Wildlife photo safaris with India's leading photography guide


First snow leopard year post COVID

It was a 2 year break for my snow leopard expedition as COVID had put breaks on this most anticipated Himalayan odyssey. So what changed in Spiti this year? Nothing substantial as time normally stands still in this stunning landscape. The only development which was Spiti was finally had telecom connectivity so spending those weeks after weeks in the tough sub-zero conditions wasn’t pinching this time. Not that it did earlier but at times one does become home-sick when you spend prolonged months in such remote areas. This year was different as Spiti had recreation opportunities and time-off moments in the form of Netflix documentaries and watching live cricket matches.

When I documented and witnessed snow leopard courtship in 2019 for the first time, I thought I was blessed by the Himalayas and it was an honour to be dwarfed in that grand landscape and gazing at the rare behaviour of this enigmatic species. Little did I know that the same luck would shine again in 2020 in a completely different location as snow leopard romance was in the air yet again. This year my expectations were moderate but Valentine’s Day was celebrated early in Spiti as for the third time (and this time around the distance was much closer) in my previous visits the same natural history phenomenon was documented again. The courting pair was seen throughout most of the expedition and that became the highlight of the visit.

Some images that made the post-COVID snow leopard expedition too special…

Lockdown Diaries…

As India is battling the second wake of Covid and the country is undergoing another lockdown, I shifted my base to Corbett outskirts in search of my routine lifestyle – being close to the woods and nature. Daily walks around my base camp have been fairly productive in terms of wildlife which has learnt to survive in close proximity to the surrounding villages. Tiger, leopards, Asian Elephants and many more species I keep bumping into have kept the camera busy and the mind tuned to active field work. Here are some visuals to support the lockdown diaries.

Field updates from Corbett

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.

Grassland female road block
Grassland female in a pensive mood
The giants return to Dhikala chaurs
Aim higher – An Asian Elephant reaches out for a morning snack
A leopard on a cheetal kill caught on a camera trap
Small wonders – Leopard Cat
Eclipse – nocturnal moves of an Elephant

Canon reviews

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.

Official Canon review

A month with the Canon RF 100-500mm

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!

Sample images below:

World Photography Day Greetings

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!

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