Kirti Ranjan Nayak is a powerhouse of talent and craziness – talent to leave a well-paying job and the craziness to take on the wild with his camera. Born and brought up in Odisha, Kirti was in Bangalore (the wildlife photography capital of India) for a short while working as an engineer. Nature Lounge caught up with the founder of Nature Footsteps sometime back. Here is more about him...
How did you get into photography? How did nature photography interest you?
I love travelling during holidays and weekends. I have always loved watching animals in their natural habitat. This is how my interest in wildlife grew and I started developing interest in shooting the animals in the wild with my camera (both still as well as video).
Which part of India are you from and what influence does your home state have on your photography?
I am from Keonjhar, a small town in North Odisha surrounded by beautiful hills and laced with waterfalls. I attribute my love for nature photography to my childhood days that were spent in the lap of nature. My favourite games after school hours were playing in the mud and hiking up hills.
Tell us something about your newly-launched photography company.
My venture is called “Nature Footsteps”. It is more about offbeat travels where I focus on birds from the Himalayas, small cats and lesser-photographed mammals from different jungles of the country, international wildlife parks and landscape destinations. While I will not ignore the major tiger parks of the country, my focus will be on lesser-photographed subjects.
What do you think about the craze around Tiger Photography?
Indian photographers revere tigers. Tiger photos bring us instant gratification and easiest fame on social media. They enjoy a big fan following. I guess the craze for tiger photography is not misplaced because that is how most of us began our journey to wildlife photography and we contribute towards the economy through tourism. It is always a fresh feeling when you take that short break from work life and spend a few days in a jungle resort and enjoy the safari vehicle running down the forest.
What equipment do you use? Do you think equipment plays an important role?
I have a Canon 1Dx Mark 2 with a Canon 300mm f2.8 IS II lens with 1.4 and 2x extenders, a Canon 600mm f4 IS II and a Canon 16-35mm f2.8 II.
In 90% of the cases, a basic camera will help you click a beautiful photograph. However, equipment does play a vital role in photography. In some of the extreme cases, we feel limited by our gear, be it a scene at sunset or a sunrise or while photographing an intense moment that demands faster frames. I feel you should invest in a good lens first in case you have some spare money (instead of buying a camera body). A good lens does increase the aesthetic value of a photo.
What is the most challenging situation faced by nature/wildlife photographers?
Wildlife photography is usually a costly hobby that involves hectic schedules. You don’t get much sleep. You travel a lot. You fall, get hurt, get bitten and stung. You break the equipment. It is an all-consuming passion. You spend countless hours from dawn to dusk, in sweltering heat or heavy downpour. On top of that, there are times when you come back with nothing to show (good images). So, be sure to have enough savings, time and support from friends and family.
What is your opinion on photo-shopped images?
Thanks to social media, there is a race to fame. We all need instant success and more “likes” overnight. Thus, some of us start creating artificial scenes --- manipulating the environment to make it look surreal. It is no crime to do so, but certainly, it is not ethical. Why not mention it with the image? That we have made changes such as removing of twigs or some unpleasant foreground or background? Be careful, it takes seconds to lose the respect gathered over years.
As a tour leader, what is your favourite destination?
My dream location is the Amazon rain forest, Polar Regions, the rain forests of Papua New Guinea, and the Himalayan ranges of North East India.
What do you think are the responsibilities of a good tour leader?
I have been travelling and photographing wildlife for about 5-6 years now and I have seen tour leaders pushing participants to take the best shots and get the best of the photographs. I have come back with many bitter memories. They have taught me what exactly a tour leader shouldn’t do on a trip. I would like my participants to go back with pleasant memories. A good tour leader would definitely inspire you to come back with him and enjoy the nature, respecting mother earth and photographing it better.
Would you be able to share your favourite image with our readers? Also, detail the conditions/light/situation in which it was shot.
This photo was taken during one of my trips to Masai Mara National Reserve in Kenya. Though I was lucky to witness a few other wonderful sights, I love the image for the feeling of vastness that it presents. The sun was going down and the light was fading out fast. The sun had just hid behind the clouds giving the sky a beautiful orange glow and the clouds, a distinct bluish tone. Two beautiful male elephants were munching on the green grass and gave me a striking silhouette against this mesmerising backdrop. All had to just get the frame, composition, timing and the setting correct.