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Canon R6 Field Testing

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.

Shot using Canon R6 and Canon RF 15-35 f2.8
Shot using Canon R6 and Canon RF 800mm f11
Shot using Canon R6 and Canon RF 15-35 f2.8 (ISO 10000)
Shot using the animal eye tracking feature on Canon R6 and Canon RF 15-35 f2.8
Shot at 1600mm and animal eye tracking –
Canon R6 and Canon RF 800mm f11 and the 2x RF converter
Shot at 1600mm and animal eye tracking –
Canon R6 and Canon RF 800mm f11 and the 2x RF converter
Shot at 1600mm and animal eye tracking –
Canon R6 and Canon RF 800mm f11 and the 2x RF converter

Corbett field test – video report
Animal Eye Tracking with langur monkeys

First Field Visit Post Lockdown

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!

Monsoons are here in Ranthambore and India…
Tiger life is usual in the park as the cats walk amidst the iconic ruins. A young female at Padam Talao
Did not expect to see T60’s shy cub. Was good to see that she is shaping up well after those drowning videos from last summer

Big Cats can make you smile

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.

Some highly inspirational Big Cats

A lion that can give you some self-care tips

On the Panel – Episode 4 and 5

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.

On the Panel – Shivang Mehta in conversation with Federico Veronesi
On the Panel – Shivang Mehta in conversation with Graeme Purdy

On the Panel – Episodes 1 to 3

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.

There are many more exciting episodes coming up. So subscribe to the Nature Wanderers channel on YouTube and or follow my Instagram page.

 

On the Panel – Episode 1 : Evolution of Wildlife Photography in India

Panelists : Shivang Mehta, Rahul Sachdev & Prakash Ramakrishnan

 

On the Panel –  Episode 2 : DSLR Camera Trapping

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.

 

Snow Leopard Expedition 2020 Summary

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.

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Canon EOS 1Dx Mark III – The Speed Demon Arrives!

Check out the first hand field report of the brand new Canon EOS 1DX Mark III which was launched this week. I tested out the camera in tough Indian winter conditions through the month of December amidst foggy and misty mornings of Corbett and Keoladeo and the soft light in the Little Rann of Kutch in Gujarat. The superb focusing, laser fast AF selection using the smart controller, 16 FPS and the ever awesome low light performance which the 1D series is known for makes this one of Canon’s best 1D. And of course the Canon 1Dx Mark III is all set to open a whole new dimension when it comes to wildlife filming.

Check out this video and the subsequent images to summarise my journey with this speed demon so far.

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All images (C) Shivang Mehta Photography

Canon 90D – Does it fit in your wildlife kit?

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A stiched panorama using a Canon 90D and Canon 18-55mm kit lens
What is the use of a cropped sensor body for a wildlife photographer? Let us look into it from 2 aspects.
 
Are you an amateur photographer looking for a camera body with good features in the budget segment? There is a whole range of Canon APSC (cropped sensor) cameras across different price segments you can opt for. It all started with the Canon bodies like the Canon 50D and the Canon 7D which were perfect for wildlife photography because of the built and high frames per second. The low light performance of these cameras was a cause of concern and then came to Canon 7D Mark II with some more advanced features.
 
Once you migrate to higher end camera bodies and enter the 5D and 1D segments do you still need for a cropped sensor body? In my opinion you do. Here is my take on this on the basis of my experience with various Canon bodies in the past 12-13 years.
 
From the 40D, 50D and the 7D I used all the Canon cropped censor bodies and as an amateur photographer I was happily making use of these semi professional cameras with the old version of the Canon 100-400mm IS1 which was my staple kit for years. High ISO performance was a pain point but I got used to living with it and experimented with photographic techniques like use of slow shutter speeds to tackle such scenarios. 
 
My next step was a migration to the Canon 1D Mark IV which again was the top end flagship model but a cropped sensor body again (1.3x cropped). I had started using prime lenses and started loving the combination. For the next 4-5 years I was married to the 1DM4 and then migrated further to the Canon 5D Mark III and later on to the Canon 1Dx and the Canon 1Dx Mark II. Though Canon kept on coming out with more and more technological marvels in the form of these full frames but there was one camera body which was a permanent fixture in my kit – the Canon 1D Mark IV. Do you wonder why?
 
Being an excellent cropped sensor body for me the 1DM4 was my tool to get better reach whenever it was needed. It acted as an additional tele converter which I used time and again was shooting close portraits or getting that perfect composition which needed that extra bit of focal length. The 10 fps and the decent low light performance was an added bonus.
 
However with the every evolving technology I was constantly looking for a 1DM4 replacement in the past few years. In 2014 Canon upgraded the 7D with the 7D Mark II. I was still not confident of letting go of my 1DM4 as I wasnt confident if the 7DM2 would fit into that shoe. Hence I continued my journey with various full frames as and when they were launched and the 1DM4 still occupied that same old slot in my camera bag.
 
