Travel

Shooting to fame

Agasthya Karthikeyan Photo: Special Arrangement

Agasthya Karthikeyan Photo: Special Arrangement   | Photo Credit: BABU

School students and siblings Agasthya and Sitara Karthikeyan have won accolades at the prestigious Windland Smith Rice International Awards

“Ït was not a planned shot,” says Agasthya Karthikeyan about his photograph of a Nilgiri Tahr and a monkey clicked at Attakatti near Valparai in the Western Ghats. “It was my summer vacation and I was taking photographs at the foothills of Valparai. I noticed a monkey on a parapet wall, gesturing. Nearby was a Nilgiri Tahr. I immediately clicked several shots of the two mammals interacting.”

Agasthya is a std X student at Chinmaya International Residential School and this photograph is one of the runners-up at Windland Smith Rice International Awards — Nature’s Best Photography.

His sister, Sitara Karthikeyan who is in std VIII at the same school, has also won the same international honour. “We went to Pulicat near Chennai in November to watch the flamingos, as it was the migratory season. We were in a boat and I was very excited to see hundreds of birds. The colour of the bright pink wings was so attractive. When I saw a bird landing I just clicked,” says Sitara.

Award-winning wildlife photographer R. Prakash, who mentors Agasthya and Sitara, says, “It’s a proud moment, as the contest gets over 40,000 entries from across the world. We sent 20 images taken by Agasthya and Sitara. Some were short-listed for the semi-finals, and these two images won the runner-up honour. The photographs will be displayed at Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History in Washington DC for one year.” While Agasthya’s photograph scored high on expressions, Sitara’s photograph played around with reflection, sequence, and landing of the bird.

Prakash himself has clicked several images, including the rarely sighted male leopard and a melanistic (black) female leopard together, and the rarely photographed Nilgiri Marten.

Talking about Agasthya and Sitara, he says, “Their school holidays are spent on wildlife photography. Armed with their Canon cameras, they set out into the wild. It is very important for the younger generation to be aware of the environment and care for it. A hobby like this is a good starting point.”

Sitara — who has shot thousands of wildlife images during her outings at Kabini, Jim Corbett National Park, Tadoba Tiger Reserve —is a source of inspiration for Agasthya. One of Sitara’s photographs —five owlets perched on a tree —made it to the final round at the photography competition (11 to 14 years category) conducted by BBC and London Natural History Museum.

It was during her treks at Valparai with her photographer-father K. Arul Karthikeyan and Prakash that Sitara was hooked to wildlife photography. “It is fascinating to observe the behaviour of mammals in their habitat, especially tigers,” she says. “The experience has made me patient. And, I don’t get disappointed. Recently, at Corbett National Park, I missed clicking the photograph of a tiger even after waiting for hours. Then, all of a sudden it posed for me as it enjoyed a splash in a pool!”

Says Agasthya, “ “My school is at the foothills of Siruvani. I often stroll around the campus observing the birds. I actively involve myself with the Photography Club. My hand-mind co-ordination improved greatly after getting into wildlife photography.”

The young photographer recalls his first outing at Nagarhole Wildlife Sanctuary and National Park where he saw a leopard climbing a tree carrying a dead deer.

“At Kotagiri in The Nilgiris, I photographed the Shaheen falcon, one of the fastest birds. We carried our tripod and camera weighing about seven kg and seated ourselves on an incline and waited for six hours to catch a glimpse of the bird. It was a great learning experience.”

Prakash says that wildlife photography instils responsibility and respect in people towards Nature and prepares them for challenges in life. He is very proud that his wards have won international recognition. The BBC pays Sitara royalty for her photograph of the owlets.

Gayathri Arul, the children’s mother, says Nature has done them a world of good. “They concentrate better. They learn to go with the flow. There are days when they go into the forest expecting a tiger and end up seeing a bird. Agasthya and Sitara help each other and there is healthy competition. It’s the first time ever that a pair of siblings has won the award. They are lucky to have an on-site mentor in Prakash who is with them at every single outing. As we live in the foothills of Pollachi, we ensure that we spend our holidays at sanctuaries.” She adds, “Parents should take extra time to nourish hobbies and extra-curricular activities to ensure holistic growth. When they bring such international honour, it is a proud moment for everyone. This competition is an equivalent of the Oscars in photography. They have done our country proud.”

About the awards

The Windland Smith Rice International Awards — Nature’s Best Photography competition opens each January and the images are judged by a panel of experts in the fields of photography, science, and conservation. Each photograph is judged on technical quality, originality, and artistic merit. Visit http://www.naturesbestphotography.com

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Printable version | Jun 6, 2020 4:03:05 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/life-and-style/travel/Shooting-to-fame/article14793637.ece

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