Nimit Virdi: Walking with Tigers

Having found himself face-to-face with a wild tigress, photographer Nimit Virdi has certainly had his fair share of experiences with the wild. Born and raised in India's rich Nilgiris biosphere, he has always been surrounded by wildlife and has an affinity for attracting special encounters in nature. Throughout his life, photography has been his tool for capturing those unforgettable moments. His current work as a safari consultant is an extension of his passion for wildlife, allowing him to share his knowledge and experience with others. The story behind "Tiger Tiger Burning Bright," a photo he has donated to Photography for Future, is a snapshot of such a moment. From walking with tigresses to caring more for our natural world, he shares some of his thoughts and stories here.

Where did your curiosity and passion for wildlife photography begin?

Being born and brought up in the Nilgiris biosphere, we were always surrounded by wildlife. My grandfather was also avid to wildlife and used to photograph and videotape wildlife across Tanzania. So I used to keep seeing his pictures, especially in the film sliders. From a kid, I used to use the old Kodiak film cameras to just capture anything and everything -- and when you combine a camera and umpteen amount of wildlife, well that's how my beginnings were.

The story behind your photo in our gallery "Tiger Tiger Burning Bright" is an incredible snapshot. Can you share with us one of your most memorable moments photographing?

Speaking of coincidences, my image "Tiger Tiger Burning Bright" was photographed in Bandhavgarh Tiger Reserve in central India, and when you sent me this email I was leading a tour at that very same park. I just landed last night and I did get a similar sighting of another tigress with somewhat of a similar moment. There are a lot of memorable moments and one could say this trip, in particular, could also be termed as such, as we had seen a tiger charge and also had gotten charged by one as well. It was a mock charge luckily :)
Spending time doing what I love is the time I cherish the most, and time really flies. To date, I remember each and every photograph I clicked, where I can relive that moment and narrate what went on. But to point out to one such moment, I would say coming literally face-to-face with a wild tigress with only my 600mm lens separating us. I was on a full-day safari at a tiger reserve and as soon as we entered, we found the queen of the jungle walking on the safari track. We somehow managed to get in front of her and she kept following us. We would drive ahead, stop to take photos and as she came in close, drive ahead again and repeat the process. Being the only Jeep made it all happen. On one such run, I lost focus of the tiger and could not get it in focus due to looking only through the viewfinder. All I could see was a blurry orange with black stripes. When I looked up, she was just standing right at the edge of the lens looking back at me. My driver slowly drove ahead and after some distance, I could breathe easy. Boy was that close, I still remember the stench of her breath. We did go on photographing her for another 30 mins before she vanished into the forest.

What does photography mean to you?

Capturing memories, stories of all my wild experiences, which I can live out in memory time and again. Photography, especially wildlife photography, is a hardcore passion first and a source of income second.

What does your role as a safari consultant entail? Has this helped you recognize the importance of nature conservation work?

My love for wildlife photography is what drove me to be a safari consultant. I love to share my love and what I see with the people around me, as well as with my clients turned friends. It means more time for me to share mother nature's bounty with the world, especially in these times where wildlife is really suffering due to human encroachment into their already meager ecosystem.
Yes, it has helped me recognize the importance of nature conservation, as I can see the changes of over a decade of how wildlife is being affected. Mother nature has a balance, it's something like our human bodies: when something is out to cause havoc within the system we have our antibodies fighting them to balance it out. The same can be said for mother nature as we are a part of her.

Do you have any tips for people curious about embarking on a safari for the first time?

Do your research before you go on that particular safari trip, or use the services of like-minded people to show you what it's all about. Just take the plunge and trust me; if done right, it's like an addiction (in a good and healthy way) that won't go away. Remember that cheapest is not always the best. It can also be a nightmare as cutting corners will get one into a lot of trouble, and they might end up paying more anyway. Quality comes at a price, especially for services as there is a lot of things being taken care of for one's trip that paves the way for a smooth and trouble-free experience.

Why did you want to get involved with Photography for Future?

I was approached for my images and my support for the cause with what little I could offer.
Let's protect and live together with all life as we all need this planet and each other to survive and live through this journey called life. No materialistic thing will give us inner peace and satisfaction. We come into this life with nothing, we grow and accumulate so much experience, knowledge, and yes -- the materialistic gains as well -- but at the end of the day, when our time comes we leave everything behind, even our bodies, for the earth to consume. Let's leave it as green as when we came.

We thank Nimit for his contribution to our project and you, reader, for taking the time to read this! Nimit's photograph below is for sale in our gallery and 100% of the profits go directly to reforesting wildlife habitats. Click here to view and purchase the photograph.

"Tiger Tiger Burning Bright"

You can find more of Nimit's work on Instagram @nimitvirdi or Facebook at Nimit Virdi Pics.

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