A Wizard of Light

 
Sathya saw these elephants approach the pond in Bandipur, Karnataka. He waited for a while and positioned himself till the elephants entered the pond, and only then did he release the shutter. Photograph/C R Sathyanarayana

Sathya saw these elephants approach the pond in Bandipur, Karnataka. He waited for a while and positioned himself till the elephants entered the pond, and only then did he release the shutter. Photograph/C R Sathyanarayana

C R Sathyanarayana draws inspiration from nature’s breathtaking beauty to make some amazing pictures. Neha Mutreja discovers more.

This article was originally published in August 2009.

"“The subject is often not as important as the treatment of the subject. This is what makes pictorial photography different."—C R Sathyanarayana

““The subject is often not as important as the treatment of the subject. This is what makes pictorial photography different.”—C R Sathyanarayana

For C R Sathyanarayana, or Sathya, as he is fondly known, photography is more than a passion. It is a quest to explore the wild, observe its colourful and varied inhabitants and capture some truly magical moments. A look at his varied collection of pictures shows a deep understanding of colours, composition and light. But Sathya explains that he merely frames what already exists. He says, “The things that we experience in nature are often so powerful and momentary, that we like to save them for the future.”

Shooting in the Magic Hours
Light is the most essential element in photography, and Sathya believes in making the most of it. Morning and evening times are his “magic hours”. He says, “I enjoy shooting just before dawn, when I continuously try to catch the unique quality and the play of light at this time. Each day is filled with a new combination of light and colours. This gives me many opportunities to capture art with my camera. The uncertainty, which is a part of all nature photography, can be easily dealt with if some effort is put into capturing the image.” For Sathya, the changing light provides opportunities to get creative. “I particularly enjoy doing photography against the light. It is more challenging and yields beautiful results. It is not necessarily easier to shoot in frontal light, because one needs to take care to avoid getting flat backgrounds.”

“ Once you see a good nature photograph, you start to love nature and when you love nature, you start preserving it.”

Quick Decisions
Wildlife photography does not really provide you with the luxury to think and compose. Sathya believes that you need to be constantly alert and conscious of what is in front of you. “Whenever I come across a scene, the selection of the subject and background has to be done in split seconds. The background, in particular, should not disturb the subject and the composition.” Sathya also believes that composition is as important as grammar is to language. He likes to add an emotional touch to his pictures. “It can be joy, sorrow or happiness; but it should have an impact on the viewer.”

Two passing vehicles raised a layer of dust on these sheep walking down Hampi-Hospet highway, creating a perfect background for this photograph. Photograph/C R Sathyanarayana

Two passing vehicles raised a layer of dust on these sheep walking down Hampi-Hospet highway, creating a perfect background for this photograph. Photograph/C R Sathyanarayana

Luck and Instant Visualisation
It is hard to get the perfect light, composition and subject every single time. All the ingredients that make a unique photograph need to present itself in one place at a time. It is here that instant visualisation and luck come into play. He gives an example of this from his own experiences: “I was travelling on the Hampi-Hospet (Karnataka) highway just before sunset, when I saw a flock of sheep. I began to follow them. As they moved on, two vehicles moving in opposite directions swerved to avoid them and drove away. This raised a layer of dust from the ground and surrounded the sheep. The scene lasted for a few seconds. I froze it in my camera forever.” Sathya’s quick thinking and clicking would pay off. This image was featured in Photography Year Book 1999. Published annually, this book features the best pictorial photography of photographers from 25 countries worldwide.

A Passion to Conserve
Sathya has been to several wildlife sanctuaries around the world. An ardent nature-lover, he uses photography to spread the message of forest conservation. “Once you see a good nature photograph, you start to love nature and when you love nature, you start preserving it.” He also strictly follows certain disciplines while shooting in forests or sanctuaries. “I make it a point to avoid making noise and litter, and do not use perfumes and colognes. I also wear apparel like khakis that will blend with nature, instead of bright colours.”

Winnowing is a routine, post-harvest process in the villages of Karnataka. Sathya was travelling in the outskirts of Bengaluru, when he saw these two women winnowing against an amazing play of light and shadow. Photograph/C R Sathyanarayana

Winnowing is a routine, post-harvest process in the villages of Karnataka. Sathya was travelling in the outskirts of Bengaluru, when he saw these two women winnowing against an amazing play of light and shadow. Photograph/C R Sathyanarayana

Art is For the Heart
A journey that began in the wild has come to a point where Sathya sees art in every aspect of life. He says, “The art of photography is the language of pure moments of life— moments that create our destiny.” He also practises pictorial photography, where a camera is used like a brush to paint a canvas. He feels that a pictorial photograph has the power to reflect a situation and the feeling that existed at the moment when it was captured. “The subject is often not as important as the treatment of the subject. This is what makes pictorial photography different. To me, this genre is more effective than any other form of art. The image acts as a medium between the creator and viewer.”

Reporter of Realities
Capturing the beauty of nature is documenting the realities of life. It is a process of making people aware of their surroundings. Sathya comments, “A photo artist is a reporter of the realities of the world and its beauty. These realities also reveal the greatness of God’s creations. They serve to enlighten those who have little or no knowledge of it.”

“There are many people around the world who cannot read. But through a photograph, they can understand the thought and the message conveyed.


A Universal Language
For C R Sathyanarayana, photography has no barriers in terms or caste, creed, class, religion, location or language. In fact, it is a simple medium that can eliminate distances between people and bring them closer together. Through his photography he aims to convey the beauty of the natural world. “There are many people around the world who cannot read. But through a photograph, they can understand the thought and the message conveyed. The language of photography divulges the secrets of life in a much deeper and impactful manner than what is achievable through the written or spoken word. It can immediately convey the trials and tribulations of existence, and its beauty and ugliness. It can reach out across great spans of time as a reminder of a past reality,” he explains. Sathya concludes with a simple yet inspiring thought—there is no end to learning photography, even for him. “Releasing the trigger is only a repetition of what you have already visualised and clicked in your mind. The process of learning never ends and I hope to continue to hone my skills as long as I live.”

This shot was taken in a fraction of a second, just when the rivertern came down to feed its young ones, in Ranganathittu Bird Sanctuary, Mysore. Photograph/C R Sathyanarayana

This shot was taken in a fraction of a second, just when the rivertern came down to feed its young ones, in Ranganathittu Bird Sanctuary, Mysore. Photograph/C R Sathyanarayana

 Tips by Satya

• Before going out on a shoot, research, prepare the gear you require and plan what you intend to capture.
• F orests will offer some unpredictable opportunities, so be alert at all times.
• Whatever field or genre of photography you choose, just keep shooting.

About C R SathyanarayanaSatya is a 53-year-old managing partner of Rajaram Silk House, a leading wholesale and retail dealer of silk saris in Bengaluru. H e began to take a deeper interest in photography, after he used a borrowed camera to shoot pictures during his honeymoon trip in 1979. 


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