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Migration 2018 – Week 1

I just finished up an exhilarating week 1 at Migration Uncut 2018 with our guests in Masai Mara. As the river crossings are picking up pace slowly this year, we concentrated a lot on the two star leopard mothers – Bahati and Kaboso during these days. After days of tracking and planning we finally got some first photographic records of Bahati’s 15 day old cub day before yesterday and followed her again yesterday to observe some amazing behaviour with the little one.

Amongst other sightings we got couple of cheetah hunts and Kaboso hunting down a wildebeest. Not to miss some crocodile action in the Mara river as some zebras had a narrow escape while crossing the river.

Here are few of the many moments witnessed during the week. Am now preparing for the arrival of our next batch. Stay tuned to this space along with my Facebook and Instagram profile for the next 4 weeks for live updates from Masai Mara.

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Preps for a new Tiger Season

It is monsoon time and my team is busy working on the plans for the next season. To start with we have already announced a few fresh photo safaris in tiger parks like Ranthambore & Bandhavgarh. The annual Ranthambore Opener schedule is up to enable you get a glimpse of the first stripes of the season in the lush green forest post the monsoon showers. With multiple breeding females in the tourism zone, Bandhavgarh would be in the thick of action through the new season and we kickstart our Bandhavgarh photo safaris with a winter schedule in December.

Visit http://www.naturewanderers.com for details

 


A Prince who ruled hearts…

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15 years ago when I started working in one of India’s most stunning forests, the damp smell of the leaves that dazzled the forest floor overlooking a magnificent saal canopy and the musical sounds of crystal clear water cascading down the white rocks shining like jewels, as the first rays of morning rays kissed the Ramganga, were some of the first soul touching moments of Corbett which continued to draw me back to this magical landscape in various professional capacities.

The blue waters of this spectacular river and the presence of glittering coat of a shy and elusive Corbett tiger trespassing the divine landscape always made me skip a few heartbeats. Years passed by and then emerged a tigress from this river as a goddess and with the attitude of a bold mermaid who loved the rich blues of the Ramganga. She became a showstopper and for the first time Corbett was known because of a tiger called Paro. Having followed the stories of various tiger families across tiger habitats of India I always waited for an opportunity to observe a tiger family that ruled the rivers of Corbett. I anxiously waited for her future generations as I was curious to see a river denizen raising her young in the dramatic yet challenging terrain.

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Over the past many years I followed various tiger families in various tiger habitats of India. As Paro walked out with her tiny borns dangling in her mouth last summer, I was geared to document a special story I had been waiting to work on for over a decade. A perfect character and the perfect family in some grand backdrops. The monsoons swept away half of her motherly aspirations and she was left with one male cub – the chosen one.

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A little prince did not hesitate to take the first bold steps in a river rubbing shoulders with her mother. His antics made him a heartthrob as he braved the winters, climbed tree stumps and exhaled breaths of gold in the misty golden mornings of the Ramganga. He was always a little slow in catching up with her mother. But eventually he did make it every time.

However the night of May 27th was tough for our entire team as we knew the young prince had strayed a little too far and he was in danger. It was a night when a grieving mother battled an intruder and her cries echoed in the vast grasslands she owns. It was a night where we waited every minute for the sun to throw the slightest of light on a small water puddle which was the last refuge for a Prince who dreamt of ruling the river.

RIP “The Little Prince of Par” …

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Your tales will be embedded in the soul of the rivers which have been your playground in the past one year. I pray for your the future generations of stripes who will continue to rule the rivers like you aspired to in the years to come. 


Tackling “Tiger Boredom” 

