Wildlife photo safaris with India's leading photography guide

Wild Notes by Shivang Mehta

Survival in Extremes

Season after season most of us have seen Bear Grylls the presenter of Discovery Channel’s popular series – Man Vs. Wild.  He is the man who epitomises adventure and survival and has survived the harshest of terrains. I recently watched an episode of a new series – ‘The Island Hosted By Bear Grylls’ on Discovery Channel that brings back the same thrill, however, there is a twist in this series… Bear Grylls drops the participants on a deserted island and challenges them to fend for themselves.

The Island - Season 1

THE ISLAND — Season: 1 — Pictured: Bear Grylls — (Photo by: Chris Haston/NBC)

The series features 14 participants being dropped on a remote Pacific island without any modern day amenities or tools; where nothing is going to be ordinary for the next 28 days.

With only the clothes on their backs and minimal survival tools, these men are committed to filming every moment themselves. They are left to battle against the local elements and wildlife & are forced to confront their innermost fears. But the question is ‘will they survive the Island?’

It amazes me that the rules of the game are very different. Here is a reality show with no elimination and no prizes to be won. The only prize is to survive the ever-evolving nature and battle challenges like hunting for food, sourcing water and building shelter. They have to test their physical, mental and emotional limits and fight for their very existence in an extreme environment.

The Island - Season 1

THE ISLAND — Season: 1 — Pictured: (l-r) James Murray, Taylor Cole, Davion Peterson, Rob Brothers, Michael Rossini, Trey Williams, Dakota Mortensen, Richard Smith, Judson Nichols, Alton “Buck” Parker, Matthew Getz, Earnest Marshall, Benji Lanpher, Graham Sheldon — (Photo by: Chris Haston/NBC)

I recount my expeditions in the wild. My passion for photography takes me to deep forests and each time the wild has appraised me with ‘expect the unexpected.’   During my journeys, I am equipped with essentials like water, snacks, a phone and of course, my camera. When I was watching the show, I wondered how these modern men would survive in such a harsh environment without basic supplies. All these modern men come from such different backgrounds, like there is a stay-at-home dad, a trauma surgeon, a firefighter – who are accustomed to roofs over their heads and the benefits of technology. In this competition they are stripped of all modern conveniences and catapulted back to the basics. While each one has a different motivation, they all have something to prove to themselves and to each other.

I am getting hooked to the show which is airing Monday to Wednesday at 10 PM on Discovery Channel and I look forward to watching the full series to know if these men would be able to keep a cool head under competitive pressure of being alone in an island. Will they give up or develop a new zeal to fight the nature?

I recommend you to watch the series to see these contestants unfold the mysteries of the wild and their–newly evolving skills of hunting and gathering.

 The Island Hosted by Bear Grylls is airing Monday to Wednesday at 10 PM on the Discovery Channel.  You can share your feedback about the show on Twitter or Facebook using #IslandWithBearGrylls

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Being a Wanderer

A decade back I started juggling between 2 boats – on one hand it was the cozy comforts of the corporate world, a 10 hour work schedule, targets, deadlines and seniors scrutinising and supervising each and every move. All this involved some good figures in the bank at the end of the month. On the other hand it was the passion of adventure, travel and photography. The joy of discovering different aspects of the natural world by seeing creations of God. Wrangler has started a new campaign TrueWanderers, an attempt to recognise such individuals like me you are driven by passion and determination & who make tough decisions in life to achieve their dreams.

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Finally the heart ruled over the mind and the nature wanderer in me took over and I stepped into a zone where I took the onus of making a profession out of my passion. The wanderer in me took me to newer geographies and each terrain was gifted by a new set of species. The wanderer in me made me understand nature photography and move from the science to artistic elements of painting the natural world using a camera and a lens.

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The wanderer in me made me learn from some of the most creative brains of India. Even after more than a decade, today the wanderer in me keeps the fire alive to discover, explore and learn.

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I came across a set of such wanderers that propelled their passion and stepped out of their comfort zones and I am sure you would enjoy listening to their inspirational stories. It is a test of your mental strength and determination to create your own path that set these wanderers apart. Great job by Wrangler to organise the search for TrueWanderers campaign. Read more about the top 5.0 Wanderers and get inspired from their passionate path and vote for your favourite contestant.

TOP 5.0 Wanderers

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And the rhododendrons blooms…

A74I4150_V5C8629A74I3165-low res18_V5C8809A74I3398_V5C8879It is mid March and the green canopies of Eastern Himalayas are slowly gaining some more colors. Amidst this changing dynamics we spent another fortnight with the red jewels of the forests and some sessions were very productive for photography.

The highlight was a new individual red panda we tracked and followed. He has lost his one eye due to reasons we could not decipher but he was bold and agile in sprinting through the rhododendron and moss trees. We called him ‘The Pirate’…

Presenting a few images and memoirs from the March edition of The Red Panda Expedition.

