Photography as a subject is one of the most interesting activities being followed by countless people, irrespective of what equipment they utilize. Photography in itself captures a moment for a lifetime and captivates our imagination through images. Images, irrespective of theme or substance, acquire the power to control our lives and even change it in many ways.
Sri Lanka is bountiful in terms of professional photographers who go the extra mile in bringing stillness to everyday life and there are amateurs who showcase amazing captures whilst casting away the notion that a photographer needs fancy equipment to get the job done. It really only has to do with an eye for detail and even better, attention for that right moment in time, be it photography in fashion, landscape, aerial, wildlife or sports. In the course of one year one special Sri Lankan wildlife photographer has displayed not only amazing flare for photography but an amazing level of consistency and ambition.
A unique attribute he holds in comparison to other wildlife photographers is the fact that he had only been active as a Wildlife Photographer for a little over two years and has managed to compete in a number of photography competitions globally and won 252 awards and recognitions. We met up with Lakshitha Karunarathna, one of Sri Lanka’s most recognized wildlife photographers and sat down to find out how he got to achieve this in so little, a time. “Photography was not in the cards for me growing up. I would say that I was more of an observer and this extended to aspects of nature and wildlife.
I was always fixated with documentaries that were so hard to find during my younger days. These came in VHS and were not found freely, even in Colombo at the time. My biggest inspiration was British broadcaster and naturalist, Sir David Attenborough. Over time, I collected nature related documentaries and built a huge library. I was more of a wildlife enthusiast and later on decided to work on acquiring my own collection of originals and updating my database,” Lakshitha said. He got into wildlife photography fairly recently as 2014. His interest in photography heightened when he saw his wedding photographer interacting with him and his bride during their wedding photo shoot. “Our wedding photographer was Rasanga Dissanayake. He was a very creative and interactive photographer and a joy to work with. He was constantly keeping us engaged and he kept explaining to me the process he embraced and he simply inspired me to try my hand at photography,” he reminisced. Lakshitha eventually travelled to Dubai and bought himself a camera sans the lenses. Coming back to Sri Lanka, he got himself few third-party lenses. He added that more than focusing on how expensive the equipment should be, he simply made use of available resources and first tried his hand at Bird Photography. Along the way, he made contacts with the wildlife photographic fraternities in the country and made friends. Many of them provided him with good feedback and some encouraged him to try out competitions.
Lakshitha added, “My style of photography extended towards capturing photos that involved out of the box creativity. I believe that was one of the main ingredients which helped me secure 252 awards in less than a year since I began entering photography competitions. I had managed to secure a number of awards from well-known competitions such as 40th Taipei International (Taiwan), 2017 DVF Photo Cup (Germany), 60th Maitland International (Australia), 37th Northern Counties International (England), 51st Oklahoma International (USA) and 92nd Zaragoza International (Spain).” To date, he has won 79 Gold, 20 Silver and 24 Bronze Medals and over 129 other awards which includes Blue Ribbons, Honourable Mentions, Judges’ Choices and Merits totalling it to over 250 awards in all, from 35 countries.
These awards have been produced through distinguished photographic associations such as the FIAP (Fédération Internationale de l’Art Photographique – FRANCE), PSA (Photographic Society of America – USA) and RPS (Royal Photographic Society – United Kingdom). To date he has secured 15 FIAP Gold Medals and that in itself is a big achievement, as it is not easy to win an FIAP award. Lakshitha by profession is a tea taster and has been so for over 17 years. In 2008, he quit his job and embarked on his own tea business. After two years of working to break even, he settled down in his business and found time to travel a bit more, covering countries from Europe to North America and beyond. He has travelled to 52 countries and certainly is bound to keep doing just that. He hails from Ratnapura and after getting through his 5th grade scholarship exams, he attended Ananda College. He says his school played a big role in shaping the person he is today and expressed his gratitude to his alma mater. “It might sound like a cliché, when we mention out school days being the best but truly those days brought on great experiences and opened many a door for me. It helped me to look at things differently,” Lakshitha acknowledged.