookings done. I also have a checklist of the birds I might be getting get a moment with. Book a knowledgeable local guide. It is a key thing to do, for the guide knows the best place, timing and the spotting. For some places prior permissions are to be taken, which is also to be accounted as a part of the planning process. No matter how much you plan in prior, the real challenge appears when you are there out on the field.

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  • What inspires you in Wildlife photography?

    The more I read about birds and animals and observe nature from close proximity, the more inspiring it is for me to explore further. Though I like other genres of photography too, photographing birds and animals fascinates me splendidly, for it gives me an opportunity to be close to nature and observe it for real. Inside the forest, the scene changes every minute. You never have a dull moment. You find yourself so much in love with nature and always wait for things to happen magically. It is like a magnetic pull getting you to its zone of life constantly. The excitement of sighting and photographing new bird species truly thrills, which keeps me going.

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  • What are the difficulties faced by a Wildlife photographer on a regular basis?

    Wild animals are unpredictable. We cannot expect anything to be the way we wanted to photograph it. Unlike other genres of photography, we have absolutely no control of the subject. We have to wait for their mood to abide, their activity to be animated and their own time and space to come well. Inside the forest, wild birds and animals are often difficult to approach, as they are very shy and are always on the move. Spotting them, photographing their behavior in their natural setting is definitely hence a challenging and daunting task. Besides this, there are a lot more factors like carrying your gear on trek and keeping them safe from dust and heat, getting the best local guide, a good vehicle driver who knows where and when to stop and more fall in place when shooting in the forest.

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  • How did your journey in wildlife photography begin?

    I took up photography as a hobby initially and slowly became passionate about it. My journey in wildlife photography started around 2003. Love for nature, wildlife and photography drew me into this profession naturally. Once when I visited the Bharatpur sanctuary, I was overwhelmed with the awe of birds, enjoyed watching them and wanted to capture them. Okhla bird Sanctuary is 15 min drive from my home, I used to go daily there, spend three hours watching them. Many migratory birds come to Delhi on their migratory route during the winter season. In the summer, we have resident birds to shoot. I somehow was hence constantly exposed to the beauty of the birds. And bird photography is possible throughout the year. This is one of the main reasons I got drawn to shooting birds. Thus, the journey began.

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  • What is your take on Raw Images vs Edited Images when it comes to Wildlife photography?

    Digital photography software like the digital dark room or other post processing avenues is indeed an important step in the image making process. Of course from the camera you can shoot in the jpeg file format and use it as it is with a few in-camera custom settings and avoid editing process, but as we all know the dynamic range is low in such cases. RAW format gives the power to boost contrast, set the lighting right and so on, but then at the end of the day, it should be a subtle editing that we should make to the image shot. Editing too much will result in an over-worked plastic image, which is not advisable at all for it is important to document the images as a record for future which should contain only the real scenes. I believe that as a wildlife photographer, I have to show the scene as pictured and have been sticking to this rule. Adding or removing anything from the image using image editing tools makes the image – a digital art and not a real moment.

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  • What cameras / lenses do you use and why?

    The main lens I use for bird photography is Nikkor AF-S VR 600mm f/4G ED. It has fast auto focus with maximum aperture f/4, which I can use even in low light condition too. For animals, I use Nikkor AF-S Nikkor 300mm f/4D ED-IF and Nikkor AF-S VR 70-200mm f/2.8G IF-ED. They have midrange zoom lens with 300mm f/4 prime lens. They are easy to be hand-held and are very good when shooting from a vehicle in National Parks. If I have to carry one lens, I use zoom lens Nikkor AF VR 80-400mm f/4.5- 5.6D ED. And in nature walk, I prefer this lens. With VR technique, this lens can be hand held for long durations. I then do not need to carry a tripod. For wildlife landscape I sometimes use Nikkor 17-55mm f/2.8G IF-ED. My main camera bodies are Nikon D2x and Nikon D3. Dx body of Nikon D2x gives me extra focal length that is required for wildlife photography. Nikon D3(full frame) has good ISO performance and helps to shoot even in low light conditions in forests. I use Tripod Gitzo GT-5540LS. As it is a carbon tripod, it is low weight. I also use Wimberley Head II, as I find it very comfortable for large telephoto lenses. When I shoot from a vehicle in National parks, I use beanbag as support. I normally shoot with natural light, but I use Nikon SB-800 sometimes as fill in flash.

