What makes for an award-winning photo? For starters, it takes intuition to capture a sighting that’s never seen before. Such was the case of the thought-provoking photo that won Jayaprakash Joghee Bojan National Geographic’s Nature Photographer of the Year. Bonjan is an Indian-born photographer who now lives in Singapore. He started taking pictures as a hobby and after 18 years in the corporate world, he realised photography was his true calling and began taking the subject seriously. This is when he started travelling more often, capturing glorious nature on his Canon 5D Mark IV camera. One such travel assignment took him to Kalimantan, Indonesia, which is where he spotted an orangutan in the most unlikely situation. Continuing his story, he spoke to us about how he went on to capture the picture that won him this prestigious award in December 2017.

How did you stumble upon the orangutan?

While talking to a group of local rangers who guard the forest, I got to know about a huge male orangutan who crossed the river occasionally. So I went along with them overnight in a boat and waited there for 48 hours before the orangutan finally showed up at the river.

Can you describe the moment you took the winning shot.

Since I knew what I wanted to capture, I was prepared. But to get that perfect shot, I had to go in deep, literally. We had to keep the boat at a distance so that we didn’t scare the orangutan. But to get my shot, I started walking closer and got into the 5ft deep river until I was at a good distance. I hid behind a tree to capture this interesting image that seemed to me a rare sight of the natural world. Before I took the shot, I was a little worried as there could have been predators in the water. There were a lot of roots and slime underwater, which made it slipper and dangerous. I had to be extremely careful about my own safety in that situation, which made me wonder what an orangutan was doing in such a dangerous place - in a river where there were crocodiles. It seemed against the nature of this species. And that’s when I realised that I was witnessing something so rare and unnatural. While all this sounds adventurous, I do not recommend such risks. I want people to know that I accomplished such a feat with the help of the local team who knew the place very well.
Jayaprakash Joghee Bojan

"I knew I had captured a rare moment on camera"

What camera and lens were you using while taking the shot?

I used a Canon 5D Mark IV and a Canon100-400IS2 lens for this image. It was a hand-held shot.

What made you submit this particular picture for the National Geographic Nature Photographer of the Year contest?

I knew this was a special picture and it was not something many people have witnessed before. Typically, the judges look for pictures that have a story to tell, and the orangutan’s unusual behaviour and wary expression made for a curious case. Also Read: Into the Wild: With Wildlife Photographer Sudhir Shivaram

Why do you think this picture won?

This was a rare moment captured on camera, it had a story. There was eye contact with the orangutan and overall it was a very emotional and moving picture when I looked at it. Maybe it was powerful enough for the judges to see what I saw in it too.

What advice would you give to budding nature photographers?

To start off, one must have good knowledge about photography, then it’s all about keen observation, understanding animal behaviour, the ability to compose on the go, presence of mind and being calm in tricky situations. These are some of the key aspects to making good pictures. Remember, it’s not always about the camera. Owning the best cameras does not give you award-winning images. There are a lot of high-regarded photos taken on basic DSLRs. Its more to do with one’s ability and skills as a photographer. I am happy with what I have achieved with my Canon5D Mark IV, Canon 600 F4 IS, Canon 100-400 IS2 and a few wide-angle lenses. Cover Image and Image via Jayaprakash Joghee Bojan

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