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One of the most photographed cats the “Tiger” though can trigger a rush of adrenalin, but what if you are one of those who think  “Been there done that”? You empty your pockets doing the flurry of game drives in Indian parks at times paying a premium with special all zone access to venture out in the scorching heat of the cruel Indian summer only to be faced with scenes which are dull and boring, forget adrenalin rush your body produces melatonin, inducing sleep…..so much so for a tiger safari then.
We as photographers are constantly looking for tiger action in the form of hunts, play sequences, interactions or shooting the cat in the soft morning or evening light. These are rare moments and happen once in a while. But what do you get instead on 70% of the occasions? Tigers sitting in cemented water tanks, Tigers in the bushes, Tiger sleeping under tree shades. The subject you go out seeking is smarter than you , they give you an half opened eye look with a perplexed look as if saying go chill in a swimming pool , sit in the shade, it’s too hot to be cooking yourselves alive.
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Summer sightings like these are considered to be below average owing to harsh light or man-made structures and the drooping shoulders of a lot of camera owners around me just display signs of what I term as “tiger boredom”! Over the years I have been bitten by this boredom way too often but have tried to come up with ideas to overcome it by experimenting with such tiger sightings.
As I write this note a lazy (or rather a smart) tiger is sitting in front of me in a cemented water tank cooling himself as we roast in the sun. I have my doubts if he will get up in the next couple of hours. But I love the commitment level of the photographer and the subject! Just like I have committed myself to be burnt alive, this tiger is committed to chilling in its pool and we both haven’t given up on each other. And while I hope he gets into action at some point eventually, let me pen down some thoughts on how to encounter this tiger boredom 🙂

Shooting Portraits

We all start off with shooting tiger portraits, some graduate to learning how to zoom out and capturing the majestic feline in its environs, some never do. It’s after all the world’s most photogenic cat.
But in a scenario where you can’t do much with the environs have you thought of doing an extreme portrait of the cat. Stacking up all the glass in your kit for a tight close up of the eye if it’s open, or the nose or experimenting with the depth of field by keeping certain parts of the face in focus and blurring the rest. IMHO these are some engaging exercises that can keep you engaged while your body cooks itself, making the stepping out in the sun a little more worthwhile.
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The Dissection Technique for Portraits 

From head to tail the tiger is by far a charismatic subject and as a photographer I see frames and perspectives in every part of its body. What better than a lazy tiger sitting out in the open to hone your observation skills. Stripes, paw, powerful back hunches, nose,  whiskers – each and every body part of the tiger has a hidden image which is fun to explore. Never went to a Zoology practical class, try that out with your camera and lens on the most majestic subject available.
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The Cement Issue

We crib about our cities being a concrete jungle but then we encounter concrete in the jungles too, what a bummer that’s what you ran away from to begin with.
Tigers in cemented water tanks has become a critical national problem for photographers. The joy of a sighting simply evaporates in minutes with the sight of a cement. Even I didn’t pick up my camera many years ago to photograph something which isn’t natural. One fine summer around 6 years ago, I noticed something during one of my safaris in Bandhavgarh which changed my thought process. Extreme portraits are of course an easy way to deal with the cement issue, but what else can be done. What caught my eye was the trail of water dripping from the belly when the cat got up from the water and ever since I have been thinking of images around the belly waterfalls.
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Tiger Falls

Tiger in cemented waterhole – Bandhavgarh

Reflections

Cement water holes have a unique feature. Before the tongue of a tiger touches these water bodies the water is still and the stillness gives a mirror like reflection and there are plenty of opportunities which can be explored around reflections. Even once the process of water going in the system is on, the ripples in the water can create some great tiger abstractions.
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So the next time you spend a bomb to venture on a full day safari in peak summers risking a sunstroke , don’t doze off to give the sleeping cat company. Tigers have been widely photographed in today’s time but in my opinion there are tons of tiger images yet to be taken. Make the best of what you have, challenge your brain cells, trigger those creative juices and make the adventure out in the sun worth your while.
And once you are through with your experimentations you can also think of more ideas and sit in front of a lazing tiger to kill your boredom by writing a similar note for the benefit of mankind 🙂

From Snow Leopards to Tigers

I have been on the road since the first week of March. From a fortnight in high altitude terrains of Himalayas in search of Snow Leopards to shuttling between Corbett & Ranthambore guiding guests from South Africa, United States & United Kingdom. Here is a quick round up for March 2018.

The Snow Leopard Expedition was a memorable experience with 6 sightings of 8 individual cats. The tender mother and cub moments enthralled our guests and the bold male gave some excellent photographic opportunities.

Paro’s young cub in Corbett has been looking in great shape and being the lone cub he is growing up fast. His antics around the river and river beds of Dhikala would be etched in sighting records of Corbett for years to come. Ranthambore on the other hand has been going steady and the major turn of events has been the sudden surge in sightings of Krishna (T19) and cubs post March 2018. Machali Junior or Arrowhead littered in the last week of February but the cubs have not been seen post the first report and the survival of the young cubs is questionable. The other consistent sightings have been Laila (T41) and her Blue Eye male cub. Noor (T39) and her female litter of 3 cubs are now showing signs of separation. Ladli (T8) and the cubs have been regularly seen along with the separated male cubs of T60.

