Photography, videography, cinematography — anything to do with the camera, and a person’s vision is the first thing that’s tested. So it was for Sandesh Kadur too. The photographer, born and brought up in Bengaluru, has worked for Planet Earth II, a Sony BBC Earth show. Set to premier on September 18 at 9 pm, Planet Earth II is a natural history series with a compelling narrative by the godfather of natural history, Sir David Attenborough.
Planet Earth II has been shot across 40 countries, India being one, where Kadur has shown his cinematography skills with his extensive shoot in the Kaziranga forests of Assam in the North East. Planet Earth II showcases the world of wildlife and natural history across the globe. Integral parts of this series have also been shot in the exquisite locales of India such as Ladakh, Mumbai, Jodhpur and Jaipur.
Nominated for the Emmy Awards 2017, Kadur has worked on the Grasslands episode of the series for cinematography as a principal camera person. “Kaziranga is home to some of the largest animals in India like the Indian Elephant, tigers, the King Cobra and the one-horned rhinoceros,” says Kadur, sharing his experiences of the forests that are spread across the floodplains of the Brahmaputra River. “We first did a recce of the forest in January 2014 to figure out the landscape of the wetland, the flora and fauna there, and most importantly, the size of the grass which often hides these animals, including the giant elephants,” he explains. Kadur visited the place again in December 2015 for four weeks and then one final time for catching up on some shots that he had previously missed.
When asked of an incident that stayed with him, he narrates the story of a day when he was hiding behind the grass waiting to capture the mighty tiger, and there he came after hours of wait, and how! “He was right in front of him, up close and I got a fantastic shot. The scary bit was not just the tiger I was shooting, but all those huge rhinos running around us,” he exclaims.
Kadur, who has extensively worked in the Western Ghats, running across the coast of Maharashtra, Goa, Karnataka and Kerala, committed himself at an early age to documenting the natural treasures and zoological wonders to be found only a few hours drive from his native place Bengaluru. “My dad was a photographer too. I would often steal his camera as an 11-year-old kid and take pictures. He taught me the basics,” recalls Kadur, who shot his first documentary in the Western Ghats. “They are like my backyard. When I went to the USA, I would tell people there about the rich biodiversity of the Ghats and they soon sent me back to shoot the documentary and I came up with Mountains of the Monsoon that was aired on Discovery channel,” Kadur says.
Although less than 10 per cent of the Western Ghats remain untouched, these mountains are one of the 25 biodiversity hotspots across the world. Their unique beauty and mystery are embodied for Kadur in a chance sighting he had 10 years ago with a strange, all-grey feline — known by the local tribal people as the pogeyan. The cat in the Ghat offered some hope for the future in nature’s ability to survive the unprecedented pressures the 21st century is subjecting its last wild places to.
The major challenges in his journey, he says, are those of time, patience and perseverance — all very critical to wildlife photography.
On working with Sir Attenborough for Planet Earth II, Kadur says, “It was a dream come true. I grew up watching his documentaries and his voice stays in my head. I always dreamt of having one of my documentaries narrated by Sir Attenborough,” an excited Kadur says.
He continues to document wildlife across India and is now working on his next big project. Kadur has traced his journey through one of India’s last wildernesses and his quest is to document why preserving such wild places matters to modern India.