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FO2 Stage | Latika Nath

by Team FO2, 22 Jun 2023

No Words, No Photos,... Nothing can describe the feeling when you are staring into the eyes of a full-grown Tiger. You just freeze. Time stops and for a moment, you can't even hear your heartbeat. The tiger is an apex predator, one that has virtually no predators of its own. It resides at the top of its food chain and is the largest of the big cats. And here it was, just a few inches away, sniffing me. I just lowered my gaze as it walked up to me. His size amazed me. I was not scared but in awe. The respect and admiration for this beautiful animal overshadowed my fear. I have had many close encounters with animals including cheetahs walking right up to me but the feeling that you get when the majestic tiger approaches you is indescribable.

It was my childhood dream of conserving the Tigers that helped me become the first female wildlife biologist in India to hold a Doctorate on tigers. Back then, becoming a wildlife conservationist was a career unheard of. However, my family consisting of strong women and supportive educated men always helped me realize all my dreams. Many of my family members including my grandfather enjoyed photography, but as a hobby. I grew up seeing them do it but never thought that I would take it up as a career.

As a conservationist, I used to photograph animals for my reference and to record the behavior of the animals. And slowly started sharing my work with near and dear ones on Fb. A lot of interest was generated and people began to comment on my work. It was an incredible moment when i realized that it wasn't just me who was enjoying my work, but that other people who loved seeing it. Photography was never a part of the plan but it gradually became an inherent part of me.

You can leave me in a natural habitat in any weather condition and I forget about all the luxuries at home. I don’t need anything else. Just being there and doing my work is what I love to do. Earlier, it used to be tough as there were no cell phones or proper connectivity but it has become a lot easier now. It is sad how natural habitats are degrading day by day. But I look at it from a different perspective. It motivates me to work even harder because it makes me more determined to succeed.

Unlike fashion or many other genres, you can never recreate a shot in wildlife photography. So rather than getting a technically perfect shot, I always prefer to capture the moment. I travel almost 8 months a year. What works for me is that I plan my trips one year in advance, according to the season and the animal behavior at that time of the year. This helps me to create the best chance of getting the desired result.

It was 20 years ago that I was approached by Nat Geo who wanted to make a film on my life’s work. I was overwhelmed when they gave me the title of “The Tiger Princess of India”. I have always focused on doing my work and all these things just came along. I also published my photographs in my book “Hidden India” which is in the memory of my cousin brother, Kaveesh with whom I shared this passion for wildlife and travel.

There were very few women in wildlife photography when I started. The number is growing but it is still very less. Wildlife Photography is an expensive profession for sure but if you indulge and let your work speak for yourself there’s nothing that will stop you. It is definitely a career for those with a passion and love for wild spaces and the eye to appreciate the magic on this planet.

- Latika Nath

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