Doctor stays focused while pursuing his passion

When Dr. Rajagopal Sekhar is out of his lab or clinics, he revels in his lifelong hobby of photography. His passion began in 8th grade when his father gave him his camera while road tripping in India. He shot photographs of his surroundings and never looked back. Now, his library contains thousands of photographs taken all around the world, some of which are displayed in his office at Baylor’s main campus.

Nesting Instinct

“Nesting Instinct.”

“It fires up your imagination as a kid. It was a film camera, so I couldn’t take a picture and delete it. I didn’t have unlimited rolls of film, so if I messed up, I learned to be responsible about it,” said Sekhar, associate professor of medicine – endocrinology at Baylor.

As a young photographer, Sekhar snapped everything around him. Growing up in big cities across India, it was difficult to shoot wildlife, so he mainly photographed buildings and architecture, trying to play with angles and shadows. He still enjoys capturing architecture and formations, and truly loves nature and wildlife.

“Everything in the natural world excites me. I enjoy bird photography very much, especially birds in flight, because it’s very challenging and rewarding,” Sekhar said.

Sekhar waits patiently, sometimes for hours, while trying to capture his pictures. He once stood for four hours in the middle of the night in the bitter cold of the Himalayas at 15,000 feet to get one shot of star trails over the Pangong Tso Lake. For his birding pictures, he sets his exposure while the bird and camera are moving, and tracks the bird to get the perfect shot. He stands still and silently while capturing birds in flight.

“I like to shoot manually. I don’t accept help from the camera, and I compose every one of my pictures. It forces me to really put myself out there to capture a fragment of memory,” he said. “These days, everything is made easy to handle when you shoot. I shoot on the manual mode, so I set the shutter speed and the aperture, and therefore I set the exposure. Every picture you take, you have to make manual adjustments. The creative results can be rewarding.”

He has traveled to different parts of the world, including Peru, Europe, Egypt, Morocco, Iceland, Himalayas and Southeast Asia to shoot other aspects of life. His love for travel fuels his hobby, and he dreams to visit Seal Island off the coast of Cape Town to shoot the white shark.

Dr. Rajagopal Sekhar

Dr. Rajagopal Sekhar.

Although he cannot always travel across the globe, he has no trouble capturing wildlife locally around Houston. According to Sekhar, January to April is an intense birding season, which gives him a large window of opportunity to photograph birds. Every spring, he and his family have picnic lunches along the Bolivar Peninsula to watch birds. His sons also have taken interest in using the camera, and have captured birds in flight successfully.

One of Sekhar’s photographs of a flying egret titled “Nesting Instinct” was selected as one of the top 50 photographs among the Weather Channel’s “It’s Amazing Out There” photo contest. The image was selected from among 40,000 other photographs.

“Unfortunately, I can’t draw or paint, so I decided to paint with light,” he said. “It teaches you a lot of patience. Almost every time I sink into photography, I come up with a good research idea.”

Having a hobby that allows you to escape from your family or work commitments is important, Sekhar said. It allows you to not only be creative but also to refresh, regenerate and recharge.

“In my life as a physician, researcher and educator, photography helps keep my focus and spirit alive.” Photography is his recharging focus, and he loves sharing his hobby with others.

By Homa Shalchi