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  • What were the biggest mistakes you made when you first started out as a bird photographer?

    One mistake which I made during the initial days was not using a tripod. Because of that, I missed some very good shots. I learnt that tripod is a must for sharp shots if you are using a long tele lens. Also, I used to spend time in the field checking how the photographs came out. Only a few hours in the early morning are good for photography, after which the light becomes harsh. I was hence losing the opportunity to take more photographs.

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  • When intending to photograph a specific animal how do recommend preparing? How would you go about learning about the animal and what technical obstacles would you consider? Have you any specific stories?

    Indian sub-continent is one of the richest region in the world, for fauna & flora. We have to prepare before each photo trip that you plan for shooting animals or birds. There are specific seasons and places to go to shoot different animals or birds. For example, if I want to shoot migratory ducks, I would go to Sultanpur bird sanctuary in winter and not in summer. There are specific places to go to shoot different animals or birds. To shoot elephants, Jim Corbett National Park in the North or Bandipur National Park in the South is best. The likelihood of spotting and shooting tigers is much more like tiger photography best time to shoot is summer, because for summer they spend more time on water bodies. In some places, there is the constraint that you can shoot only from a vehicle without getting down. It is then important that the vehicle driver knows where and when to stop for the photography purpose. If I am visiting a bird sanctuary for the first time, I start with exploring the place and spend time looking for good vantage points for shooting birds where bushes and tree branches would not be obstructive, lighting would be effective. If you go to the same location frequently, birds get used to your presence. Last year, I was taking portraits of Water birds at Dadri wetlands in UP where lots of migratory birds come during the winter. Now, getting full frame shots of ducks with the habitat are easy. But they are shy birds and it is challenging to take profile shots. So, I would go early morning with a hide, and sit inside the hide. I did not get any profile shots the first two or three days. By then, the birds got used to my presence. I could then take close shots of Common Teal, Ruddy Shelduck and many other ducks. To get eye level shots, you may have to lie down on ground. Sometimes, you may get a stiff neck, but once you get the shot that you want, you forget everything else.

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  • How much research do you do prior to going out on the field? Is it important to know a lot about animal behavior to get the perfect shot?

    Research and planning are very important before going for any shoot. One shoot know the best months to shoot migratory birds. Before going, I collect a checklist of the birds in that area. It helps to identify and locate birds easily. If it is a new place I am going to, I read trip reports about places. In a new place, hiring a local guide is important. For some places, you may have to get permission beforehand. It is best if everything is planned well before going on the trip. The main rule is to “know your subjects”. It is very important to have in-depth knowledge of animals, birds, their behavior pattern and their habitats. When wanting to capture shots which show action, one has to anticipate the action and has to click the right moment before the action happens. If one waits to see what will happen, we will miss capturing the ‘decisive’ moment. You have to read a lot about your subjects. When you are not photographing, watching them helps to learn more about them. In case of bird photography, we need to know enough to identify birds, to spot and tract them, and to understand bird calls.

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  • What has been your favorite photo location? Are you always armed when on photo location?

    My favorite park and the one I visit often its Keoladeo National Park, Bharatpur,Rajasthan. I also often go to the Okhla bird sanctuary which is close to my home. You can find birds to shoot in any season in these places. Yes, I go fully prepared with all my equipment whenever I go out to shoot. I carry a laptop, extra batteries, and extra memory card. If trekking in the field, one has to take precautions against leeches and tiks, and carry basic medicine.

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  • What got you interested in photographing birds and why do you continue to photograph them?

    When I started, wildlife meant animals like tigers and elephants. Very few photographers were shooting birds. But New Delhi, where I live is surrounded by many birding spots. Many migratory birds come to New delhi on their migratory route during the winter season. In the summer, we have residents’ birds to shoot. Bird photography is hence possible throughout year. We have bird sanctuaries that can be reached by a one to three hours drive. This is one of the main reasons I got drawn to shooting birds. When I shoot birds, I wait in the field and I look forward to the excitement for the right moment to come and capturing that. The more I observe them from close proximity, the more inspiring it is. There is a large variety of birds to explore and shoot. Every shoot is different, and I always feel as excited as if it was my first shoot. Love and passion for birds keeps me going.

