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Ranthambhore – May Diaries

Just wrapped up a 2 month schedule at Ranthambhore. Come May and a lot of drama unfolded in Ranthambhore post T24 (Ustaad) killing a forest guard on May 8th during the tourism hours on the fort road of the park. The tiger has now been shifted to a enclosure in Udaipur which has caused a massive uproar across the wildlife fraternity and social media platforms have gone viral with hate campaigns. As the legal bodies decide the fate of T24, here is a brief round up for May.

There has been a visible change in the family dynamics around the lakes as Krishna cubs started making a few independent kills while the mother wasn’t around. On multiple occasions I felt that the mother displayed her irritation towards the cubs and on a lot of days the family was scattered around the lake areas. However the moments of unity were touching as I caught the entire family chilling out one morning as the family united once again and moved towards Rajbagh.

While clouds of uncertainty surrounded T24, his offsprings have been literally controlling the sightings of the park in May as the mother T39 (Noor) was seen frequently along with the family. I also documented T24 a day before the tragedy and couple of times post the tragedy. It was quite emotional to shoot a tiger who was spending his last days in the wild.

Talking of some last images of a tiger, the exiled queen Machali (T16) made a surprise entry in the tourism area for just a few hours after a long gap. She has been suffering from cataract but still holds her charm. Probably the last we have seen of Machali … though she always comes up with surprises so you never know!

Here are some images to round up the month of May in Ranthambhore:

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The First Catch…

The days of innocence are finally coming to an end in Ranthambhore. It was a quite morning around the lakes in Ranthambhore. Krishna (T19) and her young battalion of 3 cubs were scattered all over the lake area and there were no signs of the tigers for the first few hours in the morning. Scenarios can however change within seconds and Krishna sprung out of a dry river bed with the 3 cubs and they marched towards the hunting palace in the middle of the lakes.

One of the cubs separated from the family suddenly got distracted because of a cheetal fawn and sprung up in action sprinting towards the prey in dense foliage. The cub caught hold of the cheetal fawn but catching hold of the prey is just step 1 of being an experienced tiger in the wild. Bringing the prey down with that lethal blow is the key for a successful hunt. The cub definitely lacked this experience as the canines are not yet effective to suffocate the prey.

The painful cries of the young fawn echoed in the forest as the young tiger cub failed to understand how to kill its first catch. The tiger then started ripping the fawn apart from its hinds and started consuming the morning meal alive.

Experience does matter to survive in the wild!

Krishna's cub catches hold of a deer fawn

Krishna’s cub catches hold of a deer fawn

Instead of the neck he goes for the back

Instead of the neck he goes for the back

The deer tries to escape the strong clutches

The deer tries to escape the strong clutches

The agony continues and the tiger decides to rip apart the hinds while the deer is alive

The agony continues and the tiger decides to rip apart the hinds while the deer is alive

Finally when the struggle ended the deer was put to a rest

Finally when the struggle ended the deer was put to a rest

A painful end for the deer but the tiger makes his first independent kill

A painful end for the deer but the tiger makes his first independent kill

Ranthambhore Diaries – April the onset of summers

It is the end of April out here in Ranthambhore and probably for the first time the forest is looking lush and green even as the temperatures soar up. The water table which had shot up because of the March rains is all getting dried up very fast and all this is giving us the unique opportunity to photograph tigers in a lush green semi-monsoon habitat.

While T19 (Krishna) and her cubs are keeping the shutters busy, T39 (Noor) and her 2 young cubs have also made an entry into the tourism zones. Even the other zones have seen some awesome tiger sightings in the form of T42 and T13 mating and T8 and her cub giving good photo opps in the Kundal area of Ranthambhore.

Here is a brief photographic journey through Ranthambhore through the month of April.

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A morning at Rajbagh…

January 25, 2015

It was a cold winter morning in Ranthambhore National Park. For 3 days Krishna (T19) and her young battalion of 3 cubs had concealed themselves in a patch of grass on the edges of the lake where they were feeding on a sambar kill. The sky was finally opening up after 3 days of cloud cover and the soft morning light was filtering through the Rajbagh mist. The stage was set for some fabulous tiger photography the cubs finally emerged out of the tall grasses to put up wonderful show in front of a bunch of lensmen who created some outstanding images that morning.

