Wild, wild world: Fresh water conservation, wildlife photography and films to shine at Nature and Wildlife Festival

If you love wildlife photography and eco-travel, don’t miss the Nature and Wildlife festival, organised by Nature InFocus, that will be held this weekend. Here is a curtain raiser on this annual event

The sixth edition of the Nature and Wildlife Festival will be held in Bengaluru this weekend, organised by Nature inFocus, a renowned nature and wildlife conservation portal. Nature inFocus carries articles about wildlife, conservation, eco-travel, communities, nature art, field notes, photography tips, research and much more. It also hosts a nature and wildlife photography festival in Bangalore every year.

YS Weekender caught up with Rohit Varma, founder of Nature InFocus for a curtain raiser on the festival...

Rohit Varma and Kalyan Varma are the founders of Nature inFocus

Edited excerpts from the interview:

YS Weekender: Can you tell us about Sixth Edition of Asia's Premier Nature and Wildlife Festival to be held in Bengaluru?

Rohit Varma: Nature and wildlife enthusiasts from across the country will be participating in the sixth edition of the Nature inFocus Festival. This is Asia's premier nature and wildlife festival and will be held on August 2, 3 and 4 in Chamara Vajra in Palace Grounds, Bengaluru.

YSW: What is Nature inFocus?

Wildlife photography is an art and a science

RV: Nature inFocus is a wildlife and nature conservation portal that organises the festival every year. It was founded by Kalyan Varma and myself. We are both wildlife photographers and we launched the portal when we realised that there are no offline activities for the vast nature and wildlife community in the whole of Asia.

We created a festival where photographers could showcase their work, stay informed on global happenings, meet fellow photographers, and discuss important topics. The first edition of the Nature inFocus Festival was launched on March 2014.

 What are the highlights of the festival this year?

This year, there is a stellar line-up of speakers, the NiF Photography & Film Awards announcements, a 120-image photography exhibition and some exclusive film screenings. Having received 9,800 images across six categories, the NiF Photography Awards contest is all set for a grand finale at the festival and the NiF Film Awards.

The spotlight will, be on the ‘NiF Photographer of the Year,’ and the winner will be chosen for taking the most striking image that puts nature in focus. At the exclusive film showcase, filmmakers will present their films and talk about them.

What is the aim of the festival every year?

The best wildlife photographs are given special awards

The Nature inFocus Festival brings together like-minded people who hold a shared love for our natural world; conservationists, scientists, photographers, filmmakers and enthusiasts. By awarding the best work, sparking conversations, building awareness and inspiring the community at large, NiF is constantly striving towards putting nature back in focus.

Who are the participants?

An excellent photograph speaks more than a thousand words

Wildlife photographers, filmmakers, researchers, conservationists, biologists, students and nature lovers attend the festival every year.

Who are the eminent people attending this year?

The sixth edition of the three-day festival will see the presence of some powerful speakers from across the globe such as environmental historian, Mahesh Rangarajan, wildlife filmmaker, Jonathan Clay, wildlife conservationist, Vivek Menon, scientist, Aparajita Datta, wildlife biologist, Ravi Chellam, wildlife photographer, Dhritiman Mukherjee, ecologist, Harini Nagendra, wildlife conservationist, Anish Andheria and wildlife filmmaker Joanna Van Gruisen among others.

There will be a panel discussion on fresh water conservation, related issues and potential solutions.

Can you tell us about the photography contest? What are they looking for in a winner?

The photography contest will include pictures on animal behaviour and portraits

The NiF Photography Awards is designed to churn out results on one platform and display the various faces of nature and wildlife. Therefore, the winners will be chosen from each of the five categories namely, Animal Portraits, Animal Behaviour, Wildscape and Animals in Habitat, Conservation Issues and Creative Nature Photography. There will also be a 'Young Photographer Award' which will be awarded to young contestants (17 years and under).

The winners this year will be chosen by a jury comprising wildlife filmmaker and photojournalist Sandesh Kadur, environmental photographer Arati Kumar Rao, renowned wildlife photographer Sudhir Shivaram, chief conservator of forests Vijay Mohan Raj and documentary filmmaker Jyothy Karat.

What are the criteria for the film awards?

The NiF Film Awards has entries from both professional and emerging filmmakers. Both professional and emerging talent categories have two sub-categories in Natural History and Conservation. Participants in the emerging talent category can tell a story of an animal, plant or habitat in under five minutes in the Natural History segment or can highlight a conservation issue in under five minutes in the Conservation segment.

The Emerging Talent category is only open to Indian participants. In the Professional category, the films can be of any length and can be submitted from anywhere in the world. The winners this year will be chosen by a 7-member jury.

What is the contest for 'Mobile moments' about?

The Mobile Moments category is open to all. We are looking for an edited or unedited video clip shot on a mobile phone that captures an incredible moment of animal behaviour.

Does each year have a theme? How is it chosen?

The primary focus of the festival is to build awareness about nature and wildlife, to make people fall in love with nature and to help them take important steps towards conserving what we have.  We don’t have a specific theme for each year. We look at it in a holistic manner and try to touch on every aspect of nature and wildlife; be it photography, filmmaking, conservation or research.

Every year, we bring relevant and important issues to the table and aim to drive conversation and action for these issues.

 Who are some of the celebrities associated with the event?

All speakers at the Festival are celebrities in their own right. They are people who have been working in their respective fields for years together, and are absolute experts at what they do. Having said that, we have celebrated artists like the Grammy Award-winning Ricky Kej who is an environmentalist and has composed music for wildlife documentaries like ‘Wild Karnataka’. Mahesh Rangarajan is another familiar face who regularly makes appearances on national television, particularly during the election period.

What are your future plans for the Nature in Focus over next year and beyond?

We intend to take the festival global in the coming years, and having seen how we’ve grown over the last six years it shouldn’t be too long before that happens. We are also excited to launch the Nature inFocus Productions, where we will be focusing on building nature and wildlife video content.


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