A tale between the lens and wildlife

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Migration Uncut 2016 – Week 1

It was a good start to our annual Masai Mara photo safaris as we are close to wrapping up week 1 of Migration Uncut 2016. We photographed some good river crossings, lion cubs and cheetah action this. The weather has been clear and we have had some great sessions with various subjects in the morning and evening light.

Leaving for a game drive now and sharing some images that wrap up this week.

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Survival in Extremes

Season after season most of us have seen Bear Grylls the presenter of Discovery Channel’s popular series – Man Vs. Wild.  He is the man who epitomises adventure and survival and has survived the harshest of terrains. I recently watched an episode of a new series – ‘The Island Hosted By Bear Grylls’ on Discovery Channel that brings back the same thrill, however, there is a twist in this series… Bear Grylls drops the participants on a deserted island and challenges them to fend for themselves.

The Island - Season 1

THE ISLAND — Season: 1 — Pictured: Bear Grylls — (Photo by: Chris Haston/NBC)

The series features 14 participants being dropped on a remote Pacific island without any modern day amenities or tools; where nothing is going to be ordinary for the next 28 days.

With only the clothes on their backs and minimal survival tools, these men are committed to filming every moment themselves. They are left to battle against the local elements and wildlife & are forced to confront their innermost fears. But the question is ‘will they survive the Island?’

It amazes me that the rules of the game are very different. Here is a reality show with no elimination and no prizes to be won. The only prize is to survive the ever-evolving nature and battle challenges like hunting for food, sourcing water and building shelter. They have to test their physical, mental and emotional limits and fight for their very existence in an extreme environment.

The Island - Season 1

THE ISLAND — Season: 1 — Pictured: (l-r) James Murray, Taylor Cole, Davion Peterson, Rob Brothers, Michael Rossini, Trey Williams, Dakota Mortensen, Richard Smith, Judson Nichols, Alton “Buck” Parker, Matthew Getz, Earnest Marshall, Benji Lanpher, Graham Sheldon — (Photo by: Chris Haston/NBC)

I recount my expeditions in the wild. My passion for photography takes me to deep forests and each time the wild has appraised me with ‘expect the unexpected.’   During my journeys, I am equipped with essentials like water, snacks, a phone and of course, my camera. When I was watching the show, I wondered how these modern men would survive in such a harsh environment without basic supplies. All these modern men come from such different backgrounds, like there is a stay-at-home dad, a trauma surgeon, a firefighter – who are accustomed to roofs over their heads and the benefits of technology. In this competition they are stripped of all modern conveniences and catapulted back to the basics. While each one has a different motivation, they all have something to prove to themselves and to each other.

I am getting hooked to the show which is airing Monday to Wednesday at 10 PM on Discovery Channel and I look forward to watching the full series to know if these men would be able to keep a cool head under competitive pressure of being alone in an island. Will they give up or develop a new zeal to fight the nature?

I recommend you to watch the series to see these contestants unfold the mysteries of the wild and their–newly evolving skills of hunting and gathering.

 The Island Hosted by Bear Grylls is airing Monday to Wednesday at 10 PM on the Discovery Channel.  You can share your feedback about the show on Twitter or Facebook using #IslandWithBearGrylls

Tiger Diaries – June 2016

It has been a hectic but productive June till now. We started our work in Ranthambhore working on T60 and cubs when a news from Bandhavgarh caught our attention. A tigress called Spotty in the Tala zone of Bandhavgarh had given birth to her first litter. Weighing various pros and cons we changed gears and rushed to Bandhavgarh to start some extensive tracking for the newly seen cubs. A 7 day project resulted in some brilliant images of 2 month old tiger cubs for our guest who showed remarkable patience and perseverance in extreme weather conditions.

Monsoons showers have started hitting tiger parks and as we enter the last 10 days of the season lets wish the wild denizens of India a safe monsoon.

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Summers @ Tadoba

Experienced Tadoba summers after a gap of 4 years. May 2012 was the last I spent a fortnight in the blazing sun and scorching heat of Tadoba. 4 years down the line, I led a small group of photographers who braved the heat to spend hours with the Sonam and Maya family – the current heartthrobs of Tadoba. The cubs have been shaping up quite well since I last saw them in December 2015. It was also a first experience for me with the majestic Bajrang male who is fathering Sonam cubs. He for sure is a charismatic tiger and would be instrumental in propelling the dynasty of tigers in Tadoba.

Recharging at home after a hectic 45 day travel schedule. Stay tuned for June diaries as we enter into the last month of the tiger season in India before the monsoons…

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Being a Wanderer

A decade back I started juggling between 2 boats – on one hand it was the cozy comforts of the corporate world, a 10 hour work schedule, targets, deadlines and seniors scrutinising and supervising each and every move. All this involved some good figures in the bank at the end of the month. On the other hand it was the passion of adventure, travel and photography. The joy of discovering different aspects of the natural world by seeing creations of God. Wrangler has started a new campaign TrueWanderers, an attempt to recognise such individuals like me you are driven by passion and determination & who make tough decisions in life to achieve their dreams.

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Finally the heart ruled over the mind and the nature wanderer in me took over and I stepped into a zone where I took the onus of making a profession out of my passion. The wanderer in me took me to newer geographies and each terrain was gifted by a new set of species. The wanderer in me made me understand nature photography and move from the science to artistic elements of painting the natural world using a camera and a lens.

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The wanderer in me made me learn from some of the most creative brains of India. Even after more than a decade, today the wanderer in me keeps the fire alive to discover, explore and learn.