Check out this video that sums up a winter morning at Rajbagh:

Ranthambhore : March Diaries…

March was a month we all were looking forward to in Ranthambhore. The stage was set for some great tiger action to kickstart the long summer. Scanty monsoons had ensured that the water sources in the park were drying up fast which would have resulted in some easy pickings in terms of tiger sightings around the lakes. However unseasonal rains which last for a few days dampened the spirits in mid-March as the forest turned lush green again with water tables going up again for the first time in the past many months.

Despite of the overall tiger sighting dipping in the park, T19 (Krishna) and her clan made some appearances around the lakes. The cubs are growing fast and are at their active best when the mother is around. Here are some glimpses from Ranthambhore this March.

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Nature Photography : Answering your Whys

T19 (Krishna) walking through a forest thicket in Ranthambhore

T19 (Krishna) walking through a forest thicket in Ranthambhore

A lot of ‘whys’ are put forward during my workshops and photo tours. Why did I use this lens to shoot a particular image? Why did I expose this image in this way? Why did I use a particular combination of ISO, shutter, aperture etc? My standard response is it all depends on what you as a photographer have envisioned for a particular image and what you want to create…

For this particular image here are a few responses to some of the Whys:

  • Why did I go for a tight composition?
    • Because the habitat in which the tiger was walking for full of clutter which wasn’t appealing for a wide shot. I had a choice of a Canon 400mm f2.8 IS2 and a Canon 70-200mm handy with me this time. My decision to go tight was mainly to deal with the clutter of a dense Dhonk vegetation which is omnipresent in a place like Ranthambhore. 
  • Why did I underexpose the image?
    • Just to capitalize on the patches of cut light falling on the face while the subject was in motion. I did not shoot a lot of images when the subject was walking in the shade areas and was just preparing myself to shoot for the light patches. Even before the tiger started walking the light patches in the Dhonk forest something which I found interesting to play with. As soon as the subject started moving towards those light patches, I metered for those patches only. I did miss some moments when the subject was walking in shade areas but that was not the image I had created in my mind.
  • Why did I compose vertically?
    • Because it was too close and a horizontal composition may have resulted in some part of the leg being cut from the frame which would have looked odd. I knew there was little margin for error in the composition but it was worth the risk because it was this sort of an image which I had visualized in my head…

      Nature photography is all about visualization and knowing what you want out of something happening in front of you. The quicker you think the more comfortable you would be in answering you Whys…

Equipment Used : Canon 1Dx, Canon 400mm f2.8 IS2, ISO 200, f4, 1/2000. Mounted on a NW BLite Bean Bag

Ranthambhore : 20 day round-up

It is February and Ranthambhore has already started loosing some of its charismatic winter colors. Days are warm and sunny consistently and the dense fog and gloomy weather conditions have given way to golden morning mist over the lakes. All these dramatic changes in the last 20 odd days have had an impact on the sightings of the 2 devoted mothers and their doting cubs. While T19 (Krishna) has been keeping photographers busy around the lakes, T39 (Noor) made a reappearance in the park after a 20 day disappearance and if the weather continues to warm during the days, the sighting trends would surely improve further in the coming days.

The last 20 days, I was focussed on the lakes and had some memorable encounters with the lake denizens. The female cub of Krishna always surprised me with her antics. She is bold and independent and would climb on trees, induce the other siblings to indulge in play fights, stalk deer fawns and one fine afternoon she pulled off a stunner by swimming right across the Rajbagh lake like a Sunderbans tiger in the company of crocodiles who had literally surrounded her during a 50 meters lap. We had named her Machali junior because of a fork mark on her cheek which bears resemblance to her famed grandmom – Machali. She is certainly the dominant princess of the lakes.

News and rumors around new born cubs of T41 have also raised the hopes for summers and overall Ranthambhore is gearing up for some exciting tiger action starting March.

Here is a brief photo-diary of some Krishna and cubs moments in the last fortnight:

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