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  • How can you as photographer help protect the wildlife and conservation?

    Photographs can convey much more than words. Photographs of wildlife connect nature to people, and thereby help increase awareness about wildlife and its conservation. It is particularly important to spread this awareness among youth and children. Photographs depicting damages to the environment make common people sit up and take notice. It can help people understand how certain human activities can wreak havoc on natural habitats and on wildlife. I have contributed my photographs to nonprofit organizations that use them for campaigns to increase awareness.

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  • Given the number of amateur photographers, what does it mean to be a professional photographer today? What distinguishes a professional from an amateur?

    Professional photographer means you get paid for your work; you sell your work on various mediums like magazines, agency, prints and commissioned shoots. As a pro, you have to keep up high-quality work, as you are paid for your shoot, and later you plan to sell your work. The work should reflect passion, your own style and quality. With the advent of digital technology, there are many more amateur photographers today. It is good to see many people into photography; I don’t think of it is competition as there is lots of work for everyone. This trend should be encouraged – after all most of the professionals, today were amateurs once. I do get to see some amazing work from amateur photographers. Being a professional freelance photographer is not only about photography; it is a combination of photography plus marketing your work to prospective clients, knowing the latest trends in the industry etc. One should have a great body of work to showcase and have their own online portfolio website and a good network of clients with whom you work regularly.

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  • Wildlife photography can get very hectic. So what camera equipment do you always have on you?

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  • When intending to photograph a specific animal how do recommend preparing? How would you go about learning about the animal and what technical obstacles would you consider? Have you any specific stories?

    Indian sub-continent is one of the richest region in the world, for fauna & flora. We have to prepare before each photo trip that you plan for shooting animals or birds. There are specific seasons and places to go to shoot different animals or birds. For example, if I want to shoot migratory ducks, I would go to Sultanpur bird sanctuary in winter and not in summer. There are specific places to go to shoot different animals or birds. To shoot elephants, Jim Corbett National Park in the North or Bandipur National Park in the South is best. The likelihood of spotting and shooting tigers is much more like tiger photography best time to shoot is summer, because for summer they spend more time on water bodies. In some places, there is the constraint that you can shoot only from a vehicle without getting down. It is then important that the vehicle driver knows where and when to stop for the photography purpose. If I am visiting a bird sanctuary for the first time, I start with exploring the place and spend time looking for good vantage points for shooting birds where bushes and tree branches would not be obstructive, lighting would be effective. If you go to the same location frequently, birds get used to your presence. Last year, I was taking portraits of Water birds at Dadri wetlands in UP where lots of migratory birds come during the winter. Now, getting full frame shots of ducks with the habitat are easy. But they are shy birds and it is challenging to take profile shots. So, I would go early morning with a hide, and sit inside the hide. I did not get any profile shots the first two or three days. By then, the birds got used to my presence. I could then take close shots of Common Teal, Ruddy Shelduck and many other ducks. To get eye level shots, you may have to lie down on ground. Sometimes, you may get a stiff neck, but once you get the shot that you want, you forget everything else.

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  • Recently one of your photographs titled “snake fishing” was featured in Nikon India Pro Photo Gallery. Would you like to share your experience with us about making this masterpiece?

    This image was also taken at Keoladeo National Park in Bharatpur, Rajasthan, India. While I was on my usual lookout for birds, I suddenly sighted three snakes trying to catch fish. These were at a spot where a tree’s thick foliage blocked all the sunlight, except in a small area. One of the snakes was busy catching fish and gulping them at lightning speed. I wanted to capture the moment just before it caught a fish. When I tried to focus on the fish it was trying to catch, the snake’s head looked blurred. When I focused on the snake, the fish went out of focus. I tried to focus on the snake’s eye to get a clear picture of both. I finally captured the action of the snake splashing the water and catching the fish. I was shooting with manual exposure and spot metering.

