The world has changed in the past 4 months. For me as a field wildlife professional a lot has changed as this was the first time in nearly 2 decades that I kept away from active field photography such a long duration. As Indian national parks gradually come to terms with the COVID-19 tourism dynamics I visited Ranthambore National Park for a quick field visit. Life inside the forest was usual and life outside the forest was changed as it should have been. Sanitisation of safari vehicles, use of masks during safaris, sanitisation rules of lodges – these are some norms which we should be getting used to as India gears up for the post COVID-19 phase of wildlife tourism.
Here are some images are a short video that summarises the entire journey post the lockdown. It is not tough. Just take all precautions and you can keep that passion and hunger for outdoors alive!
In August 2019, I released my second book Chasing Horizons – Learnings from Africa. A limited edition release (206 pages, 9.5×12.5 inches), Chasing Horizons sums up my journey in Africa in the last 10 years and showcases what I learnt as a photographer during this journey and how I replicated those learnings while working in Indian forests.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Best selling author of ‘A Decade with Tigers,’ and International Award winning wildlife photographer, Shivang Mehta has donned many hats in his long career journey, including that of a Journalist and a PR Professional. His love for wildlife and nature led him to begin his on field career in the Sal forests of Kumaon 16 years ago. Shivang is the managing director of Nature Wanderers, India’s premier wildlife photo tour organisation, which he started with his wife, Kahini Ghosh Mehta in 2007. Having conducted over 1000 wildlife photography workshops and tours, along with many unique wildlife events and mentoring over a thousand amateur photographers and being a guide for the best of professional wildlife photographers, Shivang specialises in photographing rare species using DSLR camera trap technology. The author is also a Canon Photo Mentor, a Columbia Athlete and has been published in numerous national and international publications.
ABOUT THE BOOK:
Chasing the Horizons- Learnings from Africa, is Shivang Mehta’s second book, after the best selling ‘A Decade with Tigers.’ This book is a unique compilation of the author’s experiences in Wild Africa – a continent where Shivang has spent a decade photographing and understanding its wildlife and landscapes. With an extensive knowledge and understanding of the Indian forests, Shivang’s second book chronicles his time in Africa, drawing an interesting comparison of perspectives by a photographer working in both Indian and African landscapes. Describing his photographic learnings from his on-field hours in Africa, Shivang juxtaposes various natural history moments he has witnessed in the continent with an array of similar images recreated in the Indian forests. As light and creativity are the main driving forces in his photographic journey, Shivang’s images and text in the book explain the paradigm shift in his outlook which he has internalised over the years. With an extensive set of images created over such a vast period of time, the book also brings forth how his observations in Africa have only strengthened the respect and pride that the author has for Indian wildlife.
ABOUT THE COVER:
The cover of Chasing the Horizons – Learnings from Africa, is a unique amalgamation of 4 iconic big cats – Tiger, Leopard, Cheetah & African Lion. The cover has been hand painted by Vijay Kumawat – an artist from Ranthambore National Park. Vijay has used charcoal and soot and references of Shivang Mehta’s images of these 4 cats to compile this brilliant piece of art. The cover took months of ideation and a lot of samples were made in order to get the perfect balance of the facial characteristics of these 4 cats.
- AFRICA vs INDIA
- Minutes of Gold
- River Rush Hours
- The Pink Legs
- Night life in the bush
- Small Cats
- Black & Whites
ORDER NOW FROM AMAZON INDIA & avail special discounts!!!
Visit https://www.amazon.in/gp/product/9353825210 to place your order
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
Here are glimpses of Masai Mara from the last month.
It has been a long marathon in various forests of India as we started with the Mowgli land – Pench, headed off to Kanha and then to Bandhavgarh is search of the famed tiger mothers of central Indian tiger heartland. The tiger action in Bandhavgarh was fabulous as we spent countless hours with Spotty, Dotty and Solo – the 3 breeding females of the park. From Central India we headed to Kaziranga for some rhinos and elephants and were blessed with a beautiful sighting of a 1 month old rhino calf.
Here are some images to summarise the last fortnight.
We kickstarted 2019 with our first photography tour in Keoladeo National Park in Bharatpur. The park has the apt quantity of water this year and flocks of pelicans are back in the park after a long gap of 4-5 years. The darters and cormorants were busy in their daily fishing chores and the ever charismatic Saras Cranes have been raising their young with utmost care and love. The winter mist added a special flavour to the images.
Here is how we began our 2019 this week.
