Kalyan Varma
Naturalist and Wildlife Photographer

When I was a small kid, I watched The Jungle Book and it was love at first sight. I wanted to grow up to be Mowgli and play with Bagheera, Baloo, Kaa etc like many other kids do. I would give up sweet sunday morning sleep to watch the National Geographic specials that used to air on National Television before we had Animal Planet and NGC on our television sets. The dream eventually came true.

Photography was a late hobby and playing and experimenting with those point-and-shoots took most of my time. After college, when I started working, I could afford a good camera and I picked up one of the earliest versions of the Nikon Coolpix 5700

In 2004, I started to visit forests quite often and quickly realized, wildlife photography was something that I loved from the bottom of my heart and it was a dream combination of two of my biggest passions in life. Towards the end of 2004, I met Harsha, who was working as a naturalist for Jungle Lodges and Resorts. He got me interested in Jungle Lore and he convinced me to take this up seriously. I went through the JLR Naturalist Training course where I met Sarath, who offered me a job at JLR as I was on a sabbatical from work. He said there was an opening for a naturalist at BR Hills and he offered me a deal where I would work there for few weeks in exchange for free food and accommodation without any salary. I gave up my big-paying job at a big-dot-com company and decided to try this for a while.

Walk on the Wild Side

On the morning of the 1st of January 2005, I packed my bags and drove off to BR Hills to work as a naturalist.

What started out as a stint for a few weeks extended to a month, then two and eventually I ended up spending more than 6 months in the forest. These have been the best times of my life. I've seen tigers hunt sambar in middle of the night, a few metres from me, stared leopards in the eye, been chased by elephants hundreds of times and spent time learning jungle lore from the local tribals and forest guards. The resort was right in the middle of the jungle without any walls or fences. Tigers used to roam through the camp at night and most nights, my sleep would get disturbed by alarm calls of deers. You really have to be there to experience that life.

Eventually I had to come back to the city to earn my bread and butter. I still travel a lot, to different forest areas. I really don't know how much of these forests will remain in a few decades.. so I really want to explore all of them before they are no more.. or protect them in whatever way I can. I want to use photography as a tool to document and help conserve the rich biodiversity that this country is blessed with.

In december 2005, I was awarded the Wildlife Photographer of the year 2005 after which I decided, I should take my wildlife photography very seriously and this galley is the first step in that direction.

My Equipment

I use Nikon D200, Nikon D70 DSLR and Nikon N80 bodies with a wide rangle of equipment. My lenses include
  • Nikon 200-400mm f/4 VR lens
  • Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8 VR lens
  • Sigma 105mm Macro lens
  • Nikon 12-24mm f/4 DX Wide angle lens
  • Nikon 50mm f/1.8 lens
  • Nikon 1.4X and 2X teleconverter
Along with these lenses, I have a Nikon SB-800 flash, a cheap tripod which I do not use that often.

In the Press
  • Jungle book - looking for the perfect picture
  • Of tribals and tigers...
  • Nature lovers to get a closer look
  • Wildlife Photographer of the Year - 2005
  • Capturing wildlife on lens