1. ‘Wildlife Photographer of the Year’ is a very prestigious award. This year (2014), you have been adjudged the winner in the ‘Amphibians and Reptiles’ category. Can you share with our readers how you conceptualised this image?

It was shot one bright day in my hometown, a village near Sringeri. I found this snake just 10 feet away from my home. I’ve always been fascinated by the eyes of these snakes. That day, the position and pose of the snake was ideal for me to try a new perspective. A bright green background too fell into place. All these ingredients resulted in the photo, known as ‘Divine Snake’. I am very glad that this took me all the way to Wildlife Photographer of the Year.

Click here to view the winning image in the ‘Iconic Images’ section.

2. Your picture of the spider web has also won you accolades in the ‘People’s Choice Award’ in the Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2014 contest. How did you make this image?

This is a rather unusual story. I was shooting a back-lit bunch of pepper, when I suddenly saw a rainbow-like formation in my viewfinder. I pressed the shutter and viewed it on my camera screen; it took me a couple of seconds to realise that it was a single strand of back-lit web resulting in the spectrum. I could shoot only a few more pictures before the sun disappeared that evening. From then on, I mostly shot spider webs whenever I went out for photography. I started looking for different types of webs in different lighting conditions. Pursuing the experiments led to the image ‘Pure Magic’, which was appreciated in the People’s Choice category. There is more to explore in this and my experiments are still on.

Pure magic

3.  You hail from the temple town of Sringeri, tucked away in the Western Ghats. How has this influenced your photography?

Without any doubt, Malnad is the biggest influence for me to start and pursue my hobby of macro photography. More than 90% of my pictures are shot there. And of course, my best pictures are shot in my backyard – ‘Divine snake’ was shot just about 10 feet away from my home and ‘Pure magic’ about 50 meters away.

When I started shooting water droplets with my point-and-shoot camera a few years ago, I wasn’t even aware that there was something called macro photography. It was the dew drops and insects around my home which created more interest in me, which eventually led me explore macro photography. I was fortunate enough to get friends and mentors who helped me in every step, to learn and continue my passion.

2a

 In action
 
2b
‘In my green world’
 
4.  When did you realise that you had an eye for photography? What kind of images did you shoot when you started off?
 
Growing up in a village in the 1980s and 1990s, cameras were very fascinating objects. In any family function, borrowing and holding a camera for a few seconds from the photographer was considered a big achievement! I was fortunate to know a photographer who not only allowed me to hold his camera, but also allowed me to click photographs. Mind you, it was the era of film rolls, which were very expensive. This interest prompted my father to buy me a Yashica camera when I was in high school. I mainly shot family events and landscapes during outings and trips. It was in the early 2000s, after I purchased my digital point-and-shoot camera, that I developed an interest in macro photography.
 
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 In action, in the field.
 
5.  In what way has your association with both India Nature Watch (INW) and the Creative Nature Photography (CNP) influenced your photographic style?
 
INW and CNP are stepping-stones in my journey. Both these amazing platforms gave me an opportunity to meet many like-minded people, who became great friends and mentors. I am glad that one of my colleagues introduced me to India Nature Watch. It was in INW that I learnt a lot about basics of photography and also about subjects; I documented many species.

CNP is a unique platform stressing on thinking and photographing out-of-the-box. This allowed me to express myself differently. I have been focusing on new ways of seeing and shooting, since the last three years. CNP is the biggest influence behind my winning images. A couple of my images (including ‘Divine Snake’) were selected as ‘Image of the Month’ on CNP, which served as a great motivation.

Monsoon mood
 ‘Monsoon’
 
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 ‘Secret world’
 
6.  Can you share with us your experience and memorable moments from the P.O.T.Y 2014 awards ceremony?
 
The entire sequence of events beginning with the legendary Frans Lanting briefing the audience about my image and announcing me as the winner, to me collecting the award in front of Sir David Attenborough and the Duchess of Cambridge, were my most memorable moments. Sir David Attenborough congratulating me and appreciating my photograph is highly unforgettable too! So was seeing ‘Divine snake’ displayed on a gigantic LED screen at the Natural History Museum (NHM) gallery.
 
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 The winning moment, with Frans Lanting and Liz Bonnin.
 
7.  Who has influenced you the most with respect to photography? Who are the photographers you admire?
 
Ganesh H Shankar’s work has always fascinated me. His works are very inspiring, and each of his photographs is a lesson. I have been greatly inspired by him! I admire Nirlep Singh, Dinesh Ramarao (RD), Shankar Kiragi, and Sudhir Shivaram’s work. I also like Vipin Baliga’s images; I feel he is destined to reach great heights.

8. You have been successful in making very powerful images. What are your future plans for photography? Are you planning to try new styles of photography or intent continuing with macro photography, which is your forte?

I want to keep up with advancing technology; I am planning to invest my prize money on a new camera and lens. I want to start all over again and shoot many more macros. Regarding style, I don’t think I have a distinct one, except that I shoot mostly macros. Nothing excites me more than macro photography and I intend to continue that.

After the awards ceremony, one of my mentors told me to forget about the award and just enjoy photography. It’s time to go back to my forte, my backyard!

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‘Honey well’