Birds and big cats, snails and mongoose give candid shots to T.L. John’s camera

Moods are many, so too the moments. The gharial lazily sunbathes, while the white tiger’s gaze is fixed firmly on the camera. The two white ibises are busy pecking each other, while the flamingos discover harmony in flight. Photographer T.L. John captures wildlife in all its diversity in the 48 photographs he has exhibited at the Kerala Lalithakala Akademi Art Gallery in the city.

John’s lenses are democratic. So sharing comfortable space with the big cats are avian beings. He sees the same beauty in a snail dragging itself on as in the sprinting black bucks. His purpose, says John, is to draw attention to nature’s wealth and so too to preserve them for tomorrow. An artist and photographer at the Kerala University, John spent years with researchers and students of Biology clicking science pictures. That knowledge came handy when he turned to wildlife photography after retirement. “These are photographs I have taken in the last six years from the natural parks and wildlife sanctuaries of West Bengal, Orissa, Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka,” he says.

The process

These clicks have come from cameras that are not the most impressive or the most expensive, he adds. “Beginning with a Lumix FZ 30, I gradually moved to Canon 400 B and then the Nikon D90. I have shot the big cats from vehicles and mostly from a distance of 200 to 300 feet,” he explains. The excitement is the process itself, says the photographer and patience is the key. Early morning is the time when birds and animals are at their expressive best, he says. He remembers waiting the whole night by the shores of the Tambaraparani River to get a glimpse of the pelicans. At the break of dawn he caught them on camera appearing almost in a line and this is among his favourite pictures on show. Another pick of his is the photo of flamingos taking flight. The moment packs the picture with an assortment of actions.

The big cats are often a matter of luck, says John. He has clicked a variety of them. Contrasting a resting leopard is a pair of lions definitely not in a friendly mood. If another leopard is caught stretching, another has two lions resting. “Luck comes in for if they just turn their back and walk away there is no picture,” says John.

Baboons, barking deer, herd of elephants all are his subjects. A curious absentee though is representatives from the world of snakes. John’s frames are predominantly green and he veers away occasionally to focus on men and women. There is a shot of two women meditating on the beach, while in another a couple are seen splashing on the waves. These un-choreographed moments sit well with the candidness that is the dominant mood of John’s photographs. John, meanwhile, is determined to give his retired life more shots of wildlife. The exhibition concludes on November 17.