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.
My annual edition of migration photo safari in Masai Mara just ended. The migration this year has been awesome and the river crossings were phenomenal. Leopards were the key focus for my batches this year and we clocked 10 individuals in various areas of the park. The ever dramatic skylines of Mara along with the dramatic light kept the creativity going. A few lion, leopard and cheetah hunts kept the adrenal high making this years photo safari overall productive. Some key highlights were the 5 cheetahs trying to impress their female and a 3 month old leopard cub playing around with a warthog piglet and finally killing it (will be posting a photo series soon)
To join me for next years small group special migration photo safaris just drop us an email at email@example.com
Here are glimpses of Masai Mara from the last month.
I have been living in a suitcase for the past few months and have no time to share updates from the field. We at Nature Wanderers, wrapped up our snow leopard expedition series in Spiti with some fabulous sightings of the mysterious Himalayan cat including wonderful natural history moments like mating snow leopards.
We also wrapped up a Masai Mara photo safari in February which we followed up with a training session I conducted around remote photography of African wildlife. Some amazing perspectives were created in the process. Here our some photo updates from the month of February 2019
Image by my guest – Shishir Kumar Jain
Image Courtesy – Nature Wanderers Photo Guide, Saurabh Desai
Image Courtesy – Nature Wanderers Photo Guide, Saurabh Desai
Just returned home after wrapping up week 5 in Masai Mara as part of my annual migration photo safari marathon. Life had been hectic in the bush as week 4 started with the news of Bahati’s den being surrounded by lions. The brave mother shifted her cub to a safer den and our guests witnessed this wonderful moment of a leopard crossing a stream with her cub.
There were some good hunts during the period in the form a lioness pinning down a zebra and Kaboso’s young leopard cub playing around with a hare which he caught unexpectedly one morning. The weather in Masai Mara was superb during the period as we had some great sunrises and sunsets and we made the best use of light in the golden hours.
As I start preparing for a new tiger season that starts in a week, here are some images from the last fortnight to sum of the 2018 edition of Migration Uncut
It has been a tiring run of 14 day migration photo safaris in Masai Mara and hence I didn’t have time to update this space. The last fortnight has been interesting as we tracked and worked on Kaboso (the leopard) with her 2 cubs on multiple occasions. We were fortunate one evening to catch Amani (the cheetah) with her 3 young cubs as she has spending a lot of time in the conservancies outside the park but decided to venture in the park that evening. The marsh lion cubs were also under our constant radar but during our search for the cubs, we bumped into another lioness in the pride who revealed her 2 little secret fur balls and our guests got the first photo record of these tiny month old lion cubs.
Here are some images to sum up the entire fortnight. Gearing up for another fortnight in the African bush.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The plans for the 2017 Migration Uncut photo safari series in Masai Mara are on. All you serious photography enthusiasts who wish to join me in my Aug-Sep 2017 Migration batches to witness the Great Annual Wildebeest Migration in Masai Mara can please send me an email on firstname.lastname@example.org
Post a hectic 13 hours a day grueling schedule in the African bush, the 2015 edition of our migration campaign in Masai Mara, Amboseli and Tsavo came to an end. The last leg our Mara campaign gave us some great cheetah action, a few superb river crossings were halted because of brutal crocodile and lion assaults. The ofcourse continued making use of the morning and evening light searching for subjects that can make good images.
It was great to see a clear view of the Kilimanjaro when we landed in Amboseli and elephants against the backdrop of the majestic peak made it a perfect frame. I was particularly impressed with the dedication showed by my fellow photographers in Tsavo where they experimented with some unique perspectives of red elephants by burying themselves underground for 2 days. The tons of wide angle perspectives from Tsavo were a real treat for photography.
Here are some of the many moments witnessed in the past 10 days:
It is monsoons and I am just doing some serious desk job before hitting the field again in August. Recently I recorded a 3 episode series for my close friend, journalist and India’s #1 travel blogger Ajay Jain for his initiative Kunzum TV.
So have you missed your bus to Masai Mara and other locations in Kenya this year? Is Kenya a destination for you in the future and you are still getting confused on what to choose amidst the crowd of packages being offered by different operators in the market? Watch the 3 part episode series on Kunzum TV to get an answer to all your WHYs pertaining to Kenyan locations like Masai Mara and plan your holiday to the Mecca of Wildlife.
Shooting in Masai Mara during the Great Wildebeest Migration has been one of my biggest photographic learning ground over the past few years. The ample amount of shooting opportunities opens avenues for experimentation and a lot of field experience gathered from the Savannah can be applied while shooting in Indian scenarios since opportunities in our forests are rare and its imperative for a photographer to make the best of those rare intrinsic moments in the woods of India.
This year my focus was yet again on tight closeups and in addition to the light, a heavy downpour during one of the days also acted as an aid while creating images in the Mara. Presenting an assorted collection of images from my 2014 Mara expedition:
(In case you wish to join me for my 2015 Masai Mara photography tour, please send me a mail at email@example.com)
The Great African Migration is much more than the simple river crossing which you are visualizing. Here are a few numbers to sweep you off your feat! The true spectacle of the migration is 1,245,000 wildebeest, 200,000 Burchell’s zebra, 18,000 eland and 500,000 Thomson’s gazelle filling the entire stretch of Mara landscape.
