Today I’m honored to share an in-depth interview with renowned Wildlife Photographer Rathika Ramasamy.
Rathika Ramasamy’s photographic journey probably relates to every one of us in some way or the other. She started photography in 11th standard when her Father gifted her first camera. Most of her initial days of photographs were selfies.
Rathika’s real interest in photography started when her Uncle gifted an SLR camera. Her love for travelling places and meeting people made her attracted towards travel and portrait photography.
Little did Rathika Ramasamy dreamt of venturing into wildlife photography, until Jan 1st 2004 when she first visited the Keoladeo National Park in Bharatpur, India. It was love at first sight. With her first DSLR and a kit lens, she captured those beautiful birds relentlessly.
But later when Rathika reviewed those photographs, she was very disappointed. Those amazing birds showed up as small dots in a big frame. However, she was in love with nature already. There was no looking back whatsoever.
The urge to capture those beautiful birds made Rathika Ramasamy to visit Okhla Bird Sanctuary almost every day. She used to spend nearly 2 hours every day to learn about birds by watching, identifying, understanding their behavior, and photographing them.
And the rest is history.
Without much delay let us talk to Rathika Ramasamy, the first woman wildlife photographer in India.
Prathap: From humble beginning in 2004 to being one of the most successful Wildlife Photographer of today, how do you describe your journey as a photographer and a person?
Rathika Ramasamy: It has been a really wonderful and adventurous journey. Photographers usually start with big animals and then go for small birds. It was the other way around for me. I started with bird photography, and then moved to shooting big animals.
I never imagined that a casual family picnic trip to Bharatpur in 2004 would lead me to this profession. I saw wild birds for the first time and fell in love with them. Birds are fascinating and I became more passionate towards them.
I had a chance to visit most of the national parks in India, Kenya, and Tanzania. I came across some wonderful wildlife moments. I felt really blessed, doing what I loved the most.
As a person, I have become more patient and appreciative of simple things in life. I have got used to living with basic amenities. I had a chance to meet some wonderful people, got lot of appreciation from fans and friends. I still have a long way to go, with many more places to explore and many more species to photograph.
Prathap: “Snow White” is your first favorite bird photograph. Egret is my favorite bird too. Would you like to talk about that photograph?
Rathika Ramasamy: Yes, thanks for reminding me. I had got my first long tele-lens, Sigma 170-500mm, and I was at the National Zoological Park in Delhi.
I sighted this white Egret near a water body. I was trying to frame vertically to include the branches of a tree. Fortunately, I got a green background. I could then capture this shot “Snow White”.
I was happy that I got spot-on exposure, without blowing out the details. After that, I have taken many pictures of Egrets, but this one is still special.
Prathap: This photograph of Pelicans in their habitat is a Classic. Would you like to describe your thought process behind the composition and the story?
Rathika Ramasamy: This shot was taken at my favorite bird sanctuary, Keoladeo National Park in Bharatpur, Rajasthan, India. This was taken in February 2013. The habitat in the sanctuary gives you an opportunity to work on your subjects.
I followed some Pelicans for few days. I was taking the usual documentary pictures – in-flight, landing and takeoff shots. However, this wouldn’t give any indication of the habitat where they were taken.
I wanted to capture the habitat too. After some searching, I spotted a place where I could sit and watch them. There were small bunds, where the Pelicans were resting in the afternoon. I located one such bund, and I kept watching it for some activity.
The picture looked like a painting due to the misty background. White color Pelicans and the dark color background complemented each other.
I got the symmetric look by keeping the Pelicans in the center of the frame.
It was cloudy and the filtered sunlight was an added bonus, giving a perfect contrast for the scene. After a long wait, a few of the Pelicans stood up and started preening. And I got one of my favorite Pelican shots the way I visualized it.
Prathap: This photograph of Blackbuck pair, an endangered species in India and Nepal, is Exceptional! They are so adorable. What is your view on Nature Conservation? How can we, as wildlife photographers, help to protect our Mother Nature?
Rathika Ramasamy: Conserving wildlife habitats are important to balance the biodiversity. Deforestation, poaching, demands for endangered animals, increasing market for forest products, are all taking a heavy toll on our forests.
