It was in the year 1986, young Kulashekara C S was on a trek to the Himalayas with his friends. They saw a beautiful flower beneath a cliff. The flower and the nature around
were breathtakingly beautiful. Kulashekara, who was then new to photography, wanted to click that flower. His friends held his legs and hung him beneath the cliff. He wrapped the camera around his neck and clicked a photo with his Minolta SRT 101 camera. All his friends asked him for a copy of the photo. After coming back to Bengaluru, Kulashekara developed the photos which had come beautifully. The very next day, when he had been to Lalbagh, he saw the same flower everywhere there! Then he learnt a lesson of photography, one should be very observant of his locality.
Photography was not everyone’s cup of tea back then. In the age of analogue cameras, photography was a costly hobby. He had joined the State Bank of India and the salary too was limited. He could afford one roll for a month to do photography. He had restricted himself to insects and butterflies’ photography due to technical and financial limitations.
In the early 2000s digital photography entered India. Kulashekara also started doing digital photography. He used to do photography everyday for 3-4 hours. He was a regular visitor to Kukkarahalli Lake and Lingambudhi Lake in Mysuru. Kulashekara had a clear mind of not doing photography for commercial purpose. As he was a bank employee, he was not ready to earn money through photography.
He was very interested in birding. He used to watch and observe birds carefully, which made him to begin bird photography. Out of the 1,300 species of birds in India, he has already covered more than 750 species. As most of the birds live in the Himalayas, it is not easy to cover each species. In the snowy Himalayas, birds peep out for seconds and then disappear! Lighting condition would be very bad. “It is challenging to do photography in Himalayas,” says Kulashekara. “Photographers should contribute something to the nature. I don’t know if I contributed something to nature or not, but I have the satisfaction of having seen more than 750 bird species,” he says.
Birds come to Mysuru from various parts of the world. We think we know many things about the nature and birds. But when we start knowing about them, we get to know that we don’t know many things! He was visiting Nagarahole forest regularly. Over 2-3 years, he did not encounter any tiger. He did not feel sad for not spotting a tiger, but he enjoyed the nature, chirping of birds. This enabled him to know more about the birds and nature.
Every year, Kulashekar visits various place of the country for photography. He has visited Himalayas more than three times. He had been to China border, Sikkim, Bhutan border, West Bengal, Gujarat and the list goes on! He fondly remembers a Sardarji who gave him his camera till the end of one tour, when the shutter of Kulashekar’s camera went off.
He loves to click birds in their natural habitats. Some make hide outs and shed feed for the birds to come every day. Birds get habituated and come. Photographers can get excellent photographs, but it doesn’t give the thrill of going in search of the birds. There are many things to learn from birds. Sarus Cranes find their partner once and they live together till the end. If one dies, the other might commit suicide or lives alone. In the age of struggling relationships, human beings have to learn from them, he says.
He made a photo exhibition once. Though he did not intend to do it, SBI requested him to frame his photos and give those to the SBI branches. Prior to submitting, he was forced to make an exhibition by friends. Visitors asked him for the copies and he gave the photos at the printing and framing cost and he had to reprint the photos! To click a good photograph, to be at the right spot at the right time, he opines. His photograph of a peacock flying off the ground is one such and was shared the most in social media. His photograph was also featured in the Photography world cup winning album.
His family supports him for his photography. His wife Bharathi has done PhD in Psychology and does counseling. Along with photography, Kulashekar is a great lover of Carnatic music. He had converted gramophone plates of classical music into MP3 and Wav formats and preserves those rare collections for the coming generations. He currently uses Canon 7D Mark 2 and 100-400 mm lens.
How do you prepare for the photography tours?
I go for one tour every year. Before the journey, I study the bird species available there, their habitats and lifestyle. So that we can make proper plans to click them. We can’t say that we might get the desired photos; luck also has its role to play!
Do you think the young photographers today have enough dedication?
I have seen young photographers who wait for hours to click a photo. They do possess the dedication and passion for photography. Digital photography has come as a boon. I have seen photographers of the older generation doing nest photography by waiting near the nest. Bird will obviously come to the nest, but by waiting near the nest, they were tensing and pressurizing the bird. It was leading predators to the nest easily.
What difference do you see in the lakes of Mysuru and birds then and now?
The lakes are not well maintained. Drainage water is openly led to the Kukkarahalli lake. They made a walking path. People who walk there will insert earphones but don’t lend their ears to the chirping birds. Lingambudhi Lake was one the most beautiful lakes, but is now completely spoiled. It doesn’t harm the birds much. If not this, they go to some other lakes. It is a loss to us.
How do you manage time between bank and photography?
Bank has extended a great support to me. They have put my photographs in various branches and conference rooms of SBI. I opted out of promotions so that it won’t affect my photography. Every morning I get time for photography before going to bank. And they provide me with holidays every year.
– SHREEHARSHA C M