INTERVIEW Teenager Gaurav Ramnarayanan's wildlife photograph finds a place at the Natural History Museum in London
‘The Warning' — a photograph taken by 13-year-old Gaurav Ramnarayanan from Coimbatore, now hangs in the Natural History Museum, London. It was chosen from among a whopping 41,000 entries sent in from 95 countries for the Veolia Environnement Wildlife Photographer of the Year Award. Gaurav was one of the seven chosen for the award in the age group 11 to 14, and was placed in the ‘highly-commended' category, along with four others. The winners of the competition, conducted jointly by the BBC Wildlife Magazine; The Natural History Museum, London; and Veolia Environnement Wildlife, are given the honour of displaying the photographs taken by them, at the museum.
At the prize distribution ceremony held at the Natural History Museum in London this October, he rubbed shoulders with winners from across the world. His favourite photograph at the museum was of a polar bear swimming in the Arctics. “The bear's nose touched the screen of the camera!” Gaurav exclaims.
Gaurav Ramnarayanan, who started taking photographs at the tender age of three, decided to send his photographs for the Veolia Environnement Wildlife Photographer of the Year award for the first time this year. In Gaurav's category, 11-14 years, seven awards were given.Gaurav, who started taking photographs since he was three, was on a rickshaw during a safari at the Keoladeo Ghana National Park in Rajasthan when he shot ‘The Warning'.
He spotted a jackal 50 feet away, looking back fearfully. Knowing something was amiss, he jumped out of the vehicle and set up his tripod and camera. Before he knew it, two jackals lunged out of the bushes, snarling at the third, which immediately crouched back in fear.
A rare chance
“It was a split-second decision,” says Gaurav. He captured the moment that he describes as a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity”. For fours years now, Gaurav has been showcasing his photographs at exhibitions. An active member of www.indianaturewatch.com, Gaurav regularly posts his photographs on the website and accomplished photographers have given him feedback. Gaurav takes two trips a year with his father — one in summer and one in winter. And, the places he's been to include Kanha National Park, Bandhavgarh National Park (Madhya Pradesh), Tadoba National Park (Maharashtra), Kaziranga National Park (Assam), Pench National Park (Madhya Pradesh), and Keoladeo Ghana National Park.
“Once I am on the field, all I think about is getting my shot. Getting up early in the morning, say by 4 a.m., is crucial for good lighting,” says Gaurav. Sometimes these trips are long and arduous. For instance, on their trip to Kanha National Park, they covered over 4,500 km on the road.
A game of patience
“I don't read up on photography. I don't have the patience,” he says. But, he has spent hours trying to get the perfect photograph. He remembers having spent hours in Bandhavgarh National Park watching a tiger chasing a langur, hoping to capture the final kill. After a wait of two-and-a-half hours, he finally did.
Constant trips mean missing a few days of school. “Once I'm back from my trip, I just catch up on the notes I missed, so that is not really a problem,” says Gaurav who fares well in academics too.
An animal that Gaurav is keen on capturing is the short-eared eagle owl found in the Rann of Kutch.
Next August, Gaurav hopes to witness the Great Migration in East Africa, when the wildebeest will travel from Tanzania to Kenya.