In the realm of wildlife photography, there are few who can capture the serenity and savagery of nature as vividly as Gyana Mohanty. Through the lens of his beloved Nikon D850, Gyana immerses us in the untouched corners of our earth, weaving narratives that beckon us to ponder on the beauty and vulnerability of our planet's wildlife. In a candid conversation with Retro Kolkata, he shares glimpses into his adventurous journey, the role of his work in wildlife conservation, and the unforgettable moments that have marked his career.
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?
Gyana : I had a passion for photography since my childhood and tried my hands in few genres of photography in the past but my inclination towards wildlife photography started way back in 2018 when I saw the photographs clicked by my office manager whom I am reported and then I had purchased my dream camera Nikon D850 with 200-500 iconic lens and not to believe this is yet the best camera body for me to shoot all my photographs in 2023 as well. Through the lens I always capture the splendour of untamed nature, inviting people to connect with creatures they have never ever encountered in their life through various social media platforms. Also being a responsible photographer I always take care of endangered species, fragile ecosystems etc.
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 behaviour?
Gyana : Always maintain an appropriate distance from the subject so that I can click my photographs without disturbing their habitat but it depends on location to locations & the size of the subjects as well. If the subject is huge like tigers and elephants then I maintain a good 50 to 60 feet distance and if it’s a small bird then I maintain a 30 feet distance so that they won’t get disturbed and I can work out my frames accordingly.
Retro Kolkata : You have photographed in some of the most remote and rugged places on Earth. Can you share with us one of the most challenging locations you've ever worked in, and how you overcame the challenges it presented?
Gyana :In my photography career the most challenging locations were the rain forests located in Western Ghats where we photograph reptiles in monsoons particularly in Amboli. Dark canopies, incessant rain, Deadly Vipers, Scorpions, Leeches climbing on you every now and then, Centipedes, frogs, deadly spiders forests full of life, frogs and toads in bewitching colours croaking in a chorus—this is how we photograph in Amboli. In such scenarios we accompanied by an expert so that he can guide us the route inside the jungle and also help us to find the species we are looking for. Every now and then he guide us how close we can go to the subject based on their behaviour and how poisonous they are in their natural habitat.
Retro Kolkata : Your images reveal the beauty and complexity of wildlife in ways many people don't get to experience firsthand. How important do you feel it is for people to have a personal connection with wildlife and what role does your photography play in fostering this connection?
Gyana :In summary, wildlife photographers play a crucial role in facilitating personal connections between people and wildlife. Through their visual storytelling, ability to evoke emotions, raising awareness, bridging geographical gaps, photographers contribute to a deeper appreciation and understanding of the natural world, ultimately encouraging positive actions to protect and conserve wildlife and their habitats. For wildlife photographs one has to travel a lot to a get a glimpse of his or her favourite animal or bird which many a people either can’t afford or don’t spare leisure time to get to that place hence my photographs always tells a story which carries a feeling of emotion for the audiences who admires wildlife and always want to see their favourite species in person.
Retro Kolkata : As a wildlife photographer, what would you say is the most unforgettable encounter you've had with an animal in the wild, and how did it change your perspective on your work and the natural world?
Gyana : I had few encounters with few animals in photography career and one incident which I remember was a Tiger in Ranthambore. In one of the morning safaris I was on my gypsy with few other fellow photographers and suddenly one male tiger came out from the bushes and started starring at us 5 feet away from my camera and that time I was like sweating and started shivering but my guide who was in the front seat continuously telling me not to move an inch and told me to keep quiet and don’t make noise. Then after few stares that male tiger started walking alongside the road and went on to a nearby water body. It was like a nightmare for me during earlier photography days.
Retro Kolkata : What are some specific techniques or equipment that you find indispensable for capturing the perfect wildlife shot, and why are these important to your work?
Gyana :If you ask me two things are very important in photography : 1.Understanding of light and 2.Choosing perfect gears as per the conditions.
Understanding of light provides you the best camera setting and suitable gears provides you the space to play around the subject and create some magical frames.
Retro Kolkata : Given the increasing threats that climate change and habitat loss pose to wildlife, how do you balance the need for raising awareness with the potential risks that publicity can bring to vulnerable species and habitats?
Gyana :I always avoid sharing sensitive or specific information about endangered species' locations to prevent unintentional harm, such as illegal poaching or disruption of critical habitats and always intent to involve local communities in conservation efforts and decision making process.
Retro Kolkata : Can you walk us through your creative process? How do you go from conceptualizing an image to finally capturing it in the wild?
Gyana :Once I am ready with the gears then I started conceptualize the image or series of images I want to capture. It involves envisioning the subject, composition, lighting, mood, and desired emotions that I want to convey. Always I consider the story that I want to tell through my photographs and the impact I want it to have on viewers.
Retro Kolkata : Many young photographers look up to you for inspiration. What advice would you give to aspiring wildlife photographers who are just starting out in their careers?
Gyana :Invest maximum time in studying various photography books, watch photography related videos uploaded by various photographers around the world and start implementing those in regular practice. Wildlife photography requires patience and persistence. Spend time in the field, observing the subject behaviour to understand the movements of a particular species. Aim to capture images that tell a story and evoke emotions. Don’t invest on high end equipment till you get a full grip on photography skills.
Retro Kolkata : Your work highlights both the beauty and vulnerability of our planet's wildlife. Looking forward, what is one issue in wildlife conservation that you feel needs more attention, and how can photography help address this?
Gyana :In my point of view how to protect the endangered species around the world and the solution are as follows-
1.By documenting the relationships, dependencies of web of life within intact ecosystems, photographers also can highlight the importance of preserving their habitats to maintain biodiversity.
2. Through compelling and visually engaging images, photographers can raise awareness about the endangered species.
Gyana Mohanty, with his artistry and dedication, has become a beacon of inspiration in the world of wildlife photography. His journey, marked by remarkable encounters and an unwavering commitment to conservation, serves as a reminder of the intricate bond between humanity and the natural world. As he continues to explore the realms of the wild, Gyana's evocative images beckon us to stand still, to witness, and to marvel at the enchanting narratives woven through the lens of a master storyteller. As eager audiences, we wait with bated breath for the next chapter in his visual odyssey, a testament to the profound impact his work has etched upon the canvas of wildlife conservation.