In the resplendent realm of wildlife photography, few have managed to capture the heart and soul of the natural world quite like Harsha Narasimhamurthy. His work, a kaleidoscope of emotions and details, is not just a showcase of nature's splendors but also a reflection of his deep-rooted respect for the environment. Today, we delve deeper into his world, unraveling his journey, inspirations, and aspirations.
Retro Kolkata : Harsha, you've seamlessly merged your childhood passion for wildlife with your talent for photography. Could you walk us through the process of how this union came about and how it has evolved over the years?
Harsha: As a kid, I was always fascinated by animals, nature, forests, and birds. Growing up, I would listen to stories about lions and leopards from my grandfather. These tales often revolved around encounters with animals near our village. I believe these narratives drew me closer to the natural world. As I grew older, I associated with a few NGOs working in this realm. During my visits to forests, I realized that I was witnessing incredible sights. This spurred my interest in capturing these moments, leading me to photography.
Retro Kolkata : As a wildlife photographer, what's your philosophy when it comes to capturing the intricate details of nature and its inhabitants? How do you use your art to spread awareness about conservation?
Harsha: The rule is simple: be passionate about what you're doing. Passion comes first. Then come the learning, technicalities, and artistry. If you lack passion, you miss out on the foundational drive needed in this field. My general approach is to capture animals as close as I see them while ensuring both our safeties. It's about respecting their space. If you maintain this respect and distance, these creatures behave naturally, which is a joy to witness. I recall an incident in Kabini where a shy leopard retreated due to the presence of vehicles. We distanced our vehicle and patiently waited. Eventually, she felt safe enough to approach, allowing us to capture stunning images.
Retro Kolkata : Capturing the natural behaviors of wild animals, particularly big cats, is a central theme in your work. Could you share a memorable experience or interaction you had while photographing these majestic creatures?
Harsha: I'm drawn to scenes bathed in good light. Capturing big cats has even earned me the nickname "Catman." Among my many memories, one stands out: last year in Ranthambor, I spotted a tiger feeding. Upon closer inspection, I realized it was feasting on a leopard. Such an event—seeing one big cat feed on another—is incredibly rare. I believed I would never witness such a sight again. Yet, in March 2023, lightning struck twice, and I observed a similar scene. Both instances left me in awe and are undoubtedly among my most cherished memories.
Retro Kolkata : You collect activity data from guides and drivers before each trip to make tracking easier. Can you elaborate on this process and tell us how it contributes to your overall approach to wildlife photography?
Harsha: Indeed, we consult guides and drivers regularly to stay updated on animal movements. This information helps us select the best zones for our tours. Central net parks and northern parks require us to book permits months in advance. Being aware of potential animal locations assists us in making educated guesses for future tours. My bond with the local guides and drivers extends beyond work; we're like family. Their insights have been instrumental in my journey, and I owe them immense gratitude.
Retro Kolkata : Could you tell us about your training programs? What advice do you generally give to beginners about respecting wildlife and creating compelling images?
Harsha: I am a professional photography mentor. I offer both classroom and field workshops. In the field, I provide tailored programs catering to different genres, such as birds, landscapes, and big cats. Here, participants learn the intricacies of exposure and other technicalities. During these tours, we have daily review sessions. Having a mentor on the field is invaluable, as it allows participants to focus solely on their craft. Over the years, I've had the privilege to guide many who are now outstanding photographers.
Retro Kolkata : As a successful wildlife photographer, you have garnered various awards and accolades. Could you share your feelings on these recognitions, and how they have motivated you in your career?
Harsha: While I appreciate the recognition, I believe there's more success to achieve. Awards are motivating, but I advise budding photographers not to be disheartened if they don't win immediately. Judging is subjective. It's crucial to derive satisfaction from one's work and not solely from external validation. That said, I encourage everyone to participate in competitions, as it provides insights into the benchmark for excellence.
Retro Kolkata : Your desire is to photograph a Polar bear someday and explore more places in Africa. Can you tell us more about your travel bucket list and the particular allure of these destinations?
Harsha: Yes, the polar bear is one of my favorite animals. I've seen so many lovely photographs of them, which has placed them high on my bucket list. But when it comes to travel, the list is endless. I dream of capturing jaguars, penguins, and of course, the polar bear. There are countless things I want to see: the orangutan, gorillas, and in India, I aim to capture a variety of birds. In the northeast, I want to undertake an expedition. In the Himalayas, I want to photograph the lynx and the leopard cat. The list goes on and on.
Retro Kolkata : Ecotourism, if followed ethically, can be a boon for conservation efforts. How do you integrate this belief into your photography tours and workshops?
Harsha: Ecotourism has been a significant benefit for conservation. While some might not agree, it's the truth. It provides revenue for forest departments and governments. When people consistently move through an area, illegal activities are likely to reduce. However, like every advantage, there are drawbacks. If tourists are noisy or misbehave, it can be detrimental. So, ecotourism is a double-edged sword. But with the right approach, prioritizing wildlife and nature, we can make a difference. There are times when we leave an area if we feel our presence disturbs the animals. To me, a photograph can wait, but we should never intimidate the animals.
Retro Kolkata : Finally, for aspiring wildlife photographers who may feel disheartened or overlooked, what advice would you share based on your own experiences and learnings in this field?
Harsha: For aspiring photographers, I'd say this: this field doesn't bring in a lot of money. If you're looking to earn significantly, you need to invest a lot of passion. In India, there's no specific job titled "wildlife photographer." I earn because I teach, not just from my photographs. But, I'd advise you to be patient. Don't try to become an overnight success. I receive many emails from those who wish to follow in my footsteps, but it's taken me eight years to reach where I am today. Passion is crucial. Wildlife photography isn't just about the big animals; sometimes, the smaller subjects, like those in macro photography, can be more captivating. Approach it with an open heart. Success doesn't come easy. It's a journey you must undertake yourself, but with persistence, you'll achieve your goals one day. Best of luck.
Harsha Narasimhamurthy's narrative is not merely about the images he captures, but the reverence with which he treats nature. His journey is a testament to patience, passion, and the perennial beauty of our natural world.