Stay tuned to this space for some more exciting summer reports from Wild India in the coming months.

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Feb Marathon Runs…

February has been all about hopping between various tiger habitats of India. The month started with Ranthambore where my guests spent some productive sessions with Noor (T39) and cubs and the T60 separated male cubs. Glimpses of Machali Junior (T84) raised hopes of her pregnancy. The lakes have been drying up gradually the effects of a scanty monsoon is now clearly visible.

We then moved on to the action area of Dhikala in Corbett National Park where the winter mist continued to fascinate our guests. The elephants have dwindled as compared to January but still there were sizeable numbers considering we are still in the fading part of winters of India.

Post the sad demise of my friend and elder brother Rajwardhan Sharma, I had to gather a lot of courage to go back to Bandhavgarh. I avoided it for the past few months but work commitments have got me here again.

I have just arrived amidst memories of Raj saheb and as I am gearing up for the week out here in Bandhavgarh, his pleasant memories and the hours of time we have spent together are reinstating my belief that Bandhavgarh will never be the same without him.

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Winter Magic Continues in Corbett…

I just wrapped up the second Corbett schedule for January 2018. This time it was a photo safari with a young talented bunch of shutterbugs in Dhikala. The highlight for this schedule was yet again elephants in the cloud of mist floating over the grasslands. It is very critical to value the importance of simple moments in the wild and focus your energies on them. I am glad that my guests realised the importance of photographing elephants in winters and some outstanding perspective were created every morning.

And yes we did bump into a few tigers in our quest for light and mist…

Here are few more images depicting the winter moods of Corbett

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2018 opening @ Corbett

Just wrapped up the first leg of field visit to Corbett at the start of 2018. I was scouting locations for a filming team and there wasn’t enough time to shoot any stills but the dappled light emerging from a mystic saal forest along with the presence of elephants in the grasslands and a couple of tigers walking on the dazzling riverbeds made the visit special. The pristine locations around the park also kept us busy with ghoorals, Great Indian Hornbills and otters were seen over the period.

Heading back for the first Nature Wanderers photography expedition tomorrow. Stay tuned for more field updates from the magical winter woods of India.

Till then here are some images from Kumaon at the start of the new year.

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A Decade with Tigers : Book Reviews

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Thank you for the wonderful response to my book – A Decade with Tigers. I have been taking a note of each and every feedback you all have shared – both positive and negative. I hope you have enjoyed reading the stories of India’s top tiger brand ambassadors and in case you haven’t picked up a copy yet, log in to your Amazon or Flipkart accounts to get your copy today.

Here is what the readers and the media had to say about the book:

“From tiger mothers and male tigers to denizens of the tiger kingdom, the book is surely a treat for tiger lovers” – Deccan Chronicle

“The stunning pictures of Indian wildlife in this book are testament to the magnificence of our natural world” – Valmik Thapar

“Books like these with strong visuals unfold the wild mysteries of species of India and makes you connect with nature” – Dhritiman Mukherjee

“A Decade with Tigers is a unique tribute to the tigers who have played a vital role as ‘brand ambassadors’ of Indian wildlife.” – Hindustan Times
“The text is well complemented with exquisite images by Mehta, who has spent thousand of hours on the field. Each picture opens a window to the animal while the text sums up its traits.” – The Hindu
“This book is a result of passion and hard work put in by Shivang Mehta … many of the pictures include habitat and action which is so great as it shows that the photographer is noticing all the different moods of the subject and the surroundings … a break from tigers is welcomed by the rest of the fauna and habitat showing that the photographer is not just tiger centric … some artistic pictures are included showing incredible eye he has developed” – Sanjeet Mangat, Wildlife Photographer
“A wildlife photographer accumulates many interesting stories while living deep forests at a stretch. Mehta makes use of his insider’s stories to turn the book interesting to the common readers. In the end, he conveys a nice message to the budding photographers” – Dr. Anup Kumar Das

 


Winters are back in India

Winters, in my opinion, is one of the best seasons for photography in India. The morning light mingles with the soft mist to produce a dramatic impact that gives a mystic punch to the woods of India. The golden grass of the meadows supplements the saal forests standing tall against the rising sun with rays filtering through the canopies.

