“Once I entered this direction, I realized what my goal is. Learning and exploring have no limits,” said Kunal Shah from Batch 2022 in a conversation about his passion for Photography, Wildlife, Nature and Filmmaking.
The budding photographer was recently interviewed by Phoblographer, a US-based Inspirational Photography website, after a picture clicked by him went viral online. When I conducted this telephonic interview with Kunal, little did I know that this would turn out to be a huge learning experience for me. As for the readers, check out the interview here.
Here’s an excerpt from the interview:
Q: This international recognition is a milestone achievement in your photography journey. Tell us about how you got in touch with Phoblographer.
Kunal: It was just a regular day in lockdown when I received an e-mail from Phoblographer and was elated to know that they found some of my clicks online and wanted to conduct an interview. They particularly liked the picture of this bird called the Male Red Avadavat, also known as Strawberry Finch and wanted to know more about the species through me. Spread over a course of one week, it was a wonderful and unforgettable experience! The questions they had sent were extremely personalised, thus it felt like they had done their research well. The questions framed included everything about my interests and history in this field and it was evident that they went through my blog, which honestly felt so good!
Q: Tell us about your journey in photography. When and how did you develop an interest in this?
Kunal: I was 11 years old when I adapted the habit of birdwatching with my friend. We used to sit on the school playground and observe different kinds of birds, usually the common and identifiable ones. This intrigued me to an extent that I went around different places in Pune to find birds. I used a Sony Cyber Shot Pocket Camera, to document these birds. Soon, I started developing interest in Photography. After continuing the activity for around 3-4 years, my parents realized that I had a knack for photography and gifted me a Canon 700D camera. Yes, I know you’re thinking about Farhan from 3 Idiots (chuckles). Gradually, I started developing interest in the other aspects of nature – Amphibians, reptiles, mammals, insects and even stars. I started astrophotography right after I began stargazing. I realized that my only goal was to identify everything I watched, so I started working in that direction. Not to forget, when I started posting on social media seriously, I also realized that I love writing and giving words to my pictures.
Q: Your interest in wildlife photography is known by almost everyone at college. Is there any specific animal/bird or any other species you like to photograph?
Kunal: There are so many species and organisms, it is almost impossible to choose one. But if I may take the leverage to twist my answer, I would say that I have a favourite habitat – Savannahs. India has huge Savannahs, yet people are not aware of it. I’m deeply passionate about this particular habitat and this might come as a surprise, but Pune, and even Maharashtra is predominantly a Savannah consisting of scrublands and grasslands. Species in Savannahs are unique to their habitat. They are only found there and can only survive in their habitat, just like Polar Bears in the Arctic Ocean. I have been studying it since childhood. Most people aren’t aware of the habitat’s existence and hence, it is endangered. I hope I can do my part by spreading enough awareness about it.
Q: Which is your favourite place for nature or wildlife photography?
Kunal: I have fully exploited the advantage of being a resident of Pune. The city is known for its hustle and bustle and many other things, but what most people don’t know is that it has a huge biodiversity and wildlife community, working towards the conservation of different habitats. There are many recognized and established wildlife sanctuaries and national parks in India, however, most of the biodiversity exists outside these protected sanctuaries and parks. For instance, there’s a city on the outskirts of Pune called Saswad. It isn’t a protected area and yet you’ll get to see many wild animals there. There is still a lot to explore, and I can’t wait!
Q: A quick follow-up question Kunal. How do you film/photograph these species? Isn’t it sometimes dangerous?
Kunal: Ha-ha, I am asked this many a times. My only answer to this would be that when you love something, you try to know more and more about it. And the more I learn about nature and its different aspects, I have only realized that it’s beautiful and harmless. Many people ask me this question when I post pictures of reptiles and insects. Here’s an interesting fact; Insects comprise 80% of all living things on Earth. They are very misunderstood. Most insects don’t even have the ability to harm you. There are so many more insects and species yet to be discovered, we only know a part of it.
Q: Are you focusing on any new projects you would like to tell us about?
Kunal: Have you ever heard about the Fan Throated Lizard? They are a species of agamid lizards found only and only in the Indian Subcontinent. In 2019, I started ideating about filming this species, specifically the Deccan Fan Throated Lizard. In the latter half of 2020, I completed my biggest personal project ever. I am elated to announce that I will soon be releasing a film on this species, which is the first-ever film in the whole world to be made on this topic.
I had a wonderful time interacting with Kunal. His love and passion for his art and his dedication to making a change has inspired me. Right now, my laptop’s web browser has multiple sites open and two of them are Kunal Shah’s blog and Instagram profile. They are surely very intriguing, informative and inspiring. Don’t forget to check them out!