While I spent most of this season exploring the woods of Corbett on foot, setting up camera traps to document some charismatic species like tigers, leopards, leopard cats and elephants, the Dhikala photo safari during this Easter weekend was a nice change to the foot patrolling routine. The grandeur of the Saal forests and the vastness of the grasslands is always the key Corbett characteristic which keeps you pulling back to this unique landscape which supports an astounding array of ecosystems.
Here are some images from the Corbett camera trap project along with the traditional Dhikala photo safari. Hope you enjoy these and do pardon me for my long absence from this blog.
In the past few months I have made multiple videos on the various features of the Canon EOS R5 and EOS R6 – the two mirrorless Canon cameras which are transforming wildlife photography globally. Check out these videos again in case you have missed them.
The Canon 100-400mm IS2 has been my go-to piece of glass for the past few years. I love the versatility of the lens and time and again I have written and advocated the use of this lens for various field scenarios in wildlife photography. When Canon launched the twin brother of this lens in the form of a Canon RF 100-500mm for the mirrorless state-of-the-art wildlife cameras like the Canon EOS R6 and Canon EOS R5, I was quite intrigued as to what difference it can bring to my area of work. I was given the opportunity to try out this lens for a month and with my ongoing projects I could put it to field usage in two different situations.
The first step was to use the Canon RF 100-500mm mounted on the Canon EOS R5 in a typical Indian wildlife safari where one is confined to a vehicle. Jhalana Leopard Sanctuary in Jaipur was my area of work where I focused on big cats and mammals. Stage 2 of the field test was the outskirts of Corbett Tiger Reserve where I spent 3 weeks on foot searching for Himalayan wildlife and birds.
Some of my observations from this experiences are listed below:
I am a 400mm 2.8 user and for maximising my output from the Canon RF 100-500mm I took a conscious decision not to carry the big prime for both these field trips. Did I ever miss or regret that decision? No! I didn’t as the Canon RF 100-500mm was versatile enough specially with the Canon EOS R5 which has an in-camera cropping feature that enables you to produce cropped RAW files. So essentially I was able to toggle between 500mm and 800mm using the in-camera crop feature just at the click of a button.
Birding with the light weight Canon RF 100-500mm in a rough Himalayan terrain was great fun. The ease of use and the ability to hike around with a light weight equipment set up that enables you to scale up to 800mm was a really cool feature.
On many occasions in both the field locations, the light conditions were tricky and I had to bump up the ISO in order to get the desired shutter speed. The Canon RF 100-500mm handled low light extremely well whenever the light threw a challenge.
Canon had also given me the RF teleconverters and I did use the Canon RF 100-500mm with the 2x and 1.4x RF teleconverters. Something which I have never done with the Canon EF 100-400mm IS2. The experiment was a success as whenever the subject was is good light, the convertors did give the desired results.
As a concluding statement here is my take on the Canon RF 100-500mm. All you photographers migrating to the mirrorless technology who are still thinking of a good zoom telephoto for wildlife photography this is the lens to go in for. It will give you the range, flexibility and you should confidently use it across various genres of nature photography like I did in the past month. From birds, mammals and landscapes – it just keeps performing!
Aug 19 is World Photography Day. A day commensurate this wonderful form of art. A day to remind all you photographers that our role is to create inspiring story telling images. ‘Create’ is the key word to remember out here… Creation is an ever evolving process and every moment in your journey as a photographer this evolution will keep helping you take a step forward as an artist. Keep creating & Keep inspiring!
In the first week of July I tested out the sample units of the highly awaited and newly announced Canon mirrorless system. The sample units given to me comprised the Canon R6, Canon RF 800mm f11, Canon RF 600mm f11 and the Canon RF 15-35 f2.8
My field testing location was the outskirts of Corbett National Park and an area around Delhi where I had been working with langur monkeys through the lockdown period. While I was quite kicked about using a mirrorless camera but my expectations with the two f11 prime lenses was quite low when I started working in the field.
The lenses were feather-weight and as I started a gruelling monsoon trek in the humid forest I was wondering that in a normal scenario I would have never carried by big primes and here I had a mini toy of a 800mm which is so simple to carry but would it perform to the best of its abilities being fixed at f11? That was the question which needed answers.
As hours and days passed by my confidence in these lenses started growing. Why? Apart from the weight factor the lenses were fast in catching on to focus. Remember this is the monsoon period in India and I didn’t expect to see large mammals. So my test subjects were mostly small Himalayan birds and the miniature world. I was amazed with the performance of these lenses as I worked with small subjects like caterpillars, spiders etc. The sharpness was totally acceptable and over the days I enjoyed tossing a 800mm while trekking up and down the saal forests.
