Internationally renowned macro photographer K. Jayaram shares his thoughts on conservation and wildlife photography.

Recently, he spent a week at the Gir Forest and photographed the majestic Asiatic lion. “It was a lazy lion,” recalls macro photographer K. Jayaram. In another photograph, a leopard attacks a spotted deer. “It’s not easy to photograph wildlife. Patience and subject knowledge are important,” says Jayaram.

“In the jungle, animals are not waiting to pose for you. Determination, stamina and keen observation matter. One should know the right moment to click. There has to be a willingness to work under harsh weather conditions, and to go without food and water, and to forego sleep,” says Jayaram, who got sun-burnt in Gujarat.

Small is beautiful

Jayaram showcased more than 200 high-definition images of insects, plants, birds, animals and butterflies to an eager audience at a recent event. “Every tiny insect in the food chain contributes to the ecosystem. People should be aware of it.” A photograph of a solitary male Nilgiri tahr in the background of Kurunji flowers looks striking. It was taken at Eravikulam Sanctuary. “Because of the rains, the flowers were wilting and decaying, but I showed the peak, the habitat and the Tahr.” In the image of a pack of wild dogs, he points to an ‘alpha’ male and says: “He has to be disciplined to be worthy of the title.”

Jayaram says photographing frogs are difficult. “It can be photographed only during the rainy season, and after 7 p.m. We have to protect our equipment from the rain and click pictures.” Jayaram along with a team has recorded a number of new frog species through India. He has photographed a tree frog with its webbed feet ( it helps the frog to fly like a parachute from one place to another), male bush frogs with an inflated vocal sac like a balloon (used to make mating calls ) and tree frogs with large eyes to gather light and the long powerful legs to kickstart the jump…

Some of the photographs highlight the camouflaging ability of animals — for example, a thin and flat geometric moth (it resembles a bird dropping on a boulder) and a white crab spider camouflaged among night flowers. “The body shape, colour and texture have to blend with the background. Otherwise, it will be picked up by predators,” he explains.

Play of light

A dragon fly in an angular composition shows the venation of wings. “When light falls from a latent angle, it illuminates the picture. In the early morning, a flower glows when light strikes at this angle.”

There are picture postcard images of after glow, the multi-hued evening sky. “Monsoon is the best time to capture the after glow sky. Now, as there is more pollution, we see lesser colours,” he rues. A wasp in flight is a unique photograph too. The wasp travels at a speed of 40 to 50 kms, and covers a distance of one foot in 2.5 seconds. Jayaram has used a special technique and the flash speed at 1/ 50000th of a second to arrest the wings and capture the moment.

Among the delicate creatures, a grass yellow butterfly shows off the soft hairy texture, and caterpillars hang upside down after a heavy diet of leaves. “I used flash as caterpillars are often found in dark bushes. You have to be very accurate in the use of flash, otherwise it disturbs the shape of the body,” he says.

Jayaram says the feeding behaviour of insects and birds are fascinating. “When a male blue-tailed bee eater brings the worm, the female turns away and then later snatches it. In the case of a wasp, it paralyses a bush cricket, and refrigerates the food in a burrow for the younger ones.”

The macro photograph of the egg cluster of lacewing insects is a work of art. “The insect measures half-an-inch. Each egg is held on a thin silk strand. I was lucky to get straight and parallel strands without any distortion. The eggs can withstand cyclones and any natural calamity,” he says. In another image, a female mantis devours a male partner after mating to get nutrients and produce healthy offspring. And, a moth flashes open the under wings with two bright spots, a behaviour that scares the predator.

Following a tiger

Jayaram says how he waited 45 years to photograph a relaxing tigress. It was taken at Bandipur. “Once, I followed a leopard for four hours till it obliged and posed for the camera,” he smiles. He has photographed the beautiful Ipsea Malabarica (golden daffodil, found only in the Silent Valley). Another photograph captures the morning mist at Kabini. “We got lost and when the mist cleared for a few seconds I captured the solitary bird,” he says.

He says in a jungle one has to be alert. “Once, I noticed a wounded tiger hidden in a bush. Another time, while photographing wild dogs, I looked up and a crested hawk eagle was posing for me. One should approach a photograph aesthetically, like a painting.”

Birds and butterflies

Among his bird photographs, the migratory painted stork carries nesting material (it explains the centre of gravity the bird employs while carrying materials), a spot-billed pelican lands on water, Egyptian vulture is in flight, Eurasian spoonbill lands and takes off …there is more

“I use wildlife pictures to tell people how animals are well-behaved and disciplined. If butterflies and birds decide to go on strike, we won’t get our food. We extract everything from Nature.” The event was organised by Aruvi. Visit them at www.aruvikovai.com or Call: 94421-01335/ 98432-94085.

K. Jayaram took to macro photography at a time when wild animals meant larger mammals. His interest to identify the subject he photographed led him to explore Ornithology, Horticulture, Taxonomy, and Entymology. He has a collection of 3.75 lakh images photographed in the last 50 years. His photographs have participated in over 385 photographic salons in London, Paris and across the world, and have been published in international magazines, journals, and books on Nature. Some of the photographs of butterflies and dragonflies have appeared in publications of the British Museum.