Wildlife photography is not a photo-centric activity. Award-winning wildlife photographer Pvsub Prabhu gives tips on this unconventional career.

Pvsub Prabhu is a name that does not just elicits respect in photography circles, but also amongst practitioners of the environment movement. Starting his career as a wildlife photographer in 1980, he studied a course in photography at the Jawaharlal Nehru Technological University in Hyderabad. There was no looking back for him as he gathered laurels after laurels, establishing himself as a prominent wildlife photographer, not just in the country, but also abroad.

Several of his photographs have been exhibited in over 20 countries, winning many prestigious awards across the globe, his latest being a gold medal in photography at the Finland International Photo Contest held last year.

He will be honoured by the Artiste’ Federation Internationale d L Art’ Photographique (AFIAP) in November this year for his outstanding contribution to the field of photography.But what gives this man, who has been at the forefront of his unconventional profession, an even more unconventional touch is his approach. He explains, “I am a wildlife photographer solely out of my passion. I use my photography as a tool to propagate social change, so as to reach out to people on the importance of conserving our ecology. I do not make any money out of my interest for wildlife.”

A social worker at the helm of his interest, Mr. Prabhu believes in propagating change at the grassroots. “I work closely with tribal people, as they are the frontrunners in conserving our environment. A person living in an urban area may rarely come across a wild animal in his day-to-day life. But a tribal person has to see wildlife on a daily basis. It is thus, important to help them coexist with the wild in a peaceful manner,” he says.

Mr. Prabhu is the Managing Trustee of the Asian Wildlife Foundation, and a Working Committee Member of the Federation of Indian Photography. He was also chosen to be the exclusive photographer to the former President of India, Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam, for his autobiography Wings of Fire. In an exclusive interview, Mr. Prabhu unravels the secrets of wildlife photography, and how youngsters can opt for this unconventional and exciting career.

Passion towards Nature

My father was a pictorial photographer, who was fond of nature and wildlife. He used to promise me incentives like if I would score really well in my 7th grade examinations, he would take me on a trip to the forest, and so on. It was trips like those that cemented my passion towards nature and wildlife. When I was 14, he took me to a forest which was 60 kilometres out of Rajahmundry, my hometown.

We stopped and observed all the animals we could find from a distance, and he took time to explain their characteristics to me in detail. After this, we made several camping trips to various forests in other parts of the country. This was how I had developed an interest in nature and wildlife.

As my father had a deep love for photography, his passion rubbed off on me. My father would use expensive cameras like Nikorex and Nikormat. He would allow me to use them as well which helped me understand the nuances of my interest. We had a garden in the backyard of our house, and he taught me to start by capturing images of garden insects like butterflies and praying mantes. Thus, it was in the garden that I had developed an interest for wildlife.

My motto is simple. Photography, as a medium, should inculcate the need for conservation of wildlife in the country.

Inspiration

Shekhar Dattatri, a Chennai-based wildlife filmmaker, has been a great source of inspiration for me. Off late, he has come out with some amazing work in his field. I also admire the work of Ullas Karanth and the Late OC Edwards. Karanth has made a mark in the wildlife conservation sector by introducing ‘camera traps’, a foolproof method of counting tigers in forests.

On the other hand, Edwards is world renowned for his contribution to wildlife photography with the Twin Lens Reflex (TLR) camera.

Challenges facing the industry

These days, photographers are blessed with hardware. They can buy many fancy modern gadgets with money. However, patience is one of the most important tools for wildlife photography. In order to succeed in this profession, patience and a passion for wildlife photography are very important, which is hard to find in many budding wildlife photographers.

How can youngsters make a foray

If you have the passion for wildlife and photography, you can make a mark in this profession. While starting off, there is no need for an expensive camera at all as it is important to first get your basics right. One needs to first practise and acquire perfection with limited resources. It is important to understand what equipment you are using and why. You need to observe nature, starting right from your garden.

Good observation skills are a prerequisite for this profession. See wildlife photography with an eye for conservation. Never hamper nature for the purpose of clicking a photograph. Always remember that wildlife photography is not a photo-centric activity. You can start off as an accomplice to a professional wildlife photographer, before starting your career independently.

As a wildlife photographer…

My day as a wildlife photographer begins with keeping my gadgets for the shoot ready. I then mentally prepare myself for the outing.

Once I reach my photography spot, which may be a park or a forest, I start clicking pictures of everything that fascinates me. They may be insects, wildlife, or even the barks of trees. I find all 365 days of the year fascinating and dynamic, and all seasons good for photography.

The writer is a B.A. Journalism III-year student, M.O.P. Vaishnav College for Women, Chennai.