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  • This photograph of Pelicans in their habitat is a Classic. Would you like to describe your thought process behind the composition and the story?

    This shot was taken at my favorite bird sanctuary, Keoladeo National Park in Bharatpur, Rajasthan, India. This was taken in February 2013. The habitat in the sanctuary gives you an opportunity to work on your subjects. I followed some Pelicans for few days. I was taking the usual documentary pictures – in-flight, landing and takeoff shots. However, this wouldn’t give any indication of the habitat where they were taken. I wanted to capture the habitat too. After some searching, I spotted a place where I could sit and watch them. There were small bunds, where the Pelicans were resting in the afternoon. I located one such bund, and I kept watching it for some activity. The picture looked like a painting due to the misty background. White color Pelicans and the dark color background complemented each other. I got the symmetric look by keeping the Pelicans in the center of the frame. It was cloudy and the filtered sunlight was an added bonus, giving a perfect contrast for the scene. After a long wait, a few of the Pelicans stood up and started preening. And I got one of my favorite Pelican shots the way I visualized it.

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  • If one wants to become a professional photographer, what necessary steps should one take?

    Frankly, there is no straight answer. Only a few photographers pursue wildlife photography as a full time profession. I would suggest that one specializes in one or two other genres of photography that are more remunerative along with wildlife photography. One can start with a profession, where you can spend more time with wildlife, such as a conservationist, naturalist, etc. If one wants to be a pro, one needs to have good business sense and marketing skills as well.

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  • What is important in making a great photograph? Is it the camera, the lens, the photographer, or all?

    What makes a good painting? Is it the paint colors and brush or the painter? I always say that: "It is the person behind the camera that matters. A camera is just a tool to help capture the scene" Good basic photography techniques combined with good aesthetic skills are required. Good knowledge about the subject helps to get the best photographs. Patience and perseverance are a must.

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  • From humble beginnings in 2004 to becoming one of the most successful wildlife photographers today, how do you describe your journey as a photographer and a person?

    It has been a really wonderful and adventurous journey. Photographers usually start with big animals and then go for small birds. It was the other way around for me. I started with bird photography, and then moved to shooting big animals. I never imagined that a casual family picnic trip to Bharatpur in 2004 would lead me to this profession. I saw wild birds for the first time and fell in love with them. Birds are fascinating and I became more passionate towards them. I had a chance to visit most of the national parks in India, Kenya, and Tanzania. I came across some wonderful wildlife moments. I felt really blessed, doing what I loved the most. As a person, I have become more patient and appreciative of simple things in life. I have got used to living with basic amenities. I had a chance to meet some wonderful people, got lot of appreciation from fans and friends. I still have a long way to go, with many more places to explore and many more species to photograph.

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  • You have a very minimal post processing in your photographs. What do you think about post processing? What tips would you offer to people to help avoid having to do major edits?

    Yes, I do minimal post processing. I convert raw files to Tiff, do basic contrast, boost saturation, do color correction and sharpening that is it. The final image should not give a over processed plastic look. The processing should be very subtle. Some people may think that it is enough to just take a shoot and whether it is under or over exposed, it can all managed in post processing. Of course if you have time, you can spend on hrs for processing, Instead of spending more time on post processing I would rather spend that time in the field to get perfect shots then itself. I believe that a photograph is a record of a real event, and a good photographer will present the true moment without using any digital tricks. Heavy post processing is fine for fashion, food and other genres of photography. With documentary/news and wildlife photography, you want to portray the real and true moment without any extra manipulation. Sometimes do more post processing for artistic print. This would then come under digital fine art category. I wouldn’t claim that it is wildlife photography. If heavy post processing is done, I think it should be clearly stated that the images are digitally modified. To do minimal post processing, you should get spot on exposure in the field itself. You then photographs that are rich on saturation and have good contrast. To avoid post cropping, one should try to capture the full picture during shooting itself. If there are any distracting objects in the foreground like tree branches, instead of shooting and later on cloning or cropping, you can try moving around a little to get different point of view.

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  • Do you think research is important in photography? How do you prepare for your shoots?

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  • What prompted you to choose wildlife photography when there are so many other genres to choose from?

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