Coimbatore: He does not fly kites, but ‘shoots’ kites of all kinds. “I love kites and eagles. They are one of the best predators in the world,” says wildlife photographer Varun Chidambaram.
A rare Osprey sea hawk hovered over the tranquil skies as he was trekking into the Valparai jungles in the Anamalai Tiger reserve. Immediately, Varun took out his Nikon D 800 and shot one of the rarest frames of Osprey.
“It is quite difficult to capture a perfect image of eagles, because most of the time they fly quite high and we have to wait for long to come to the ground level to catch prey. it takes at least three to four hours and sometimes a whole day to capture the eagles,” says Varun. But the hawk-eyed photographer has a passion for the predators.
He captured the Changeable hawk eagle and crested serpent eagle in Boluvampatti forest range in Coimbatore. And from Brahminy kite, king vulture, Rufous bellied hawk-eagle, serpent juvenile, crested serpent eagle nictating membrane, spot bellied eagle owl, Varun has a whole collection of pictures of the huge eagle family.
“Before capturing the images of eagle, one should learn the habitats of the eagle, its behaviour and movement,” says the owner of a financial firm in the city. His love for the eagles has taken him to remote jungles in Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka.
In 2012, when he was driving, he spooted the rare rufous bellied hawk eagle on hair pin bend No. 24. Using the high-key photography technique, he shot the raptor in a complete white background.
The wetland birds in Coimbatore are also his favourite. For nearly a year, he religiously kept his 5 am appointment with the water birds in the Coimbatore lakes and captured pictures of grey heron, spot billed pelican, oriental darter and egrets.
But his unforgettable date was with the 17-year-old Machli, the ‘mother of all tigers’. And who does not love the Machli, the oldest tigress in the Ranthambore national park which is perhaps the most photographed tigress across the world?
On 20 May 2014, Varun went to the Ranthambore national park to get a glimpse of Machli, which he had seen several times on the National Geographic channel. “It was the most thrilling moment. I had failed to spot Machili five times before. But, finally, I spotted her,” recalls Varun. Machili was lying lazily near the shimmering lake in the morning sun. Around 6.45 am, the stately figure rose and strode off. “I stood in a jeep and took the picture with a hand-held camera,” he says.
A young entrepreneur from Viswanathapuram in Ganapathy, Varun says wildlife photography is not a fad or a hobby for him. “Wildlife photography is about conservation and not just a hobby,” says the computer science graduate.
He conducts environmental awareness programmes for youth through video clippings of his pictures. His future plans are to create awareness about the conservation of wildlife through his wildlife photography, he said. His pictures are displayed in the Attakati information centre of the forest department at Valparai.