EVENT Wildlife photographers say that patience and understanding nature are important for the best photos

Wildlife photography is more than just competence with the camera. Shutter speed, focal length is as important as your patience. Wildlife photography is mind over matter as you wait endlessly for the perfect combination of forces for the perfect shot. These was some of the points brought up at a workshop on Wildlife Photography by professionals organized by the Department of Zoology, Mangalore University recently.

Beyond displaying a gorgeous set of wildlife photographs – one of the highlights was photographer Vineeth Kumar’s collection of capturing nearly 100 varieties of butterflies found along Western Ghats - the workshop also delved into the processes behind the photographs.

First up was a discussion on the ethics involved. Krishna Mohan Prabhu, a medical practitioner who has for the past 26 years nurtured a hobby in wildlife photography, said while chasing a bird or disturbing an animal would give good pictures, it was not an ethical practice.

“The objective is not just to collect trophies. Concern for animals is also important. If you learn more about the bird’s behaviour, then it becomes easy to wait for a good picture,” he advised. Patience is key, as the “subject” does not offer a second chance,” says Shivashankar, a photographer. “It is developing the rigorous skills of being a photographer and a zoologist that gives wildlife photography its thrill,” quips Rajshekar Patil, chairman of Zoology department, Mangalore University, who is an accomplished wildlife photographer.

He adds, “You have to spend time in the field or wilderness, learn about ecology and record it. In wildlife photography, it is the journey, not the result that matters. Between satisfying photographs, there are long periods of the day where one is only with his personal thoughts.”

The photographers also talked about the need to learn various bird calls that can attract birds and of avoiding flashy clothes – especially red or yellow that strike the eye in the wilderness, instead of opting for an inconspicuous green or grey.

Another medical practitioner interested in photography, Aravind Madhyastha, debunked the myth that expensive cameras led to better photographers.

“All that matters is the person behind the lens. Equipments only help in macro photographs. Otherwise, it is about composition and visualisation,” he said. Technology, however, becomes important in processing the photograph. “There is a notion that processed photographs are not real. However, even good images do need processing – whether it is adjusting brightness and contrast, saturation, highlight and shadows, colour balance, levels sharpening. However, there is a limit to this, and overdoing can lead to a morphed picture,” Madhyastha says. With large-scale extinctions of flora and fauna imminent in the era of global warming, Mohan Prabhu feels wildlife photography can assist in the recording, categorizing of species that are endangered. “Sooner than we think, photographs may be the only alternative to tell the next generation of extinct fauna. Photographers should not think their job is over after the click. Instead, research should be done on the species.”