Chasing wild dreams, one click at a time
Coimbatore-based wildlife photographer Perumal Vellingiri gets his long-due international recognition at a contest held in Russia
Unless you achieve something incredible, recognition for your work in wildlife photography is a far-fetched dream. It is also a reason that makes this area of specialisation more challenging,” says Perumal Vellingiri, a Coimbatore-based wildlife photographer while he opens the conversation about his experiences.
After a decade of struggles and disappointments, it was an impromptu photograph that fetched him that long-due international recognition. And this came his way in 2020, when his photo — a family of monkeys embracing each other — made it to the top 12 per cent of the 35 AWARDS Annual Photography contest (in the wildlife catgeory) held in Russia.
Lessons from the jungle
Three years back, during a visit to Kodaikanal, Perumal clicked a series of photographs of a family of monkeys. “The best photographs happen unplanned. While travelling, I spotted 30 to 40 monkeys at the corner of a road. I started clicking pictures and stayed there for 30-40 minutes. I was touched by the bonding and the way they cared for each other. During the pandemic, many people failed to show their affection and support for each other. I submitted these photographs for the contest to symbolise unity and re-instil that hope in humanity through animals,” he shares.
For this self-taught photographer, bringing the behaviour of animals under focus has been a life-long dream. “Animals are my inspiration; they have taught me so much more than what humans could. Once, I happened to witness leopard cubs stranded in a waterbody in Kabini. An elephant came to their rescue. Watching this from afar, the mother leopard climbed down the tree and expressed her gratitude to the elephant. Isn’t this beautiful? In a way, I’m blessed to watch these moments,” he narrates.
Behind the lens
It’s been a slow and steady growth for Perumal professionally, but he’s cherished and learnt from every hurdle. “My mentor Sudhir Shivaram taught me to approach this field of photography with passion and purpose. Right from the nuances in handling cameras to studying animal behaviour, there’s a lot that goes behind every photo we click. Every roar of a tiger is different, the breeding season for each migratory bird varies, weather conditions play a crucial role in spotting animals...all of it comes with experience. Be patient and have the readiness to accept and handle frustration. Whether it’s a blackbuck or a black panther, if you get to spot and photograph an animal, be grateful,” he elaborates.
Perumal had earlier won the third prize in the ‘Photo Crowd’ competition conducted by International Photography Ceremony, Germany. Natural Habitat, a Canadian magazine, had published the picture of a plain tiger butterfly and a picture of a monkey with its hand under the chin that fetched him the prize. He’s been a content writer and contributor for severalwildlife magazines, too. “I submit my photographs to the BBC, the National Geographic magazine etc. The response has been encouraging,” he says.
Financial challenges have not stopped this engineering graduate from pursuing photography as a career, and he finds good enough reasons to motivate budding photographers. “I will be honest with them about the job opportunities. It’s always good to have a day job and pursue this as a passion. I couldn’t pursue a professional photography course and invest in a great camera because of financial woes. Now, I own a Canon 77 D with 75-300 mm lens and Tamron 150-200 mm lens bought with my savings. I’m happy to guide people like me who aspire big in life,” he assures.
For the contest
A total of 1,789 contestants from 111 countries and 799 cities took part in the contest and a total of 5,225 photographs were submitted. The jury included Narayanan Iyer (India), Senthi Aathavan Senthiveri (Sri Lanka) and Svetlana Yudina (Spain).
Perumal Vellingiri’s photograph — one of a family of monkeys, including two baby monkeys, embracing each other — made it to the top 12% of the contest.