Create your own horizons, says photographer Shaaz Jung
Ask Shaaz Jung, the man behind the viral photos of a black panther that took the Internet by storm last year on World Photography day today, what his relationship with photography is and he quotes, “Every picture bears my name, every shutter my child.” A wildlife photographer, cinematographer, and big cat tracker, who grew up in the jungles of south India gets candid with us.
Ask Shaaz Jung, the man behind the viral photos of a black panther that took the Internet by storm last year, what his relationship with photography is and he quotes, “Every picture bears my name, every shutter my child.” A wildlife photographer, cinematographer, and big cat tracker, who grew up in the jungles of south India gets candid with us.
Question: Trace your journey in to the world of photography. What was the starting point of your career? How did you approach it to become the fine photographer that you are today?
Answer: My parents were avid wildlife enthusiasts who were passionate about establishing eco-tourism as a tool for conservation. I was raised in the jungles of South India and grew up in awe of mighty creatures it inhabited. The evanescent leopard sparked my love affair with the forest and inspired me to pick up the camera. At first, I used the camera as a tool to document them, but over time, I began to understand the power of photography. The camera had the ability to immortalise moments, relish life and protect ecosystems. It isn’t just about taking a picture, it’s about telling a story that inspires people and sparks change.
Question: Where all have you travelled for photography? Which locations are paradise for photographers and why?
Answer: I’ve travelled extensively in India and Africa. South India and East Africa are my two favourite destinations. The dense jungles of South India are magical. The tall trees, perennial streams and ancient temples make it one of the most romantic forests ever. The jungles here have a phenomenal density for Asiatic wildlife, where one has the opportunity to photograph tigers, leopards, melanistic leopards, elephants, bears, wild dogs, gaur and a variety of other animals. It is without a doubt the real jungle book.
The endless plains of the Serengeti in East Africa is another destination I absolutely love. The area summons over a million Wildebeest and incredible photo opportunities to capture raw wilderness.
Question: How important is research on a photography subject?
Answer: It’s so important to use the camera as a tool to document your work and connect it to something bigger. A deeper understanding of your subject will help you become a better photographer, enabling you to tell compelling stories that can have a powerful impact. I’ve spent my whole life researching leopards and using the camera to help understand their behavioural traits better.
Question: Any difficulties you have faced in photography? How did you overcome that?
Answer: Wildlife photography today is extremely saturated. We have thousands of photographers, taking millions of pictures, with access to the best equipment. We have online platforms such as Instagram and Facebook that now enable us to share our pictures with the world. The biggest difficulty I faced, when I first started out, was to be different. To create unique photographs that stood out, in a sea of photographers, isn’t easy. To tell compelling stories that haven’t been told before is getting increasingly difficult. I had to constantly evolve as a photographer to be unique. I believe we are all born with talent, it’s how we manifest it. Hard work and passion is the only way and I focused on a niche (leopards) and dedicated my life towards mastering it. I explored for years and constantly experimented with my work. I created my own genre called ‘environmental surrealism’ that portrays wildlife as art and made a film on leopards for National Geographic to further explore my creative visual and storytelling abilities.
Question: Your take on some photography myths?
Being a photographer is so easy.
Being a photographer is easy, especially today. But being a good photographer is hard, especially today.
Great photos require expensive gear.
Great photos require a compelling story.
Shoot as many photos as you can.
Less is always more.
Manual mode is the best mode.
Not always. Not for wildlife. The camera is faster than you are. So are the animals. I shoot on Aperture priority where I can control the ISO, Exposure and F-Stop but I let the camera control the shutter speed.
Avoid shooting in bad lighting.
The moodiest and most awe-inspiring photos are made in low light.
Always keep the horizon straight.
Make your own rules. Create your own horizons.
Don’t put the subject in the middle.
Follow the rules of photography to be like every other photographer. Break them to be unique.
Question: Any photography advice you want to share with the photographers out there?
Answer: Photography is a very personal journey. We capture what we see, and no one can teach you how to see the world. You are your best teacher. Don’t be afraid to explore, chase your vision like your life depends on it and don’t conform to anyone else’s sight. The camera is your tool. the world is your stage and the sky is the limit.
Question: Your favourite photography quote?
Answer: “Every picture bears my name, every shutter my child.” - Shaaz Jung