We started a brand new tiger season in a green rejuvenated Ranthambore. The park was in a bad state during the last season because of lack of water and animals were in distress and a good monsoon was critical for Ranthambore. September turned around the fortunes of Ranthambore as the park received heavy rains filling up all the water bodies of the park and the dazzling green vegetation along with the rain water accumulated in every corner of the park made Ranthambore gorgeous like never before. The tiger sightings gradually picked up and the highlight of the first week was the mating of the ever charismatic Noor (T39) and T57. Will the reigning queen of Ranthambore gear up for her 5th litter in the coming months?
The tigers seen in the first week were T8 & cubs, T97, T98, all 3 of Noor’s separated daughters. Machali Junior (Arrowhead), T19 and cubs, T41 and cub, T34 and T73.
Good news poured in from Bandhavgarh as well we ended week 1 as Spotty’s new litter of 4 was seen. With multiple breeding females Bandhavgarh would surely be a park teaming with tiger action this season.
Here are some images summarising the first week of the new season in Ranthambore.
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.
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
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
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
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.
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.
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.
Experienced Tadoba summers after a gap of 4 years. May 2012 was the last I spent a fortnight in the blazing sun and scorching heat of Tadoba. 4 years down the line, I led a small group of photographers who braved the heat to spend hours with the Sonam and Maya family – the current heartthrobs of Tadoba. The cubs have been shaping up quite well since I last saw them in December 2015. It was also a first experience for me with the majestic Bajrang male who is fathering Sonam cubs. He for sure is a charismatic tiger and would be instrumental in propelling the dynasty of tigers in Tadoba.
Recharging at home after a hectic 45 day travel schedule. Stay tuned for June diaries as we enter into the last month of the tiger season in India before the monsoons…
Every day as I accompany photographers on the field, the sight of a tiger makes cameras go ballistic as triggers are pressed with sheer madness. Sitting in the hotel room when I see the days work of people the hard disks are full of similar looking images and then the ‘I wish’ list begins… I wish I had shot like this… I wish I had done this better…
I always wonder that when you as a photographer pick your camera to shoot say a spotted deer a lot of thought goes behind that image. You take the pain to place the deer properly in the frame, you experiment with compositions. Why does that happen? It is just because you consider the deer as a subject. Yes subjects like tigers are rare to find but the moment you get a control on your mind and start treating them as subjects you will end up maximizing your field productivity and make best use of the opportunities that nature presents in front of you.
Have you ever tried pondering on the following points?
- Removing your eye from the view finder to see the subject with your naked eyes and scan for elements which can be added or removed from the frame?
- You may be using the biggest prime lens in the world that will give you a razor sharp image. However are those sharp images needed every time? How about experimenting with varied focal lengths to create 4-5 different images of a moment as simple as a tiger sitting under a tree.
- Reading the light and pre-visualizing images for a certain light situation. You may end up forgoing some images but you will be better prepared for that particular lighting scenario
I got hold of the new and revamped Canon 100-400mm IS2 and rested my Canon 70-200mm f2.8 IS2. I used it extensively in Ranthambhore throughout last week. Here is an example from Ranthambhore where a tiger sitting under a tree was shot in 5 different ways as varied focal lengths.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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/
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.
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.
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.
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. 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!
My focus on T19 (Krishna) in Ranthambhore kept me away from one of my favorite hunting grounds in central India. I am very found of Bandhavgarh for its habitat, tiger photography potential and the people… working in this central Indian tiger heartland is always great fun. Made up for the entire season in the last 10 days as I was escorting my photographer guest from the UK. Our focus was the Patiha female and her three 8 month old cubs. Working on tiger cubs outside the Tala zone was a challenge and a different experience from my past Bandhavgarh endeavors. However we got 3 exclusive photo opportunities with the family over the 9 day period which were good enough for an excellent portfolio. More than the images tracking the family in the Patiha area and understanding some new areas of the park was a great learning experience.
Post Bandhavgarh, we spent a few days in Panna National Park and it was awesome to witness the success story of Panna. T1 – the queen of Panna – is in great shape with her 4th litter of 2 cubs. The park has some tremendous potential and is an excellent tiger habitat. Photographers should watch out for Panna – another excellent location with great photographic potential.
January 25, 2015
It was a cold winter morning in Ranthambhore National Park. For 3 days Krishna (T19) and her young battalion of 3 cubs had concealed themselves in a patch of grass on the edges of the lake where they were feeding on a sambar kill. The sky was finally opening up after 3 days of cloud cover and the soft morning light was filtering through the Rajbagh mist. The stage was set for some fabulous tiger photography the cubs finally emerged out of the tall grasses to put up wonderful show in front of a bunch of lensmen who created some outstanding images that morning.
