Caught on camera

photo journal

Caught on camera

Many in photography circles assumed, and even bet, B  Srinivas wouldn’t catch up with digital photography professionally.

Sure, the now 60-year-old began with Black &White (B&W) photographs using a box camera, and grasped the techniques of printing photos as he helped his father in a studio at his native Doddaballapur in the early 60s, and then at Bengaluru, as they anchored residence here.

He was in high school when he understood that outdoors and rally races held his interest more than classrooms. Because, it was in the outdoors that he found the dramatic wildlife and a chance to capture them. His interest soared when the veteran photographer from Bengaluru, C Rajagopal, famed for his artistic B&Ws, honed his photo-taking skills.

“He encouraged me to take part in contests and apply for degrees in photography back in the 70s, when I believed such opportunities were reserved for the ones with expensive education and costly camera equipment. This new confidence set off photography as my profession,” Srinivas recalled.

Finding an edge
Within a decade, he held master’s degrees and doctorates from prestigious photographic societies: the UK-based Royal Society of Photography and The International Federation of Photographic Art (Fédération Internationale de l’Art Photographique), and possibly with the distinction of being the youngest from India to do so, at age 35. He was part of the three-member jury at the Photography World Cup held in Bengaluru recently.

But then came the wave of digital photography, which scored out the tedium of physically printing photos from reels using chemicals and dark rooms, which was Srinivas’s expertise. “I saw many contemporaries dropping out of it once B&Ws moved on to colour photography. And many more didn’t favour the flippancy with which digital photographs were taken. I think I could grasp the change and thrive because of my adaptive nature. Also, the mode of photography might change, but the interest and creativity are irrespective of it. I believe experience amounts to something. A novice would take double the photographs before finding a perfect shot when lacking in experience.”

He began by visiting Bandipur National Park and Ranganathittu Bird Sanctuary, and now with 46 years of experience of capturing animal activities and avian antics at various national parks and sanctuaries in India, he shared that “Jim Corbett National Park is a photographer’s delight. The mountainous backdrop, grasslands, unending horizons, gleaming rivers (River Ramganga and River Kosi) and the majestic Bengal tigers sit wonderfully within frames. Kabini, with its great elephants, is the best in Karnataka.” He also pinpointed that “photography is better dealt with patience. I once scouted for animal activity for four days on a trip and came back without a single good photograph.”

Tales from the jungle
As anecdotal advice, he added, “Shooting wildlife means entering animals’ territory in such a way as to not disturb them. Once at Kabini, we sat inside an old Willy jeep at a safe distance of 60-70 feet from a tusker elephant, trying to capture its movements. A wet patch behind its ear meant it was in musth (the mating period when its virility is at peak), and it bored a tree trunk repeatedly. For our misfortune, the elephant saw our jeep and charged towards us. We hunkered down in absolute stillness. The tusker circled the jeep and walked back to the tree. A mere shove from it would have spelt death for us. It’s good to know enough about animal and bird behaviour.”

If reflexes and patience govern the quality of wildlife photography, creativity and lighting rule pictorial photography, which Srinivas mastered. “If wildlife photography records what happens, it’s emotion and visualisation that shape a shot in pictorial photography. Rajasthan and Gujarat are great places to capture traditions and landscapes. I saw natives there, clad in ethnic clothes, use brass vessels. Such things add great aesthetics to photos. I was also told a community of Lambanis in Karnataka, in their bejewelled attire, too make great subjects for portraits, but was shocked to see them in western clothes carrying plastic pots. It’s all reality, though,” he recounted.

Srinivas took the mantle of a guru and is dubbed ‘Dhronacharya’, for he has guided many amateur photographers, mostly in Bangalore, through their master’s degrees and doctorates, although to him “everyone is a friend, none my student. And I see this as an educative opportunity for others.” In 2008, he led an ‘open for all’ photography workshop in Kuppalli, Shivamogga district, organised in memory of writer Poornachandra Tejaswi, and it drew 45 participants.

It’s the lack of photography academies in the State that upset B Srinivas. “They are important to recognise and encourage talent. How unfortunate it is to know that our State that slotted photography as an art form two decades ago has obliterated it as a category of art!”

But Srinivas’s passion for photography goes on. Macro photography projects are his focus now. He is ready to share his knowledge of photography and guide anyone who needs advice. But make sure you are on time. He knows the importance of timing.

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