Among the vast stretches of desert and sparse vegetation in Tal Chhapar Wildlife Sanctuary, sighting a blackbuck isn’t a rare feat. Situated in Churu district of north-western Rajasthan, the reserve is amongst the few natural habitats of the endangered antelope, which exists there in small numbers, albeit under protection.
But witnessing a tiny blackbuck fawn being hunted down by an enormous steppe eagle is a stunning scene that perhaps few have come across in the wild, or even heard of, for that matter!
Indeed, it took Aurangabad-based photographer Baiju Patil a trying three years to capture this rare moment! Unsurprisingly, the historic picture is considered a classic, winning under the ‘Pixel Perfect’ category during the 2018 edition of YES BANK Natural Capital Awards.
A pioneering initiative championed by YES BANK since 2013, the Natural Capital Awards seeks to motivate people towards environmental conservation and help usher in positive policy-related changes.
They have achieved this by identifying, rewarding and showcasing individuals, groups and organisations that have dedicated their time and resources towards spearheading biodiversity growth and environmental stewardship.
Other facets of the Awards, which draws a large number of participants every year, are photography segments like ‘Pixel Perfect’, ‘TrailBlazer’, and ‘Capturing the Ganges’.
Photographers from across the country are invited to showcase the marvels of our biodiversity captured in their frames.
Patil is among India’s most notable wildlife photographers, with an illustrious career spanning over 25 years. He has over 35 other national and international awards and accolades to his credit.
The Better India caught up with the photographer to find out how he does it. Interestingly, right off the bat, he says having cutting-edge equipment isn’t as important as having the right vision!
In fact, he shared a life lesson he believes everyone should emulate.
“Keep nature closer than your friends, for the latter may betray you at any given point, but nature never will,” says Patil.
With regards to photography being considered a powerful tool, Patil wholly subscribes to the ideology that the medium has immense potential to raise awareness as well as convey serious social messages through visual documentation.
“For instance, who would have thought that blackbuck fawns would be a prey to birds like eagles? When wildlife photographers bring such powerful shots to the world, saving animals is the message they intend to convey more importantly,” he adds.
For Dr Narendra Kumar Pandey, an Ayurvedic consultant based in Allahabad, a love for travel and capturing the memories that came along the way became the inspiration to pursue photography as a serious hobby.
His extraordinary capture of the sporadic sand wave formation in the mighty Ganga through an over-the-top shot from a bridge was the winner of the ‘Capturing the Ganges’ category in the Natural Capital Awards. The mind-blowing picture was the worthy result of a yearlong photographic pursuit.
There is quite an interesting story behind how Dr Pandey managed to chance upon this iconic shot.
“It was sometime between 2013-14, that I happened to come across such brilliant sand wave formations along the Ganga for the very first time. I’ve been visually documenting the course of the river for many years now, right from Gangotri to cities like Haridwar, Varanasi and Prayagraj (previously Allahabad). However, never before had I stumbled upon anything like what I saw one day. Unfortunately that day, I didn’t have the proper lens to capture it. However, the next day when I came to the same location, these textures were entirely gone!” he said, speaking to The Better India.
It took a year of patient waiting, along with intensive studies on sand waves to understand why these patterns sporadically appear along the river base, before he could eventually freeze that moment forever.
“It had been the release of water from the Ganga barrages in Kanpur during the onset of Kumbh mela or Magh mela that paved the way for this phenomenon to occur,” adds Dr Pandey enthusiastically.
Another astounding award-winning entry to the Awards had been by Nikhil Vijay Tambekar, a bookseller based in Chandrapur, Maharashtra. Specialising in ‘Urban Wildlife’ photography, Tambekar took up the vocation as a hobby in 2010.
Since then he has spent each night roaming along the national highway near Tadoba national park with his camera. He documents how on-going highway traffic and development projects were slowly encroaching upon the eco-zone and posing a severe threat to the wildlife.
‘Man-animal conflict’ has been the key determinant for Tambekar to venture into this genre, along with the frequent road kills that occurred on the highway, which passed through a natural wildlife habitat.
His visual documentation of these incidents proved to be a game changer when a proposal to expand the highway was floated. The new plan would encroach another 30 kms into the wildlife corridor.
Teaming up with a couple of non-profit organisations fighting against this, it was Tambekar’s photos that were used as evidence in their battle. They eventually won, ensuring a permanent halt to the project.
“It had indeed been a great achievement, which made me believe how photography as a tool was not just powerful but also catalytic to change,” says Tambekar, speaking to The Better India.
The photo that grabbed eyeballs at the Awards showcased a disturbingly symbiotic relationship that wild beasts had developed over the years with urban development. Captured in his frame, a leopard is seen feasting on the carcass of cattle, amongst the numerous road kills on the national highway at all times.
“We often come across stories of wild animals encroaching into urban areas. When in reality, we have been the ones taking over their land and driving them to resort to such desperate measures. Through my photographs, I wish to raise more awareness that would hopefully bring down the number of road kills,” he adds.
Apart from individual contributions, Natural Capital Awards also saw a participation from organizations from different sectors right from manufacturing, services to small-scale organisations, NGOs and even educational institutions.
There were 9 organisations which were awarded for their exemplary contribution through their various environmental-friendly initiatives. These organisations included names like Godrej Industries, Adani Ports and SEZ Limited, Mahindra World City (Jaipur), GVK Biosciences Pvt Ltd, Ambuja Cement, ACC Limited, Nano Bubbles Bangalore (OPC) Pvt Ltd, Shree Vivekanand Research and Training Institute and IIT Gandhinagar.
To know the more about YES BANK Natural Capital Awards 2018, please click here.
(Edited by Vinayak Hegde)