WIPA 2018—Unveiling the Top 8 Nominees in the Open Category


The Wildlife India Photography Awards was established to recognise and honour talent in wildlife photography from across the country. The aim of the contest is to encourage and support the efforts of the photographers who use the medium as a tool to spread awareness about the conservation of flora and fauna. So far, the journey of the competition has been extremely exciting, and engaging. Better Photography was astonished to see the positive responses and extreme enthusiasm shown by the participants around India.

Now in its second edition, the contest has been ardent in encouraging photographers to send their most outstanding wildlife photographs, made anywhere in the world, in two categories—Open Category and Emerging Photographer of the Year Award. While the Open Category was open to photographers from across the board, the Emerging Photographer of the Year Award was only open to photographers aged 28 or younger. The winners of each of the categories will get to attend an exclusive all-expenses-paid Wildlife Photography Masterclass in Bandhavgarh, and will be accompanied with some of the best mentors in the field! The winners will also receive certificates, their images will be uploaded in the form of an online gallery, and their photographs will be a part of a coffeetable book featuring some of the biggest names in the genre. The book will be printed by HP and will feature a section of images that can be viewed in 3D. All the proceeds from the sale of the book will go towards wildlife conservation efforts. 

This year, we received almost 9000 entries from 4252 photographers from across the country. To judge the contest, we invited two renowned photographers from the field—Joshua Barton and Nayan Khanolkar. 

Joshua Barton

Nature has always fascinated Joshua Barton, especially the life that exists underwater. After being moved by a certain underwater photograph he had seen, he decided to exclusively pursue the genre, and moved to India in 1995. He has captured several significant events like the blue whale casualty after being struck by ships, and astounding moments like that of an orca attacking a blue whale, and has also led several underwater expeditions. Joshua’s work has been appeared widely in publications like the National Geographic, and the Washington Post, amongst others.

“I enjoyed going through the photographs, and was impressed with the variety that was present. There were some technically strong photographs that showed off India’s diversity very well. I also like the idea of having a category like the Emerging Photographer of the Year Award. It’s a great way to encourage and reward young talent.”

Nayan Khanolkar

A self-taught photographer, teacher, researcher and conservationist, Nayan Khanolkar has travelled widely across India to document wildlife. In a career that has spanned over a decade and a half, he has covered a wide spectrum of the flora and fauna present in the country, as well as the passage of leopards into the urban areas of Mumbai. For this, he received the World Press Photo Award in the Nature category, and the title of the Wildlife Photographer of the Year Award, by the Natural History Museum and BBC Wildlife.

“The main purpose of photography is to express an idea or to share something which is a brilliant naturalistic phenomenon. Unless you have a story or a brilliant idea, or a previsualised image in your mind, you won’t be able to execute it. I expect this from entries in the next competition. Don’t show us that you were there, and you saw this. I want the participants to create the image.”

Here are the much-awaited top 8 nominees:  

Indranil Mallick

He is a software engineer based in Pune, who pursues wildlife photography on the side.

Photograph/Indranil Mallick

“The intimate bond between the mother and the child, especially among mammals, resemble humans so much so that the emotion is inescapable. It is a story waiting to happen.”

I was on an evening safari in the Dhikala grasslands, at the Jim Corbett National Park, when I encountered the elephant along with its calf. The setting sun cast enough light on the elephant’s face so that it didn’t resemble a complete silhouette. However, while I was composing my frame, I wasn’t able to get a clear view of the calf, as it was hidden behind the tall grass present in the foreground. Nevertheless, I was certain that to beat off the heat, the mother would proceed to go for a stroll around the river bank. And I was right. As soon as the two arrived at the river, I made my shot of them enjoying a drink.

Mandar Ghumare

Six years ago, Mandar quit his corporate job to pursue photography. Based in Badlapur, he began rescuing reptiles, birds and chameleons, and even documented the process. His aim here has been to spread awareness about wildlife conservation in his neighbourhood.

Photograph/Mandar Ghumare

“I was particularly attracted to the veins because it reminded of an estuary. Fortunately, the spider came right in the middle of the veins, and it appeared as if the lines were leading towards it.”

I was out on a photowalk with my friends, around the periphery of Badlapur, when I noticed the spider on the leaf. I was intrigued at the minuscule size of the creature against the intricate veins of the leaf, and decided to stick around and photograph it. The initial pictures that I made appeared plain and flat. So I decided to illuminate the leaf from below by shining a torch at it. In this way, I was able to draw attention to the complex structure of the leaf and highlight the size of the spider against it.

Nirav Mehta

He is an engineer by profession, at BSNL in Rajkot. In the past, Nirav has also worked as a Project Associate at the Solar Observatory, in Udaipur. Recently, he and his friends started a Facebook page for weekend photowalks.

Photograph/Nirav Mehta

“When I saw this majestic creature, I wanted to highlight the intricate details, and the fragility of the shell. With the backlight, the shell bore a strong resemblance to a rough diamond.”

The Randarda nursery in Rajkot is one of the best places for macro photography. As I was walking around, I noticed a Glass Snail. I decided to set up an external light in order to illuminate and highlight the delicate patterns on its shell, from behind. It took me some time to get the shot, as I had to experiment shooting from different angles, using extension tubes. However, the results were not satisfactory, and I resorted to making the picture using my friend’s 100mm macro lens.

