Whenever the topic of wildlife photography is brought up, Parag Kulkarni, AO Smith India’s MD, always has one story to share. Based in Kenya’s Nakuru National Park, the story begins with the 54-year-old self-taught wildlife photographer spotting something rather unusual—a lion perched on the branch of caucasian tree!
“I realised it was trying to escape from a herd of wild buffaloes that was waiting for it to slide down so that it could prey on it,” Kulkarni recollects. As he was in his safari jeep, it was only his camera’s lens that let him see how terrified the lion was—not the typical ‘lion king’ kind of behaviour, as he puts it.
But, the lion was smart, Kulkarni adds.
“It initially tried to climb up further but would slide down as the other branch was at an angle. It then jumped on to another branch slightly lower than where it was stationed earlier, giving hope to the buffaloes. It just waited it out on that branch for the next 45 minutes,” he explains. Naturally, the buffaloes started losing their patience and gradually started to disperse. So, what was the lion’s next move? “When there were just a couple of buffaloes left, the lion jumped down and ran towards our safari jeep as it was confident that it would not be attacked in front of us. It then took a breather and calmly left,” says Kulkarni, concluding the story.
Story aside, Africa also happens to be his favourite international destination for wildlife photography. He has explored Kenya quite a bit—from the Amboseli National Park and Naivasha lake to the iconic Masai Mara National Reserve. “Africa offers tremendous opportunities to picture wildlife against the backdrop of the different hues of the sky. You can also see the horizon,” Kulkarni adds.
The enthusiasm for nature and wildlife isn’t limited to him in the family. Kulkarni’s wife is also a photographer and is into bird photography. The next generation isn’t untouched either. Their younger son takes a keen interest in wildlife photography as well.
The MD often travels with his family and the Kulkarnis mark their calendars four to six months in advance keeping in mind the government permissions required for national parks across the country.
“We travel together to the Keoladeo National Park every year to photograph the migratory birds. Bandhavgarh National Park in Madhya Pradesh is also one of our favourites and we love the topography of the park. Since we live in Bengaluru, we often plan weekend trips to Kabini,” he says.
Prior to the pandemic, Kulkarni says he used to travel once in every 45 days to connect with nature and wildlife. The pandemic made him hit the pause button on that. Two of his bookings at the Ranthambore National Park and a trip to the Masai Mara National Reserve were cancelled and he is eagerly waiting for things to get better to make up for those lost opportunities.
Although Kulkarni hasn’t had an opportunity to hold an exhibition featuring his work, he regularly posts them on social networking site Instagram. “My aim is to create awareness about wildlife and nature conservation. So, I regularly keep sharing my photographs on social media,” he says. His pictures have also been reposted by publications like National Geographic and BBC Earth.