A landscape and a habitat are essentially the same in appearance in terms of photography but completely different in thought and purpose. I may shoot a picture of a place but when I measure it with these two parameters, it reveals two different driving forces. When you shoot a place as a landscape, the driving force behind that exercise is beauty, emotion or an aesthetic. The same place, when shot as a habitat, channels ecological science. The questions that become relevant then are, what is this habitat, what lives here, what does this habitat do ecologically?
Take the image above of the mangrove habitats in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands as an example. If I didn’t show the part that is under the water, my story would be incomplete. Mangroves are characteristic in their adaptability to survive in high salinity, with tidal water or waterlogged areas in coasts. Pneumatophores (lateral roots) help mangroves to breathe during high tide when part of the plant is underwater. This sort of perspective is essential for the photograph if I truly want to capture the essence of this place.
I prefer habitat photography over landscape and strive to create ecological images with beauty and emotion so that they still involve readers. This is the only way I know that can turn an interested reader into an ecologically interested reader.
The gap is really not that wide.
Dhritiman Mukherjee is as elusive as the animals he photographs. His photographs have appeared in National Geographic Traveller, The New York Times, Lonely Planet, WWF, UNESCO, Birdlife. He is a RBS Earth Hero award winner for inspiring people for conservation.