This hearing-impaired photographer still finds a good tune with birds

“What I find remarkable about birds is one can find them literally everywhere — immaterial of the surroundings or the weather / climate — they are always true to their character — they are always birds,” smiles Anand Vishwanadha.

A poet and nature photographer, for a year now he is the Chief Sustainability Officer of Chitrak Eco Ventures — a Wilderness Camp and Jungle-living destination in the Jawai region of Rajasthan, famous for its leopards. His recent screening of photographs at Alliance Francaise as part of the Indian Photo Festival, showcased his ability with the lens as well as a variety of winged creatures and animals.

The avid bird enthusiast shares, “Around 70 photos were screened in two screenings, one from the avian world, titled ‘Stray Birds’ and another dealing with our Wilderness Camp and the leopards (and other wildlife) of the Jawai region.” Incidentally Stray Birds is the name of his third book of English poetry (it has sold close to a thousand copies and is now out of print) and the bird photos have been taken over more than a decade while the leopard photos are more recent.

The screening which lasted for almost three hours saw photography screenings, presentations (on the Jawai region, rewilding and biodiversity conservation) and a poetry reading session. Anand identifies himself as deaf and his hearing condition (Binaural Progressive Sensori-neural Hearing Loss) is degenerative, which renders even hearing aids ineffective.

This hearing-impaired photographer still finds a good tune with birds

Photography comes with a lot of challenges and the screening saw a lot of images which were shot in remote/testing conditions. The 45-year-old nods and shares, “I have been fortunate enough to find / discover and photograph Golden Eagles near the snowline in the remote sanctuary in Uttarakhand... and that was a rather difficult experience. But there are many challenging occasions when it comes to photographing birds, because they are very skittish subjects and can move very fast! Photographing the leopards of Jawai is also not without challenge...they are so well camouflaged they manage to hide in plain sight!”

Danger is around the corner too, especially when wildlife and inaccessible locations come together. Anand laughs and recalls an expedition to Spiti (he was with a friend, doing a recce for a snow leopard tour) and his Bolero got stuck on the side of a mountain. He then had to stay there for three hours (as his friend and tour guide trekked to the nearest village to get reinforcements) in sub zero temperatures.

Nicknamed Birdman for his wide range of knowledge of birds and their habits, Anand doesn’t recall when and where his fascination for birds started. “I do know that right from the very day I have been a photographer, my genre has mostly been nature photography...I started with landscapes, moved on to roads (I have been an avid motorcycle tourer) and then I got myself a long lens, and a DSLR...and found my calling.” he says.

This hearing-impaired photographer still finds a good tune with birds

His top mantras while shooting birds are simple and precise. “Always try to understand what the bird is doing and try to document the same in your photo.” he shares. “Get as close as you can, reach (that you get with long lenses) is important, but there is nothing like proximity...with some practice (and mentoring) you can pick up all the essentials of field craft -- moving silently, keeping a low profile and getting closer to the bird when it is not watching.”

His current passion is Chitrak, the wilderness camp he started in Rajasthan. “I started Chitrak with the objective of giving back to nature and the wildernesses. We are just one year old and while our focus on sustainability, rewilding and bio-diversity conservation has already started showing results. Jawai region is like no other region and its leopards are like no other leopards! Also, there is much more to Jawai than just the leopards, we have Caracals, Ratels, Civet cats...and a host of other rare flora and fauna. And yes, for birding, it is almost like a mystery never know what will happen, which bird you will find!” he signs off.

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Printable version | Oct 28, 2020 5:43:24 PM |

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