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.
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.
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.
We had been tracking Lorean (the leopard) and her 3 month old cub for quite a few days during the recently concluded Migration Uncut photo safari in Masai Mara. I was already quite impressed with the young lad as he roamed around without the mother and once climbed way up a tree in her absence and meticulously found his way down as well after exploring various sections of the tree. We decided to target the family during most of our game drives and one morning the cub was in the bushes around 100 meters away from Lorean who was looking to hunt. Her stomach was seeming full and I wondered why she was trying to hunt. I left her for a bit and post lunch found her again resting in a bush. She was up after a brief nap and disappeared in the bush. Mom apparently went out shopping and got a small toy for the young cub in the form of a warthog piglet. The excited cub got scared in the beginning but gradually gathered courage and played with his moving toy for around 45 minutes. The mini piglet even charged at the cub and Lorean was observing each and every move of the cub. As the piglet toppled Lorean would get it back on its feet for the cub. Finally the game was over as the little cub after repeated attempts killed the piglet and consumed his snack. Lorean did not participate in the meal and sat next to the cub and just observed him attempting to rip apart the meat himself… Training is a vital part in the life of a leopard cub and this lesson would have been vital for Lorean’s cub and would have done wonders to his confidence for the future.
Satpura National Park is always a special place for me. The leopard and sloth bear infected forest has always been a great location for documenting their behaviour. Night in Satpura makes the forest more special as a lot of nocturnal species can be observed in the fringe areas of the park. In May 2019, I spent a week exploring Satpura after dark. The target was the worlds smallest wild cat – Rusty Spotted Cat but every night was an element of surprise with some unique and fresh perspectives of Wild India.
Here are some images from Satpura… after dark!
2018 has been a year of adventures, some stupendous wildlife action, some exotic species and some great wildlife moments. As we end this wonderful year here is a brief recap of the some of the images that are my personal favourites for this year.
Making effective use of light and its play is a key feature of my work and this handsome male tiger in Ranthambore stood perfectly in a lush green monsoon forest in October this year.
A dream came true in November as I along with my guests photographer a clouded leopard in the wild in Borneo.
Tracking cubs is challenging and as a wildlife photo guide I love that challenge. The moments spent with Bahati and her little one in Masai Mara tops the chart for 2018
The young price of Paar was shaping up as a legendary tiger of Corbett before he had a painful end as he was mauled by an intruding tiger. His memories will remain in our hearts forever.
Snow Leopards cuddled up in the freezing wind of Spiti. The time we spent with this family on multiple occasion was chilling and thrilling.
2018 marked my introduction to Infra Red photography and Corbett was my favourite playground for creating some dramatic IR images with my newly acquired toy.
I deployed a few camera traps in various habitats but the Satpura leopard at Reni Pani Jungle Lodge was special as it was a quick turnaround image. This female was trapped within 24 hours of deployment.
Kaboso has been the key entertainer at Masai Mara in the past few years and our guests spent some special moments with her during the 2018 edition of Migration Uncut.
Wishing you all a Merry Christmas & a Happy New Year. May 2019 get loads of success and happiness for you all!
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.
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.
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” …
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.