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Wildlife Photography In Transition

Involved in fostering a community of photographers and wildlife conservationists, Kalyan Varma is a recipient of numerous awards including the BBC Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2013 in the plants category, best in Animal Behaviour in Poral el Planeta and Sanctuary’s Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2005. In our cover story, he describes how what was once the exclusive bastion of a few who loved to be out in the wilds has turned into a difficult to control invasion of fragile wildernesses… and shares what he believes is the future of wildlife photography in India.

The procedure of capturing a wild elephant is highly traumatic for all involved as the author discovered while documenting escalating conflict in Hassan district of Karnataka. Photo: Kalyan Varma.

It was just past five p.m. on a hot June evening in the Ranthambhore National Park. There were more than two dozen gypsies, a preferred wildlife safari vehicle in the Indian jungle, lined up by the edge of the famous Rajbagh lake. Word had got around that the well-known tigress, popularly referred to as Arrow Head, was inside the old fort and would emerge any time now. The sun was slowly descending into the horizon and the evening light had begun to cast long shadows across the landscape.

Suddenly, there was excitement and energy rippling across the vehicles. The atmosphere was charged and all one could hear was the sounds of camera shutters, like the rattling of machine guns in a war zone. It was as if a commander had signalled ‘charge’ to the platoon waiting to shoot at the slightest movement.

Hundreds of cameras and many expensive ones in their tens of frames per second modes clicked away. The only sounds one could hear was that of cameras going off and within a few seconds the tiger disappeared behind a rock and dozed off lazily. After a pause and deep breath, people began reviewing the images they had managed to shoot and moved on.

I suspect there were at least 2,000 images shot in less than 10 seconds and then, of course, there were a few who had just about managed to take a selfie with the far-away royal Bengal tigress before she disappeared.

In all this commotion, I could not concentrate enough to take a single photograph. Is this what has become of photography?...

 
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