Talking about the Canon R6 the camera is no doubt a technological marvel from Canon. Light weight, brilliant low light performance and the animal eye tracking worked throughout whether it was the tiny macro subjects in Corbett or the ever-agile langurs and their cute little babies.
So for all you photographers who have been wanting to scale up your focal lengths for your bird photography or even for specialised expeditions like snow leopards where this range is needed, feel free to go in for these lenses along with the Canon R6 combination. It is worth considering.
Here are some sample images and a couple of video reviews that summarise the field visit.
The world has changed in the past 4 months. For me as a field wildlife professional a lot has changed as this was the first time in nearly 2 decades that I kept away from active field photography such a long duration. As Indian national parks gradually come to terms with the COVID-19 tourism dynamics I visited Ranthambore National Park for a quick field visit. Life inside the forest was usual and life outside the forest was changed as it should have been. Sanitisation of safari vehicles, use of masks during safaris, sanitisation rules of lodges – these are some norms which we should be getting used to as India gears up for the post COVID-19 phase of wildlife tourism.
Here are some images are a short video that summarises the entire journey post the lockdown. It is not tough. Just take all precautions and you can keep that passion and hunger for outdoors alive!
Spent some quality time compiling some video footage taken in the past many years in Masai Mara for my YouTube Channel
We all know most of the Big Cats are lazy. As a still photographer most of the footage I had was full of sleeping cats. So this was the best I could do. Have a look and subscribe to my YouTube channel for regular updates on wildlife and photography.
As the lockdown continues and the world strengthens the battle against COVID19 I continued my discussions with global photographers on various topics pertaining to wildlife photography. Over the years I have closely interacted with Federico Veronesi throughout my journeys in Kenya and understanding his work and approach to photography helped me to broaden my scope of work.
On the Panel was a great medium for me to get the message out to a larger audience as Federico explained how creativity plays a major role in working in locations which is always flooded with photographers. There is always a scope for an image if you think beyond the obvious.
I ended this series of On the Panel with an interaction with Graeme Purdy. where we discuss about remote shooting using camera buggies. Graeme shares his experience using this technology which helped him to conceptualise his unique book showcasing some intimate images of African wildlife.
The COVID19 lockdown has locked everyone and the present and the future looks uncertain as of now. However the positive side in the creative world is that the photographic community has come forward and has been very open in sharing knowledge in innovative ways. We started a discussion series bringing together the best of natural history photographers from across the globe to discuss various aspects of wildlife photography and for me it has a great experience interacting with all my international colleagues and recording some of these interactions.
Check out the first 3 episodes of On the Panel hosted by writer, film maker and journalist – Shatabdi Chakrabarti as she grills us on DSLR camera trapping, photographing wildlife after dark, creativity in wildlife photography, evolution of wildlife photography in India and much more.
Panelists : Ben Cranke (Award Winning Photographer from South Africa) & Shivang Mehta
On the Panel – Episode 3 : Night Wildlife Photography & Usage of Flash
Panelists : BBC Wildlife Photographer of the Year – Wim van den Heever, Nature’s Best Africa Wildlife Photographer of the Year – Brendon Cremer and Canon EOS Ambassador and Siena International Photographer Award (Wildlife) Winner – Shivang Mehta.
As the world battled the COVID19 crisis I was unaware of the seriousness of the situation as I was stationed up in the Spiti valley for my annual Snow Leopard expedition series which started in end of January and ended in second week of March. News of the world crises reached in weekly instalments as guests came and gave me fresh updates as we tracked the grey ghost of the Himalayas in beautiful rock formation engulfed amidst a white canvas – a landscape where one is humbled to witness the beauty and divinity of Mother Nature.
A handsome male who has been the star attraction of Kibber Wildlife Sanctuary in the past few years and constitutes a major segment of my snow leopard portfolio was often seen throughout this period. He made us walk in tough terrains and at times obliged with easy road side photographic opportunities. He stalked, hunted, walked gracefully on snow, on steep rocky creeks and just as I was descending from Kibber I got the shocking news that the individual died as he fell off a cliff while hunting an ibex. The memories spent with him in the past few years will be remembered by me and all my guests forever.
Last year we were lucky to witness the extraordinary mating behaviour of snow leopards. Little did I know that Mother Nature would shower her blessings again as we got to document yet another mating pair – this time in a completely different set-up. The courtship was happening in an old ruined cave used by Buddhist monks for meditation. The background stories of the location were as fascinating as the mating rituals.
Working with mother and cubs in the tough terrains of Spiti was challenging for our trackers but their effort and persistence made it easier for us to find the cats and we ended up spending some special days with the family.
2021 in Kibber would be full of action and adventures! Stay tuned for the schedules.
For now here are some images to round up the trip summary for 2020.