BENGALURU: “If I go on leave, my colleagues know where I am... in the forests”, says H V Praveen Kumar. Praveen works for customs and central excise, Government of India.
A wildlife photographer by passion, Praveen says, “It’s been long since I saw a tiger in the wild.” He developed interest in wildlife photography over ten years and now is one of the leading wildlife photographers in the country. He is also probably the only government official in India who is a wildlife photographer and a member of Royal Photographic Society, Great Britain.
He developed his skill with experience. “I haven’t attended any basic course in photography. The senior photographers guided me. They taught me how to handle the camera and the other techniques. I used a manual camera when I started ten years ago. Now, I have switched to digital camera,” he says.
He says wildlife photography is safe unless you maintain a safe distance and do not disturb the animals. Clicking pictures using mobile phones affect the moods of the animals. They do not have zoom lens and so one has to go near the animal and this disturbs them. “With smart phones, any Tom, Dick and Harry clicks pictures and calls themselves wildlife photographers. They go on their own and disturb the animals. Most of them do not know the basics of wildlife photography. They should go with seniors,” he adds.
He says that behaviour of the animals can be unpredictable. “While I was shooting a tigress in a forest two years ago, she targeted our jeep. We weren’t disturbing her and there were only two jeeps there. I couldn’t react. She was very close. But she calmed down,” he recollects.
Praveen joined the Youth Photographic Society, Bangalore, in his earlier days of photography and is now the president of the institution. He has received recognition, especially for his tiger pictures from the Royal Photographic Society, Great Britain; Federation Internationals D’la Art Photographique, Luxemburg; and the Pakistan Salon Group. He is also the only central government employee in India who has been awarded distinction by Master, Federation International de la Art Photographique (MFIAP) in recognition of his highest grade of creations of photographic art and fellowship in Royal Photographic Society.
His pursuit as a photographer got his colleagues also interested in wildlife photography and few of them join him on his expeditions. He used to take his daughters and their friends to the forests too. His younger daughter also developed the same interests and at the age of 17, she became one of the youngest associate in the natural history category of the Royal photographic Society of Great Britain. Prakruti Kumar’s first picture of a tigress was published as the cover page of their journal which also had a write-up about her work.
“I saw a tigress coming out of a bush. A thorn pricked her foot. Saliva helps heal their wounds. I captured her grimacing expression,” she shares.
Seeing her picture, she was invited for a conference in South Africa where she headed the youth wing and spoke about the Indian wildlife. She is currently a student of engineering at M S Ramaiah Institute of Technology. She believes that wildlife photography is a powerful means to spread the word of conservation. She posts pictures on the social media platforms and tells people about the importance of saving the species.
Her father and the drama that happens in the jungle keeps her going. “The majesty of the animals inspire me,” she says. India has all kinds of forests and a vast biodiversity. There are many species yet to be identified in the western ghats. “We need to bring them to the notice of the people and tell them how beautiful these animals are. They are truly incredible,” she adds.
Wildlife photography taught her patience. It needs presence of mind and also one needs to act quick, she says.
The father-daughter duo gave a talk on wildlife photography recently at Indian Foundation of Arts, Bengaluru.