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Exploring the Essence of Wildlife Photography - Interview with Tapan Sheth : Retro Kolkata Exclusive

Interview with Tapan Sheth : Retro Kolkata Exclusive

Tapan Sheth, the renowned wildlife photographer, has garnered widespread acclaim for his evocative images of nature's majestic creatures. His journey into photography began with a deeply personal moment of capturing his daughter's image, which has profoundly influenced his approach to wildlife photography, especially his intimate portrayals of Asiatic lions. In this interview, he shares his experiences, challenges, and aspirations in the world of wildlife photography.

Interview with Tapan Sheth : Retro Kolkata Exclusive
Image © Tapan Sheth

Retro Kolkata : Your journey into photography began with a simple yet profound moment of capturing your daughter's image. How has this personal beginning influenced your approach to wildlife photography, especially when capturing the raw emotions and essence of Asiatic lions?

Tapan Sheth : My first instinct was to say that I started with photographing a lion, but capturing lions may have been the easier part. Kids have a personality of their own, and there are so many emotions associated with them that we often fail to see. I think the same applies to lions and other alpha predators. We come with preconceived emotions about each, which clouds our perception. When I photograph, it is a clean slate that will be captured, and this clarity and openness to whatever may come is reflected in my wildlife photos too.

Retro Kolkata : Your connection with Asiatic lions is notably deep and personal, to the extent that you feel they recognize you. Can you share a particularly memorable encounter with these majestic creatures that stands out in your career?

Tapan Sheth : I remember it distinctly! It happened after a literal decade of waiting. I was positioned for a shot when a majestic lioness, presumably a new mother, appeared with her cub in her mouth. Since we were at fairly close quarters, I could see her expressions very clearly. The majestic predator, the one who hunts, was carrying her cub so softly. It was such an overwhelming moment that I almost cried.

Interview with Tapan Sheth : Retro Kolkata Exclusive
Image © Tapan Sheth

Retro Kolkata : Winning Nature's Best Photography Asia in 2016 is a significant achievement. Could you tell us about the winning shot, the story behind it, and how it has impacted your career in wildlife photography?

Tapan Sheth : Regarding the winning shot, we were coming out of the forest in winter as the sun was setting during the golden hour. We saw this amazing male lion moving along his path. We waited, and luckily he turned around, allowing me to click a portrait of him in the golden light. I only got four shots, but when I saw the image on the camera, I knew this was the shot that had to be recognized.

Retro Kolkata : Your work has been featured on numerous prestigious platforms, including BBC Magazine and National Geographic. How do these features contribute to your mission of spreading awareness about wildlife through photography?

Tapan Sheth : Every bit counts. People tend to save and preserve what they love, but they destroy or kill what they fear or hate. I feel that having my photographs published on such eminent platforms allows people to see these animals differently. They can appreciate that these animals have a beauty to them and are just trying to live. By showcasing this softer, more admirable side of these animals, we can evoke admiration and love for them in the audience.

Interview with Tapan Sheth : Retro Kolkata Exclusive
Image © Tapan Sheth

Retro Kolkata : Exploring the jungles of Africa and capturing its diverse wildlife presents different challenges and experiences compared to Gir. Can you discuss one of your most challenging shoots in Africa and how you overcame the obstacles?

Tapan Sheth : I’d say I have been fairly comfortable in the wild, a lot of which stems from my extensive experience shooting in India. African flora is an extension of what we have in India, though larger. So, I didn't face any major challenges, just the basic requirement of scaling up my efforts.

Interview with Tapan Sheth : Retro Kolkata Exclusive
Image © Tapan Sheth

Retro Kolkata : Your respect for mother nature and drive to spread awareness about wildlife through your work is commendable. How do you choose the subjects and moments to capture that best convey this message to your audience?

Tapan Sheth : That’s the whole point—there is no method to it. Capturing emotions is an organic process; it's not something I can plan on paper. The key is to be present at the moment, not just physically but also mentally, and be watchful because you never know when the opportunity will arise. Nature cannot be planned; it happens on its own. As photographers, we just have to make the most out of it.

Interview with Tapan Sheth : Retro Kolkata Exclusive
Image © Tapan Sheth

Retro Kolkata : Being a wildlife photographer requires patience, skill, and often an element of risk. How do you prepare for a wildlife photography expedition, especially when targeting specific animals like the Asiatic lion?

Tapan Sheth : There is a certain level of danger involved because we are in their territory. If we equate it to the human experience, it makes the entire preparation logical. If you want to enter someone's place without their permission and take respectful photos, you’d want to be hidden. This is crucial when photographing wildlife. We have to be comfortably hidden, using camouflage and the appropriate gear, and ensure we don't move around much.

Interview with Tapan Sheth : Retro Kolkata Exclusive
Image © Tapan Sheth

Retro Kolkata : Your perspective on natural surroundings has dramatically changed since you took up photography. How do you incorporate this evolved perspective into your teaching methods, especially when educating your daughter and others about wildlife?

Tapan Sheth : The best way to inculcate such views is to have open conversations. Much like our ancestors passed on information through word of mouth, I do the same. I tell her stories about waiting for a shot, the emotions I experienced, and how surreal the surroundings felt. Her curious questions give me the feeling that the message has been delivered.

Retro Kolkata : The field of photography, particularly wildlife photography, is constantly evolving with technological advancements. How do you stay updated with these changes, and how have they influenced your photography style and technique?

Tapan Sheth : With better technologies, we have the chance to further improve our shots. There are lenses that help us take precise pictures, tools for color grading, and more. What used to take us days or months can now be done fairly quickly thanks to advanced technology.

Interview with Tapan Sheth : Retro Kolkata Exclusive
Image © Tapan Sheth

Retro Kolkata : Looking ahead, are there any particular projects or goals that you are passionate about pursuing in wildlife photography? How do you plan to continue your journey of learning and exploring the natural world through your lens?

Tapan Sheth : The goal is simple—there is so much happening that poses serious challenges to sustainable living, like deforestation and animals going extinct. Through my work, I want people to fall in love with nature so that these detrimental activities can be paused, and we can start working towards a better future.

Interview with Tapan Sheth : Retro Kolkata Exclusive
Image © Tapan Sheth

Tapan Sheth's journey and passion for wildlife photography serve as a testament to the power of visual storytelling in fostering a deeper connection with nature. His work not only captures the beauty and essence of wildlife but also inspires others to appreciate and protect the natural world. As he continues to explore and document the wonders of nature, Tapan Sheth remains committed to his mission of spreading awareness and promoting conservation through his lens.

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We are thrilled to announce the upcoming 'AURA 2024 - The International Photography & Art Exhibition and Grand Felicitation Ceremony', following the resounding success of last year's event. This prestigious gathering will be held at Kolkata's renowned 'Nazrul Tirtha' Art Gallery (Action Area I, Newtown, Kolkata 700156) from January 13 to January 21, 2024. The event promises an international stage for artists and photographers handpicked globally to display their masterpieces alongside the mesmerizing works of esteemed artists from over 25 participating countries, all under the spotlight of national media.

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