From being an ad professional with working knowledge of how pictures should be framed to a passionate wildlife photographer trying to do his bit for the planet, Sharma’s story is all about doing what you love, no matter what
Roshni Nair | Mumbai | January 12, 2017
(This is a weekly series on advertising professionals who have enriched their own lives and their audiences as performing musicians, artists, painters, actors, singers, mime artists. We will bring a new adman-performer every Thursday.)
When Pramod Sharma, ECD, Rediffusion Y&R, embarked on a trip with family to Kabini in Karnataka little did he know that his life was about to change. What was supposed to be a regular family holiday gave wings to a passion that today consumes his every waking hour.
When people think of wildlife photography, they think of majestic lions, leaping panthers and dancing peacocks but for Sharma it was the humble pigeon that lit the spark of birding and wildlife photography in him.
“Some five or six years ago, I took a trip with my family to this place called Kabini in Karnataka. It is a wildlife park and my cousin Kunal Sharma manages the affairs there. We were actually there to visit him. There we used to get ready at four in the morning for trips into the forest and on one such safari, I saw a mud bed and hundreds of yellow-footed pigeons.”
A city brat, Sharma, like most of us, had never imagined pigeons could be any colour other than a dull, drab grey.
“In my mind pigeons were supposed to be grey and black and when I saw those yellow and green pigeons, I was gobsmacked. Then I saw some oriental pigeons, it was a whole different world altogether.”
Although he was carrying a basic camera along with him on the trip, his brother-in-law, a wildlife enthusiast, helped him realise the wonders of a pair of binoculars.
“Binoculars are your best friend when on a wildlife trip because you get to watch nature very closely. When you are with your camera, you are busy fiddling with the camera and taking pictures. With binoculars you are more invested in observing birds, flowers and nature.”
The first thing a bewitched Sharma did after returning from his trip is to buy a camera and visit more places to satiate his new found love for nature and photography.
This is when the third crucial change in his life came.
“I used to stay in Kalyan and then I shifted to Thane. Now, there are a lot of places around Thane where you can go for short trips. The other major thing was that I met Rahul Jauhari, who is my boss here at Rediffusion, and this other fantastic photographer called Prashant Godbole. We three sort of became a team and this team was a major changing point in my career.”
The three ensured they finished their work during the week so that their weekends were free for trips that would not only help them hone their skills but feed their soul.
“Getting tips from both Prashant and Rahul, who are very good photographers themselves, helped me polish my skills. We started doing these trips regularly and thankfully I have a lovely wife who doesn’t mind me going MIA during weekends and an understanding boss who lets me go on these wildlife trips.”
According to Sharma if you are in advertising, then you are into photography by default.
“Advertising is all about photography. It is all about frames and showing people things in the best way possible. If a shot is pleasing to the eye then you are doing something right, the moment your eyes are not comfortable you know something is wrong. I knew what a perfect frame should be like but I never had the device.”
For someone who has not had any formal training in photography, Sharma’s pictures have been featured in National Geographic Magazine and a calendar by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF).
Advertising is an all-consuming job, where things move at a manic pace. Asked how he manages both his profession and his passion, Sharma acknowledges that many times it means staying back till two in the night to finish a job so that he can make his weekly photography sojourns. He believes that to be a good wildlife photographer, one first has to be a good human being.
“There is this place called Sinhagad Valley in Pune. I, Rahul and Prashant used to leave our house at two in the night on a Friday to reach the place early in the morning. There is a particular species of birds that come at six in the morning to have a bath and drink water there. So we used to reach the place and set up our cameras to be ready to capture that. Sometimes it has also happened that we have waited there and no birds have come for whatever reasons. You have to be very patient when you are on wildlife trips and I have seen that people in India are very impatient, especially the tourists.”
Birding and wildlife photography has also taught him to be patient in life.
“I used to be a very impatient guy but birding and wildlife photography has taught me to be patient. It has taught me to slow down, made me realise that things will happen and made me a better person too. I used to be a little rude and although I am still trying to work on it, photography has helped me calm down and live in the moment.” When asked about the most defining moment of his photography journey, Sharma narrated a story about Noor.
“On my last trip to Ranthambore, during a safari, I spotted this tigress named Noor. She was just lazily walking towards us and in 30 seconds the whole picture changed. She ran and jumped on a Sambar deer and grabbed him from his neck. The whole drama that unfolded in front of my eyes was the most fabulous thing I had ever seen.”
But for Sharma photography is not a just a passion, it is also his way of doing his bit for the world.
“I have my own blog where I talk about photography and write about my pictures. I did not start this blog to sell my pictures and earn money out of it. I just wish that a lot of children see my blog and learn from it. We have ruined this planet but they are the future. If children learn something from my blogs and join this journey I think the world will be a better place. I believe this is the only way we can protect nature. So it is my two bits towards conserving nature and this planet.”
Any advice for the young who are itching to embark o this journey?
“Get a camera and go explore!"
Some of the handpicked photographs by Sharma: