Craft, passion, technical skills and equipment make a good photographer. But an element of luck can make a good photographer great. Luck in being at the right place at the right time.

Ask Thomas brothers. Great shooting opportunities come unexpectedly, they will tell you. So they spend much of their time in the wild to freeze for eternity the moment a big cat pounce or a goat gambols into their viewfinder. If luck deserts you in the forests, you still have an opportunity to be far from the madding crowd, to relax and be one with nature.

“We have taken photography as a perfect way to inspire people from all walks of life about the enchanting wildlife and its protection, besides making them advocates of nature conservation,” Mohan Thomas says.

He and Thomas Vijayan, with their ancestral roots in Kottayam and engineering professionals in Bangalore, believe that a wildlife photographer is an explorer, artist and scientist, all rolled into one, who needs to be alert to sights, sounds and smells.

On a visit to Thiruvalla, the brothers say they consider it crucial to respect wildlife and the forests in their expeditions into the wild in India and abroad.

Mohan, 53, is a civil engineer by profession. His younger brother, Thomas, 45, is an architect in Canada, who owns a printing business in Dubai.

Wedded to wildlife photography, they have made it a point to spend a portion of their income on nature conservation and wildlife protection in India. But they do those initiatives anonymously.

The brothers, who were born and brought up in Bangalore, say their passion for photography had its beginnings from early childhood. Mohan says it all began with a Yashica box camera he had during his college days in Bangalore. However, it was his maiden family trip 15 years ago, along with a friend, Satheesh Nair, to the Biligiriranga Hills, a beautiful wildlife reserve, 90 km from Mysore, that sowed the seeds of love for wildlife in him.

Thereafter, the brothers became regular visitors to the hills and their passion for wildlife photography has now expanded beyond the geographical boundaries of India, extending to Africa, Latin America and the Amazon forests. The brothers are known for their love for big cats. Mohan says it took 12 years for him to spot a tiger in its natural habitat and that was in the Bandipur National Park in 2001. For him, recalling the maiden encounter is a thrilling experience.

A safari to remember

It was an afternoon safari into the jungles and suddenly, they were alerted to something lying near a salt pit. It was a tiger. “I began to shiver in excitement, and the significance of the situation left me awestruck. My hands were failing to grasp the camera and I was left dumbfounded. Soon I recovered from shock to complete a memorable half an hour of shooting. The pictures can hardly be called good, but the experience of seeing a tiger for the first time left me in utter bliss,” he says.

Trips made to the wild became more and more frequent. He travelled to the magnificent land of Africa, where the refreshing landscapes and bountiful wildlife left him speechless. The Masai Mara Reserve in Kenya is a haven for photographers and soon it became his hotspot.

By then, Thomas Vijayan got beguiled by nature and took up photography. Together, they made numerous trips to the reserves of Africa and India.

Having seen numerous tigers and leopards, the brothers took another bold step by setting new targets to shoot jaguars and brown bears. For the jaguars, they made an exciting trip to Pantanal in Brazil and for the brown bears, to Kamchatka in Russia.

The brothers captured a rare black leopard (melanistic leopard), an elusive beast, during a trip to the Dandeli-Anshi Tiger Reserve in Karnataka, along with Praveen Sidhannavar, a friend, and B.B. Mallesha, Conservator of Forests, two weeks ago.

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