Recently I had the opportunity to use the Canon EOS 90D. A cropped sensor body again which was built on two key features – focus and speed. I straight away put the camera into a rigid field test in hazy weather conditions in Manas National Park in Assam. The light was poor and the opportunity was perfect for me to answer some of my questions pertaining to this new cropped sensor body by Canon. Here are some of my observations: 
 
  • 45 cross type focus points – The moment I looked through the view finder of the Canon 90D the huge gamut of 45 cross type focus points which occupied a substantial area of the view finder caught my immediate attention. Composition and focusing becomes fun with this wide spread of focus points and I had a great time composing my subjects in various parts of the frame
  • 32.5 megapixels – I am not a fan of cropping images and strongly believe in in-camera compositions. A camera packed with megapixels means that you get better details and that was the pick of the features for me. Even if you have to crop up 15-20% of the image you have enough data in the image to make a completely useable image.
  • ISO performance – All cameras perform well in good light conditions. The challenge is when the light is tricky. In Manas I got the opportunity to test out this camera in two different light situations. A backlit capped langur and the results were satisfactory. I then encountered a herd of elephants and in hazy conditions I photographed this herd at various ISOs ranging from ISO 800 to ISO 1600. The noise at ISO 1250 and ISO 1600 was perfectly manageable. 
  • The Flip Screen – While shooting from a vehicle I usually struggle to take a low angle shot. A lot of times I am seen hanging out from the window at times with the camera attached to a monopod and a remote trigger to take wide perspectives of subjects close to the vehicle. I do get the results but its purely a hit and trial technique and the composition does go for a toss. With a flip screen life becomes easier as you do get to see the composition and frame when your eye is off the view finder and this feature was very handy.
  • Focusing & Speed – I refer back to the capped langur troop that was moving in thickets with the sun hitting their backs. The limited openings in the tree meant that the camera needed to be fast in catching the focus and the burst firing at 10 fps was adequate enough for catching the fine moments on the tree. 
So would the Canon 90D find an entry into my camera kit and would I be finally bidding farewell to my trusted partner – 1DM4? I guess I will have to do it with a heavy heart. I feel the Canon 90D is a body which would perfect for terrains and projects where one needs reach and the cropped sensor stacked with heavy duty prime lenses can make that fine difference. The perfect examples are snow leopard expeditions or a birding expedition. The 4K videos with slow motion features also makes it an ideal filming cameras for documenting wildlife.
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Asian Elephants in Manas National Park. Canon 90D and Canon 100-400mm IS2. ISO 800, f5.6, 1/400
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Asian Elephants in Manas National Park. Canon 90D and Canon 100-400mm IS2. ISO 1250, f5.6, 1/400
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Asian Elephants in Manas National Park. Canon 90D and Canon 100-400mm IS2. ISO 2500, f5.6, 1/500
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A capped langur in Manas National Park. Shot on Canon 90D and Canon 100-400mm IS2. ISO 400, f5.6, 1/640

Leopards & Shepherds of JAWAI

Cover Sample

It was pleasure working on a book project with Shatrunjay Pratap – my friend and owner of Bera Safari Lodge in Jawai Bera in Rajasthan. Leopards & Shepherds of JAWAI is a story of the harmonious relationships shared by the leopards and the local Rabari tribes of the region. It was a great experience experimenting with leopard images in the past few years for this project. From night photography of this elusive cat to use of technology in the form of camera traps, Leopards & Shepherds of Jawai helped me to understand and observe cat behaviour closely.  Through her poetic writings Shatabdi Chakrabarti has given the perfect voice to Shatrunjay’s thoughts about the location and his adventures in this fascinating landscape.

Grab a copy today to know more about the secretive lives of leopards in this remote location of Rajasthan in India

Write to info@naturewanderers.com for details. Discounted offer – INR 2100/-

 

 

Tiger Marathon 2020 Schedules

 

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My annual Tiger Marathon photo safari schedules are now up on Nature Wanderers Photo Safaris

4 back to back photo safaris have been planned for Ranthambore and Bandhavgarh – 2 of India’s best tiger habitats. At Tiger Marathon you can either pick up one batch or club multiple batches to spend longer time in the field and go back with an amazing portfolio of summer images

Schedule of Tiger Marathon 2020

  • May 7 – 10 : Ranthambore National Park – 6 regular safaris
  • May 10 – 13 : Ranthambore National Park – 6 regular safaris
  • May 14 – 17 : Bandhavgarh National Park – 6 regular safaris
  • May 17 – 20 : Bandhavgarh National Park – 2 full day safaris, 2 regular safaris