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I came across a set of such wanderers that propelled their passion and stepped out of their comfort zones and I am sure you would enjoy listening to their inspirational stories. It is a test of your mental strength and determination to create your own path that set these wanderers apart. Great job by Wrangler to organise the search for TrueWanderers campaign. Read more about the top 5.0 Wanderers and get inspired from their passionate path and vote for your favourite contestant.

TOP 5.0 Wanderers

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Blog – http://bit.ly/TW5_ShivangBlog

Facebook – http://bit.ly/TW5_ShivangFB

Twitter – http://bit.ly/TW5_ST

Insta – http://bit.ly/TW5_SInsta

Tiger Marathon 2016 – Field Updates

The 2016 edition of Tiger Marathon – the annual back to back tiger photography tours by Nature Wanderers – ended this week with some exemplary sightings in Ranthambhore and Corbett National Park. While the lakes were productive again in Ranthambhore, we also got the opportunity to photograph the newly crowned mother T60 and her 3 cubs. Sessions with Noor (T39) and T57 were equally intense and productive.

Corbett on the other hand along with expected elephant action was ruled by Paarwali sightings as the river mermaid of Ramganga gave multiple opportunities for photography in typical Corbett habitats. Here are a few images created in the past fortnight.

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Canon 1DxM2 – Field Test

Pench National Park Canon 1DxM2, Canon 70-200mm f2.8 IS2

Pench National Park
Canon 1DxM2, Canon 70-200mm f2.8 IS2

Dudhwa National Park Canon 1DxM2, Canon 400mm f2.8 IS2

Dudhwa National Park
Canon 1DxM2, Canon 400mm f2.8 IS2

The much awaited successor of the Canon 1Dx – the top end Canon camera for sports and wildlife photography – was announced and launched by Canon recently. Thanks to Canon India for giving me the opportunity to use the first sample unit of this new machine in the challenging field conditions of Indian forests. Having used the 1D predecessors like the Canon 1DM4 and Canon 1Dx extensively in the last 5 years, I was particularly intrigued to know more about the Canon 1DxM2 because for me Canon 1Dx was the complete camera and I wasn’t expecting an upgrade so soon.

Using a Fine Detail (FD) picture style introduced in the Canon 1DxM2 for shooting portraits

Using a Fine Detail (FD) picture style introduced in the Canon 1DxM2 for shooting portraits

Drawing a direct comparison between the Canon 1Dx and Canon 1DxM2, here are some broad level observations (please note that I tested the camera for still photography. The Canon 1DxM2 records 4K videos which is not covered in my field tests):

Muted Shutter Sounds
In comparison to the predecessors like the 1DM4 and the 1Dx the first thing you realise about the 1DxM2 is the relatively muted tone of the shutter. As per the tech specs an advanced mirror flapping system has been introduced which will probable and possibly reduce in-camera vibrations while firing bursts of 12-14 fps. Typically on a Canon 1Dx I tone done my fps to reduce in camera vibrations while firing a burst so that the probabilities of some images turning out to be tad soft goes down while shooting some fast action. I shot some fast Dhol action sequences in Pench National Park at 14fps in challenging low lights early morning and was pretty satisfied with the series in terms of image sharpness.

ISO 200, f6.3, 1/1000. Fired a burst at 14fps. All images in the series have the required detail

ISO 200, f6.3, 1/1000. Fired a burst at 14fps. All images in the series have the required detail

ISO 3200, f5.6, 1/500 Shot using a Canon 400mm f2.8 IS2 lens. A burst at 14 fps was fired for this series

ISO 3200, f5.6, 1/500
Shot using a Canon 400mm f2.8 IS2 lens. A burst at 14 fps was fired for this series

Expanded Viewfinder Grid
The 61 point AF grid through the Canon 1DxM2 viewfinder looks a bit more expanded as compared to the Canon 1Dx. It essentially means that your in-camera composition is better.

Aided with the expanded AF point grid, here is an in-camera composition of cheetals grazing in morning light at Pench National Park

Aided with the expanded AF point grid, here is an in-camera composition of cheetals grazing in morning light at Pench National Park

Low light performance
I pushed the Canon 1DxM2 ISO to a maximum of 3200 during some misty conditions at Dudhwa National Park and the noise was workable and can easily be removed using noise reduction tools.

ISO 3200, Extreme Low Light.

ISO 3200, Extreme Low Light.

View Finder Guiders
A feature which was introduced in the Canon 7DM2 has been pushed in the new Canon 1DxM2 as well. If you look through the view finder of this body, you can see some of your basic camera settings like White Balance, Metering Modes, AF Drive, Shooting Modes and a horizon stabilisation bar. The font colour is however black and the display works very well only when you are shooting with bright backgrounds.

A screenshot of the icons you can see through the view finder of the Canon 1DxM2

A screenshot of the icons you can see through the view finder of the Canon 1DxM2

Advanced AF for f8 lenses
Typically while using a Canon 1Dx with Canon 500mm or 600mm f4 lens and a 2x converter, only the centre focus points used to be active. A noted beneficial feature with the Canon 1DxM2 is that all 61 focus points remain active with f8 lenses (if you are using the new generation 1.4x and 2x converters). 41 of those points are cross-type, having both horizontal and vertical line sensitivity. 5 central points are dual cross-type and have wider baselines that offer high precision focusing for F2.8 and faster lenses.

Touch Screen
While shooting using the Live View feature you can now touch the LCD of the Canon 1DxM2 to focus your subject. The feature is good for shooting videos as well.

I mounted the camera on a beanbag and used the Live View AF touch screen feature to focus on the subject at the corner of the frame. Using Canon 1DxM2 and Canon 400mm f2.8 IS2

I mounted the camera on a beanbag and used the Live View AF touch screen feature to focus on the subject at the corner of the frame. Using Canon 1DxM2 and Canon 400mm f2.8 IS2

Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section…

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