"A great photograph is one that fully expresses what one feels, in the deepest sense, about what is being photographed." It goes well with Dr Thomas Rajan,48, a medical Doctor in U.S who bagged first prize of Sanctuary Asia’s 16th Sanctuary Wildlife Awards in Dec, 2015 in Mumbai for his stunning image titled ‘Jungle Blur’ chosen from 3,000 entries. Location of his shoot was Kabini, Karnataka and the camera he used was Nikon D4, Lens: Nikkor 600 mm. f/4, ISO 2500, Shutter speed: 1/30 sec., Aperture: f/4, Focal length: 600 mm.
Craft, passion, technical skills and equipment make a good photographer. But an element of luck can make a good photographer great. Luck for Thomos Rajan was at the right place at the right time when he could click and be awarded . He had to wait for almost three hours ." We almost gave up all hope of the leopard climbing down the tree. Finally the leopard ran down the tree, and I was able to capture the image", he said.
Most of his trips are for 7 to 10 days in the jungle and, some trips he is lucky to spot an animal or bird in the right settings but on several he had to return empty handed. "Trips in India are mostly guided safari with a driver and a naturalist occasionally do some hiking for bird photography with local support. My photography trips in north America are mostly done by hiking and sometimes canoeing on the river. There is an element of risk but we do take standard precautions that the locals advice us and avoid being foolish on the field for a great shot, he explains.
Dr Rajan has won several photography awards in Maine, U.S.A. "I have submitted my pictures to both the Maine Camera Club, which conducts annual as well as quarterly competitions, and to the Bangor State Fair, which conducts an annual competition." The first time he submitted three pictures to a Maine Camera Club contest, and won first, second, and third place as the judges did not know that all three submissions were mine. In the Bangor State Fair, he has received the “Best in Show” award for my “Yawn of the Tiger” picture.
Passion for photography for him was from early childhood. However, he developed his interest in photography while travelling with his brothers Mohan Thomas and Thomas Vijayan , who too are well known wild life photographers in India and gradually trained and helped him polish and techniques. In fact photography runs in his vein " my father late M T Thomas was a priest and a farmer ,always carried a camera with him and took candid pictures. "I first started taking pictures at the age of six or seven using my father's Yashica-A camera, which is now considered to be vintage."
Dr Rajan took his early education in Banglore and graduated from Mysore university in 1991. He then went on to train in prestigious universities in the U.S including Harvard and Tufts universities in (1996-2003). He has 5 specialty board certifications from the U.S in medical field. He practices as pulmonary, critical care and sleep specialist in USA of Maine since 2004 .
He has challenged to manage time between his passion and profession " I have been known as the hardest working physician in the hospital. I tend to work two to three weeks at a stretch without a break. Then I put all my time for breaks together. There are times that I would work 21 days in a stretch to take off days to spend in the jungle in India" In 2005 he made nearly eight trips to India to peruse his hobby and passion.
The first wild life shoot by him was in Ranthambore, India. During this shoot, a tiger jumped out on the road and started walking straight to his jeep." In my excitement to get the picture, I grabbed my 20 pound beanbag with my little finger consequently breaking and dislocating my little finger. In sheer agony and pain, I asked my naturalist to pull on my finger in order to reduce the fracture. After he did this, I went on to click more pictures of the tiger as it walked towards our jeep. I had to wear a splint on my finger for two months, but I'm proud to say I was able to capture a beautiful picture," he experienced .
" I travel to India and Africa often. Sometimes the weather is extremely hot, especially in northern India. On a full day safari, we get into the jungle at as early as 5:30 in the morning and we are in the jungle for 12-14 hours. I have had instances of food poisoning, extreme dehydration, and heat stroke. There was one instance recently where our vehicle had a flat tire right in front of two lions. One of us had to stand guard so that the driver could quickly change the flat tire. There was no other way out of this situation., Dr Ranjan shared the hardships faced during shooting.
But for Dr Rajan medical profession is on his top priority than his passion for photography. He said "I am a doctor first. I am a dedicated physician. I have an accountability to my profession and to my patients. They come first before my hobby. Working as a medical doctor in the ICU is quite stressful as there is a lot of pain and suffering that I encounter. Wildlife photography has been a healthy outlet for any stress I build up. After my trips in the jungle, although I am tired, I come back with a fresh mind after being in the nature and I am ready to take care of patients again." But his future plan is to continually strive to achieve a good balance between being a great doctor who heals those in need and being an avid wildlife photographer who hopes to bring joy to others through his pictures.
Image (c) Thomas Rajan