Featured Filmmaker: Sabyasachi Patra

SabyasachiWhat is your name and where are you based?

Sabyasachi Patra. Based in India.

What kind of films do you make? How would you describe what you do?

I am a conservationist at heart and wildlife filmmaker to help realise my dreams of preserving India’s fast vanishing wilderness and wildlife. I am creating Wildlife films to document the conservation challenges, raise awareness among the masses as well as the influential segments of the society and catalyse action.

I am primarily using the small form factor of the DLSR cameras – Canon EOS 1D Mark IV – and plan to use Canon’s new Cine camera C300 when it is available.

Who or what inspires you in your photography and why cover nature and conservation issues?

I have been a wildlife photographer for more than 19 years. At an impressionable age, love for nature and photography was imprinted in my minds due to my father Dr. Kirtan Chandra Patra, who was a professor of zoology. Later I became inspired by the legendary biologist George B Schaller.

I have been fascinated by the beauty, aura and the intelligence of the tiger and have been photographing tigers in various sanctuaries and protected areas. However, I could see that our pristine wilderness areas are vanishing at a rapid rate often due to ill planned large infrastructural projects like dams, canals, mines, roads, power projects in wetlands etc. And to add to the misery, the nexus between real estate mafia, politicians and corrupt officials is gobbling up land to cater to the needs and greeds of an exploding population thereby ensuring that our wilderness areas are cut-off from each other and the migratory corridors are lost. Amidst this unprecedented assault on India’s wilderness areas, the few conservation efforts have been reduced into tiger-centric projects and the attention on other lesser known but equally important species is lost. So I have decided to write a monthly newsletter which is electronically distributed to about 10000 people to raise awareness. I have also founded an online Conservation and Wildlife Photography forum (www.indiawilds.com/forums ) for bringing together like minded people. I am started creating wildlife films to tap the power of films as a medium in influencing people and helping in preserving our bio-diversity.

What has been your biggest challenge filming in the field?

Permissions to shoot and film is either restricted and difficult to get in many places or is prohibitively costly. Carrying all my filming and sound recording equipment in difficult terrain and ready to setup in a moment’s notice is another challenge.

Has technology hindered or enhanced your photography?

The march of technology is a great boon. When I was using my still photography camera Canon EOS 1V HS to shoot 10fps, I was always cautious not to burn up all my slide rolls in a few minutes. If the tiger moves onto the shade in a clump of bamboo, the light level falls and being on elephant back, one was forced to remove the ISO 50 Velvia roll and use a ISO 200 roll. These days one can safely use much higher ISOs. In an exceptional case earlier this year, I filmed two gaurs (Bos gaurus) jostling with each other before dawn using ISO 12800 at f2.8 with my Canon EOS 400mm f2.8 L IS USM lens and Canon EOS 1D Mark IV camera.

Today Full HD capability is packed into a small box. Wildlife filming and photography was never this good as we have it today. Wish I had this kind of technology available to me a decade back.

What is your favourite place in nature?

There are many favourite places where I had some memorable experiences. In Corbett National Park, my ego of knowing tiger behaviour got crushed and since then I don’t call myself an expert. I visit Bandhavgarh Tiger Reserve every year and have many fond memories like tiger catching a pangolin, tiger mating etc. And there are many places in the Western Ghats especially the sholas.

From your field experience, what is your biggest concern when it comes to the environment?

We are rapidly losing vast stretches of wilderness areas. Together with the explosive population growth, ill planned large infrastructural projects like dams, mines, canals, power projects etc our wilderness areas are losing contiguity and are cut-off from each other along with attendant problems. There is the evidence of human hand through pollution everywhere, even in once pristine locations. Apart from the losing the feel and character of the wilderness areas, there is a high likelihood of losing some species of flora and fauna even before they could be discovered.

How do you think the media industry should be addressing environment and conservation issues? And if you could give one message to the world’s leaders on climate change, what would it be?

The media is primarily trying to be sensationalise the story in their effort to grab eyeballs. There is a mad rush to be the first to report a story. The media needs to be educated that it is not important to create a “breaking news” as far as wildlife stories are concerned. Rather, it is important to write the correct facts which needs more research and interviews with experts.

One Planet, One Goal!

If we continue with our present profligate ways of living, then this planet is insufficient for us. Climate change is a reality and is too important to be held hostage to economic compulsions and/or ambitions of a few nations. The world leaders need to display statesmanship and work hand-in-hand with smaller countries.

What are you working on at the moment?

I am documenting the bio-diversity rich western ghats along with its endangered and endemic species. The film on Lion-tailed Macaques is completed. I have nearly completed documenting the endangered species Grizzled Giant Squirrels and it would soon go into the post-production stage.

The research and preliminary filming on Asiatic elephants is over and it would get into production stage.

What advice to do have to someone wanting to break into the industry?

I have been getting lot of requests from people to assist me, as they think wildlife filming is a glamorous career. If you want to be a wildlife filmmaker, then you need to be patient and be prepared for the long haul.

Do not lose sleep that you don’t have the latest and the greatest film camera. Find out the subject which interests you the most and then go and tell your story. After all filmmaking is another story telling medium. Of course, you have to get your basics right. Do your research, so that filming time is shorter.

What would you like to remembered for?

In Conservation, no victory is permanent. Nevertheless, I want to be remembered as someone who was always willing to walk the lonely path, trying to motivate others on his way to harness the collective power of “WE” to save our last tracts of wilderness areas and wildlife.


Preview of “A Call in the Rainforest” – http://www.indiawilds.com/diary/inspiration-for-the-film-a-call-in-the-rainforest/ 
IndiaWilds Forums: www.indiawilds.com/forums
Blog: http://www.indiawilds.com/diary/ 
Equipment Reviews: http://www.indiawilds.com/diary/category/equipment/

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