Here are some winter moods of Indian jungles. The mesmerising orange coat of a tiger amidst this environment is a sight to behold.

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Photo Safaris – Updates

Planning for a wildlife expedition in 2018 with a focus on wildlife photography?

Join Shivang Mehta for an exciting line-up of photographic safaris in various destinations of India and Africa. Here is a brief list of programs you can register for:

Migration UNCUT 2018 Photo Safaris

 

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Migration photo safaris at prices like never before. Register before December 31, 2017 to avail the special early bird offer in order to be there for the biggest wildlife spectacle in the planet at Masai Mara in Aug-Sep 2018. 3 back-to-back photo tours with small batch sizes of 4 photographers per batch in unbeatable stay locations in the Mara.

Batch 1 – Aug 14-20, 2018 – Register Now

Batch 2 – Aug 21-27, 2018 – Register Now

Batch 3 – Aug 28-Sep 3, 2018 – Register Now

Tiger Marathon 2018

 

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Are you willing to boost your tiger portfolio by maximising field time doing tiger photographic safaris this year? Be a part of Nature Wanderers annual Tiger Marathon photo tour series. Tiger Marathon is a back-to-back series of photo safaris where you can pick one tiger location or club multiple locations enabling you to customise your tiger safari schedules as per your convenience.

Every year we at Nature Wanderers carefully analyse the tiger dynamics of various tiger hotspots of India in order to plan the popular Tiger Marathon series. A lot of factors go behind this planning and presence of tiger cubs is one of them. For Tiger Marathon 2018 our focus parks are Corbett National Park and Ranthambore National Park – 2 of the most prominent tiger habitats of India teaming with tiger cub action in the summers of 2018.

Batch 1 – Ranthambore – Apr 28 – May 2, 2018 – Register Now

Batch 2 – Ranthambore – May 3 – 6, 2018 – Register Now

Batch 3 – Corbett – May 7 – 10, 2018 – Register Now

Batch 4 – Corbett – May 11-14, 2018 – Register Now

Wild Namibia

 

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You have experienced African destinations like Kenya and Tanzania with Nature Wanderers over the past decade and with that experience, you must be aware that Africa is the mecca of wildlife with loads of photographic opportunities. We have been asked questions by a lot of photographers like you on how to diversify your African portfolio beyond Masai Mara and Serengeti. We feel a key difference in images can be changing the backdrops and trials with new photographic techniques like usage of external light sources in order to bring about a uniqueness in your African portfolio.

Join Shivang Mehta (Canon Photo Mentor) for this unique tour to experience the highlights of one of the most diverse photographic destinations in the world – Namibia. This tour offers some of the most breathtaking landscapes together with an unbelievable bird and wildlife spectacle. Expect some of the best photographic opportunities imaginable both day and night..! Shivang will be accompanied by BBC award winning photographers who have worked extensively in Namibia as their home turf to give you the opportunity to boost your portfolio of African images using techniques seldom used in Indian scenarios.

Register Now for Wild Namibia


A Decade with Tigers – Curtain Raiser

In the past 14 years I have documented the lives of some of the most iconic tigers of India. I am pleased to announce the launch of my book – A Decade with Tigers – which is a compilation of images and stories depicting love, romance, motherhood, rivalry and revenge in the world of tigers in the past decade. Here is a curtain raiser to the book.

Stay tuned for launch updates…

 

 


Post Monsoon Tiger Safaris – Opening week update

Ranthambore National Park and multiple tiger reserves opened for tourism after a 3 month monsoon break on October 1st. I just wrapped up my first photo safari session in Ranthambhore and week 1 was very exciting as we saw the first few tigers post the monsoon break in lush green backdrops of Ranthambhore. The monsoons this year were bad and unless it rains in winters, Ranthambhore water sources would be drying up very soon this season.

Machali Jr. / Arrowhead was the first tiger to be seen for the season. Noor (T39) and cubs have been seen regularly in the last week and the young brigade looked in great shape. T8 and cubs have been sighted consistently in the monsoons as well and the trend continued in October first week. T57, T41 and cub, T73 and cubs were some of the other tigers that were seen during this week.

