HYDERABAD: Age is just a number and this couple proved it right as they found no barriers to pursuing their passion for photography. For Dr Seetha Khambhampati who is about 71 years old and Dr Srinivasa Rao Somanchi who is 81, these numbers are just figures that keep increasing year after year, but their zeal to travel and capture the best of photographs is what makes this couple special. Seetha and Srinivasa Rao, who hail from Warangal, have now settled in Hyderabad. The two retired teachers have left no stone unturned to make the impossible, possible. A passion towards travel and photography made them authors of a wonderful coffee table book which showcases birds from the length and breadth of India that were captured through their lens.
Their association with photography started off as a passion and evolved into something much deeper. Srinivasa says, “We love birds and basically we are travellers, we travel a lot. I can say that this is not just our passion but our obsession. As we were travelling, we started first with recording the whole journey and because of our luggage we had taken smaller cameras. Then we started with SLR cameras. Soon, we started to use a zoom lens which is around 7 to 8 kg.
First, it was travel, then nature photography, wildlife photography. Since the last four years, we are exclusively into bird photography. This book is just pictures that were selected, we have captured pictures which are more than a lakh and selecting pictures from a lot is difficult. Then we came up with Beautiful Birds as the name for our book. We travelled from down South from Kerala, up north we went up to the Himalayas. In the process, we visited several beautiful places which we kept going back to get shots of different birds in different seasons. All this was possible because of the digitalisation of photography.”
The traditional mindset of people assuming that only men could do better in photography than a woman has never stopped Dr Seetha from pursuing her passion. Though there were many challenges, she managed to overcome them. “When we photograph a single bird, we are never satisfied. We want more angles of the same bird in different forms. Sometimes I may get a few good shots, while my husband does not manage to do so.”
Dr Seetha and Dr Srinivasa say they get into arguments over their work. Getting the best shot and framing a great photo is all that matters to them. “While editing our pictures we compare our pictures. We have different laptops and desktops to work on. Only after the editing is done, we talk to each other regarding the pictures. When we are on the field and if I am obstructing her view, she pushes me aside and takes the shot. I don’t do so and her position is the priority. We also have our fixed positions on the field,” says Dr Srinivasa.
Recollecting their memories of shooting these birds is very pleasurable, the couple says. These have piled up over a period. “There is a bird which is generally seen at a place named Tunganath (near Kedarnath). When the temple opens, people go by truck, steps or go by horse and come back. We went when the temple was not open. Whoever wanted to go towards the temple had to walk. The journey was very difficult, but we managed it.
We forgot our age at that time as we just wanted to do our work first. We took a shot of the bird that we were looking for. Here, the main difficulty was that our knees started to hurt. Last summer, we wanted to photograph a bird named Western Trogopon and we had to go to Sarhan Himachal for it. We were lucky, or rather the bird obliged us to capture it. Our lens did not work but we quickly changed our lens and then clicked it. Western Trogopon is a State bird of Himachal. It is quite a rare bird,” mention the couple.
Going around the thick forest area is no easy task and taking a safari is expensive. But the couple still managed to get good shots of all birds. “We have been travelling for the last 40 years and our experience helps us a lot. “Once, we got into a vehicle that had two women with mobile phones. We had a lot of camera equipment. A local tribal was driving the vehicle and they only knew one word Chelo (Go). These two ladies would click a picture with their phone and ask them to move. By the time it was our turn we would miss the shot. Such hurdles are common,” Dr Seetha adds.
Dr Srinivasa is also a wood sculpture artiste, several of them which he showcases in his living room. Giving advice to budding photographers, Dr Seetha says, “This profession needs a lot of patience and determination.” For travelling photographers, she says they must take adequate preacuations such as carrying medicine kits and using local guides.