Retro Kolkata Exclusive : Interview with amazing Travel & Landscape Photographer Surbhi Kaushik

©Surbhi Kaushik
I became a travel and landscape photographer after discovering my love for nature and the beautiful places on our planetbecause I love nature, I capture it. One cannot happen without another and both happen because of each other. If as an outdoor photographer one is unable to connect with nature, they cannot have the vision for beauty which ultimately creates the results. Love, appreciation and respect for nature drives the results.

RK :First of all, thank you for accepting our invitation for an interview. Please say something about you. What first attracted you to photography? Have you had any formal photography training and if not, how did you get so good?

Surbhi Kaushik :Thank you! The first memory I have of being attracted to photography is from when I was 6 years old. We were on a family vacation and all I wanted to do was borrow my dad’s camera and click everyone’s pictures. I purchased my first DSLR camera during initial job days. I have not attended a school to learn photography, but I have learnt in other ways. Two factors contributed into the development of my skills. One—In college I used to paint and years later that love for painting evolved into love for photography. I studied graphic design and that set the foundation of basics such as elements, composition, photoshop skills, and color theory. The second factor has been the fact that I travel a lot and shoot in the company of some great photographers. There is no substitute for practical learning and the more time you invest in pursuing your skill, the better it gets.

©Surbhi Kaushik

RK :How important is photography for you? Would you have imagined a few years ago that this passion would have played such an important role in your life today?

Surbhi Kaushik :Photography is the most important thing to me! It is not only a job, but also currently my only source of creative expression. I always knew that life would eventually revolve around my art, but never imagined it would be photography over painting, and in such a way! Let’s say I can only thank life for the way it has shaped up .

©Surbhi Kaushik

RK :Who and what inspires you to keep creating and exploring?

Surbhi Kaushik :I am very lucky to be surrounded by a creative and hard-working team at GoodShotz, and that is very inspiring. But ultimately the push needs to come from within. If we cannot inspire ourselves to do better and more each day, no one else can.

RK :It seems like you have a deep connection to nature and that this has sparked your love for photography. How important do you believe it is for a photographer to love the outdoors, not just the results?

Surbhi Kaushik :The relationship between an object of inspiration and the art is contained in a circle. I became a travel and landscape photographer after discovering my love for nature and the beautiful places on our planetbecause I love nature, I capture it. One cannot happen without another and both happen because of each other. If as an outdoor photographer one is unable to connect with nature, they cannot have the vision for beauty which ultimately creates the results. Love, appreciation and respect for nature drives the results.

©Surbhi Kaushik

RK :How has travel photography enabled you to connect with locals and their cultures on your travels?

Surbhi Kaushik :If not for travel & photography, I would have never connected with so many people culturally different from us. Thanks to the extensive traveling in the last 3 years, I have numerous stories to tell. In Vietnam, I used google translate app to communicate with the locals. On an evening while returning from our shoot in Mu Cang Chai, I passed through the village & saw a very cute family (mom and 5 kids) sitting outside their home, weaving a carpet.Through my app I greeted them and asked for the kids to stand together in a line so I could take a picture with them. The app communicated and I waited for two seconds to see whether the translation was right because the kids kept giggling! Next thing, they all stood in a row and I spent about an hour taking pictures with them, their dog, and even played with them!

Similarly in all the places I have been, connecting with the locals and their culture has played a huge role in shaping how I perceive the world now. To sum it up, people are beautiful all around the globe! They might speak different languages but they all understand the gesture of friendship. In Kashmir, the extreme borders of our country in Jaisalmer, Kerala, Switzerland, France, Indonesia, so many places… I have been welcomed into the homes of strangers, offered food, spoken in length about how they live, and so much more...

©Surbhi Kaushik

RK :Photography equipment can be heavy – when you travel, what equipment is essential? What Is Your Go-To Gear for Travel Photography?

Surbhi Kaushik :I always carry my DSLR with me. Since lenses are very heavy depending upon the kind of place I am visiting, I sort out the lenses I wish to carry. I research about drone flying rules and if allowed, I carry the DJI Mavic air for some aerial footage. My go-to lens is Nikon 28-300mm and GoPro Hero7 along with my iPhone.

©Surbhi Kaushik

RK :Are there any unique challenges and hazards as a travel photographer when it comes to your gear? For instance, keeping your batteries charged in remote locations and preventing theft and damage.

