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
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.
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 🙂
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.
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.
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.
Tiger in cemented waterhole – Bandhavgarh
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.
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 🙂
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.
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
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…