Meet three students from the city who have won laurels in photography, tennis and bird watching

Wild encounters

Five owlets perched on a tree — this stunning photograph made it to the final round of judging at the photography competition (11 to 14 years category) conducted by BBC and London Natural History Museum, beating lakhs of entries. The photographer is diminutive Sitara Arul Karthikeyan, a class VI student at Chinmaya International Residential School, who has set her eyes to become a wildlife photographer.

It was during one her treks at Valparai with her father K. Arul Karthikeyan, and R. Prakash, both wildlife photographers, that Sitara got hooked to the hobby. “My first picture was that of an elephant in Mudumalai,” says the young photographer who has since shot thousands of images. R. Prakash remembers how the little girl rushed to the farm near Perur in her school uniform to catch a glimpse of the owlets. “I waited for three hours. Two owlets were already there and, after a while, the other three peeped out,” Sitara says.

“More than clicking the photographs, I enjoy watching the behaviour of animals,” she says. Sitara accompanies her father and R. Prakash to Kabini, Masinagudi, Mudumalai, Attakatti, Aliyar and Valparai and shoots using a Canon 1 D Mark IV camera and 100 mm and 400 mm lenses.

One of her favourite photographs from the collection is that of a leopard with its kill on top of a tree, which she clicked in Kabini. “I also observe. For example, while clicking the great hornbill in Valparai, I learnt about their fascinating nesting behaviour.”

Meet the champ

As a seven-year-old, S. Boopathy would always hang around the neighbourhood tennis court near the Railways Colony in Erode. He would sneak his way through the fence, pick the ball, and throw it back to the players. Now, he has won laurels in the under-10 and under-12 categories and is now ranked fourth in the All India Tennis Association (AITA) ranking in the under-12 category. “We didn’t expect him to go the tournament level. But, he improved with every game,” says M. Sakthivel, his father, a Railways employee. “Everyone is competitive, so I really work hard, and practice regularly,” says Boopathy, a class VII student at Vidya Niketan, Coimbatore. His first win came in the under-10 category, in a State Ranking tournament conducted by the Triangle Tennis Trust. His major breakthrough was when he won the National-level Championship series conducted by AITA in Anantapur in the under-12 category. Boopathy’s recent win was at the National series conducted by AITA in Bangalore where he won the singles and doubles.

Though attending tournaments is a costly affair for this middle-class family, Boopathy takes part in at least 10 a year. With help from sponsors, he can do even better. Boopathy’s mother K. Selvi says it is important for every parent to identify and encourage a child’s interest. “For example, tennis calls for stamina, will power and confidence. These qualities will help him in any field.”

In the company of birds

For Bharath, a four-time winner of SACON’s ‘Young Birdwatcher of the Year’ award, the inspiration came from his parents. R. Parvathi and B. Ravikumar, both wildlife enthusiasts, initiated Bharath, now has just given his Class 12 exams, into the hobby when he was five years old.

“Along with studies, we wanted him to have a healthy distraction. All three of us together learnt the joys of bird watching. A healthy hobby paves the way for better thinking,” says Parvathi.

Bharath says bird watching teaches him patience and also helps him to be attentive. “You can soak in the silence, and the peaceful outing refreshes you. Seeing me, a number of my batchmates got interested in the hobby and now go on treks to watch birds and wildlife,” he adds.

He recalls a memorable trek in Bhutan where he spotted rare birds such as blood pheasants, Rufus necked hornbill, Rufus bellied eagle and brown fish eagle. “I take a note of the species and write a description on appearance and colour, cross-check with the field guide and then identify the bird. This helped me identify the birds at the SACON competition; I identified about 75 species.”

A regular at the bird watching trips of Coimbatore Nature Society, he has visited the wetlands and tanks in and around Coimbatore, Tirupur, Sholiayur, Anaikatty, and also the Corbett National Park. “Once you take in the beauty of Nature, you become responsible about your environment. You just have to look around in your neighbourhood to identify egrets, coots, black kites and shikras….”