Remember that guy in 3 Idiots who almost missed the boat with his dream to be a wildlife photographer? Don’t be that guy. Calling all photography enthusiasts, especially those who have pushed aside their dreams, here is a chance to get back in the game and showcase your work.
Said to be Asia’s premier wildlife photography festival, ‘Nature InFocus Photography Awards’ includes a four-member jury of world-class professionals like wildlife photojournalist Steve Winter, filmmaker Shekar Dattatri, conservation journalist Swati Thiyagarajan and wildlife photographer Dhritiman Mukherjee. Excited about the new award category — ‘People with Nature’ — Rohit Varma, founder of Nature InFocus has this to say: “I like to believe that there are no two worlds between man and the wild but just a single ecology. The new category is all about conveying this relationship between people and nature.” Participants can try their luck at any of the other four categories – ‘Animal Portraits and Behaviour’, ‘Wildscape and Animals in Habitat’, ‘Conservation Issues’ and ‘Creative Nature Photography’. Special categories include ‘Young Photographer Award’ (open to those under 17 years) and ‘Photographer of the Year’.
NiF’s ‘Photographer of the Year’ 2016, Kallol Mukherjee says: “Winning last year gave me the confidence to send more of my work to international contests. Since then I have won four international contests including the ‘Big Picture Natural World Photography Competition’. I live in a small town called Singur, near Kolkata, and took the picture in a paddy field nearby. Shooting the Drongo bird eating an insect all in the midst of a wildfire was difficult but I eventually got the right shot and it won me my prize.”
This year’s jury curator is Kalyan Varma, an esteemed wildlife photographer, environmentalist and filmmaker who says: “Diversity in the panel is of utmost importance whether it is gender or occupation.” Elaborating on the dearth of wildlife photography contests in India, Kalyan says that for the few existing competitions, winning photographs are very predictable. “In regular contests, a shot of two lions fighting will always trump a black and white shot of an elephant. But the various categories in NiF provide more scope for different photographs and my personal favourite category is ‘Conservation Issues’.”
Rohit believes India has such a rich ecology that it has begun calling enthusiasts away from cities. In comparing wildlife in India, Africa and China, Kalyan agrees that Indian wildlife is one-of-a-kind. “In Africa there are less than 40 or 50 people per square kilometre of wildlife whereas in India we have 400 people per square kilometre. Considering all the animal extinctions in China, there is barely any wildlife left but in the entire history of India we have only lost one animal which is the cheetah. I would like to believe that Indians naturally conserve nature and are more in touch with their wildlife.” Kalyan points out that species like the Nilgiri wood pigeon, found only in the Western Ghats are what make India home to rare biodiversity.
Jury member and renowned filmmaker Shekar Dattatri concurs that the wildlife photography community in India has matured but lays great emphasis on the ethics behind a shot. “About 20 years ago, this was a hobby for 100 people or so, but now it is practised by thousands in India. While this type of growth is great, there is still a tiny percentage of the community who drive their jeep through the habitat to get a better shot of the animal. Participants should remember that sensitivity, sensibility and empathy while taking a photograph is as important as the shot itself.”
When asked about the judging criteria on the technicality of a photograph, Kalyan assures that one of the winning photographs from last year was shot on a cell-phone. Kalyan comments: “While the quality of a shot is crucial, the contestant should focus on capturing a moment.
Everyday about 1.8 billion images are shared on social media. We want photographs that can stand out in those 1.8 billion images.”
Winners will be announced on August 19 and 20 at Crowne Plaza, Electronics City. ‘Category Winners’ will take home a cash prize of ₹50,000, ‘Category Runners-up’ will get a cash prize of ₹25,000, ‘NiF Photographer of the Year’ will get a cash prize of ₹50,000. All winners and runners-up are also entitled to a certificate and the Winner’s Trophy. For more details visit http://www.natureinfocus.in.