In Tune With Nature

Agrodeep, Ganga riverside, early winter morning, West Bengal Photograph/Soumitra Datta

Agrodeep, Ganga riverside, early winter morning, West Bengal Photograph/Soumitra Datta

"A camera is a small magic box that freezes a slice of life."—Soumitra Datta

“A camera is a small magic box that freezes a slice of life.”—Soumitra Datta

Soumitra Datta’s love for nature propelled him to take up landscape photography. He shares his beliefs and insights with Digantika Mitra.

Travelling with family always provides the much-needed recreation and relaxation in our lives. With Soumitra Datta, however, it would decide the course of his life. During his childhood days, wherever he travelled with his parents, he would encounter the varied colours and ambience of fields, rivers, mountains and more—all of which left a long-lasting impression on him. This abiding interest in nature motivated him to draw spiritual strength, and persuaded him to take up landscape photography.

Finding the Best Way to Express

While in his teens, Soumitra developed a deep sense of creativity and tried to find the most suitable way to express it. So he took up painting and music. However, his urge to plunge into nature’s varied, colourful life and create something out of what he saw, pushed him towards photography. He soon began to develop a weakness for the camera which he describes as “the small magic box that freezes a slice of life”.

“ The more deeply you involve yourself with nature, the more clearly you will be able to visualise its inner beauty.”

Exploring Seasons

As a photographer, Soumitra never follows fixed guidelines. He even advises aspiring photographers to be their own judge and experience the spirit of nature through their hearts. “The more deeply you involve yourself with nature, the more clearly you will visualise its inner beauty,” he explains. “A grassland may appeal to you differently in different seasons. But only you can judge when to best captivate it.” Personally, he prefers to photograph in seasons when there is an interplay of clouds and light in the sky.

An autumn afternoon, Garhbeta, West Bengal. Photograph/Soumitra Datta

An autumn afternoon, Garhbeta, West Bengal. Photograph/Soumitra Datta

In Different Hues and Lights

An engineer by profession, Soumitra loves to discover the multi-coloured world of nature with a little help from the available light. For him, light is an interesting asset of photography. But what is more important is that one must experience the moment and understand the mood. “Light will assist to bring out the mood of a section of land”, Soumitra points out. “The soft dawn light can uplift the calmness of the atmosphere where there is hardly any loud colour visible.”

Through his eyes, a streak of light filtering through monsoon clouds and illuminating a small portion of a yellowgreen paddy field can tell a thousand stories. He prefers to explore the colours of nature in soft light situations and even in low light, when only a few colours can be seen. On the other hand, when there is a riot of colours, he prefers to focus on only one or two and look beyond what is apparently visible.

“ A grassland may appeal to you differently in different seasons. But only you can judge when to best captivate it.”

Nature as a Living Being

Soumitra’s unique style of approaching nature adds life to his photographs. He looks at nature as a living being—a vision that reflects well in his latest book of photographs titled Landscapes.Like poets William Wordsworth and Rabindranath Tagore, he looks at landscapes as not just well-lit structural forms, but also as a life that continuously changes. Just like how he can experience nature’s joy when it is treated with care and affection, he can also feel its pain when it faces cruelty and destruction. His concept of treating nature as a living being is so strong that he believes it can give us spiritual strength and rejuvenation when we need a break from our daily lives. The the rugged terrain, the lush green fields, the overcast monsoon skies, the foaming waters and wild flowers and leaves swaying in the breeze—all carry this essence of life in Soumitra’s photographs.

Diverging clouds, Hugli, West Bengal. Photograph/Soumitra Datta

Diverging clouds, Hugli, West Bengal. Photograph/Soumitra Datta

The Photographer’s Philosophy

According to Soumitra, connecting with nature is very important and so is being patient. “A single beam of light falling on a floating leaf at one corner of the space shared in the frame can change your whole perspective of vision and understanding. The straight descriptive earthscape becomes impressionistic with the sudden, transient light and atmosphere, which is so momentary!” Thus, this photographer shoots landscapes with the mind of a philosopher, heart of a poet and hand of an artist.

Optimistic About Technology This photographer accepts modern digital cameras with zest. He believes that the digital camera has opened newer avenues. “You could be sure of what exactly you are capturing even in very poor lighting conditions”, he explains. “With the advancement of digital systems, images are technically richer while colours are more accurate with a lot more depth.”

Towards Preservation

Soumitra has felt a growing need to preserve nature for our own existence by maintaining ecological balance. Through his work, he aims to create awareness about the need to preserve our pristine landscapes. He further desires that others can utilise his images and advocate the same feeling about nature’s conservation. He understands that photographs cannot turn the world around instantly; but they can surely stir people’s minds and bring about the beginning of change for the better.

“ A grassland may appeal to you differently in different seasons. But only you can judge when to best captivate it.”

Bringing India to the Fore

Soumitra concentrates on capturing India’s varied landscapes alone rather than that of other countries. This is because he wishes to reveal the country’s natural beauty to the rest of the world. From his many trips around India, he finds North Sikkim, parts of Assam and the coastline of southwest India very intriguing in terms of landscape photography. He also has a soft spot for his native state Bengal, where he finds the landscapes “soft and romantic”.

Lamenting Lack of Expertise

As a photographer and nature-lover, Soumitra has mostly taken nature and landscape as his themes. However, he laments on the lack of expertise and dedication by professionals in this field. He believes that a lot more work could be done. The possibilities in landscape and nature photography are enormous, but very few serious photographers are opting for this genre of photography. Soumitra believes that, “A landscape is not a place, but an event. The moving sky overhead, the changing light, the different shades of earth and the changing atmosphere merges into a place and then, disappears.” The fact that his photographs carry the essence of life, are rich in poetry and impressionistic in composition makes him stand out in the crowd of nature photographers. By browsing through his photographs and understanding his deep association with nature, one enters a zone of freedom and solitude that is rare but refreshing.

Morning light, Jonha Falls, Jharkhand. Photograph/Soumitra Datta

Morning light, Jonha Falls, Jharkhand. Photograph/Soumitra Datta

Tips By Soumitra

• As a landscape photographer, you must be patient, hardworking and have a mental setup for working in complete solitude.

• It is more important to have a good camera than good-quality lenses. A sturdy tripod is also a must.

About Soumitra

He is an engineer by profession and a zealous nature photographer. H e has published many books and also has many exhibitions to his credit. He was a joint course co-ordinator and fellow teacher of a photography course under the aegis of ACEEC of Jadavpur University, Kolkata.

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