Check out this video that sums up a winter morning at Rajbagh:
A lot of ‘whys’ are put forward during my workshops and photo tours. Why did I use this lens to shoot a particular image? Why did I expose this image in this way? Why did I use a particular combination of ISO, shutter, aperture etc? My standard response is it all depends on what you as a photographer have envisioned for a particular image and what you want to create…
For this particular image here are a few responses to some of the Whys:
- Why did I go for a tight composition?
- Because the habitat in which the tiger was walking for full of clutter which wasn’t appealing for a wide shot. I had a choice of a Canon 400mm f2.8 IS2 and a Canon 70-200mm handy with me this time. My decision to go tight was mainly to deal with the clutter of a dense Dhonk vegetation which is omnipresent in a place like Ranthambhore.
- Why did I underexpose the image?
- Just to capitalize on the patches of cut light falling on the face while the subject was in motion. I did not shoot a lot of images when the subject was walking in the shade areas and was just preparing myself to shoot for the light patches. Even before the tiger started walking the light patches in the Dhonk forest something which I found interesting to play with. As soon as the subject started moving towards those light patches, I metered for those patches only. I did miss some moments when the subject was walking in shade areas but that was not the image I had created in my mind.
- Why did I compose vertically?
- Because it was too close and a horizontal composition may have resulted in some part of the leg being cut from the frame which would have looked odd. I knew there was little margin for error in the composition but it was worth the risk because it was this sort of an image which I had visualized in my head…Nature photography is all about visualization and knowing what you want out of something happening in front of you. The quicker you think the more comfortable you would be in answering you Whys…–
Equipment Used : Canon 1Dx, Canon 400mm f2.8 IS2, ISO 200, f4, 1/2000. Mounted on a NW BLite Bean Bag
It is February and Ranthambhore has already started loosing some of its charismatic winter colors. Days are warm and sunny consistently and the dense fog and gloomy weather conditions have given way to golden morning mist over the lakes. All these dramatic changes in the last 20 odd days have had an impact on the sightings of the 2 devoted mothers and their doting cubs. While T19 (Krishna) has been keeping photographers busy around the lakes, T39 (Noor) made a reappearance in the park after a 20 day disappearance and if the weather continues to warm during the days, the sighting trends would surely improve further in the coming days.
The last 20 days, I was focussed on the lakes and had some memorable encounters with the lake denizens. The female cub of Krishna always surprised me with her antics. She is bold and independent and would climb on trees, induce the other siblings to indulge in play fights, stalk deer fawns and one fine afternoon she pulled off a stunner by swimming right across the Rajbagh lake like a Sunderbans tiger in the company of crocodiles who had literally surrounded her during a 50 meters lap. We had named her Machali junior because of a fork mark on her cheek which bears resemblance to her famed grandmom – Machali. She is certainly the dominant princess of the lakes.
News and rumors around new born cubs of T41 have also raised the hopes for summers and overall Ranthambhore is gearing up for some exciting tiger action starting March.
Here is a brief photo-diary of some Krishna and cubs moments in the last fortnight:
Upload photographs of Tiger clicked in the wild in last 12 months. Please click ” JOIN ” on https://www.facebook.com/events/546568615470736/
Rules & Regulations-
1. Photo contest is hosted on Facebook, Twitter and WordPress.
2. Photo Contest starts from 9th August and will continue till Monday,18th August, 2014
3. Participants to follow handles @naturewanderers and @CNTIndia to be eliglible for the contest (on Twitter)
4. Participants to ‘LIKE’ Shivang Mehta (https://www.facebook..com/ShivangPhotography) and CNT India page on FB (https://www.facebook.com/cntravellerindia) to be eligible
5. Contest will also be shared on Naturewanders FB page-(https://www.facebook.com/naturewanderers)
6. Participants need to tag @naturewanderers and @CNTIndia on all twitter updates
7. Participants to upload best picture of tiger taken in the wild on Event Page in the last 12 months.
8. Each participant can share only one image
9. Image must be yours
10. Participants are required to give the location, date and EXIF details of the picture
11. All in all 3 winners will be declared
12. Each winner to get a year’s subscription of Conde Nast Traveller India
13. Final selection of winning images will be done by Shivang Mehta and Conde Nast Traveller India
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):
With the monsoon showers breathing a fresh life in parched forests that have faced a tough summer this year, I decided to squeeze in time for a quick visit to the outskirts of Pune to witness some of the green carpets of Western Ghats. As I walked through gushing waters through tunnels of thick and rich green forests around the Tamhini Ghat belt, walking upstream amidst the continuous rains was becoming a daunting task. The landscapes however were too beautiful to resist.
Armed with a Joby gorillapod, it was a big risk shooting with the Canon 5DM2 and the Canon 17-40mm f4 lens in the pouring rain but the mysticism of this sparkling green forest made it worth the effort.
Pleased to present some of the images from this land of green gold
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