When the savannah turns golden red in the month of July, and the zebra start pouring in across the river, the first herds of the wildebeest arrive and the feasting for the Mara’s predators and scavengers, begins.
The African Lion is the supreme predator of the Mara landscape and is a treat watch during the migration time as with a sizeable prey base spread across the Mara, the lion prides hunt strategically in the early morning or late noon hours giving you the chance to photograph these rare moments from close quarters in great light.
Often regarded as a shy, nocturnal animal, sightings of leopard in the Mara can occur even in the middle of the day and last for several minutes.
Although not as muscular as the leopard, the cheetah is built for sheer speed and is the world’s fastest land mammal and has been timed at 110 kilometers per hour. The Mara is one of the best places in the world to shoot a cheetah in full action as they often seek a vantage point on a fallen tree, termite mound or even car bonnet, to look out across the savannah for their next prey.
Canon Photo Mentor and Nature Wanderers Escort – Shivang Mehta – has lead multiple photography groups to Masai Mara for the Great Annual Migration. In addition to photography, his days in Africa are planned in order to understand the movement and behavior of big cats and other African wildlife. Prolonged patience, hours of wait and meticulously planned safaris have ensured that he extracts the best from an action packed day in the Mara.
Join Shivang Mehta for his 2014 Masai Mara expedition and discover the hidden secrets of the Savannah during this years Great Annual Migration.
The best part about photography in Masai Mara is the even light conditions. A slight cloud cover during the Great Wildebeest Migration months makes the light soft and apt for photography. Unlike Indian terrains, the Savannah lights are devoid of any obstructions and as a photographer you hardly miss any details while shooting in these conditions.
Post spending almost 12-13 hours on the field everyday, you hardly get 5-6 hours of light conducive for photography. The noons are normally spent with subjects lazing around in harsh sunlight and in anticipation of some action which may or may not happen on that particular evening. It was some of these noon hours during which I spent some time with some common subjects in Mara to create high-key images over a period of 2 weeks during the Wildebeest Migration of August-September 2013… Experimentation in photography is always great fun as it was in this case as well..
Here are some of the Highlights of Masai Mara from 2013 (click on the images to view the full screen on flickr):
Abstract depiction of the Indian tricolor of a Great Annual Migration in Masai Mara.
As I started yet another morning in Masai Mara, a couple of safari vehicles deep inside the grassland caught my attention. Long distant binocular investigations were not very clear so we decided to check the spot before heading ahead. Heading towards the spot from a distance a swift Serval cat was spotted leaping inside the tall grass in search of its prey.
The rare, shy and ever gorgeous Serval was hardly few feet away from me but the shooting conditions were tough as visibility was poor because of the grass. These are times when you feel helpless for the precious golden light was lighting up the sparse visible patches of the coat. I had targeted to hit a particular pride of lions that morning and this was a difficult subject to leave.
As I was battling these thoughts, the vehicles decided to move on and I was left standing with the Serval. Minutes later she decided to move as well and we started following her. Not so far off was a small mount and her trajectory was straight towards it. “Will she be out of the clearing and climb up on this mount?” I thought. The Serval approached the mount and before I could reach the spot she vanished in the grassland. “What a waste of a morning?” I cursed my luck.
Just when I had given up a sudden movement in one of the burrows inside the mount caught our eyes. A wait of another 15 minutes and the mystery began to unfold with 3 small Serval cubs springing out of the burrow one by one.
The next hour was one of my most cherished moments of Mara as the 3 kittens posed in dramatic light conditions exhausting the camera memory rapidly. Fortunes can really turn upside-down in the wild within seconds!
As wildlife photographers we remain glued to our camera eye piece hunting for that fine intrinsic moment that tells a compelling natural history story. Well the eyes are trained for this and the outcome in the form of images is quite satisfactory but what we miss in this entire process is to absorb and connect with the animal and human emotions around us. During my recent visit to Mara this was one emotional incident that forced me take my eye off the camera and be sensitive towards what was happening around me.
The wildebeests kept piling along side the banks of the Mara river. The gathering gradually grew from hundreds to thousands and within a couple of hours around 30,000 wildebeests were waiting to take the final plunge countering the deadly crocs lazing around in the muddy river, for all the 30000 odd eyes could see was the lush cover of grass on the opposite side.
The stage was set and so were the audience. Around 50 vehicles were lined up on each side of the river with more than 100 photographers concentrating hard with fingers on the trigger. Suddenly a group of zebras stormed towards the river and the wildebeests who had been waiting for someone to take the first step followed them. This was yet another river crossing as the Great Annual Migration was underway.
Amidst the sounds of those 100 odd camera shutters a faint sound towards my right attracted my attention. A wildebeest stampede on the opposite side of the river forced me to remain focused and I kept shooting ignoring all the background disturbance. However this particular sound on my right was persistant and continued to distract me.