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Migration Uncut 2017 – Update 2

In the second phase of Migration Uncut 2017 photo safaris with me, we witnessed some amazing river crossings in the Mara river. Bahati made some superb appearances and Malaika and cubs gave some excellent photographic opportunities in the rain. One of the highlights was a sub adult cheetah trying to cross the Mara river. Fortunately he gave up as soon as he stepped in the water as the river was flowing at a rapid speed and there was no way it could cross.

Post Mara I took my guests to Bogoria and Samburu and millions of lesser flamingos greeted us in the lake. Samburu blessed us with some awesome leopard sightings and of course the endemic species like the reticulated giraffe and the gravy’s zebra.

Here are some images to summarise to fortnight. I am now gearing up for the start of the Indian photo safari season with tigers of Ranthambhore in October. Stay tuned to www.naturewanderers.com for more photo safaris at Corbett during the winters.

 

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Migration Uncut 2017 – Update 1

I am mid-way through the annual Masai Mara Migration Uncut 2017 photo safari series. The weather has been a bit erratic in the Mara this time but we have made making effective use of the low light, showers and the bits of sunrises and sunsets to create very dramatic images for our guests. Lions and cubs have been one of our key focus areas as the cubs at the Double cross are too small and tracking them have been a challenge. We have had multiple productive sessions with them. Looking forward to some good river crossings in the coming days as I wait for a fresh batch of guests from India.

 

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Remembering the Mighty Elephants

It is World Elephant Day today and I take this opportunity to showcase to beauty of these magnificent creatures of Mother Nature. They are symbolic from various aspects – be it culture, mythology, religion or just their sheer presence in our forests. The Asiatic Elephants are one of the many shining jewels of wild India.

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Countdown For Migration…

We are now in the migration season and as I gear up for my annual Masai Mara migration photo tour series, here is a recap of some memorable moments I have had in the Mara with our guests during the last 7 years of the Nature Wanderers Migration Uncut series.

From effective utilisation of morning and evening light situations to river crossings to hunt sequences, every day in Mara requires planning and I take this opportunity to thank all our guests over the past so many years for believing in me as their photography guide.

Looking forward to continuing more exciting adventures in August – September 2017.

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The Dark Namibian Nights

As the sun sets in Namibia, the open horizons and minimal light pollution gave way to a sparkling Milky Way and countless stars that dazzle the black night canvas. Such scenarios are perfect for  night photography and for experimentations with your wider focal lengths.

During the recent Nature Wanderers Namibia Photography Tour, here is how we spent some of our nights – scouting for locations during the day for making the best use of absolute darkness.

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Wild Namibia

Namibia – Land of spectacular scenery, where the red Kalahari and the breathtaking Namibia deserts meet, where ancient trees, incredible bird life, and a diversity of wildlife is found, where desert, marine, and open plain mammals, birds, reptiles, insects abound. From Sossusvlei to the vast Etosha, Namibia has everything that a wildlife photographer could wish for.

Nature Wanderers conducted a photographic expedition in Namibia where we took our guests for a memorable journey showcasing the unique biodiversity of Namibian deserts as we photographed the landscapes, night-scapes, miniature world and the iconic Southern African wildlife of this African wild treasure.

The highlight of our photography tour was the in-depth training sessions on photographing wildlife in the night and making optimum use of technology for the same.

Here are a few images we created in the last 15 days…


Tiger Showers – Summers 2017

Have been constantly on the field of the past couple of months and haven’t had much time to sort images. Just back from back to back Corbett and Bandhavgarh photography tours and I must say both locations are teaming with wildlife action. While Paro – the river mermaid of Corbett – has been enthralling photographers with a consistent appearances in majestic Himalayan backdrops, Bandhavgarh has had some outstanding action with tiger cubs as Spotty – the reigning heartthrob of Tala – is in command with her young battalion of cubs who have made the grasslands their playground this summer. In the other areas of the part Bamera’s son (T37) has been displaying his affection for his offsprings as the 3 cubs of Kankati Jr. have been keeping shutters busy in the lone water body of the area.

