The winner of 'Wildlife Photographer of the Year' Bengaluru-based Vihaan Talya Vikas' stunning pictures are a testament to his love of nature.
In 1984, London’s Natural History Museum was flooded with hundreds of jiffy bags. Each contained a picture — a submission for the ‘Wildlife Photographer of the Year’ competition launched in 1964.
Since its inception, the magazine competition has scaled to what is now one of the most prestigious photography awards in the world. Today, the competition boasts of over 45,000 entries every year. The love and adulation by wildlife photographers who brave deep forests, remote areas and harsh terrain, are to credit.
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And this year, it was Bengaluru-native Vihaan Talya Vikas’s photography that grabbed eyeballs. The 10-year-old’s winning shot is telling in and of itself — an ornamental tree trunk spider preventing its prey from escaping, with a carving of Lord Krishna in the frame.
Vihaan’s shot bagged the prize in the ‘10 years and under‘ category. This came as a pleasant surprise to the Class 5 student of Bengaluru’s Kumaran School. “None of it was anticipated,” he says recalling the unassuming day he clicked the picture.
“I was visiting a tamarind grove at Nalluru along with my dad and his friends. We stopped by the Gopalaswamy Temple to admire the carvings of Lord Krishna. That’s when I spotted the spider,” he recalls.
Vihaan’s first thought was, how well-positioned the arachnid was. It almost seemed entranced by Lord Krishna’s flute. Insects, particularly spiders, had always held a fancy for Vihaan — “The way they spin webs, and hunt their prey, isn’t it so cool?” — He recalls spending hours capturing their images during his childhood summer holidays.
So it was only natural that the young boy sat down, and watched the spider weave a wheel-shaped web, entangling any prey that dared to come too close. And soon he got clicking. “I must have clicked over 200 pictures,” he shares.
And among them was the winning shot.
What caught the judges’ eye was the composition of the image. As Dhritiman Mukherjee, Wildlife and Conservation Photographer and Competition Judge, commented, “This image conveys so many interesting things to me. It talks about coexistence very nicely.”
The inclusion of a historic sculpture, he noted, adds a different dimension to the concept. “Then here we are, seeing a spider — a smaller and less attended life form. So, for me, this one served the purpose of art, concept, conservation and science very nicely.”
Freezing moments in time
The summer of 2020 was a life-changing one for Vihaan, who had just discovered the wonders of the camera. His father’s farm in Basavani village, which lay against the backdrop of the Western Ghats, was akin to a sanctuary for Vihaan. There was plenty to photograph.
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“Photographs meant I could watch the insects and animals even after I went home,” Vihaan shares.
This ability to freeze moments in time and carry them with him through life compelled Vihaan to venture into photography. As his father recalls, “When I handed over my old DSLR camera to Vihaan, I was not expecting much from him. I intended to introduce him to nature so that he would start observing it.”
But to his pleasant surprise, Vihaan picked up photography very quickly. His images were “compelling” and he understood the manual controls of the camera and started experimenting with it.
When praised for these skills, Vihaan shrugs. “I love photography because it allows me to be creative, connect with nature and so much more.” Even when the competition was announced in October 2022, submitting the spider image was almost instinctive.
But choosing out of the 200 shots was tough. Vihaan finally settled on one because it stood out from the rest.
“It was a cloudy day and the sun kept coming out of its hiding place behind the clouds for a few moments,” he explains. “I managed to click this at a time when the sunlight was falling on Lord Krishna’s hands.”
Vihaan’s perspective behind every click has fascinated his father who shares that the young boy does not hesitate to try new things — varied subjects or camera angles.
The award means that Vihaan’s winning shot will become a part of the prestigious WPY59 collection and be prominently featured in the upcoming Wildlife Photographer of the Year Exhibition at the Natural History Museum.
The road ahead is exciting for Vihaan who says, “The prize made me aware of the fact that the award is not the end but just the beginning of my photography journey.”
Here are nine pictures clicked by the prodigy:
1. Wide Band Grass Dart
The picture was clicked at a butterfly workshop. Vihaan was on his way to check on a southern birdwing pupa when he spotted a wide band grass dart sitting on a blade of grass. “I captured this because of the dewdrops and the green background. I felt that the skipper was the mountaineer while the grass was the mountain.”
2. Cicada Exoskeleton
“The rains had just stopped while we were at the farm,” recalls Vihaan. “My father and I went for a stroll and I spotted the cicada exoskeleton with a raindrop on it.”
While on a trip to the Bhadra backwaters with his father, Vihaan was testing out one of his father’s old cameras. “This is an image of an egret flying past us. I had always wanted to capture a flying one.”
4. European Robin
This shot was captured by Vihaan during his stay in the UK.
5. The Common Green Bottle Fly
The colourful background enticed Vihaan who was intent on capturing the fly sitting on a blade of grass. But there is a larger message. “People pay no attention to small creatures, such as flies, but I feel this picture shows that even a simple fly can be beautiful,” he says.
6. Garden Lizard
“I took this image because of the selective light which was falling only on the lizard.”
7. Himalayan Ibex
The picture was captured during the family’s vacation to Spiti.
8. The Golden Pearl
On a trip to Hampi in Karnataka, Vihaan visited the Malyavantha sunrise point. While he first intended to click the sun rising, he says a better idea soon struck him. “While photographing, I got the idea to position the sun just above the rock making the sun a pearl and the rock a jewellery stand.”
9. Spider with kill
At a workshop, Vihaan was trying to photograph the crab spider (Boliscus tuberculatus). “I was still capturing this when the spider found its prey.”
Edited by Pranita Bhat
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