Rathika Ramasamy Talks To Us About Wildlife Photography
You’ve been documenting wildlife for almost 17 years, what are…
You’ve been documenting wildlife for almost 17 years, what are the biggest changes you’ve seen in wildlife photography?
When I started in 2003, there was literally nothing to refer to, especially in the context of Indian wildlife photography. It was only through Internet forums that one could find international ones. In fact, I started a platform, Photography Art Association of India, a forum for photographers. Everything I learnt about wildlife photography, I’ve learned on the field. Earlier, only three photographers were allowed on the field, whether it was in forests, or in sanctuaries. Now, in the same places, I see at least 10-15 amateur photographers, with their cameras. It was also easier to get permissions earlier within a week or two, for longer periods, to shoot, because there were hardly any people. However, now I get permissions only for three days, because so many people are visiting.
What elements are absolutely essential for wildlife photography?
Subject comes first, photography comes second. The most important is to know your subject, where they will be habitating, when is the best time to go, and how they will behave. You should study the subject’s behaviour before you shoot, and maybe, first observe. You don’t have any control over their behaviour. You have to anticipate the action and before the action happens, you press the shutter. That’s subjectfield knowledge. But mainly, you have to understand and study the habitat, knowing the nature of the bird or animal you’re photographing. There are ethics involved, like when they’re nesting, or feeding, you don’t click them, and you don’t disturb them.
How do you think with the advancement of equipment, etc., has photography especially, for wildlife, been simplified?
I think it’s become easier to get equipment, because now, you can rent as per requirement too. Earlier, it would become too expensive to buy equipment. Having said that, the younger crop of photographers, also make it about photography, and not about nature.
What are the challenges of wildlife photography in today’s times?
Compared to other genres of photography, wildlife has always been challenging, because I can’t tell my models or my lighting how to behave. The challenge is having lots of patience, and knowing nothing is in your control. You have to work with the natural lighting. There are days when you won’t get anything, no decent pictures. You have to be able to wait. Another challenge is extreme weather, you’ll prepare for one, and you’ll get another. With birds, it also involves a lot of walking, with all your baggage. Safaris are actually quite expensive as well, now, and you’re charged for the equipment too. For newer photographers who are now starting out, that could be a challenge. But people who have the passion, will give it the time it needs.
How has technology changed wildlife photography?
All the top wildlife photographers have lakhs of fans and followers now, and that’s not for us, it’s for the nature we bring to people’s screens. Everyone has a connect to nature, and we’re bringing them closer to nature. When I started posting pictures of birds in Delhi, people were surprised that there are so many birds in Delhi. It has helped increase awareness about one’s surroundings.
What do you miss about the nonInstagram era of photography?
Actually, nothing much. I feel good about the fact that we’re able to be more connected to people. Those days, I guess we spent more time reading about it. But now, we’re able to showcase our work real time, instead of having to write to editors, and wait for someone to showcase it. Now, if your content is good, you can reach out to so many people with your pictures. Only good quality content will matter, to organic followers. It also helps animal and bird lovers to connect with each other. I was able to raise Rs. 1 lakh in two days for the people working for the Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary, who are now jobless, because of no tourism due to the pandemic. It was only because of people who love birds, and donated for the cause. It made me feel more connected to other bird lovers.