Amidst the bustle of our urban lives, it's not often that we get to immerse ourselves in the wonder and serenity of the natural world. However, there are some who not only relish this connection but also use it as a tool for storytelling and conservation advocacy. One such individual is Dipin Sreepadmam, a name well-known in the field of wildlife photography, especially for his remarkable body of work focused on birds. With his intuitive understanding of bird behaviour, Dipin has managed to capture a collection of images that are as powerful as they are poignant. In this interview, Dipin takes us through his photographic journey, offering insights into his experiences, challenges, and inspirations.
Retro Kolkata : Your photography has had a profound impact on wildlife conservation awareness. What first sparked your interest in wildlife photography, and how have you used your work to advocate for conservation efforts?
Dipin : A few years ago, I went to a wildlife photography exhibition by Paws Trails in Dubai. The amazing wildlife pictures I saw there got me really excited and inspired me to capture similar images. That's when my interest in wildlife photography began. I started learning more about it and the equipment I needed.
When I take photos of birds and animals, my goal is to capture their beauty without disturbing them or their homes. When I share these incredible photos, I also provide information to my followers. I want them to enjoy the beauty of these creatures without bothering them because they know a little bit about them. Instead of causing trouble, my hope is that people will grow to love and appreciate these animals. I use my photos to raise awareness about the importance of conserving these species.
In simple terms, I got inspired by a wildlife photography exhibition and started taking pictures of animals and birds without bothering them. I share these photos and information with my followers to help them love and protect these creatures too.
Retro Kolkata : Each of your photographs tells a unique story. How do you approach your subjects in the wild to capture these striking images without disturbing their natural behavior?
Dipin : When I first started wildlife photography, I used to follow animals and birds to take their pictures. But whenever I approached them, they would get scared and fly or run away. It made it hard for me to get good photos. Then I realized that I needed to learn more about their behaviors and where they live.
I started gathering information from different sources like experts and books to understand how animals and birds behave and where they like to stay. This knowledge helped me a lot. I began applying what I learned in the field.
Now, when I see an animal or bird in their habitat, I've learned not to move too quickly. Instead, I stay still and quiet, letting them know I'm not a threat. As they become more comfortable with my presence, they come closer, and that's when I can capture amazing photos. For action shots, I have to predict their movements. I learn about what birds do before they fly, for example. Before photographing a particular species in their habitat, I spend time observing and understanding their paths and the best times to find them. On the day of the shoot, I try to arrive a little early.
Retro Kolkata : Bird photography requires an intimate understanding of bird behaviour. How have you cultivated this knowledge over the years and how does it influence your work?
Dipin : When I started doing wildlife photography in Dubai, I focused on Al Qudra Lakes, which is a great spot for photographing birds. I found a variety of water birds, raptors, songbirds, and migratory birds there. At first, I took random pictures of these birds, but later on, I realized that understanding their behavior was important for capturing better shots.
To learn more about birds, I talked to birding experts, read books about birds, and watched videos about them. This helped me understand how birds behave in their natural habitat. Now, when I go out to take photos, I can predict their actions better. This knowledge has improved my photography skills, especially when capturing birds in action or flying.
Overall, learning about bird behavior has made me a better wildlife photographer. It has allowed me to take more interesting photos that show the natural behaviors of birds in various places
Retro Kolkata : From the various bird species you have photographed, is there one that has captivated your attention more than others? Could you please share the story behind this fascination?
Dipin : Yes, there is a particular bird that has had a significant impact on my wildlife photography journey. It is the Jungle Owlet. During my vacation in Kerala, I had the chance to visit a place called Kuniyan (Karivellur - Kasargod). There, I met a well-known birder named Abhilash Padmanabhan, who had knowledge of locations of various bird species
Since I have a deep fascination for owls, I asked Abhilash about the possibility of finding the owls. Fortunately, he knew some places where they were frequently seen. Finally, I had my first encounter with a Jungle Owlet. I found it perched on a headless palm tree and took some photographs of it in that position. However, I wasn't fully satisfied with those shots.
I was determined to capture action shots of the Jungle Owlet, so I made multiple trips to the location. Unfortunately, I couldn't achieve the desired results. Then, after two days, I heard the owl's call near my home. This sparked my curiosity, and I began observing its movements.
After observing for two days, I discovered that I could capture flying shots of the Jungle Owlet from my own terrace. I planned accordingly and patiently waited on my terrace for nearly 2-3 hours. Finally, the moment arrived. The owl flew towards me, and I managed to capture several head-on shots that exceeded my expectations. It was a dream come true.
To this day, that particular shot remains the best photograph I have ever taken. The Jungle Owlet's presence and the opportunity to photograph it in flight transformed my wildlife photography journey and fueled my passion for capturing these magnificent creatures in their natural habitat.
Retro Kolkata : Birds are known for their seasonal migrations. Have you ever followed a particular species on its migratory path? What was the journey like for you as a photographer?
Dipin : Yes, there is indeed a specific bird species that I followed on its migratory path, and that is the Paradise Flycatcher. This bird is absolutely stunning, resembling an angel while in flight. Being a migratory bird, it intrigued me after seeing its photographs on social media.
During my vacation in May 2022, I eagerly searched for the Paradise Flycatcher, hoping to capture its picture. Unfortunately, at that time, it had already migrated to other locations, and I couldn't find it. However, luck was on my side when I went on another vacation to my hometown in December.
