Wildlife Photography Lessons, Live from India’s National Parks

Award-winning photographer Sudhir Shivaram takes us into the forest.  
Sudhir Shivaram has spent a career photographing wildlife in India and across the world. Some  of his most memorable photos have been of India’s birds and tigers. Photo courtesy Sudhir Shivaram
Sudhir Shivaram has spent a career photographing wildlife in India and across the world. Some of his most memorable photos have been of India’s birds and tigers. Photo courtesy Sudhir Shivaram

“How I wish a leopard walks down when I’m talking to you folks,” wildlife photographer Sudhir Shivaram says to the camera, while standing on a tree-covered slope on the outskirts of Karnataka’s Biligiri Rangaswamy Temple Tiger Reserve. For the past few days the award-winning photographer has been live broadcasting his adventures in the reserve on his Facebook page. There’s plenty to see—the forest is home to the sloth bear, leopard and langur—but Shivaram’s videos are about more than wildlife sightings.

Shivaram has been using Facebook to introduce people to the wild for over a year now. His first live broadcast was in September 2015, from the grasslands of Masai Mara in Kenya. Earlier this year, he filmed a live hunt in Tanzania, following three lions that were stalking three zebras. While his international safaris are straight from the heart of sanctuaries and reserves, in India, Shivaram restricts his broadcasts to the buffer zones and outer edges of the national parks.

The videos are a goldmine for amateur and professional photographers looking to pick up tips from an expert, but they are also a lovely escape for nature lovers. Shivaram’s videos in BRT have a constant background score of bird calls, the chirping of insects, and monkeys leaping across treetops. Many times you can also hear the warning calls of deer or langurs, letting everyone know that a predator is around. At moments like this, Shivaram often turns away from the camera, his eyes scanning the bushes around for a sign of movement.

“I’d like to share my thought process when I’m shooting in the wild—what am I thinking, what am I looking for, how do I frame the shot,” he told National Geographic Traveller India. In addition to being very entertaining—Shivaram is endearingly candid—viewers can expect advice on camera lenses, what sort of stands to use when shooting, and framing tips. There are times when he’s joined by wildlife during the shoot (at one point in BRT, a deer arrives quietly among the bushes behind him), and like all good teachers, he capitalizes on the moment by taking a couple of quick pictures of the animals and showing them to his Facebook viewers.

It’s not all talking shop. Shivaram peppers his sessions with personal stories and anecdotes from his adventures in the wild, like the time he had to climb a tree to escape an angry female wild pig who didn’t want him photographing her little piglets. There are also lighter moments, like when he turns up his music system and blasts Hotel California while driving along open forest roads in BRT.

Follow Sudhir Shivaram’s Facebook page for more live sessions and to browse the archive. Look out for his livestream next week where he will review the pictures taken on the BRT Tiger Reserve trip.

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    Kamakshi Ayyar is Features Writer on National Geographic Traveller India's web team. She's partial to places by the sea and desserts in all forms. When she isn't raving about food, she's usually rambling on about the latest cosmic mysteries. She tweets as @kamakshi138.

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