Surbhi Kaushik :Definitely! Safety of your gear is a big challenge you face once you start traveling. As a landscape photographer I have to reach locations sometimes as early as 1 am. I have recently had an instance in Bali when I was going for the sunrise shoot at 4 am while navigating on my phone. I was riding a scooter and stopped at the signal where a guy on a fast bike snatched my iphone x from my hand and was nowhere to be seen. Considering I had more expensive gear with me following the thief felt like a bad idea. I had always been cautious but after that incident I have become even more so. It’s not carelessness that leads to such incidents, sometimes you’re simply in the wrong situation. You have to literally visualize everything that can go wrong and take preventive measures.

©Surbhi Kaushik

RK :What have been your top 3 places to photograph so far and why?

Surbhi Kaushik :I have loved photographing each and every place I’ve been to, but some just stand out for the feelings they’ve left me with. My top three would be Kashmir, Munnar, and Europe.

Kashmir was one destination I always wanted to visit but didn’t know when that would be possible, considering the fact that I did not want to go alone. When I visited Srinagar, I realised there was no reason to worry about traveling alone as the people were one of the friendliest I had met, and the city was absolutely calm without any disturbance. I spent some of the best days of my life in Kashmir—early morning shikara rides, trekking in Sonmarg&Gulmarg amongst beautiful landscapes that I photographed tirelessly.

Munnar is special because when I visited it was one of the less frequented place by tourists and in India that is a very rare thing. We literally got lost in the endless tea estates, photographing throughout the day. The light is Munnar was so beautiful that it could be shot all the time!

In Europe I visited Italy, Switzerland, Germany, Liechtenstein, France, Austria, and this was all while driving from one country to another—stopping every 20 kilometres because everywhere we looked was just so beautiful! Europe is the only place I got confused looking at flowers, rabbits and lakes, whether they were for real or artificial because they looked so untouched and pristine. Hadn’t seen anything like that before.

©Surbhi Kaushik

RK :In your opinion, what makes a great image stand out from the good ones?

Surbhi Kaushik :A good image is aesthetically pleasing with composition, processing, all done well. But a great image makes one ‘wonder’ — HOW did the photographer shoot it? HOW did they process it? HOW can a place/person/thing be so beautiful?!

©Surbhi Kaushik

RK :You are also the co-founder of ‘Goodshotz’. Why did you start this venture and has it influenced your own photography? Surbhi Kaushik :I believe every great idea solves a problem. Photography industry is very fragmented and not all artists (photographers) are very comfortable in sharing their skills. We wanted to solve thisproblem—so aspiring photographers could learn from the people that inspired them, to learn in a systematic manner where the mentors make sure you leave the tour/workshop/program only after enhancing your skills remarkably. I co-founded GoodShotz to create a company where established artists who inspire you become approachable, and share their knowledge freely & completely.

When you are in a position of teaching something, it is also very essential to constantly upgrade your knowledge. Because of GoodShotz, my personal growth in photography got accelerated. GoodShotz also gives me immense opportunities to travel, which otherwise would have not been possible at this scale.

©Surbhi Kaushik

RK :What is your dream assignment?

Surbhi Kaushik :My dream assignment would be similar to what I do during Photography Tours, just a little longer. As a photographer you get so focused on shooting that you don’t visit the touristy places. For example I just shared how much I have travelled in Europe—I have lived in 16th century French houses in the most authentic manner but haven’t been to the Eifel tower :D SO yeah, my dream assignment would involve some extra days reserved for touristy stuff (and someone to snatch away my camera too, otherwise I’ll extend those days as photography tour to new places .

RK :Apart from photography, do you have interest in other creative activities?

Surbhi Kaushik :Oh yes! I love painting (Oil & charcoal), I enjoy cooking / baking, and dancing too.

©Surbhi Kaushik

RK :Do you have any pieces of advice for young photographers interested in photography but who want to earn a living?

Surbhi Kaushik :Focus on three things — Developing your skill, Developing your social circle/people skills, and Developing your web/social media presence. Most importantly, do not get influenced with the idea of quitting job and starting an undefined career in photography. I believe it is very important to have a secure base in terms of education and funds to be able to delve into any creative field as there is quite a struggle before you get to a position of financial security.

©Surbhi Kaushik

RK :We are trying to build one single stage for all the artists, because we believe that artists are the most beautiful creation of God and geographical boundary can never break their unity and harmony. Please say something about our initiative and any special message for your followers.

Surbhi Kaushik :Your belief is absolutely beautiful, and I wish you all the very best. I think the people who create art & the ones who value it make this world a better place to live in. To my followers I have only one thing to say — Thank you for consistently being there to appreciate my work. Nothing makes me happier than creating art that inspires, and you are a great motivation to me.

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