Sandesh Kadur’s award-winning image of small fox at play will be on display at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History on June 6. He was also honoured by the North American Nature Photography Association.

Wildlife filmmaker and photographer Sandesh Kadur has depicted the wonders of the wild through eloquent images. From unknown species to splendid creatures, Kadur’s images have received critical acclaim and public appreciation, in India and abroad. Kadur has added two more feathers to his photographer’s cap. His photograph of small fox at play from little Rann of Kutch, Gujarat, won the Wildlife Category of Nature’s Best Photography Magazine and will be on display at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History. The image bears Kadur’s signature style: brilliant composition and an aesthetic appeal. “You never actually know what the judges will pick; what catches their eye,” says Kadur. “In the wildlife category, they usually look for an image full of action. So I was surprised that this very soft and tender image won! The judges are always looking for something different. And I think that’s probably why they zeroed in on that image.”

Aware of the heavy footfall at the Smithsonian Kadur says: “My work will be seen by millions of visitors. It’s a dream come true!” Kadur’s meticulous observation can be discerned in his images. He also contends that luck plays an important role in wildlife photography. “In wildlife photography there’s always the element of being in the right place at the right time. That was my first time in Western India. I was there for the launch of the wildlife magazine, Saevus. On the first day they took us out to the desert and there was this one place where a family of foxes had a den right by some human habitation. They were fairly accustomed to humans, so you could get fairly close to them, and so we spent a lot of time watching them play.”

Kadur returned in the evening, when the desert gets very cold, and the cubs stay out of the den to catch the last rays of the sunlight. “I got that one moment where you have these two siblings, one put its paw on the other’s mouth and it had this beautiful little square composition. I submitted it to Nature’s Best, which is one of the top magazines and photography contests.”

Recognition would next come from the North American Nature Photography Association. He was honoured with the 2013 NANPA Vision Award, which is given to a photographer in recognition of early career excellence and serves to encourage continuation of vision and inspiration to others in nature photography, conservation, and education.

“NANPA is special because it came as a complete surprise. Even though I was based in the US earlier, I never did much photography there; it was always in this part of the world. I knew about NANPA, but never in my wildest dreams did I think I would receive recognition from them. It is one of the top photography bodies. They recognise the body of work that serves as an inspiration to other photographers. It means that somebody is looking at your work that you are not aware of.”

Wildlife photographers must be guided by ethics, Kadur argues. “We had a discussion at the iClick symposium about the do’s and don’ts of wildlife photography. Nowadays people with DSLRs go out there without prior knowledge or connection to wildlife and nature. The safety and welfare of your subject is paramount. For most people the image has become paramount. But they’ve got to be able to make sure that the welfare of the subject comes before the image. Now capturing has become key. And that’s not what photography is about. It is about observation and documentation. It is the exponential factor too. One photographer does wrong and then you multiply that by a thousand, you are definitely going to see an adverse impact on the environment and on animals.”

Kadur says that photography is also about taking pictures that make a difference. His earlier book Sahyadris: India’s Western Ghats, A Vanishing Heritage was sent to UNESCO as a submission on the Western Ghats to get it declared as a world heritage site. “I am a part of the International League of Conservation photographers. We show the important role conservation plays in photography. We show images to highlight a problem, and you show those images in a very graphic way that grabs attention.”