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City Kids No More

From the city zoo to the plains of the Maasai Mara, this is how Preeti and Prashant Chacko became award-winning wildlife photographers
Above: A wildlife photographer's paradise

Our wildlife photography journey started in South Africa in 2010 when Prashant’s work took us to Durban. Being city kids, our previous wildlife experiences were limited to zoos. To see animals in the wild and roaming free was an eye-opener. Photography was something Preeti enjoyed and before our move to Durban, we bought a Nikon D90 with a kit lens (starter). On a number of safaris, primarily to the Hluhluwe-Umfolozi National Park, Prashant acted as driver while Preeti did her best photographically within the limitations of the 18-105 lens!  

Our first exposure to serious wildlife photography happened when our friends, Swati and Siddharth, convinced us to join them on a photography tour to Zambia with professional photographer David Rogers. Prashant initially wanted to travel with his Blackberry phone to take photos! Thankfully, David convinced him otherwise and we hired the Nikon Nikkor 200-400 f/4 for that trip. Life after that would never be the same as we understood the advantages of good gear and more importantly the steep learning curve when travelling with professional photographers.

King of Darkness — Our encounter with lions in the night in South Luangwa, Zambia

We believe that there is no better way to learn photography than to travel with professionals (if they are willing teachers). Durban-based landscape photographer, Emil von Maltitz, was our first coach and taught us extensively about composition, light and post-processing. Three wildlife photo safaris in that period stood out — not only for what we saw but also what we learned: Phinda with Andrew Schoeman, Sabi Sands with Brendon Cremer and Namibia with Emil and Geert-Nick van de Wiel. Thanks to the great gear rental options that exist in South Africa, we could try out a lot of gear without committing to an outright purchase.

Shadow Hunter — Taken in Phinda Private Game Reserve

In 2015, we left Durban and spent six years living in the urban jungles of Mumbai and Dubai. To our surprise, we discovered hidden wildlife gems in these cities (Thane Creek, photographing tens of thousands of flamingos from a fisherman’s canoe and the flamingos and oryxes in the deserts of Dubai). We also did spectacular trips to India’s tiger parks. In Mumbai and Dubai, we kept the photography learning active (a session with Neville Bulsara called ‘The Art of Seeing’ was especially transformational). Somehow, in all this, we always found a way to end up in the Maasai Mara during Migration season.

Innocence — One of our favourite photographs, taken in Pench National Park, India

In 2021, work took Prashant back to Africa. We moved to Nairobi, Kenya and suddenly many amazing National Parks were just weekend getaways. Our journey as photographers went into overdrive with the extensive mentorship of Dileep Anthikad and travels with Gurcharan Roopra.
After years of photography, we have come to understand that the photographs we truly love are the ones that convey beauty and emotion, artistically. We try to photograph wild animals as gentle, sensitive yet awe-inspiring creatures and hope that by sharing our work, we inspire people to help protect them. Interestingly, although we are usually in the same place and at the same sighting, we often capture very different images.

Our images are the sum of all our life experiences. Preeti is drawn to beauty and tenderness in wildlife (like in mother-child interactions) and is more likely to get photos that involve patiently waiting while Prashant is drawn to dramatic lighting and is more likely to experiment with wide animal scapes. As a result, we chase scenes and moments rather than species.

Three ox-peckers fly up, seemingly singing ‘Hallelujah!’, when a two-week old giraffe calf and its mother are re-united after a brief spell apart.

2021 was a truly blessed year, where we were able to properly indulge in our passion, capped off with the photograph called ‘Hallelujah!’, which won us the title of The Greatest Maasai Mara Photographer of the Year.

Notes from the Editor:

It was our great pleasure hosting Preeti and Prashant as part of their prize for The Greatest Maasai Mara and we exchanged many tips and tales in The Angama Photographic Studio. If you would like to read more about the studio and the different ways we can assist you on your photographic journey, read on here.

Filed under: Stories From The Mara

Tagged with:

African Wildlife , Armchair Travel , Travel East Africa , Wildlife Photography

About: Guest Author

Members of the broader Angama family — be it guests, agents, suppliers, friends — contribute to the blog from time to time. We love to share their stories, too.

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