Samruddha Patil

He began photographing wildlife four years ago. Samruddha also helps his father run the family auto service business, and is based in Navi Mumbai.

Photograph/Samruddha Patil

“I have seen several pictures of froglets inside their eggs. But when I saw them up close for the first time, I was left completely wonderstruck by the intricacies of mother nature’s creations… of life itself.”

It was my first visit to rainforest in Amboli, during the monsoon season. On the last day of the trip, I decided to go out early to shoot. While I was capturing droplets of water on a mossy tree, I came across a nest of the Amboli Bush frog, and noticed that the froglets were moving inside the eggs. I decided to focus on a single egg because I wanted to draw the viewer’s attention to the minute creature, and its fragile state. However, it was extremely difficult to photograph them because it was pouring heavily. Eventually, I managed to get eight to nine images of their extraordinary world.

Viraj Ghaisas

Based in Badlapur, Viraj has been documenting nature and wildlife for the last four years. A keen observer, he is drawn to natural spectacles occurring in the wilderness. Apart from wildlife, Viraj also does a variety of commercial assignments.

Photograph/Viraj Ghaisas

“I had this image in my mind of photographing the phenomenon of fireflies mating, against the backdrop of the Milky Way. However, the occurrence takes place only once a year. After trying to get the shot for two years, I finally managed to do so in 2017.”

The fireflies, belonging to the Lampyridae family, congregate in large numbers to mate during a particular week, each year. The event takes place usually at the end of summer or just before the beginning of the monsoon season. The adult fireflies, both male and female, use their abdominal light organ to create bioluminescence, in order to attract a mate. For this particular photograph, I ended up spending six nights in a forest, in Satara, and got lucky one day when I discovered the fireflies under a tree. I decided to shoot at a low angle, so as to capture their frenzied movement, against the starry sky.

Dipak Mandlik

He is a former Customer Care Executive, based in Badlapur. Dipak’s interest in wildlife and nature drove him to rescue reptiles. Currently, he works as a full-time commercial photographer, and takes up wedding and fashion assignments.

Photograph/Dipak Mandlik

“I was exhilarated when the Gecko unexpectedly showed up. I realised that if I used the built-in multiple exposure setting, I could create a compelling image of the Milky Way and the creature.”

My colleagues and I were shooting star trails at Murbad, near Kalyan, when we heard rustling emerge from a pile of leaves. I was familiar with the sound, and knew that it could only come from the Kollegal Ground Gecko. They’re known for their ability to easily blend in with their surrounding habitat. It took me a while to spot it perched against the rock. When I had finally set up my camera, I decided to create a multiple exposure of the scene.

Prajwal Manjunath

He is a software architect in Nokia, and is based in Bengaluru. Prajwal has been interested in wildlife since the age of 12, and eventually got the opportunity to pursue it in 2008.

Photograph/Prajwal Manjunath

“As a photographer, hunting for stories, I’m often reminded of how people consume and discard with such wanton abandonment as though we claw our way unmindful of how it affects anyone or anything.”

Before setting out for our excursion to the Kaziranga National Park, my friends and I decided to make a brief stop at the dumping yard in Guwahati, which is frequented by the Greater Adjutant Stork. However, upon reaching the location, we realised that it was well past the ideal time for shooting, even though we could see the storks at a distance. In the interim, I noticed trucks coming in with garbage, while the earthmovers piled it up. I wanted to create a picture that was different from the typical ‘bird on a perch’ photograph. I waited for the arm of the earthmover to ascend above the storks, and that’s when I made the picture. The impression that I wanted to create here was the blatant decimation of the environment, courtesy of the human race.

Ripan Biswas

He teaches Math and Science at the Balarampur High School in Coochbehar. Ripan’s interest for nature and wildlife began when he was a kid, observing the local grasshoppers, frogs, and dragonflies in his village. In 2008, he purchased his first DSLR, and since then, he has photographed various species.

Photograph/Ripan Biswas

“I’ve often wondered if other creatures hope and dream like we do. When I spotted the frog, I decided to compose my frame in such a manner where it seemed like the frog was gazing at the Milky Way.”

The area that I reside in is home to a swamp, and during the monsoon, spiders, frogs, dragonflies and snakes can be found aplenty. I decided to visit the place to shoot the Milky Way, and also include a bit of the surrounding wildlife. After wading through knee-deep muddy water, I finally arrived at a spot where I found the Theobald’s Ranid frog nestled on a rock. Using the Venus Optics Laowa 15mm f/4 lens, I decided to shoot on two different apertures, during a single long exposure. The first aperture was set at f/8, and was focused only on the frog. I used the onboard camera flash to illuminate it. Moments after, I shifted to the second f/4 aperture, this time focusing on the sky.

Tags: Sigma, Wildlife Photography, HP, Toehold, Contest, Nayan Khanolkar, WIPA, WIPA 2018, Joshua Barton, Indranil Mallick, Ripan Biswas, Mandar Ghumare, Nirav Mehta, Samruddha Patil, Viraj Ghaisas, Dipak Mandlik, Prajwal Manjunath