It took him a while to find his passion but when he finally did, he called it ‘serendipity’. Subrahmanya CN, a data-based specialist with an MNC, always craved to explore the wilderness — “My mind would nudge me to travel, watch nature and tell life’s story. I wanted to experience the uniqueness in even the most common of tasks,” he explains.
This is why he took up photography nearly eight years back: to explore his creative side. However, after dabbling in various genres of photography, he found his place in bird photography.
“I was inspired by mom’s keen interest in bird watching. A few years back, there was nest near my house that she was very interested in and I told her that I would show the bird’s world through my eyes, but due to various reasons I could not get the shots.”
The reasons being his then lack of expertise on the art and the necessary equipment. But of late, for the past three months, he has been focusing and working on the genre of bird photography.
Unlike the other forms of photography he has worked with — travel, macro, abstract, product, street, landscape, event, nature and monument photography — this field requires a lot of patience.
“It can get frustrating sometimes because you have to wait for the bird to settle down. You can’t just walk up to it and click the pictures.” So, not only does he spend hours trying to get the perfect shot but he also makes sure to conceal himself well so as to not frighten the birds.
“I make sure I don’t wear bright coloured clothes and I stay hidden in bushes or behind boulders. I also have a military style cap and camouflage jacket; I try to blend in as much as possible.” Initially, he could barely identify 10 birds but now, he knows exactly who his subjects are. And his eyes have become keener as well — “If there’s a bird hidden in a bush, I can spot it almost immediately, while most others struggle to find it.” His aim is to capture the frame in its natural habitat. “I go to places that are quiet and wait for the right moment. Birds tend to hop from one branch and tree to another, but if they’ve been to one spot before, it’s very likely they will come back again.”
This wait might seem relatively easy to do but Subrahmanya says that it’s very taxing on the body as there is a lot of equipment. “My camera, a Nikon D80, along with the lens and stand, weighs about five kilograms. And if I have to hold them in my hand, it becomes even harder.”
The self-taught photographer who has used the internet to fuel his passion and knowledge has come across various kinds of birds on his journey.
The Chestnut-tailed starling and Black-shouldered kite are two of his favourite frames. He has clicked birds eating worms and fruits and them in flight.
But before he could become a bird photographer, he had to learn the basics of photography itself. “We visited Gangtok once and there, I found the scenery so beautiful that I clicked a couple of picture on a reel camera. I wasn’t sure how they’d turn out but when I got them developed, they looked beautiful. So, I made a travelogue and sent it to my friends, who were surprised by how good they were. After this, my father bought me a mobile phone with which I took some good photos in macro mode.”
He has never been very fussy about his equipment; it was his passion for photography that fuelled him. “I didn’t even know SLRs existed. I just knew that photographers would carry bulky cameras,” he says. After he began to travel and when he found his passion for clicking pictures, he decided to buy a professional camera.
“It was expensive at the time, so I had to choose between buying a bike and this. I decided to buy the camera and this is when I realised that the gap that was missing in my life filled.”
This serendipitous meeting with photography took its time to develop. “During festivals, instead of taking 10 photos like before, I’d take a 1,000 photos. After 600 clicks, the battery would die and I’d charge it for another round in the evening! Each shot I took was from a different perspective.”
This is how he learnt to frame and compose.
Subrahmanya thinks that anyone can be a good photographer if they have the passion. It’s not about being able to afford the best equipment; if a person can utilise their imagination effectively, they can take good picture, he mentions.
(Subrahmanya CN can be contacted on subramanya.cn@ gmail.com)