Resident Feature: Arti Malhotra, an avid wildlife photographer and conservationist
"It’s not only the photography which I love but I also try to rescue, raise and release the abandoned baby birds. I got the opportunity to save a baby tailor bird, a white breasted waterhen, an Asian pied starling and a tortoise, all in Pun Hlaing." - Arti Malhotra
Mrs Arti Malhotra has always loved nature and wildlife. Unfortunately the city and her personal life kept her occupied. Since staying in Pun Hlaing, with her daughter off for higher studies, ample free time and some professional guidance, she discovered her latent skill and passion for photography. With some self-taught tutorials and Pun Hlaing acting as a field, she realized that nature and wildlife is the genre she enjoys and want to specialise in. This skill has taught her a lot about the behaviour and interaction of birds among themselves and with their habitat.
How did you get into wildlife photography?
When you wake up every morning to different sound of birds, you get drawn to them. I was always interested in city birds but after having lived in Pun Hlaing for 4 years, I realised and started appreciating the presence of different birds, reptiles and bugs. That is when I started capturing these little winged friends and many other insects which we see here. So far, I have found around 50 different birds in Pun Hlaing and am on the lookout for more.
What inspires you about wildlife photography?
Working in the corporate world and as an educator gave me a lot of experience but the joy, fulfilment and happiness that I get from being in the wild is inexplicable. It’s the challenge and the creativity of framing the interaction between nature and wildlife that keeps inspiring me about wildlife photography.
What kind of equipment you use now and what did you start with?
I started around a year and a half ago with a basic canon camera. Now, I am using full frame Canon 5D Mark IV with a Canon telephoto lens for wildlife photography.
What are the difficulties faced by a wildlife photographer on a regular basis?
Wildlife photography can be quite challenging and is rather time consuming. The subjects are neither interested in you nor are under your control. Finding them at the right time with the right light and background needs a lot of patience. Many a times, the weather, distance or terrain is so unfavourable that the scene just passes by without getting captured, which is frustrating. However, the effort and challenges that make great images is ultimately so rewarding every single time.
What are the techniques you use?
I normally shoot handheld in manual mode and sometimes in Av mode. I prefer to shoot during golden hours when birds are a little slow and are getting prepared for the day. I carry two different lenses for my shoots.
How do you plan a shoot?
It's always good to know the habitat where you plan to shoot. Birds and animals are territorial so we cannot expect them to be found at one place. The more you know about the habitat, the better the expected results. It is very necessary to be in comfortable clothing and shoes that blend well with nature, avoid wearing perfume and making noise. Always carry light snacks and water to avoid dehydration as shoots can be for long hours with long walks. On the technical front, I always carry bigger memory cards and two fully charged camera batteries. I also prefer to download all images on my laptop and external hard-drive the same day to avoid losing them, a lesson learnt from a bad past experience.
Which is your favourite image? Could you explain the background story behind it.
I have many but one where a mama Drongo bird is feeding its baby is my favourite. It was a strange shrill that attracted me and after following the sound for around 15 minutes, I found the hungry baby making restless noise and a few minutes later, saw the mamma bird bring the food.
Do you have any tips for the aspiring Wildlife photographers?
I am still an amateur photographer who is learning but one thing that I feel is very important and everyone should remember is to not interfere or damage the wildlife habitat. Secondly, do not compare your work with others or get demotivated. Instead, keep practicing and learn and try to better your work. Moreover, you don’t always need expensive gadgets to make a beginning, just understand and take interest in your work. My advice is to enjoy the journey, because it is a long one!
Those who love wildlife and would like to know more about Arti's work can follow her on Instagram: artimalhotraphotography.