I finally took me eye off the camera and saw that a lady somewhere in her 50s was intently watching the proceedings at the river along with her 2 sons. Tear drops were rolling down her cheeks as she hugged her elder son and lifted the younger one on her shoulders so that he could get a clearer view. The families eyes were lit up with a mix of excitement, emotion and anticipation and by this time I had literally forgotten about the big river crossing which went on and on…
And finally after around 20 minutes when the last group of wildebeests made their way to the river she greeted both her sons with a statement that made my eyes moist. “We saved our entire life to witness this son… Now I can lead the rest of my life with peace for we have seen the nature’s biggest wildlife spectacle.”
For me it was a mere river crossing. Just another set of subjects and activity for pictorial documentation. For some it was their dream for which they have waited for years. It was indeed a special and privileged moment for me to be alongside that vehicle that day and feel the emotions that go hand in hand with sightings in the wild!
When I was back from Africa in 2011 after witnessing the Great Annual Migration, I was already looking forward to 2012 and after a highly anticipated wait of 12 months, I pack up again for a long journey to Masai Mara for yet another month of hardcore wildlife action in the form of the wildebeest migration. Stay tuned to this space along with my Facebook page, Flickr and 500px profile for live updates from the mecca of wildlife. Depending on my connectivity I will try to bring to you news as it happens from wild Africa!
I wrote this after coming back from Masai Mara last year and thought of posting it today because a lot of our participants accompanying me to Mara this year wanted to know about the equipment preparation to be done for the much awaited tour!
Photography in Masai Mara was a subject of my research as soon as I firmed up my plan to lead a group of photographers for the Migration Uncut camp in Aug 2011 along with my dear friend Aditya Dicky Singh from Bagh Safari. Aditya had been constantly giving me his briefs on photography in Mara from his 2010 visit and in December 2010 I started seeing the works of a lot of photographers who have covered Mara and specially the Great Migration in the past. Some of the internet articles were quite informative but what really helped were the photo stories as it was great to see the frames, compositions and perspectives taken by photographers from across the globe.
After all this research, I landed in Nairobi with 2 Canon 7Ds and a Canon 50D along with my Canon 500mm f4, a Canon 70-200mm f2.8 and my 10-20mm wide (these were the broad level basic equipments I carried). I was actually in two minds whether to carry the 24-70mm f2.8 rather than the wide for the ultra wide habitat perspectives but preferred the 10-20mm fir I thought it would be useful for landscapes and I would use the 70-200 for the habitat shots.
I learnt my first lesson on photography in Mara within a few hours of my entry in Masai Mara. My first safari started a bit late and as I took a short round under fading light conditions, I was shooting at an ISO below 1000 (around 500 to 640 to be precise). Though the sun was touching the horizon, the Mara terrain is never short of light. The savannah is open landscape and light falls directly on the subject unlike forests of India where the light is diffused because of the thick vegetation.
My second lesson was within the first 2.5 hours as in this short span I had already exhausted my 8GB card which I thought will last because I was going for a short round. It will be wrong to say that you can’t afford to be trigger happy in Mara. You can’t avoid it! For there is just too much of action around you and you just can’t resist the photo opportunities. Especially in the months of Aug and Sep, if you are staying at the right location (which enables you to be in the heart of the action areas) the action eats away all the tucked up memory! The main culprit is migration photography. A big river crossing comprising anything between 5000-10000 wildebeests has the potential of consuming 8GB of memory in 10-15 minutes. Using 4GB cards in Mara is not a good idea for you lose crucial moments while changing of cards. Safer bets would be high speed 8, 16 or 32 GB.
Crossings are tricky to shoot for the action is fast and you don’t get time to review your photos. But the flip side is that if you quickly glance through your shots to check if the exposure, focus and frame is right you can get back to work since the herds give you opportunities to shoot again. Typically you may mess up the first crossing you witness because if you witnessing the phenomenon for the first time in your life the excitement of coming face to face with the one of the biggest wildlife spectacles on the planet overpowers your photography and you end up with screwed up pictures. Yet again, if you are staying at the right location in Mara, there are high chances that you will witness more and more crossings and with each crossing you gradually realize the dos and don’ts as far as crossing photography is concerned.
It was after 3 hours that I pulled out my second body with the 500mm to shoot a lion pride that because that was the first subject at a distance. Mara is probably the best place in the world to create stunning habitat perspectives. The accessible terrain increases the proximity to your subjects including big cats thus opening doors of experimentation and innovation. Having spent a week under such shooting conditions I realized that 60-65% of my wildlife shots were taken using a 70-200mm f2.8 lens. I used my long lenses at times to create tight compositions and for taking those tight river crossing shots but the variable zoom was the pet lens for me. I used it to high effect while shooting critical action sequences like lion hunting as well.
In our group of 12 Nature Wanderers participants, we have as many as five 100-400mm users and I am very happy with the quality of images that all our participants have produced.
Essentially Mara as a location has the potential of giving great image to photographers using all sorts and all strata of equipments. So just carry enough batteries and cards so that you don’t run out of ammunition.