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23-year-old Aditya Nair’s photo ‘The Murderous Pharaoh’ was highly commended in this year’s Africa Geographic Photographer of the Year competition.
Nair’s stunning capture taken on safari in the Maasai Mara National Reserve depicts a member of the Tano Bora (largest known male cheetah coalition of five) in the middle of a zebra meal.
AT A GLANCE
- 23-year-old Aditya Nair won the highly commended award at this year’s Africa Geographic Photographer of the Year contest
- Aditya, an international student at USyd, returned home to Kenya at the beginning of the pandemic
- He is just as passionate about nature and wildlife as he is about wildlife photography
“I absolutely love the big cat family,” Aditya told Indian Link. “There’s so much character to them, and the guides, locals, and industry staff track their stories and constantly keep updating visitors. That way we create more of an emotional attachment to these animals. I wouldn’t say I have a specific animal I love shooting, but I love a good leopard sighting.”
Aditya Nair was born in Trivandrum, Kerala, and at the age of three his family moved to Mombasa, Kenya, where he spent a majority of his childhood exposed to the warm African savanna.
“Growing up here [Kenya] gave me a unique upbringing,” the young photographer pondered. “We have a laidback beach life as well as the adrenaline filled wilderness-bush experience.”
Though he always had a passion for wildlife photography, Aditya only began taking the craft seriously after he left Australia, where he was a marketing student at the University of Sydney. The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic led him to return home to Kenya just before borders closed.
“I came back to Kenya for a change in environment and with the intention to spend more time with wildlife,” he said.
“The fast paced, money-oriented city life took a lot out of me. When I looked back at all the times I felt at peace, the first thing that came to mind was waking up to a sunrise in the Maasai Mara National Reserve, hearing the roar of a lion,” he mused.
As for inspirations, Aditya revealed TV shows that began his fruitful fascination with wildlife. Programs like Animal Planet’s Mad Mike and Mark, and the likes of late Australian icon Steve Irwin reinforced the allure of the wild.
With regard to photography and art, Aditya names NatGeo Wild photographer Shaaz Jung’s work as a source of encouragement to push the boundaries of photography and adding touches of surrealism.
Due to the nature of the setting, most of Aditya’s shots are taken on a camera bean bag that rests on the window of a safari vehicle. The rest of the time he would take handheld shots, and rarely use tripods.
The photographer camps in national parks for four-five nights at a stretch every couple of months. That may sound like a lot to some and very little to others, but money-wise it can be quite a pricey venture, especially if you’re not making a lot of money from the activity itself.
“However, during my time at these national parks, I spend almost 8-12 hours out on safari. Sometimes going from sighting to sighting, and others simply stationary in one spot,” Aditya said. “As for planning, plenty of tour agents make our lives easy but wherever I can avoid the middleman, I do. It doesn’t take time, it takes initiative.”
Social media and assorted wildlife documentaries have also played a role in his understanding of the practice.
He says his main source of research is spending time with animals in the wild, observing them with the help of guides.
“As wildlife photographers, there are a lot of us, I just know that there are two things I aim to stick to when creating and posting content. One is quality over quantity. Two is to stand out,” Aditya stated.
What is something people don’t know about wildlife photography?
“That every image is a different story and there’s always someone incredibly passionate about wildlife behind the lens,” Aditya remarked.
The Africa Geographic competition entries were judged on their ability to tell a story, evoke emotion and capture the essence of Africa, which over the years, Aditya seems to have gotten the hang of.
“To already have my name in the same conversation as all the other talented photographers mentioned is mind blowing,” he gushed.
In the future, Aditya hopes to work in the tourism industry to help the rest of the world experience what he does in the awesome African savanna.
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