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Shots in the wild

jungle life: A snap from the exhibition PHOTO: BY SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT  

KOCHI: They are fleeting moments from the wild immortalised by the lens. Animals and birds have been caught in their world of freedom; the strife, the peace, the waiting, have all been given a sort of permanence through art. Third Eye, an exhibition of 160-odd photographs of the wild by Mohan Thomas, Thomas Vijayan and Shefiq Basheer Ahammed, presented by Kerala Forest Department, at the Durbar Hall Art Gallery stand out for their honesty and quality.

The Thomas brothers, who trace their ancestral roots to Kottayam, firmly believe that a wildlife photographer needs to be an explorer, artist and scientist at heart. Mohan, a builder based at Bangalore, and Vijayan, an architect in Canada, took to wildlife photography nearly 15 years back. They have traversed the jungles of the country and to the wilds of Brazil, Russia, Kenya and Costa Rica to come up with some amazing frames.

“The first time I went on a safari, along with my friend Satheesh Nair, who initiated me into this wonderful world, was to Biligiriranga Hills, near Mysore. Armed with a Yashica box camera I took a few photographs that were not great but it certainly inspired me to continue this hobby seriously. It took many more years to spot my first tiger. This was at Bandipur. The picture I shot was what got Vijayan interested and since then we have travelled together, and sometimes alone, and become regular wildlife visitors in India and abroad,” says Mohan.

The big cats have been the favourite of the brothers. They have spectacular frames of the Bengal tiger, leopard, cheetah, jaguar and the rare Black Panther in various moods. The most striking of them all is perhaps that of the elusive Black Panther, especially the one where the animal peers at the camera from behind a tree. The green twinkling eyes perhaps created by the headlights of the vehicle gives it a surreal feel. Sighting this beautiful animal, black in the blackness of the night, was an ‘ultimate dream’. The bright starry eyes, blood-red tongue, the silky, shining black body… that photograph from Dandeli is a virtual stand out.

“Yes, both of us really love the big cats and some of our best photographs are on them. But I’m slowly moving on to bears and birds,” says Mohan. And on show are some of his fascinating frames of the brown bear from the Kamchatka Peninsula, Russia and Vijayan’s cleverly crafted frame of the Fiery-throated Hummingbirds from Costa Rica.

Shefiq, a Motor Vehicle Inspector, joined the Thomas brothers in their expeditions six years back. And he is simply floored by their passion and willingness to help a ‘beginner.’ Today, he will not miss an opportunity to be with them in the wild. “I took five years leave from office only to pursue this passion. Mohan and Vijayan would reach a sanctuary and call me and I would reach there as quickly as I could. It is an urge, a craving to be there in the wild with the camera, the lenses and the two of them, which I cannot resist,” says Shefiq.

Two of his many frames that are sure to catch your eye are of the Travancore Flying Squirrel and of a leopard that seeming to have sensed his presence, looks over its shoulder menacingly. “The flying squirrel is one of my favourite and treasured photographs. This nocturnal animal is endangered and this is a rare photograph.”

Apart from all the craft, technical skills, equipment back up and being at the right place at the right time, what still makes a wildlife photographer different is how he perceives a moment. Shooting in the wild is not always about a leopard waiting to pounce from a tree or tigers drinking from a pool. The ‘lesser beings’ can also provide some captivating moments. There’s one by Vijayan titled ‘Fun for all Ages’ which shows a troop of Gray Langurs in evening light with a little one merrily swinging on one of the elders’ tail.

“For us photography is a tool to speak to people about the wonderful world of the wild, the need for it to be protected and the importance of nature conservation. Photography is not a profession, nor are we into it for money. We don’t believe that our pictures are perfect. Each one them is an experience. It is a part of our lives,” say Mohan and Shefiq.

The show is on till June 23.


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Printable version | Aug 1, 2021 2:52:44 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/metroplus/events/shots-in-the-wild/article6133701.ece

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