Wildlife and shooting – one would’ve thought these two things could never co-exist. After all, the invention of the gun has been the biggest challenge to wildlife conservation over the last few centuries.
But then again, who said a shooter could only shoot with a gun?
Gagan Narang has come out with a limited edition calendar called ‘Kanha Untamed’, which utilises photographs shot by the rifle ace himself in Madhya Pradesh’s Kanha National Park. Only 500 copies are up for grabs.
The London Olympics bronze medallist in 10m air rifle tweeted his elation at the release of the calendar, and stressed upon the important role shooters can play in conservation efforts.
— GAGAN NARANG (@gaGunNarang) December 25, 2015
He also dedicated the calendar to the unheralded heroes behind the conservation efforts. “First page of the limited edition Kanha Untamed Calendar dedicated to the workers and staff of Kanha Tiger Reserve,” he tweeted.
Point and shoot
Narang’s love affair with the camera is well-documented. It all started in 2004, thanks to his coach, Stanislav Lapidus.
“Coach Stanislav, a hardcore shutterbug, had infected me with the bug before leaving in that year,” the Hyderabadi had told indianshooting.com a few years ago. (http://www.indianshooting.com/gcolumn/gagan-shoots-with-a-camera-too/)
Since then, photography has grown from a hobby to a passion. In fact, Narang himself states that it helps him relax and unwind when he gets away from his rifle after long sessions at the shooting range.
“In the quiet moments when I am with myself, images of the last 15 years play back in my mind. I realize how lucky I have been to do the things I love. My sport has given me the opportunity to travel, explore, and capture magnificent memories on camera. It has widened the canvas of life with new people, new ideas and new perception. It has helped me evolve. An integral part of the growth process has been photography. When I am not shooting with the rifle, I am shooting with the camera,” Narang writes in the introduction to the calendar.
Shooters, too, enjoy posing for one of their colleagues, rather than professionals. As current Union Minister and former double trap ace Rajyavardhan Rathore once admitted that it was easier to smile for Narang than for strangers.
The thought behind the calendar, though, goes much deeper than a mere interest in photography.
As Narang writes in the introduction: “To fire up my enthusiasm for photography, I gifted myself with a Nikon D4S in 2015. And soon arrived one of the most exciting opportunities in my life, a jungle trip to Kanha National Park. For the first time, in and around the heart of Kanha, I experienced a strange connect with the wilderness and with the rich flora and fauna. I was lucky to see the Barasinghas and the tigers, besides the vast variety of other species.
“This calendar is a tribute to that wonderful world and its lovely residents. The forest guards spend days and nights protecting this great wealth. This is my little way of saying ‘thank you’ to their work of preservation that lures enthusiasts like me.”
It’s probably fitting that somebody as proficient with a gun as Narang wants to be associated with conservation. By adding his name to the cause and connecting his fans with the beauty of India’s indigenous flora and fauna through his camera lens, Narang can certainly spread awareness and an interest in preserving this natural heritage.
The recent growth in tiger numbers has shown that India certainly is on the right path with respect to conservation. But every little effort matters.