 

 

 


Cherubs of the mist…

Reporting from the lap of the Himalayas under the shadow of the mighty Kanchenjunga range where we are currently following a family of the rare and elusive Red Panda in the wild. It has been an absolute spectacle watching and observing the mysterious lifecycle of this wonderful jewel of Eastern Himalayas. The green moss struck trees in this emerald forest light up when an innocent looking creature opens its red coils against some majestic backdrops in a mystic forest.

Here are some moments… Many more to come!

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Keoladeo Updates…

The annual Canon-Nature Wanderers Keoladeo expedition just got over. Bharatpur is back in action after a dull season in 2015. The painted stork colonies are back and so are the darters and cormorants fighting over the fresh fishes. Our photography group worked a lot around Saras Cranes in the mystic winter backdrops of the Keoladeo marshes. Not to miss some winter visitors like the Siberian Rubythroat that added a sparkle to the portfolios of images being created.

As always, the workshop was full of experimentations, learning and new techniques which our shutterbugs tried in challenging light scenarios. Here is a brief glimpse of images created during the 2016 edition of the photo tour.

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Updates from the Mangrove World

Wrapping up my annual Sundarbans photography expeditions. Sundarbans has been one of the toughest photographic terrains of India. The challenges of creating images in the mangrove forest are immense but despite the fact the mysticism of the mangrove forest continues to fascinate me. The sparkling kingfisher species continued to give some superb photographic opportunities and so did the breathtaking mangrove formations. Here is a brief photographic brief from Sundarbans 2015 Photographic Tour by Canon India and Nature Wanderers


Best of 2014-2015

It is the end of season and as I look back at the hectic 9 months, some of those glorious wildlife moments keep flashing in my head. With more than 150 game drives in Ranthambhore, the focus of the season was on Krishna and cubs. My brief fortnight-long stints in Kanha, Bandhavgarh, Corbett and Sunderbans were rewarding as well. Escorting some of the best photographers in business, it was a great knowledge sharing experience on the field. Though in most of the game drives I wasn’t shooting much since I was escorting and mentoring photographers, I did squeeze in time for some personal drives in Ranthambhore and those were the times my camera was in action the most.

Presenting a compilation of my top 14 wildlife moments for 2014-2015.

1. Krishna & Cubs – October 2013

The season started with Ranthambhore and the first glimpse of Krishna and her cubs in the band of golden morning light at Rajbagh remains edged to my memory till date. The experience lasted for not more than 10 mins but our gang of photographers created some dream images that by far are the best images of T19 and cubs from that time from October 2013.

October 2013 - Lady of the lakes T19 (Krishna) along with one of her 3 cubs

October 2013 – Lady of the lakes T19 (Krishna) along with one of her 3 cubs

2. The King & The Fisher – Nov 2014

Amidst the hysteria around T39 (Noor) and her cubs one fine morning in November 2014, a tiny kingfisher caught my attention. The background was a typical Ranthambhore habitat and resulted in this image. One of my favorites from the season. Worked on similar concepts whenever the opportunity was right. Infact over the next many months after shooting this, I did a lot of birding around tigers – from Kingfishers, the stone curlews, drongos, peacocks, robins. The first creation is normally the best creation and rest are more of duplications in order to better this.

The King & The Fisher

November 2013 – The King & The Fisher

3. In His Kingdom – Kanha – Dec 2014

Kanha in winters has always been special for photography. Not for tigers but because of the mist and the meadows. During one such game drive in Kanha, we bumped into the majestic Munna. My experiments with Tilt Shift lenses on tigers have helped me in creating some unique wide angle perspectives. The saal forest backdrop offered the perfect opportunity to pull out the glass from the bag.

December 2014 - In His Kingdom - Munna, Kanha National Park

December 2014 – In His Kingdom – Munna, Kanha National Park

4. A morning at Rajbagh – Jan 2015

There was something about that morning at Rajbagh. The soft morning light filtering through the mist was just enough for shooting this wonderful show put up by Krishna and her cubs at the edges of the lakes. Our gang of photographers were stunned in silence after this wonderful action packed sequence – probably the best action by this terrific family throughout the season. The soft light, the grand backdrops, the orange winter coats of the cubs… am sure the lensmen present that morning will vouch for this being probably the best tiger action of their lifetime.

Dancing to the tunes of Krishna cubs - Jan 2015

Dancing to the tunes of Krishna cubs – Jan 2015

5. The Winter Couple – Jan 2015 – Bharatpur

End of Jan, we took a small break from Ranthambhore and shot in Bharatpur for a few days. Despite of the low activity of birds in Bharatpur, I decided to focus on a subject I love to work with – the Sarus Cranes. Morning to evening sessions with Sarus led us to this beautiful pair of cranes that walked out in unison in the early morning mist of Keoladeo with the sun just popping out from behind deep in the horizon. As I looked through the view finder to shoot this image, I had goosebumps all over seeing this dramatic setting of the Keoladeo marshes.

