For a country that boasts of one of the richest and rare flora and fauna in the world, wildlife tourism hardly ever makes it to the popular topics list. One of the very few references in popular culture would be 3 Idiots’ Farhan Qureshi (played by R Madhavan) giving up wildlife photography to pursue engineering. Maybe he could learn a thing or two from Nucleus Software CEO Ravi Pratap Singh, who has balanced both his passions with equal ease — tech and wildlife photography.
Brought up in an army household, Singh has always been a lover of the outdoors. “Most of our weekends were spent outdoors in regions close to the forest, dunes or hills,” he recalls. Even indoors, the family was fond of keeping pets such as cats, dogs, squirrels and rabbits. “When my father was posted in Alwar (Rajasthan), on two separate occasions, a Sambar deer and a nilgai strayed into our complex!” he shares.
When those fleeting sightings were not enough, Singh bought himself a compact camera with a long zoom lens. That was more than 15 years ago when his professional career at Nucleus had also started showing promise. Since then, he has upgraded his lens and photography skills multifold. On one of his trips to Kaza in Spiti Valley, Singh and his companions set out on a 90-minute long drive when they heard of a herd of ibex that was sighted in Pin Valley. “It was a miracle. We spent more than an hour with a pack of 30 odd ibexes. I didn’t have great equipment, but the photographs are priceless, and will always stay with me,” he says.
Singh’s quest to observe animals in their natural form has taken him on multiple trips to several wildlife parks — Jim Corbett, Jhalana Safari, Bandhavgarh or Pench in India and Masai Mara in Kenya. “While it took me more than 10 trips to Corbett before I saw a tiger, in Masai Mara, one can get real close to the animals and spend hours just observing them,” he adds but he doesn’t mind waiting for an animal sighting. This hobby has taught him one of the virtues he cherishes. Patience. “There are so many trips when we did not sight even an antelope. And even if you do, you have to wait for that perfect shot. I remember following a black-rumped flameback for about an hour before getting the shot I wanted,” he says. While chasing one of these perfect shots, Singh saw a gazelle giving birth as other gazelles formed a protective circle around her. “Soon, the mother walked away casually as if nothing had happened but still kept an eye on the baby as the newborn started walking in a matter of minutes. It was just mind blowing. The video and photographs were just a small part of the take away,” he recalls.
With each experience being an absolute treat for his eyes and lenses, Singh says that he is planning to go for the gorilla experience and penguin sightings in the coming years. Even on business trips, he does not leave his camera behind and in some instances, this pursuit has also landed Singh in trouble. “Once, I heard birds chirping in our garden and saw a pair of crimson sunbirds. I hid behind some bushes and waited to get a shot since those little things flit around incessantly. I had to move along with them for almost an hour jumping from one bush to the other. When I finally got my shot, I looked up to see my neighbours were totally suspicious about what I was up to!” he laughs. Singh believes that a winning shot is worth all the trouble, and it is this pursuit for the perfect picture that has also helped him stay on top of his professional game.