BENGALURU: When the Nipah virus infection broke out in 2018, electrical engineer Yashpal Rathore, who has been photographing wildlife for 12 years, decided to document bats in the urban landscape. With the flying mammals getting associated with various diseases, including Covid-19, Rathore felt there was a need to dispel these “negative thoughts” around the creature.
His submission of a photograph capturing a bat frozen in flight against the urban sprawl of Bengaluru has won him the top honour of Nature inFocus Photograph of the Year in the Wildscape & Animals In Habitat category. The competition is organised by Rohit, who hung up his corporate boots to pursue photography and wildlife, which led to the creation of the award, and Kalyan Varma, who has won awards such as BBC Wildlife Photographer of the Year and Sanctuary Asia Photographer of the Year.
Rathore captured this particular image in February this year at HRBR Layout, close to his place of residence. His picture focuses on a Greater Short-nosed Fruit Bat dropping out of a Singapore Cherry tree on the walkway of a busy street, against the headlamp streak of a speeding vehicle, and the neon lights of business hoardings. “The long-exposure shot captures the dynamism of urban life.
The city has seen these nocturnal winged mammals adapt to the chaos of the urban environment. Though vilified by the human population, bats play a vital role in our ecosystem,” says Rathore, who used a laser trigger and low-powered flashlights to freeze the bat in its flight. He received a cash prize of 150,000.
“In the last few years, any new outbreak of a virus has left people blaming bats. A deep mistrust regarding these animals has resurfaced, after some theories traced the origin of the novel coronavirus to bats. Even if virus is being reported from a couple of species, all the species have now become a point of target,” says Rathore.
As a nature photographer, he took on the challenge to portray bats in better light. “My win is an example that it is not necessary that we have to be at an exotic location to photograph a rare species, to make an award-winning entry. It’s about finding something interesting in an ordinary place. It’s all about how you capture and not what you capture that will make the difference,” says the 47-year-old.
The offline annual Nature inFocus Festival had to be skipped this year due to the ongoing pandemic, and the five-member jury along with jury curator and Kalyan presented the winning images live on YouTube. Submissions for this year’s awards closed on May 31 and received about 14,000 images from over 1,600 competing photographers from around the world, including Sweden, Saudi Arabia, and United Kingdom.