Kosala Rajapaksha has more than 100,000 photographs in his collection.
The majority were taken in his native Sri Lanka, but he has been adding more and more since his arrival in Saskatchewan 15 years ago.
He has shot many of the 4,000 species of flowering plants in Sri Lanka, more than 100 fresh water fish, 50 amphibians, 174 reptiles and 435 birds. He has a great collection of mammals as well.
Rajapaksha, who has a PhD from the University of Glasgow, moved here in 2004 to do post-doctoral work at the University of Saskatchewan. Currently, he works for Agriculture Canada at the Western College of Veterinary Medicine at USask.
Had he not come to Saskatoon, he likely would have put down roots in the Toronto area. He likes the size of Saskatoon, where there are spots within walking distance of his home with prime shooting opportunities.
Rajapaksha loved nature as a child and collected pictures of various birds. As he grew older, he started taking photos of his own.
When he arrived in Canada, he purchased a quality camera and a telescopic lens. A long lens is a key ingredient in nature photography.
He offered a number of tips for would-be photogs.
“The first thing is you have to be is patient. Sometimes you have to wait a long time,” he said. “And you have to look around carefully.”
He said he is on full alert when out in a vehicle. It’s easier when he is a passenger in the vehicle, he said with a laugh.
“The main thing is timing. Most people don’t go very early.”
It’s like the old saying, “the early bird gets the bird.” Or something like that.
He said people don’t realize what we have in our province. He has travelled from the Grasslands to La Ronge and back again. He said there are times when he will show someone a photo and the person won’t realize it’s a species that can be found in Saskatchewan.
He said most of his trips into the tranquility of nature aren’t with a goal of taking a photo of particular species. He scours the landscape for pleasant — and pheasant — surprises. He said it is rare that he gets skunked on an outing.
“Sometimes you can’t see the bird with the naked eye, but if you look through the telly lens, you can see them clearly. Sometimes you see a sparrow, but if you don’t look closely you don’t know what kind of sparrow. There are at least 10 species of sparrows; if you don’t look carefully, you don’t see the difference.”
Rajapaksha said there is one bird that has escaped his lens. He wants to get a shot of a sage grouse, an endangered species.
He made a trip to an area near Grasslands National Park in his search, but came up empty. He plans on going back.
He said the Saskatoon Nature Society, of which he is a member, is a big help to photographers. For example, the society has inside info on flocks of whooping cranes when they pass through.
About 14 minutes from Saskatoon is a place where photographers will see the dance of the sharp-tailed grouse. These feathery birds could have made an impact on Dancing with the Stars.
When it comes to flowering plants, Sri Lanka has 4,000, while Saskatchewan has 360. Sri Lanka is one tenth the size of Saskatchewan.
Rajapaksha hasn’t sold his photos, although it has been suggested that he should be.
“So far I am not making any money; just spending,” he said with a laugh.