December to March is the migration period for the Paradise Flycatcher in my area. With the assistance of Abhilash, I managed to locate the bird's whereabouts and had the opportunity to capture numerous shots of this beautiful creature. It was truly worth the wait.
To get those amazing shots, I had been patiently waiting for almost six months, which turned out to be the longest waiting period for me to photograph a bird. The sight of the Paradise Flycatcher and the opportunity to capture its beauty during its migration brought me great joy and satisfaction as a photographer.
Retro Kolkata : Can you tell us about your most challenging shoot to date? What made it difficult, and how did you manage to capture the images you wanted?
Dipin : My most challenging shoot to date was capturing images of a small bird called the Little Owl inside the desert. This was my first time photographing an owl species, and it presented several difficulties.
In the UAE, photographers who are aware of the locations where these types of birds can be found often keep them secret. When I heard about this adorable bird, my friends and I reached out to many photographers, hoping they would share the exact location with us. Unfortunately, no one provided us with the precise details.
After several weeks of searching, we finally received some general locations where we might find the Little Owl. We began exploring the desert on weekends in our quest to photograph this elusive creature. However, disappointment greeted us each time, and this process continued for almost five months.
Eventually, our determination paid off, and we discovered the Little Owl deep within the desert, surrounded by fossil rocks. The journey to find it had been extremely challenging for us. Once we located the owl, we had to crawl across the desert to get as close as possible for detailed shots.
It was a testing experience that required patience, persistence, and a willingness to overcome obstacles. Finally capturing the images of this amazing bird brought a great sense of accomplishment, making all the hardships worthwhile.
Retro Kolkata : The natural world is under serious threat due to climate change and human activity. How do you see your work contributing to the conversation around conservation and sustainability?
Dipin : The natural world is facing significant threats from climate change and human activities. These changes adversely affect the populations and migration patterns of numerous species. By showcasing captivating moments of these creatures through social media and other platforms, I aim to educate others about the importance of every living being on Earth. This helps discourage harmful actions that may harm these creatures for mere entertainment purposes.
Through my work, I provide accurate information about the species I photograph and raise awareness about the need for conservation. By sharing my experiences and knowledge, I hope to inspire others to appreciate and protect the diverse species that inhabit our planet.
Retro Kolkata : Given the solitary nature of bird photography, how do you navigate the need for patience and stillness against the thrill of capturing the perfect shot?
Dipin : The balance between patience and the thrill of capturing the perfect shot in bird photography depends on our level of interest. If we have a strong desire to photograph birds in action or in flight, we must be patient and maintain stillness in the field. This may involve waking up early in the morning and enduring various challenges. However, the effort is worth it when we finally capture the photographs we have always dreamed of. It brings immense satisfaction and acts as a healing process, allowing us to connect with nature's tranquility and escape from other problems we may be facing.
Retro Kolkata : What kind of equipment do you usually take with you on your shoots? Has there been any specific advancements in technology that have significantly enhanced your work?
Dipin : I usually take my Sony A1 camera, Sony 200-600mm lens for birding, and a Sigma 105mm lens for macro photos on my shoots. Technology advancements have greatly enhanced my work, especially in capturing moving subjects. The increased frame rate of cameras allows me to capture every single action, even those that may not be repeated later. Additionally, technology helps me capture amazing details of the subjects I photograph. Camera technology plays a significant role in bird photography, allowing me to capture stunning shots with precision and clarity.
Retro Kolkata : Finally, what advice do you have for aspiring wildlife photographers who are especially interested in bird photography? Are there certain skills or characteristics that you believe are crucial to succeed in this field?
Dipin : For aspiring wildlife photographers interested in bird photography, here is some advice:
Acquire the necessary gear: Invest in telephoto lenses suitable for bird photography. These lenses allow you to capture birds from a distance without disturbing them. Proper gear is essential for achieving high-quality bird photographs.
Respect wildlife: Remember that wildlife photography should never harm or disturb the subjects. Respect their habitats and behavior. Do not disturb or harm any creatures for the sake of a photograph. Treat wildlife with care and be mindful of their well-being.
Understand your gear: Take the time to familiarize yourself with your camera equipment. In wildlife photography, opportunities for capturing unique moments can be fleeting. Knowing how to use your gear efficiently and effectively is crucial for capturing those precious shots in the limited time available.
Study bird behavior: Gain knowledge about the behavior and habits of the bird species you want to photograph. Understanding their patterns, feeding habits, and habitats can help you anticipate their movements and capture more captivating shots.
Be prepared and patient: Arrive at your photography location early to maximize your chances of witnessing unique bird behaviors or interactions. Patience is key in bird photography, as it may take time to capture the perfect shot. Be prepared to wait and observe, allowing the birds to become comfortable with your presence.
Stay quiet and minimize movements: Birds can be easily startled by sudden noises or movements. To avoid disturbing them, maintain a quiet presence and minimize sudden movements while photographing. This will help you blend into the surroundings and capture more natural behaviors.
When going into the field for bird photography, it's advisable to wear camouflage clothing and avoid bright colors. Wearing camouflage helps you blend into the surroundings and prevents your presence from attracting unnecessary attention from birds and other animals. Bright colors can catch the eye of birds and potentially disrupt their natural behavior. By choosing appropriate clothing, you can increase your chances of observing and photographing birds without disturbing them.
Remember, bird photography is not just about the photographs but also about the conservation and respect for the birds and their habitats. Enjoy the process and strive to capture the beauty of birds while preserving their natural environment.