WIPA 2018—Unveiling the Top 9 Nominees in the Emerging Photographer 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 9 nominees:

Pratik Pradhan

He is a professional photographer based out of Mumbai. Pratik began his career in 2011, after his father gifted him a DSLR. Moreover, he is the recipient of the Wildlife India Photography Awards 2017 in the Emerging Photographer of the Year category.

Photograph/Pratik Pradhan

“I had to be extremely cautious when I was approaching the Indian Ornamental Tarantula. They are known as shy creatures, and if disturbed, they are known to immediately disappear into the darkness.”

I had this concept for an image in my mind, but the major challenge was finding a tarantula in a very specific location. They usually are seen on the highest branch on the tree. So it’s rather difficult to photograph them. Fortunately, that day in Matheran, the tarantula was at my eye level. I quickly arranged my wireless flashgun behind the tree bark. At the same time, I also wanted to shoot a long exposure of the stars. So I set my camera on a tripod and shot the image. It only took me four years!

Satpal Singh

He is a nature and environment photojournalist who has won 50 national and international photography awards. Based in Lakhimpur Kheri, Satpal also conducts photography workshops and seminars in nearby towns and nature parks.

Photograph/Satpal Singh

“The slow shutterspeed helped me to create a painting-like effect because of the grasshopper’s intense movement.”

I chanced upon a grasshopper trapped in a cobweb, trying desperately to escape. My initial photographs of the scene were captured using a fast shutterspeed, as I wanted to freeze the motion. However, I decided to switch to a slower shutterspeed in order to accurately portray the frenzied anguish of the creature.

Aditya Gattani 

He is an Article Assistant at Ernst & Young, and is based in Bengaluru. Aditya is an avid wildlife photographer, and has travelled to Africa and Europe to photograph wildlife.

Photograph/Aditya Gattani

“It was extremely difficult to ensure the perfect composition of the image with the constraint of fixed focal length. Moreover, predicting the tiger’s movement was an arduous task as it requires extreme diligence and patience.”

We were travelling deep into the Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve, in Chandrapur, when we spotted two sub-adult cubs of Choti Tara—the resident tigress. One of the tigers was farther away from the signpost, at the crossing. Ultimately, he came closer to the post and stared at it. We were anticipating a flehmen response, but instead, the tiger just looked upwards.

Suvadip Mondal

Based in Durgapur, Suvadip is currently a student studying Statistics. He began photography at the age of 12, when he received his first DSLR. During one of his street photowalks, Suvadip accidentally bumped into a wildlife photographer, which was a turning point of his career.

Photograph/Suvadip Mondal

“I have discovered that it is almost impossible to get a close-up portrait of a monkey with a catchlight in it’s eyes that also reflects its expression and mood.”

I have always wanted to photograph the Rhesus Macaque, as I find them extremely expressive. When I spotted three of them at the Sajnekhali Watch Tower in the Sundarbands, I couldn’t control my excitement. However, I got the chance to photograph only one of them, who appeared to be quite taken aback by the crowd visiting the area.

Mandar Ghumare

Based in Badlapur, Mandar began to show interest in wildlife in 2009, especially in reptiles. To understand the reptile’s behaviour, he began to read about them. With the help of his mentor, he learned how to express himself creatively in wildlife photography. He is also the winner in the Open Category of the Wildlife India Photography Awards 2018.

Photograph/Mandar Ghumare

“The fluorescent green of the blade played a significant role in highlighting the lizard’s silhouette.”

I spotted a baby Oriental Garden Lizard fast asleep on a blade of grass, in Badlapur. I realised that my frame was overly crowded with grass, and I did not want to draw the viewer’s attention away from the lizard. So I used an external torch and backlit the lizard. Initially, I was photographing just the creature, and felt that something was missing. To make the composition more appealing, I included a nearby blade of grass.

Agasthya Kartikeyan

He is a 12th standard student at the Shree Sarasswathi Vidhyaah Mandheer Institution, in Coimbatore. Agasthya began shooting wildlife when he was just 13-years-old.

Photograph/Agasthya Kartikeyan

“When this scene was unfolding, it appeared to me as if they were playing in a river of gold.”

The image of the two elephant calves playing was shot at the Corbett Tiger Reserve in Ramnagar, Nainital. They were initially crossing the river with their herd, when the two calves decided to stop in the middle and play. It was a wonderful sight, and the reflection of the early morning sun on the river added to the beauty of the scene. At the editing stage, I decided to increase the red tint in the frame, and play with the WB to achieve the desired result.

Agniswar Ghoshal

A resident of Bolpur, Agniswar is a graduate of Burdwan University. He has been an ardent nature and wildlife photographer for the last three years.

Photograph/Agniswar Ghoshal

“The Jumping Spider, belonging to the Salticidae family, is known to move quickly, and can camouflage themselves extremely well. To spot them is a challenging task.”

On a cloudy winter afternoon, I decided to go out and shoot in a rose garden. My intention was to photograph a wasp or a bee. However, that didn’t happen because I spotted a Jumping Spider. When I began to compose the image, I realised the lighting condition was extremely poor because it was an overcast day. Furthermore, the garden was surrounded by huge trees. I needed an additional source of light, so I chose to use the built-in camera flash, along with a handmade diffuser. The diffuser improved the image with a soft glow.

Pranav Vaghashiya

He is the Principal of a primary school in Junagadh, and is also the founder of the Vasundhara Nature Club. Pranav is currently working on a survey project on herpetofauna, found at the Girnar Wildlife Sanctuary in Gujarat.

Photograph/Pranav Vaghashiya

“I knew that making a top angle shot of the crocodile entering the filthy river will bring everyone’s focus on their terrible living conditions.”

I had visited the Willingdon Dam at the Girnar Wildlife Sanctuary regularly for three months. I wanted to research and analyse the activities of the crocodiles in the area. It’s a subject that has always interested me because crocodiles are one of the few creatures that haven’t evolved drastically in the last 200 million years. At the same time, I also want to spread awareness about their pathetic living conditions, on account of tourism. At the time that I made this particular photograph, the crocodile had come close to my camera’s field of view. Two hours and 25 frames later, I managed to get the shot.

Sarang Naik

He is a photographer and cinematographer based in Mumbai. For the last eight years, Sarang has been pursuing nature and wildlife photography as a hobby.

Photograph/Sarang Naik

“I wanted to focus on the concentric circular pattern occurring in the image. If you look closely, you can see the curves on the leaf gradually leading into the frame, towards the circular pattern on the shell of the snail, at the center.”

I remember it being an overcast morning, as I walked along the Panorama Point trail (Matheran) on the lookout for the Green Vine Snake. After a while, I had to abandon the pursuit since I had no luck in finding one. However, the area is also home to the Karvy bush, which is usually populated by caterpillars and snails. I spotted this particular snail making its way onto a Karvy leaf, and I noticed how the spirals on its shell bore resemblance to the texture of the leaf. The idea of portraying this alikeness was something that I had always had at the back of my head. Fortunately, the atmosphere was just right, as the cloudy weather provided the right kind of diffused lighting for the black and white photograph that I had in mind.

Tags: Sigma, Wildlife Photography, HP, Toehold, Sarang Naik, Contest, Nayan Khanolkar, WIPA, Pratik Pradhan, WIPA 2018, Joshua Barton, Mandar Ghumare, Satpal Singh, Aditya Gattani, Suvadip Mondal, Agasthya Kartikeyan, Agniswar Ghoshal, Pranav Vaghashiya