A Brewer of Exotic Compositions

 

Leopard Okavango Delta, Botswana Fearing some lions nearby, this female leopard climbed a tree. Her head looks like a trophy mounted on the tree—a poignant reminder of how endangered this species really is. Photograph/ Sundeep Kumar

Leopard Okavango Delta, Botswana: Fearing some lions nearby, this female leopard climbed a tree. Her head looks like a trophy mounted on the tree—a poignant reminder of how endangered this species really is. Photograph/ Sundeep Kumar

Alok Brahmbhatt wonders how Sundeep Kumar takes time out from his job to capture some breathtaking photographs from his many adventurous voyages.

This article was originally published in February 2009.

Looking at each of Sundeep’s photographs is truly an experience. They will make you feel like you are in that place. A passionate nature and wildlife photographer, Sundeep is someone who can see all moods, colours and energies that exist in nature. What makes his photographs fascinating is that they are classic examples of sound composition, and it seems to come to him effortlessly.

A Companion During Travels
Sundeep works as Communications Director of SABMiller brewers. His job allows him to travel; but it gives him little time to indulge in his hobby. Yet, he always carries a camera on his official trips, and whenever he has free time, he makes every moment and ounce of creativity count. “To travel is photography and photography is travel”, says Sundeep. “It allows me to extract the maximum from any place I visit. The pictures I take let my friends and I travel to the places long after I have left them.”
His stint in advertising helped him develop his creative skills in photography. When he used to work for an ad agency, he had the opportunity to interact with a number of senior photographers like Raghu Rai, Pablo Bartholomew, Aditya Arya and Ramesh Mullye. His experience with them helped him develop a habit of communicating through photographs—by thinking of different creative ways to shoot familiar subjects.

Style of Shooting
Before shooting, Sundeep always prefers to do his homework. Getting up early and walking around the place helps him study the light and vantage points that he can take advantage of. “I try to follow a focused approach, that is, concentrate only on one or two locations/images that define the place, rather than capture many subjects. I also search the net for images other photographers have taken of the location.” Sundeep also consciously tries to go beyond what he sees. “I merely do not take pictures, but make pictures”, he says.
If the sunrise is not very attractive, then he tries to make it interesting by shooting silhouetted shapes, shoot it through branches or look in the other direction and see what the sun is lighting up.

Getting Along with Nature
For Sundeep, nature is not only beautiful, but also ephemeral and dynamic. The light, the colours and the mood changes from one moment to the next, from one season to another, and this is what attracts him the most. “The same location can give you a plethora of different unique images; and nature has the added challenge of being completely unpredictable.” Sundeep explains that getting completely caught up in nature’s beauty offers many opportunities to a photographer. “There is always a surprise in store for you—the ray of sunlight that suddenly breaks through a cloud lighting up an otherwise dull landscape; the sudden rain that creates reflective pools of water you can exploit; the herd of animals that suddenly appears as you are shooting a sunrise to add an unexpected dimension. Sometimes this works in one’s favour and sometimes it doesn’t.”

Ostrich Sossusvlei National Park, Namib Desert, Namibia Like children, these young ostriches seem to be saying, “Papa, we want a balloon”. The hot air balloon went behind the ridge and created this interesting juxtaposition. The flattening of perspective with a 300mm zoom adds to the intrigue. Photograph/ Sundeep Kumar

Ostrich Sossusvlei National Park, Namib Desert, Namibia Like children, these young ostriches seem to be saying, “Papa, we want a balloon”. The hot air balloon went behind the ridge and created this interesting juxtaposition. The flattening of perspective with a 300mm zoom adds to the intrigue. Photograph/ Sundeep Kumar

Rules of Composition
Sundeep is very conscious about his frames, and hardly thinks about cropping his images later on. Since pre-visualising a frame is not possible, instinct comes into play. “I try to position myself in places that allow me to use features in the landscape to create interest, context or form. But over the years, it has become second nature.”
Sundeep does follow classic rules like the rule of thirds, perspective, using foreground to draw in the viewer, etc. “However, I am not necessarily bound by these rules. But if I break a rule it is conscious and for a reason. I like to use colour and light in ways in which a B&W photographer uses texture and shadows,” he adds.
His photographs, bound with aesthetic values, not only represent the place but also clearly define his style of shooting “What appeals the most to me about photography is that it’s a perfect blend of technique and creativity, requiring both the left and right brain.”
For Sundeep, it is not only about just shooting, but also about feeling, thinking and expressing. “In my view, nature is the closest you can get to God. You get to see all his creations with little or no interference from man. The peace and serenity it instils in me helps in harnessing my creative energies, and finding release in the shutter of the camera.”

Tips by Sundeep

  • Do not always look for the big picture. Even a fallen leaf can make a great image.
  • Read about animals and their behaviour before photographing them. That way, you can predict their actions better.
  • If you need a shutterspeed higher than what your aperture allows (because of low-light or fast action) do not hesitate to shoot at a higher ISO setting. With digital, the grain is less pronounced and can be easily managed.

About Sundeep Kumar
Sundeep is a 50-year old Communications Director of SABMiller, one of India’s leading brewers. Although photography started as a childhood interest, he took it up seriously in 1993.  His main interest is travel photography. His favourite places for shooting are the wildlife parks of Africa, especially the Ngorongoro Crater in Tanzania.


Tags: alok brahmbhatt, Februrary 2009, Nature Photography, Sundeep Kumar, Wildlife