The Winter Couple - Jan 2015

The Winter Couple – Jan 2015

6. Thunderbold Krishna – Feb 2015

The master hunter Krishna silently disappeared in the Rajbagh grasses one evening in Ranthambhore. Unaware of what is going to happen, my vehicle reached the spot and as I changed my equipments to focus on a group of cheetal grazing in a small patch of open grass, Krishna stormed out like lightning in the small patch of light dispersing the group in all directions.

Thunderbold Krishna - Feb 2015

Thunderbold Krishna – Feb 2015

7. Tiger Off-Springs – Ranthambhore – March 2015

It was a 30 mins sighting that morning at Rajbagh and not more than 5 mins of hardcore tiger action. Krishna cubs played like maniacs in that backlit set up. A storm of lenses surrounded them as the lake water splashed all around with the mother joining the play sequence.

Tiger Off-Springs - March 2015

Tiger Off-Springs – March 2015

8. Bears and Bears – April 2015

I remember this morning as one of my best game drives in the park. We were running after the mother T39 (Noor) while her cubs were already been seen by a flurry of vehicles in zone 1. In our pursuit we bumped into a different specie of a mother who walked on a forest floor bed full of palas (flame of the forest) flowers. Post this all the vehicles dispersed from the cubs location and we spent a nice peaceful exclusive time with T39 and her cubs.

Sloth Bear with cubs

Sloth Bear with cubs – April 2015

9. His First Catch – Ranthambhore – April 2015

A moment which will be engrained in my memory till my last breath. The inexperience male cub of Krishna (T19) attempted to bring down a cheetal. He struggled for more than 40 mins to kill the cheetal. A power-packed sequence but it was painful to see this through the view finder. Read the entire photo story on this blog – https://shivangmehtaphotography.wordpress.com/2015/05/03/the-first-catch/

The deer tries to escape the strong clutches

His First Catch – April 2015

10. Stripes – The Extreme Portrait – May 2015

Over the past few years, I have developed this taste of shooting extreme closeups of tigers. Scaling up the focal length to around 1000mm+, composition needs to be really precise. This summer, inspired by some frames and compositions from Tiger Dynasty (by Nalla Muthu) I wanted to go tighter than usual. I had a discussion with Nalla on his certain ultra tight compositions. God was kind to gift me with a calm and composed T24 sighting soon after those talks with Nalla where I made effective use of a 1000mm focal to create a series of super tiger compositions.

Shot just 20 hours before he killed a forest guard

T24 Ustaad – The extreme portrait – May 2015

11. The Ramganga Queen – May 2015

I normally don’t run after tigers in Corbett. However May 2015 was an exception. The Par tigress was obliging photographers with their dream Corbett images and I forced myself to join this race. A few misses and finally we caught her one morning in Dhikala.

The Corbett Queen - May 2015

The Corbett Queen – May 2015

12. The Cave Dwellers – Bandhavgarh – May 2015

The Patiha family has been controlling a major chunk of tiger sightings in Bandhavgarh throughout the season. We spent 1 morning with the 3 cubs in this cave set up which is one of the most unique habitat image series of tigers I have shot till date. The reddish rocks, the contours in the rocks, the gradients and patterns and the sparkling stripes made an interesting combo and the 10 odd images around this cave have been amongst the top backdrops for tiger photography for me.

Patiha cub in Bandhavgarh - May 2015

Patiha cub in Bandhavgarh – May 2015

13. Krishna Clan – Ranthambhore – May 2015

Over the months, it has been an experience the changing behavior of tiger cubs. The playful Krishna cubs were now displaying signs of independence by making their own odd kills and small fights showcasing dominance. But the attachment with the mother was seen time and again and during this morning in May 2015, 14 month old tiger cubs were caught suckling.

14 month old Krishna cubs suckling - May 2015

14 month old Krishna cubs suckling – May 2015

14. Star walked the ramp – June 30, 2015

The lakes of Ranthambhore can surprise you anytime of the day. Rains had an impact of the sightings of the park in the last few days of the park closure. It was the morning of June 30th and everyone was hoping for 1 final glimpse before the park closes for monsoons. We decided to take a final lap of the lakes before leaving and caught Star (T28) walking in the pristine backdrop of the fort and on a carpet of green. It was long and silent walk with no vehicles around. A befitting end to a season!

Star (T28) - Last tiger sighting of the park on June 30

Star (T28) – Last tiger sighting of the park on June 30