Have a hobby that you love? Pursue it with passion and hard work. That is exactly what Raviprakash, an engineer from a small village in Karnataka, did. And his efforts were recognized in London, where he won a very prestigious award for wildlife photography. Here is what he has to say to other aspiring photographers.
“It is a dream come true,” says Raviprakash SS — last year’s winner of the Wildlife Photographer of the Year award in the ‘Amphibians and Reptiles’ category. “I won the category award for the picture titled Divine Snake – a shot of a green vine snake clicked from behind it, focussing only on the eye. That is the most memorable picture I have taken till now. It has always been one of my favourites,” he adds.
Born in Hosahalli village, located in the Malnad region of Karnataka, Raviprakash grew up amidst the beauty of the Western Ghats.
He was surrounded by rich biodiversity and a picturesque environment. It was there that he first developed his love for exploring nature and wildlife.
“I was very interested in photography since childhood. During my high school days my father bought me a point and shoot camera, with which I used to capture all family functions or outings.”
Building upon this hobby later in life, Raviprakash began exploring macro photography techniques.
“The macro mode interested me. I started by capturing flowers, butterflies, dew drops, etc. My interest went on developing. Based on the suggestions of my friends and mentors, I bought a DSLR camera about seven years ago,” he recounts. Macro photography is extreme close up photography of small objects; it captures them in such a way that the size of the subjects appears larger than the life size in the photograph.
On October 21, 2014, at the Natural History Museum in London, 37-year-old Raviprakash’s talent was recognized and he received the Wildlife Photographer of the Year award.
Considered to be one of the most prestigious honours for wildlife photography, this award ceremony, which dates back to 1965, is organized every year by the Natural History Museum. The photographs are showcased at an exhibition in the Museum and appear on their website. They are also published in BBC Wildlife Magazine and other leading publications. Last year was the 50th year of the award, and the exhibition attracted nearly 1.5 lakh visitors.
A popular choice award was also introduced and Raviprakash won the second prize, based on worldwide voting.
The Museum calls for entries every year and participants can enter up to 24 photos. Last year, the competition received about 43,000 entries from 96 countries. The panel of judges includes people from different fields related to photography and the environment. There are 14 categories, with four finalists in each. Winners receive a cash prize of £ 1,250, and the trip to London is also sponsored.
Raviprakash is a software engineer by profession. Photography for him was always a weekend hobby.
“The support given by my family and friends encouraged me to take it up more passionately. I did some reading and watched online videos. I had many mentors too, some of whom are guiding me even now. Once in a while, I used to visit my hometown, just to spend my days shooting. And after the award I started taking it a lot more seriously.”
Initially, after taking many pictures for about three years, Raviprakash felt that he was only documenting things — like seeing a butterfly and capturing its image. This became somewhat boring for the artist in him. Then, one of his mentors, Ganesh H. Shankar, formed a website called Creative Nature Photography.
The aim was to capture things in a unique and artistic manner, rather than just documenting them.
“It has become a very interesting journey from then on. I am not really interested in capturing all the details of the subject. I am more interested in capturing in an artistic way,” says an enthusiastic Raviprakash. Currently posted in Bangalore, he plans to take up wildlife photography full time in the future.
Speaking about the equipment he uses, Raviprakash says, “I feel a lot of photographers these days think that only a high end camera can result in good pictures. But my award winning pictures are from an old Nikon D5000 camera.”
He also has some useful tips for amateur photographers who want to take up wildlife photography as a career.
1. Understand your equipment well because you don’t need expensive cameras. I am not against someone buying an advanced camera that will definitely help in taking better pictures. But ultimately it’s the person behind the camera who matters the most.
2. Some people think that wildlife photography is all about big cats and elephants. But you don’t need to visit wildlife sanctuaries to become a good photographer. Macro photography is very beautiful and colourful but very few people are exploring it well.
3. Understand your location and subject(s). Pay attention to factors like light, angles and moods.
4. Learn to click, click to learn — click as many pictures as possible for practical knowledge.
5. Background is as important as subject. Choose it carefully.
6. Share your pictures on various forums that are frequented by good photographers and be open to criticism.
7. Shoot in aperture/shutter priority/manual modes. Control your output rather than leaving everything to the camera to decide.
8. Don’t get bogged down by technical terms and details.
9. A two-hour field trip along with good photographers helps you gain more knowledge than two days of indoor workshops or online learning.
“Hard work always gives the right dividends. I hail from a small village. That’s where my journey started. I want to highlight that the result may not be visible overnight but if someone is interested in something they should pursue it passionately and should be open to criticism and learning,” concludes Raviprakash.