Photography is a powerful tool to record and document wildlife.
Beautiful wildlife photographs are used by NGOs engaged in conservation efforts in their campaign to increase awareness about issues.
Prathap: Recently one of your photographs titled “snake fishing” was featured in Nikon India Pro Photo Gallery. Would you like to share your experience with us about making this masterpiece?
Rathika Ramasamy: This image was also taken at Keoladeo National Park in Bharatpur, Rajasthan, India. While I was on my usual lookout for birds, I suddenly sighted three snakes trying to catch fish.
These were at a spot where a tree’s thick foliage blocked all the sunlight, except in a small area. One of the snakes was busy catching fish and gulping them at lightning speed. I wanted to capture the moment just before it caught a fish.
When I tried to focus on the fish it was trying to catch, the snake’s head looked blurred. When I focused on the snake, the fish went out of focus.
I tried to focus on the snake’s eye to get a clear picture of both. I finally captured the action of the snake splashing the water and catching the fish. I was shooting with manual exposure and spot metering.
This photograph is featured in Nikon India Pro Gallery.
Prathap: Yet another incredible photograph! It has mood, lighting, composition, story…in one word EVERYTHING! How did you manage to get this photograph?
Rathika Ramasamy: This is one my favorite images, taken one fine winter evening at Dhikala grassland in Corbett National Park. There are only a few photographs that you fall in love with as soon as you create it. This is one such photograph.
I enjoy photographing silhouette shots; they challenge your creativity and aesthetic sense.
This photograph was taken in February 2012. Corbett in winter is a magical experience. Corbett is one forest where you can experiment with your creative side of photography. From morning to evening, this forest gives you something interesting and exciting to photograph.
Whenever I stay at the Dhikala forest rest house, I would spend time near the grassland during the evening safari, from where one can capture the beautiful sunset.
Actually, I was looking for a herd of Deer to come to the Ram Ganga River for water and was waiting to take a silhouette shot. Instead, I spotted this lonely Deer on the banks of the river. The evening sunlight made the water reflect a golden color.
I wanted to capture the silhouette of Deer against the golden water background. I applied the rule of third in the composition, keeping the subject off center.
I never get bored seeing this image, which always gives me a calm and serene feeling.
Prathap: What is important in making a great photograph? Is it the camera, the lens, the photographer, or all?
Rathika Ramasamy: What makes a good painting? Is it the paint colors and brush or the painter? I always say that:
It is the person behind the camera that matters. A camera is just a tool to help capture the scene
Good basic photography techniques combined with good aesthetic skills are required.
Good knowledge about the subject helps to get the best photographs. Patience and perseverance are a must.
Prathap: If one wants to become a professional photographer, what necessary steps should one take?
Rathika Ramasamy: Frankly, there is no straight answer.
Only a few photographers pursue wildlife photography as a full time profession. I would suggest that one specializes in one or two other genres of photography that are more remunerative along with wildlife photography.
One can start with a profession, where you can spend more time with wildlife, such as a conservationist, naturalist, etc. If one wants to be a pro, one needs to have good business sense and marketing skills as well.
Prathap: You conduct workshops on a regular basis. Could you please describe how participants will benefit from your workshop as opposed to learning on their own?
Rathika Ramasamy: I conduct wildlife photography workshops regularly.
In the workshop, I teach participants about:
- How to prepare and plan for photography trips, and
- How to choose the best equipment
- How to create the photographs instead of just documenting the subjects
I share my knowledge of the field and techniques of wildlife photography. There is also a field session, in which participants get immediate feedback from me.
Prathap: What is the best way to keep in touch with you and stay up-to-date with your photographic journey?
Rathika Ramasamy: I have my own website http://www.rathikaramasamy.com, where I share my work.
I have a Facebook fan page https://www.facebook.com/RathikaRamasamyPhotography, where I update my images and latest workshop schedules.
Prathap: On behalf of Nature Photography Simplified readers, I thank you wholeheartedly for taking time out of your busy schedule and sharing valuable information with us.
Rathika Ramasamy: It was great interacting with you. Thank you and my best wishes.