I recently had the pleasure of interacting with a renowned wildlife photographer, Mr. Naryanaswamy. Each artist consciously and unconsciouly lends his own perspective upon his work. In Mr. N's photographs of wildlife, I perceived, apart from his deep love for nature, an interest in the more amiable and friendly aspects of wild animals. The stories behind many of these photos are interesting too. My article based on our conversations was published some days ago in Deccan Herald, the school edition. Since it isn't available on the web, I'm posting it here.
By Monideepa Sahu
When peacocks fly, they display startling flashes of bright orange feathers on their wings, which are otherwise hidden. Wild jungle fowl appear drab to blend in with their forest surroundings, but bright, colourful highlights illuminate their plumage in the sunlight. Armed with the best cameras and sharpest lenses, international award-winning wildlife photographer K.M. Narayanaswamy films many such gems of natural beauty. Among his many honours, he is the ARPS (Associate of Royal Photographic Society, England), and was a member of the Indian team that won the Silver Medal (Nature Prints) in the 14th Biennial FIAP World Cup Photographic Competition in Spain. One of his most appreciated photographs is of three wild tiger cubs inside their den deep in a forest. “They were just three weeks old, and barely the size of kittens,” K.M. Narayanaswamy reminisces. “Even their eyes had not yet fully developed, and that is why they appear blue in the photo. I resisted the urge to cuddle the cute little cubs. We must never touch, or otherwise disturb the babies of wild animals. Even if the mother is not present, she can sense the presence of humans, and she may panic and abandon the helpless babies.” Photographing the adorable tiger cubs was a difficult and dangerous task. As Deputy Conservator of forests, he would instruct the forest guards to keep him posted on movements of wildlife. When he learnt of the presence of a mother cub and her newborn litter, his excitement was boundless. He and his team painstakingly tracked them for days through the dense jungles, and then hid themselves near the den. When the mother went away to hunt, K.M. Narayanaswamy stealthily went within three feet of the den’s entrance to take unique pictures. “If their mother had seen me, I would not have lived to tell the tale,” he tells us. “Even though I was careful to keep at a distance from them, the mother sensed human presence and immediately moved them to a new hideout after she returned.” This marvellous picture won prestigious international awards, and has been included in many international books on wildlife.
Baby animals and wildlife families find a special place in K.M. Narayanaswamy’s pictures. His photo of a brood of barn owl chicks look like mischievous children posing for their class photo. In a picture taken in Doroji Sloth Bear Sanctuary, tiny cubs try to clamber playfully on their mother’s back as she walks with a serious and determined manner. K.M. Narayanaswamy waited for hours every day at dawn to capture a pair of river terns mating. After their little chicks hatched, he photographed the parents taking turns to feed their young. “Wild creatures can be loving and caring just like humans,” he observes.
K.M. Narayanaswamy’s pictures often capture animals in a friendly and playful mood. He has taken photos of a pair of tuskers in Kabini playing like schoolboys. Two rhinos in Kaziranga face each other in another picture as though sharing interesting secrets. Another series of photos shows a male elephant covering himself with a luxurious slather of mud, and then spraying himself with water from his trunk. “It was like an elaborate spa beauty treatment, which took the elephant nearly three hours,” says K.M. Narayanaswamy.
The brilliant hues of nature also find a prominent place in his photos. His photo of a blue jay or Neelakantha bird is striking, showing he glowing shades of turquoise, indigo and peacock blue of its plumage. This state bird of Karnataka has chosen an equally colourful meal; a bright green fuzzy caterpillar. K.M. Narayanaswamy spends long hours waiting for the right effects of sunlight and shadows on his wild subjects. “The dazzling colours of nature are wonderful,” he says. “They are created by God and not by computers.”
Becoming an internationally celebrated wildlife photographer involved years of dedication and effort. He joined the Indian Forest Service in 1985 where documenting wildlife was part of the job. Inspired by accomplished seniors like Shri. M. N. Jayakumar, he began photography in 2000. His work took K.M. Narayanaswamy to different parts of the country, where he observed wildlife in their natural surroundings.
K.M. Narayanaswamy is deeply interested in sharing the wonderful world of nature with young people. He takes sessions in schools and colleges.