• Wednesday, 28 September 2022

Photographing Elephants

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Vidheha Ranjan

This is such an exciting year for me. Elephants are one of my favorite animals. When I was a child, when going on walks, elephants would pass me by across the street. I loved seeing them at the zoo and as they walked past on the street with many green leaves and branches on their backs. I always wanted to know them better and help them.

I have been taking photographs since the age of one. First, I used the Nikon DW100 rugged camera, then the Nikon P500. I also used tablets and phones. I exhibited some photographs when I was three years old at the Nepal Art Council where I had my first solo exhibition “Early Creations” and, again, when I was 5 at the Patan Museum and the Nepal Tourism Board exhibition area where I had a solo exhibition, “I Love My Life.”

Bas Stoffelsen who is a family friend and has triplets the same age as me is from the Netherlands. He had been looking at my photos since I was a child. For my eighth birthday, Bas sent me a special gift! A Canon DSLR 1200D camera with a 55 mm kit lens and a 10 mm fisheye lens. 

I learned to use the camera with Pritish uncle and Baba and Bas watched how I did with photography. He then thanked me for working so hard and well with my photography lessons and bought me a 70-300 mm lens and upgraded the 1200D to a Canon 800D!

A month ago, I was so happy to learn that StandUp4Elephants and Spiny Babbler were cooperating together and I was selected to help the elephants that I have loved since I was a child by publishing a book of photos on them and doing a photo exhibition to raise awareness on elephants, how they are domesticated, their needs, and safety. I was shocked to learn from Sweta (my wonderful teacher), Floraine, and Michael that some elephants in Nepal work up to 14 hours carrying loads of up to 900 kilograms! Their feet are hurt, they do not get enough food, and they have very little rest.

So I went with my family to Chitwan to see Eva and Lhamo, two elephants who have been rescued from very dangerous conditions by SU4E (Stand Up For Elephants). The first day was a bit scary as Eva and Lhamo had been abused and they were afraid and angry to see me and my sisters so we had to stay far away from them. I felt very sad. The next day they were more comfortable as Anita didi, Shila didi, my three year old sister Zoya helped Sweta ma’am, Carl, Floraine, Michael and many others there doing small things like carrying leaves. Eva and Lhamo felt a lot happier now that they were more familiar with us. I was able to take lots of photos and I really learned so much. I want to thank Carl for his help, especially.

I hope to make a difference to the lives of elephants by increasing awareness related to them, through my book of photos and my photo exhibition. I believe that my photographs and the conversation resulting from such sharing before the public will allow me to contribute to their lives and encourage others to understand elephants better. For me, this work will be very different from volunteering for the Patan Kumari and making music and sharing time at the Patan Hospice with people at the end of their lives. I believe it is so important to give back to our community what we can. I want to thank you for looking at these photos and reading this article and thinking perhaps it will be better to go on an elephant friendly safari next time you are in the jungles.

(Vidheha studies at Spiny Babbler Evolution)

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