We at Pixception are absolutely elated, and proud to be able to talk to Jayaprakash Bojan, National Geographic Nature Photographer of the year 2017. Read on, for the exclusive story about capturing the stunning image, and his passion for nature & conservation.
Q. So you won this fantastic award, congratulations. Let’s go back to the start when you actually took the photo. How did this photo opportunity come about?
As part of my book project on endangered primates across South East Asia, I was in Borneo, Kalimantan, Indonesia. Over the course of a week, I'd photographed a few orang-utans in the wild, proboscis monkeys and silver langurs travelling on a houseboat on the Sekoyner river. 2 days before I had to return one of the local rangers told me that he'd seen a huge male orang-utan occasionally cross the river about 40 miles further. As soon as I heard this I knew I had to see this rare, natural history moment. With the help of the local rangers we go to the location overnight and were hoping to see the orang-utan early that morning. It ended up taking him 2 days to show up and what unfolded is there in my pictures.
Q. And how did you feel when you saw the orangutan? Were you aware at the time how spectacular this scene actually was?
As a nature photographer, I was spell bound and in awe when I saw what unfolded in front of me. We'd waited 2 days at the location for the orang-utan to show up and I knew for a fact that it was going to be spectacular.
Q. How do you feel now when you look at that photo?
Just yesterday I printed some large size pictures of this image for friends and family and every time I see Cooper, it's hard to take my eyes off his eyes.
Q. How safe was it actually being in the water like that? Were you warned about any hazards or dangerous animals?
It was not the safest of waters to be in considering there were known to be crocodiles at times. And for viewers, this was done under local supervision of rangers and after a lot of planning.
Q. So that was the winning shot, but how many shots of the orangutan did you actually have to take in total? Any idea?
I captured the entire scene with 30-35 frames of Cooper crossing the river.
Q. On winning, you said that you were happy that this photo won – and also that the orangutan deserves the prize more than you. What did you mean by that?
Originally 2 of my pictures were picked as Editor's Favourites, the other one a cheetah image from Masai Mara. I felt I had a chance that one of the images would make it to the finals. National Geographic is a huge platform and I was excited for the orang-utan image because I know it would get a lot of visibility and more and more people would be able to appreciate this beautiful species that needs help. Clearing of their habitats for palm oil farming, poaching and pet trade has pushed these primates to the edge. The picture got more than 2 million likes on the NatGeo insta page and I'm hoping the picture would have touched many people's hearts.
Q. You’re a self-taught photographer. How on earth do you teach yourself something like that and what advice would you give to others hoping to do the same?
It's not difficult to learn the fundamentals of photography but there are things like composition, framing, presence of mind, staying calm, anticipation, understanding animal behaviour are things that come only with spending a lot of time on the field through observation and practice. Every day in the field is a learning for me and there is so much more to learn. For people who want to follow this field of art, invest time, read, research, observe and the rest will come.
(Q. Anything else you feel is worth mentioning?...)
For all nature lovers, I would like to say there are several ways to contribute to save forests, rivers, habitats and several species from extinction. Find your way and do your bit.