How photography can raise awareness for conservation – creative insights from 14-year-old nature enthusiast Amoghavarsha Patlapati
Launched in 2014, PhotoSparks is a weekly column of Your story, with photographs that celebrate the spirit of creativity and innovation. In the previous 615 posts, we featured a arts festival, cartoon gallery. world music festival, telecom fair, millet fair, exhibition on climate change, wildlife conference, boot festival, diwali rangoli, and jazz festival.
Karnataka Chitakala Parishath recently hosted an exhibition titled Tales of Moghi, with over 100 wildlife photographs by Amoghavarsha Patlapati. See Part I of our coverage here, and our special compilations of quotes and sayings at earth day and World Environment Day.
Amoghavarsha is a 14 year old student at National Public School, Rajajinagar, Bangalore. The exhibition featured a wide range of wildlife in the national parks from Bandipur to Kaziranga. He also launched a series of wildlife films.
Journey of a photographer
“Photography is my way of expressing my love for nature and a way of bringing attention to nature conservation,” Amoghavarsha said, in a conversation with Your story.
“It also gives me immense joy. When I am in the forest with my camera and among animals and birds, I feel one with nature,” he adds.
He first became interested in photography at the age of four, when his mother also dabbled in photography. “I started with a Nikon P900 and now use the Nikon Z9. I’ve clicked over 60,000 photos so far,” he says proudly.
In one of his most memorable photographs, he captured a mother elephant with her calf. “I also captured photographs of other rare animals and birds,” adds Amoghavarsha, reeling off a list including wild dogs, black panthers, barking deer and rhinos.
Among birds, he photographed blue-headed thrush, white-throated kingfisher, flamingo, female paradise flycatcher, Malabar hornbill and crested eagle.
“The biggest challenge I face is patiently waiting for the perfect shot. You have to spot the place where the animals can come. You have to be very careful not to scare them away. Then you have to wait for the perfect moment,” he describes.
“That was the biggest challenge and it was also the greatest lesson, Amoghavarsha explains. As a student, balancing his studies and his passion for photography is another challenge.
“Wildlife photography is not a half-day or full-day affair. It takes a lot of dedication in terms of time and effort to get even reasonable shots. Fortunately, I have my family and other people who are very supportive of me,” he says.
For the moment, he does not plan to sell his photographs. “But if I come across a suitable platform, I will dedicate profits to causes such as the conservation of nature, forests and endangered species,” Amoghavarsha promises.
Pandemic and beyond
For many artists and photographers, the pandemic has been a difficult time. “Unlike many other professions, there is no working from home for photography! Of course, I was really sad, but I took the opportunity to improve my skills and learn a lot more about wildlife photography,” he recalls.
“This learning during the pandemic has made me a better photographer and helps me now when I can get back into the field,” Amoghavarsha says.
For the future, he plans to explore landscape photography. “I would like to get into wildlife filming. I made eight short films of 10 minutes each on specific species to raise awareness for conservation efforts. I want to try to do a life-size project on each species,” he enthuses.
“All photographs tell a story. In my work, I believe I show people the beauty of our nature and the need to protect it,” says Amoghavarsha.
“When you see a tiger in a photo, we think how beautiful it is. But we are encroaching on his space and when we see him in human settlements, we want him to be killed,” he laments.
People appreciate the beauty of birds in photographs, but don’t care much about save their habitat. “Through my photography, I want to raise awareness about this,” Amoghavarsha says.
Tips and Advice
It also offers tips for budding photographers. It’s not just about expensive equipment and free time. “Nowadays most people have smartphones and they can use it themselves,” he says.
It is also possible to rent equipment at reasonable prices, and buy high-end cameras and accessories after becoming a professional photographer. “Some people initially feel like their photographs aren’t good and give up too soon,” Amoghavarsha observes.
“Myself, I didn’t take very good photos at first. But if you’re passionate, you have to keep going and you’ll get better,” he says.
“It is also not compulsory to go to the forests for wildlife photography. For starters, you can simply photograph the birds from your home or nearby parks or lakes,” Amoghavarsha suggests.
The big picture
In sum, he believes that wildlife photography should not be viewed in isolation, but in sync with broader nature and wildlife conservation efforts. “I also believe that photography should not harm or intimidate wildlife and their habitats,” he adds.
“Some people get desperate and go too far to get a photo and end up harming wildlife or their habitat. We must not forget that we must first be conservationists then photographers,” Amoghavarsha points out.
“We are also responsible for preserve nature for future generations. For me, photography is not an end in itself but an instrument of conservation awareness, especially among millennials,” he explains.
“That’s why I go to many public schools and talk about it. Even in my recent exhibition, the highest participation was from school children,” Amoghavarsha concludes.
Now what have you done today to take a break from your busy schedule and find new avenues to apply your creativity?
(All photographs in the exhibition were taken by Madanmohan Rao on location in the Moghi’s Tales room.)