 

Here is a quick preview for April and May 2017:

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Greens of Mara – March 2017

Just conducted a caracal expedition in Kenya. Though the focus was on small cats and the expedition resulted in 2 caracals and 15 serval sightings, but the week in the lush green plains of Masai Mara was action packed. The wildebeests were out of action and the river was calm. However action in the green pastures was supreme as usual with lions jumping around in the rains, servals scouting for morning meals and some excellent work with the rare and elusive caracals – one of the most elegant small cats of the African bush.

Here are some images to summarise my photo safari for March 2017.

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Nature… Devoid of colours

Black and white imagery looks stunning because of their artistic and dramatic appeal. I am frequently questioned about why I converted a particular image black and white. The process starts much before the image is shot as in my opinion shooting black and white images requires perceiving and pre-visualising a particular frame as black and white even before pressing the trigger. Here are some basic aspects which go through my mind during before shooting a black and white image:

  • Tonality & contrasts
  • Flat light and bland skies
  • Would the subject stand out without colour?
  • Textures and details
  • Leading lines and geographic compositions
  • Positioning of the light source

Do all images make good black and whites? I wouldn’t agree as a monochrome image is surely created in your mind and there are quite a few images that are meant to be photographed in colour.

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Ramganga Musings

Nothing could have been a better start to a new year. Reliving some magical mornings of Corbett… the music of a Himalayan river with sparkling waters cascading down the white stones which slowly get lit as the sun peeps from the horizon and fumes of mist mingles with the first rays of the sun to create a seraphic landscape which has been forever embedded in my memory for more than a decade.

Over the years, while photographing this splendour a variety of subjects came and added a flavour to the glowing ambers of the Ramganga on a daily basis. Days normally start with redstarts, storks, greenshank and slowly graduates to a pied kingfisher and finally on one of the days a crested kingfisher takes over the misty throne of the Ramganga. However that particular morning of January 2017 was steaming with a thick layer of mist which made the light softer than usual. As I was waiting for my routine kingfishers, a group of smooth coated otters distracted me on the opposite direction as I observed their morning chores while they merrily swam braving strong river tides in search of a meal. For quite some time, I avoided the distraction but the otter antics were hard to resist and for a change I prioritised subjects over light and changed the direction of the camera. As soon as I looked through the viewfinder of my camera, behind my back, a ghostly figure royally stood on the smoking orange stones of the river. The subject was 200 times the size of the expected kingfisher and as soon as I looked back, we both stared at each other in shock.

At the blink of an eye the ruler of the Ramganga – a huge male tiger – traced back and ran back towards the bushes from where it was making up its mind to cross the glowing river. Some photographic opportunities remain edged to your memory even when you miss them. The frame was blank but the memory of the soul of the river in that dramatic set-up will remain forever.

For the records, here are few images from the year-opening photo tour to Corbett National Park.

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Canon Wild Clicks – Season 6

Canon Wild Clicks Season 6 – India’s Only Live Photography Contest concluded in Dudhwa National Park. With identical shooting conditions, defined themes and a defined timeframe, over 100 contestants came together to test their creativity and think beyond tigers during the 4 day competition. The event was conducted in partnership with Uttar Pradesh Government and Forest Department of Dudhwa.

 

It all kickstarted with the Honourable Chief Minister, Mr. Akhilesh Yadav flagging off Canon Wild Clicks as Nature Wanderers along with the Government of Uttar Pradesh welcomed 100 chosen photographers from all corners of India to be a part of the mega event from Nov 17-21, 2016. The entire group was divided in 3 parts to be mentored and guided by ace photographers – Shivang Mehta, Tejas Soni, Sandeep Dutta and Saurabh Desai.

This year jury comprised of award winning photographers Ganesh H Shankar and Jagdeep Rajput who spent countless hours judging over 500 images being submitted as per 5 themes given to the contestants.

CWC 6 has always been a great platform for knowledge sharing and this year the contestants got to be a part of talks on photographic compositions by Ganesh Shankar and some interesting panel discussions with Jagdeep Rajput.

Pratik Pradhan from Mumbai was judged the overall winner of Canon Wild Clicks Season 6 and won a Canon EOS 5D Mark IV and some exciting goodies from our sponsors WulPro & Sirui.  Along with the Grand Winner, Canon Wild Clicks – Season 6 had five themes winners & 12 honorary mentions.

Presenting  brief visual gallery from Dudhwa:

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