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Kalyan Varma – Part 2

7 March 2011 4 Comments

Hi All,

Hope you enjoyed the first part of the interview the Kalyan Varma here. Here is the part 2. Here is a brief intro about Kalyan Varma! Mr. Kalyan Varma is an award winning Wildlife Photographer from Bangalore! He freelances with BBC and National Geographic Channel! What is even more fascinating is the fact that he worked in Yahoo! as a security expert.. decided to quit what one would call “comfortable & well settled” job.. only to chase his dreams..

Me: Sundar Rajan G S
KV: Kalyan Varma – Wild life photographer

Me: Who was your role model? Did anyone influenced you.. Can you talk about your journey from holding the camera for the first time to becoming a professional photographer..

KV: Nothing particular.. I like learning.. That is exactly what kept me going from Mech to IT to photography to wildlife conservation.. At every point.. I was excited about something new about the new area.. May be it is a hacker kind of attitude.. You know what I mean.. the whole thing about breaking it open and understanding every nuance of a new topic.. gives me kick in life.. So the whole journey was an experiment.. I learnt IT skills on my own.. It was fun that way.. similarly, I also self taught photography.. It was fully out of fun & passion…


Me: How did you happen to get in touch with the BBC.. When did that relationship start..

KV: When I was in the jungle.. I started writing a lot.. publishing pictures on creative commons.. In late 2006, BBC wanted to do a film on a rare frog.. They looked at wiki.. I was the only one who had those rare pics.. So, they contacted me to check if I can fill the role.. That’s how it all started.. Unfortunately, the first project didnt really work out.. BBC couldn’t get the permission from the India Government.. There was a lot of bureaucracy.. Even though it didnt materialize, it gave me a thought that.. may be I could pull it off as a career.. 3 months later, BBC started a year long project.. It was a wild life documentary.. That was when they got in touch me again.. This was a foot in the door opportunity… I started off full time as a wildlife photographer while I closed down my consulting business..

Calotes grandisquamis

Me: How did your parents and relatives and frineds react when you started pursuing this passion?
KV: Initially they were supporting when it was a 3 month idea.. But later they all went bonkers when I extended my stay in the jungle for 1 year.. It was v difficult.. If u dont have good job.. they would have probably been ok.. But I was already in a good IT job.. Also, I myself was not sure how long I would do this.. friends and family said.. get back before it was too late…

KV: But I did realize that nothing ever happens over night.. It is going to take a while.. I quit around the end of 2004.. I joined the resort in 2005.. Till 2008 I was not earning much.. I was not sure of my future.. But if you want something very badly.. you should give your best.. Today my friends and family are v happy.. My parents are proud that their son is doing different.. But it did take a while..

Black Buck

Me: Didnt you ever feel like giving up in this whole process?
KV: Probably not.. It really kept me going.. If I really liked something, I give it my best shot… I liked computer.. and I learnt it really well.. and became good at it..

What most people not ready to give is time.. they try it for two or three months.. it could take a few years.. you need to stick to it… you need to the stay through the course..

Spider and Spores

e.g. In wild life photography.. I spent more than 3 years.. to do what I wanted to do.. I was hoping I could do it earlier.. but eventually.. When I meet my peers.. they have given 5-10 years.. it takes time and effort.. people need to invest the time.. Also, It is a not wasted time.. u r larnoing..

Me: Can you share some of your best 4-5 pictures.. And describe why you think you like them the most..

1. Borneo Canopy : Rainforests are my fav and I just love spending time and photographing them. But in Borneo, for the first time, I got a chance to be at the canopy and photograph from the top. The feeling of being on the top is really amazing and something that I can never forget. the trees are HUGE and you feel like a lilliputian in the borneo forests. The platform that you see in the photo is itself 50m from the ground and the trees that you see is the 1st layer of canopy.

2 Argus Pheasant : This is the bird that calls all morning in the borneo forests. Its a very loud call which keeps resonating all over. As we set out to find it, we kept on hearing the sound and it got closer and closer. I had not seen the bird before and only had seen a illustration. I did not bother checking the size and somehow assumed it will be a small jungle fowl kind of bird. When we got close, I was scanning on the ground and only found the feet. I actually had to look up to find this amazing large bird with a beautiful display. It was not at all what I was expecting and is one of the biggest highlights for me.

3. Monkeys : One of the perks of spending a lot of time in a forest is that not only do you know get to know the individual animals, but they also get to know you. When I spend a year in Br hills, these bonnet macaques were always around near the camp. Over few months, I used to photograph them a lot and over time, they got used to me as well. To a point, they would even greet me and sit on me every morning. Its a very satisfying feeling to know that a wild animal recognises you and trusts you so well. This is the photo of all the young ones in the troop who used to play with me often.

4. Tiger in the Night : Even though I used to go to the forests very often, I had not seen a tiger. One night when I was working in BR hills, I was driving on the main road in my maruti 800 car and suddenly I saw this tiger on the road. I walked a bit off the road and kept on staring at us. All my hair was standing up and I could barely move. I was trying hard to photograph, but my hands were shaking too much. Imagine your very first tiger, you are seeing it all alone, in the night less than 2 meters from your car. I only had a 50mm lens and shot this in the night with high ISO with the car headlights lighting up the tiger.

5. Leopard : I was working in Anamalais when we got a call that a leopard was trapped in a cage setup to catch this potential conflict animal. We rushed there to find that there were tens and hundreds of people already there. They all had come to see the leopard and were getting close and some even poking it to get a good photo. I got there and wanted to photograph the whole thing as a journalist. Igot my zoom and was photographing the leopard through the bars and suddenly i was disconnected with all the people outside and seeing the eyes and face though the viewfinder, my heart just broke. Thats when I stopped shooting and decided to get involved in crowd management to keep them away from the leopard. As a photographer its a very tough choice.. shoot the subject in distress or do something about it .. and was glad I chose the latter.

Readers, stay tuned for part 3 of the interview. You can also check out the earlier interviews here.




  • King Vishy said:

    Interesting interview da.. waiting for the next..

    I often think about these kinda people – how do they get the courage/drive to take the plunge from something cushy to something shaky?!! Their passion is just amazing!! 🙂

  • Sundar Rajan G S said:

    Thanks Vishwa. Glad you enjoyed the interview.. It is indeed great that Kalyan took the plunge.. I am sure you & I carry the same passion and we can also take the plunge 🙂

  • Iniyaal said:

    Amazing journey! Thanks for the inspiring interview.

  • Sai Krishna said:

    Great guy!! truly inspirational entrepreneurship