We are delighted to have Shanthungo Ezung, one of the well-known photographers of Nagaland with us today. His journey with photography started when he first laid hands on a film roll camera which he bought from his friend. It’s been more than a decade since then and his passion remains the same. He currently runs his own business, while pursuing photography on the side. He specializes in nature, landscape and culture photography and is inspiring many with his prize winning pictures!
In depth chat with Shanthungo Ezung to know more about his work and how it all began.
Hello! Please introduce a little about yourself.
Hi! My name is Shanthungo Ezung. I am a freelance photographer and self-employed businessman presently based in Dimapur, Nagaland.
How and when did you develop an interest in photography?
I developed a passion for photography during my college years. I got my first camera, a pre-used SLR Nikon F65, which I bought from a friend for half the price. I just fell in love with it and I would take it everywhere with me and click everything under the sun, pretending to be a professional.
What kind of tools do you use for post processing?
For post processing, I use mostly Adobe Photoshop and I shoot both in JPEG and RAW format as it gives me more options when I post process my images.
Are you a full time photographer?
No. I do small business ventures outside of photography. I specialize in nature, landscape and culture photography. Unless you are a professional wedding or event photographer, it is very difficult to survive only on photography alone here in Nagaland. The value of art or photography is yet to be fully appreciated or given due credit and appreciation.
Among your works, which is your favorite and why?
There is no such thing as my favorite. Although there are few images that are close to my heart or evoke good memories and brings me happiness when I think of my photography.
Through photography, I am trying to learn about my subjects intimately, be it an insect, a bird, place or a person. This has pushed me to delve deep into various literary pursuits as well, just so I could add a few lines of poetic description befitting the picture.
Whose work has influenced you the most? Do you consider any photographer as your idol?
When I go through National Geographic pictures I get blown away each time by the quality of the pictures, be it landscape, people, wildlife or any other. The amount of dedication, passion and discipline they put into capturing moments and make it something truly special. Those are the things that I look up to for inspiration.
What is the one thing you wish you knew when you started out?
I wish I had a DSLR when I started out. My first camera was a pre-used SLR Nikon F65, which I got from my friend as I have mentioned above. Everything was manual and we have to keep the settings right before we even consider pressing the trigger. My pocket money was spent developing the films which often resulted in a big disappointment.
Are you formally trained as a photographer?
I consider myself a self-taught photographer. I studied Mass communication and Video
Production and so we had subjects like media appreciation, visual thinking and basic photo editing. I have participated in few photography workshops but I learnt mostly through online tutorials.
From your point of view, what makes a good picture?
They say, “The best camera is the one you have with you”. A few years ago I was traveling to my hometown, it was in the late afternoon and the sun was about to set and it was that rare occasion when the sky was completely filled with fiery red. I asked my friend to pull over so as to take a picture of the flaming sun slowly shying behind the mountains. Just as I was about to capture the sunset, I noticed a fern in front of my lens. Now the silhouette of the fern against the backdrop of the fiery red sky totally changed the perspective as it added an interesting foreground to my image. Ten years later, that image still hangs in my sitting room. I never get tired of looking at it and thinking how fantastic it was to be there at the right time and place, and that is what photography is all about.
How do you, as a photographer, make sure that the thing or place or person you want to shoot looks the way you want it to?
I don’t normally shoot in studios. When you are shooting wildlife or nature you don’t always get to choose. The best thing you can do is to have patience or anticipate the moves. Often times we return empty handed whenever we go out for shooting wildlife.
This is a picture of Amur falcons perching on electric wires early in the morning. It looks like a musical chord (I captioned it ‘musical chords of the birds’). When you look at the picture carefully, you will see the different layers of the blue sky, the clouds, birds flying and then the birds perched on the wire. The lighting and time of day are also very important aspets of a good picture. In this shot, I found all the elements blending beautifully into this perfet scene. Most of the time, a perfet shot is a result of just being at the right place at the right time.
‘Musical chords of the birds’ – Amur falcons captured by Shanthungo Ezung
What kind of pictures do you like to shoot in your free time and what motivates you to take pictures?
I like to shoot nature and landscape whenever I get the time to get away from busy urban life.
The pleasure I derive by creating extraordinary from mundane things is what I look forward each day and that’s what motivates me to take a picture.
What set you on the path to become a photographer?
My foray into photography was all about getting to know more about people or subjects. When I started to get the hang of it, I realized I could, in a small way help create a sense of curiosity in the minds of people about the world around us. Over the years, I have sought to build up on that. I published my first coffee table book titled “Echoes from the Hills” which is a ten year compilation of pictures taken from my travels all over Nagaland. I would want the viewers to appreciate the different aspects of what each subject has to offer at a more spiritual level.