The inspiring journey of Sebinster Francis, wildlife Photographer, his love for the snakes and frogs of Kerala shines through the striking macro photographs. The photographer-cum-conservationist talks to Travel + Leisure India and South Asia about busting stereotypes surrounding the reptile kingdom and spreading awareness about wildlife.
Excerpts from the interview with Sebinster Francis:
T+L India: What made you take the leap of faith to quit engineering and get into wildlife photography?
Sebinster Francis: I was always interested in photography, all sorts of photography. I was a hobbyist, I would say. Right after my graduation, I gotan opportunity towork with a German photography group in Munnar, which is also my hometown. I worked as a field assistant, a translator who could speak English for them, and who could interact with the local workers in Munnar. During this time, I also joined their classes. Right after that, I started working asa tour guide. My motive was to never sit in an office.
T+L India: What is the one incident from your expeditions that you remember to date?
Sebinster Francis: Around 2010, I met a couple from the UK who had come to Munnar to trek. I was their tour guide. They had chosen one of the toughest treks in Munnar—Chinar Wildlife Sanctuary. The terrain is very dry and uneven. But since they chose the trek, I believed they were very fit, and went along. Only when I saw the lady stepping out of the car, did I realise that she had a prosthetic leg. She had lost her leg in the tsunami that hit Indonesia in 2006. But that didn’t stop her from exploring the rest of the world. I don’t remember her name. I remember her face. I remember her husband’s face. And they changed my worldview. Being someone who opted out of engineering to work as a tour guide, I had received a lot of backlash from my family and society. There was no support from anywhere. And such incidents are my motivation.
T+L India: What is the equipment you would suggest to beginners in this field?
Sebinster Francis: People know me as a macro photographer, so if you ask me, I suggest you buy a mirrorless camera. The time of DSLRs and big cameras is gone. Then it is all about what you want to shoot and what your budget is. Handpick the best combination for your budget. Streamline as per your shooting requirement. If you are just into social media, you can have a basic camera, but having a set of lenses and equipment will give you very good results.
T+L India: You have a special fondness for elephants, and you are also into herping. How do you think wildlife photographers can help in conservation and spreading awareness about the animal kingdom?
Sebinster Francis: I’m from Munnar and we have elephants all around us. I have been following a herd of elephants for the past 10 years. My conservation work revolves around elephants, snakes, frogs, and so on. There is a stigma attached to snakes and frogs; people think they are deadly or ugly. Withmy photography, I aim to showcase these creatures so that you treat them differently. Every day, I get messages from people who send me an image of a snake and ask, “Is this a deadly snake?” There are only four to six deadly snakes in India, which can kill humans. Others can’t do any damage to humans.
T+L India: Is there any specific country that’s been on your bucket list for a long time?
Sebinster Francis: I went to Kenya during COVID. I want to go back to Masai Mara. I also want to go to Indonesia as well as Madagascar just for the wildlife. And Costa Rica and Sri Lanka.