For some, photography begins as a childhood dream, for some others it occurs like a revelation whilst stuck in an engineer’s job; Pankaj Anand has a slightly different story to tell. To him photography came out of the curiosity of what it might be to stand atop a hill and photograph the blue skies. The question before him was though, how does this pay the bills?
Anand, one of India’s best known travel photographers, switched over from BSc after junior college, and trusting his artistic senses, took up BFA in Applied Arts. There he chose photography as his major and since then, it’s been a high road to success. To him, his career is a thought-out scheme, a passion but also an acquired skill, as he calls it. Today you can see Anand’s work in Condé Nast Traveller, Inside Outside, Vogue India etc. However, between cover shoots and commercial work, he has always had a special place for travel.
Talking about his traveling life, Pankaj says, “I was never one to settle in one place. Once I moved out, I was always moving. From one city to another, I was living out of Stuckbucks.” This he claims gave him the opportunity to see new places, work with different people and shoot things he didn’t imagine he would.
But that’s not all. The best part about being a professional photographer he says is the exposure. “I wish I could be more modest about this, but the exposure I get being a photographer makes me stand out. Work has taken me places and taught me so much about the world. I’ve had some great opportunities to shoot powerful personalities, such as London’s ex-mayor, Boris Johnson. I’ve done a feature on the King and Prince of Mahmudabad. I’ve even had a chance to visit the ISRO headquarters and take pictures of their top boss as well as prominent scientists from the Mars mission. I’ve sat across air force commanders as a 25-year old, discussing the logistics of aerial shoots. How many people could say they’ve had such opportunities in life?” he quips.
Of course, life is a balance of good and the not so good things too, so, when asked about the other side, he jovially told us about some very unfortunate situations he’s gotten into, all in the name of a good picture. To list out a few, he’s been stuck in a boat amidst volcanic currents. He’s almost fallen off the edge of a waterfall. He’s had a rappelling accident. Nevertheless, he’s lived to tell the tale and he’s got a trophy picture to go with it.
Continuing our conversation with this chatty photographer, we asked him some questions about his work and here’s what he had to say.
Tell us about your favourite travel shoot.
It’s never easy to pick a favourite picture. (After some convincing…)
I guess I would have to talk about the first time is saw the bluest and cleanest beaches in my life. This was a Condé Nast Traveller assignment that took me to Andaman. I was sitting by the window, gazing at the clouds and suddenly as we descended, the cloud cover began to push aside like a grand curtain revealing this heavenly view. My first thought was how beautiful is our country! This natural landscape looked so serene, untouched and beautiful from the top. It was an exotic location just like Hawaii or the Bahamas.
The whole scenery around me was like an infinite canvas of utmost beauty.
What equipment did you use to take this photograph?
I like using a Canon camera for travel photography. This image has been shot on a hand-held Canon 5DSR. I’ve used a Canon 24-70mm lens along with it.
One piece of equipment you cannot work without?
My iPhone 7 Plus, I can’t work without it. I make notes on it, I shoot a lot on my phone for recce purposes and do lots of referencing work on it too. In fact, I am an enthusiast of the new genre of Phone Photography. I have shot professional shoots on an iPhone, and recently did a full page shot for a magazine.
One piece of equipment you want to buy right now?
If I could have, then I would definitely want a portable Hasselblad camera. This camera is a combination of power and great configuration in a compact size. It has a good colour scheme and print value and can be used in professional shoots. It’s a very powerful machine.
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Share 1 tip for those just starting out in this profession.
Do not lose patience. We live in the internet age, where we thrive on instant gratification. You may get the “likes” but it takes more to get the job. Social media pages don’t make professionals. If you want to get into it for the long term you need to have patience and need to be a good learner. You have to be a student for life, learning everything that comes your way. Sometimes people get comfortable in one zone and then miss out on so much more. The key is to be versatile, keep up with trends and be ready for change.
To get that perfect travel photograph, you can browse through the photography equipment below.
Cover image by Pankaj Anand; image by Pankaj Anand for Condé Nast Traveler