‘Nature, flora and fauna and the aves – all speak to us. If only we paused to listen!’
That is my friend and ace amateur nature/bird photographer Ravi Muthuswamy’s lament.
You might have read my school reunion post some years ago. Well, I had had the opportunity to meet new friends and renew my friendship with old ones with whom I had lost touch. Ravi was not present at that reunion, but we managed to connect through the email group and also through our FB music group. At that time he had mentioned that he was intending to pursue photography once he retired from active work. His posts on his angst over environment degradation always touched a chord.
When he started posting his Nature photographs, especially those of animals and birds on his FB page Impressions, I was among the friends cheering him from the sidelines. We friends eagerly look forward to his daily pictures of birds, with a commentary on each. They range from the common to the rare and exotic that he comes across in his daily life as well as on special birding expeditions.
One of the reasons why his pictures resonate with the viewers is because they often tell a story. It would appear that he sees and hears things that we might normally miss. His pithy captions and an occasional anecdotes give the lie to his claim of not being good with words! I had been wanting to do a photo feature with his work for a while now. Let me tell you that I had to chase him relentlessly before I got them as he feels that he is ‘just a bird photographer’!
And so he finally shares some of his photographs and his thoughts about the denizens of Nature, and his interest in conservation as an after-retirement activity.
One of the things about his photographs that stun a viewer is the emotions he is able to capture though the lens. Does he plan them that way?
With birds, or for that matter with any fauna, you cannot plan such shots; they just happen. However, it is important to be able to imagine a photo in one’s mind and work to achieve it – and hope that the bird will oblige! Even now my instinct is to just shoot the moment I see a bird. But I have learnt to take a little time to decide on the angle of the shot, the camera settings etc. For an impatient man, I am patience personified when it comes to bird photography!
He gives a lot of credit to the camera, forgetting that any tool requires an artist to wield it.
The camera plays a big role in bird photography. I use a Nikon D500 camera with 150-600 Tamron lens. I also have a Sigma 18-300 lens with Macro settings. Since I mostly do bird photography I use the Tamron. As the D500 shoots at 10 frames per second, taking photos of birds in motion is that much easier and even if some frames are not good, one of them is bound to be. Apart from these, I have an 18-55 Nikkor lens which is good for landscapes.
What I find most impressive is Ravi’s reverence of Nature and her creatures, which borders on empathy.
While photographing a bird or other animals, the most important thing is to respect the bird (or any fauna for that matter) and its space. Respect comes naturally if one appreciates the beauty of Nature and her inhabitants. The world is as much theirs as ours. We humans tend to forget that. Ethically speaking one should not be disturbing them when they are courting, mating, feeding or taking care of the young ones. Since I use telescopic lens, I shoot from a distance and am able to take photographs without disturbing them.
Why did he choose to photograph birds?
I started my serious photography in Chennai, and we have a few water bodies including the famed Pallikaranai Marsh – degraded now thanks to insensitive policies of successive governments – it was natural for me to start photographing water birds/waders. From there to all birds was a natural progression. But it was not till I took my first bird photograph with my newly acquired zoom lens on Chilika Lake in 2013 that I became passionate about bird photography and it has been growing since. That was incidentally my first serious bird photography trip.
Also, I love challenges and bird photography gives me plenty of that – they are small, fidgety and move fast. The challenge of getting a good shot of a moving target keeps me hooked!
Feeling so passionately about Nature, it is but natural for him to be indignant about the callousness and indifference shown by humans towards preservation and conservation. Is he actively involved in any conservation effort?
I don’t have much time right now, but hope to do something tangible once I hand over my work to the youngsters. Currently while doing Project Management I try to get clients to adopt water saving and power saving methods, but it is a frustrating effort now, because builders ultimately take decision based on cost.
I feel I should start off on a smaller level than have a grandiose plan, but whatever I do will have to do with the 3 Rs of water – Reduction, Recycle and Reuse, as water scarcity is going to be a major issue in the future.
Which would he consider his best picture so far?
Instead of my best, let me pick out my favourite. This was taken on Lake Chilika while boating during the early days of my bird photography. In fact, getting a photo like that in the initial stages enthused me more! It is a Brahminy Kite with a colorful fish in its talons. The colors are so beautiful and the clarity was so good that I’m still in love with that series of photographs!
Does he have any plans to hold an exhibition or publish book of his photographs?
Not really, unless I can think of some target group for the book. The information that I give out is just copied from the net, not something I have gained from personal experience! Some of my friends have been telling me that I can put up an exhibition or put up my pictures for sale. Never thought that people would pay for my pictures, but now I am wondering whether I should look into that aspect since I want to retire & spend more time with photography!
Here’s wishing you all the best for more birding trips and awesome clicks, Ravi!
Before ending the post, I can’t resist posting this last one! Isn’t it cute?