Name: Sanjay Simha
Based in: Bengaluru, India
USP: Aviation Photography
Ever since his childhood, Sanjay Simha was fascinated by the idea of huge chunks of metal flying high in the air. He had aeroplane-themed birthday cakes when he was as young as four years of age. During summer vacations, Sanjay would cycle to Hindustan Aeronautics Limited’s airport in Bengaluru, just to watch the majestic aircrafts landing & taking off. He had always dreamt of becoming a fighter pilot and of one day flying the Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-21.
When this dream did not translate into reality, he pursued his passion for aircrafts through a new-found hobby— photography. With time, this amalgamation of deep-rooted passion and a flair for what was his hobby, manifested into his love for aviation photography. His initial foray and learning of this unique art, would be Aero India expositions in the early 90s. His pictures were appreciated by many and were especially liked by the Surya Kiran Aerobatic Team of the Indian Air Force, who were more than willing to autograph them for him.
Today, Sanjay is the CEO of two companies— Green Channel Logistics Centre and Fulcrum Global Info Services. Being a relentless aircraft aficionado, he makes time for aviation photography by travelling to some very challenging locations to capture aircraft images in varied terrain.
Sanjay has photographed hundreds of aircrafts over the years, and is also proficient in air-to-air photography. He plans to release a coffee table book to showcase his work, among which many have been closely guarded experiences.
MiG-21 Bison, firing 28mm rockets
Image source: Sanjay Simha
Sanjay sees his hobby as not just something for the soul, but also as a source of valuable knowledge. He says that these experiences have taught him a lot about the lifestyles of military aviators and their cultures. The adventures have equipped him better in handling adversity, disappointment, excitement and other emotions. Without batting an eyelid, he says, ‘I am a totally different person when I indulge in aviation photography. I cannot imagine my life without it.’
Sanjay’s big break in aviation photography came in the year 2002, when the then-Chief of Air Staff, Indian Air Force— Air Chief Marshal S. Krishnaswamy— having seen his pictures, invited him to a rendezvous over breakfast. He then guided Sanjay in various protocols followed by the armed forces while allowing people from the media inside an air base.
Today, Sanjay is a well-known name in the Indian Air Force circuit. He has visited nearly every air base in India, some of which have not been visited by few serving personnel, since their tenure in the force is limited. Spreading his wings of photography in the international arena, he has been to military bases in Russia, USA, Switzerland, Finland, Ecuador and Ukraine.
Every year, he publishes a wall calendar comprising the best of his pictures, apart from a few of his photos that are used by the IAF in their publicity campaigns.
A part of Sanjay’s home is designed as a museum and displays about 300 to-scale models of commercial and military aircrafts. Many of these were built in collaboration with other professionals, naturally making him very protective of them. The museum also houses other valuable collectibles such as the helmet worn by test pilot Wg Cdr R. Kothiyal during the maiden flight of India’s Light Combat Aircraft, squadron patches, and other memorabilia.
In 2016, Sanjay Simha became the first civilian to fly in the LCA Tejas at Aero India in Bengaluru.
LCA Tejas, firing R-73, air-to-air missile
Image source: Sanjay Simha
The Daredevil Photographer
Sanjay is known for taking extreme risks to capture the perfect shot. He has battled frost-bitten limbs, damaged photographic equipment, close encounters with death and other adverse challenges many-a-times.
On one occasion, Sanjay had the opportunity to visit an Advanced Landing Ground (ALG) in the high altitudes of the Himalayan ranges. While the mountains were of pristine beauty, the journey to the ALG was dangerous. Due to heavy snowfall during the previous few days, the road was slippery and cloaked in white, thus limiting visibility of the corners, turns and culmination of the narrow lane. Added to this, was a landslide en route, which further delayed his arrival at the ALG. Battling the snow-capped roads, he was greeted by sand dunes closer to the ALG that ended his travel in a four-wheel drive. Not wanting to be any late than he already was, Sanjay hauled his camera bag weighing 21 kg on his shoulders and started running towards the waiting aircraft. Being at a high altitude and running with a heavy load in a low oxygen environment is highly risky. Panting for air, he assumed his heart would stop beating any moment, but was lucky to be rescued by army jawans in the nick of time. After recovering from this trauma quickly, he got back on his feet and went about capturing the metal birds in this glorious part of the planet.
Another instance of Sanjay’s daredevilry was when he captured the LCA Navy taking off from the ski-jump. He lay down on the runway directly underneath the ramp, as the aircraft sped above him with afterburner blaze, creating deafening noise and jet blast. This according to him, is the best picture he has shot till today!
Recognition of Sanjay’s work has come in various forms. The ones that will be etched in his memory for ever are-
- His pictures of aircraft being displayed in Rashtrapati Bhavan.
- A picture of the LCA which he shot with snow-clad mountains in the background, with temperatures hovering around -21˚C, being showcased in the Republic Day Parade in New Delhi.
- Him being the first civilian to fly in the LCA, without being associated with the project nor being from the government.
Sanjay Simha can be reached at:
Phone: 91-98451 70818