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.
- 45 cross type focus points – The moment I looked through the view finder of the Canon 90D the huge gamut of 45 cross type focus points which occupied a substantial area of the view finder caught my immediate attention. Composition and focusing becomes fun with this wide spread of focus points and I had a great time composing my subjects in various parts of the frame
- 32.5 megapixels – I am not a fan of cropping images and strongly believe in in-camera compositions. A camera packed with megapixels means that you get better details and that was the pick of the features for me. Even if you have to crop up 15-20% of the image you have enough data in the image to make a completely useable image.
- ISO performance – All cameras perform well in good light conditions. The challenge is when the light is tricky. In Manas I got the opportunity to test out this camera in two different light situations. A backlit capped langur and the results were satisfactory. I then encountered a herd of elephants and in hazy conditions I photographed this herd at various ISOs ranging from ISO 800 to ISO 1600. The noise at ISO 1250 and ISO 1600 was perfectly manageable.
- The Flip Screen – While shooting from a vehicle I usually struggle to take a low angle shot. A lot of times I am seen hanging out from the window at times with the camera attached to a monopod and a remote trigger to take wide perspectives of subjects close to the vehicle. I do get the results but its purely a hit and trial technique and the composition does go for a toss. With a flip screen life becomes easier as you do get to see the composition and frame when your eye is off the view finder and this feature was very handy.
- Focusing & Speed – I refer back to the capped langur troop that was moving in thickets with the sun hitting their backs. The limited openings in the tree meant that the camera needed to be fast in catching the focus and the burst firing at 10 fps was adequate enough for catching the fine moments on the tree.
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!
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.
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
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.
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.
Ranthambore National Park and multiple tiger reserves opened for tourism after a 3 month monsoon break on October 1st. I just wrapped up my first photo safari session in Ranthambhore and week 1 was very exciting as we saw the first few tigers post the monsoon break in lush green backdrops of Ranthambhore. The monsoons this year were bad and unless it rains in winters, Ranthambhore water sources would be drying up very soon this season.
Machali Jr. / Arrowhead was the first tiger to be seen for the season. Noor (T39) and cubs have been seen regularly in the last week and the young brigade looked in great shape. T8 and cubs have been sighted consistently in the monsoons as well and the trend continued in October first week. T57, T41 and cub, T73 and cubs were some of the other tigers that were seen during this week.
In the second phase of Migration Uncut 2017 photo safaris with me, we witnessed some amazing river crossings in the Mara river. Bahati made some superb appearances and Malaika and cubs gave some excellent photographic opportunities in the rain. One of the highlights was a sub adult cheetah trying to cross the Mara river. Fortunately he gave up as soon as he stepped in the water as the river was flowing at a rapid speed and there was no way it could cross.
Post Mara I took my guests to Bogoria and Samburu and millions of lesser flamingos greeted us in the lake. Samburu blessed us with some awesome leopard sightings and of course the endemic species like the reticulated giraffe and the gravy’s zebra.
Here are some images to summarise to fortnight. I am now gearing up for the start of the Indian photo safari season with tigers of Ranthambhore in October. Stay tuned to www.naturewanderers.com for more photo safaris at Corbett during the winters.
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.
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.
Have been constantly on the field of the past couple of months and haven’t had much time to sort images. Just back from back to back Corbett and Bandhavgarh photography tours and I must say both locations are teaming with wildlife action. While Paro – the river mermaid of Corbett – has been enthralling photographers with a consistent appearances in majestic Himalayan backdrops, Bandhavgarh has had some outstanding action with tiger cubs as Spotty – the reigning heartthrob of Tala – is in command with her young battalion of cubs who have made the grasslands their playground this summer. In the other areas of the part Bamera’s son (T37) has been displaying his affection for his offsprings as the 3 cubs of Kankati Jr. have been keeping shutters busy in the lone water body of the area.
Here is a quick preview for April and May 2017:
Black and white imagery looks stunning because of their artistic and dramatic appeal. I am frequently questioned about why I converted a particular image black and white. The process starts much before the image is shot as in my opinion shooting black and white images requires perceiving and pre-visualising a particular frame as black and white even before pressing the trigger. Here are some basic aspects which go through my mind during before shooting a black and white image:
- Tonality & contrasts
- Flat light and bland skies
- Would the subject stand out without colour?
- Textures and details
- Leading lines and geographic compositions
- Positioning of the light source
Do all images make good black and whites? I wouldn’t agree as a monochrome image is surely created in your mind and there are quite a few images that are meant to be photographed in colour.
Nothing could have been a better start to a new year. Reliving some magical mornings of Corbett… the music of a Himalayan river with sparkling waters cascading down the white stones which slowly get lit as the sun peeps from the horizon and fumes of mist mingles with the first rays of the sun to create a seraphic landscape which has been forever embedded in my memory for more than a decade.
Over the years, while photographing this splendour a variety of subjects came and added a flavour to the glowing ambers of the Ramganga on a daily basis. Days normally start with redstarts, storks, greenshank and slowly graduates to a pied kingfisher and finally on one of the days a crested kingfisher takes over the misty throne of the Ramganga. However that particular morning of January 2017 was steaming with a thick layer of mist which made the light softer than usual. As I was waiting for my routine kingfishers, a group of smooth coated otters distracted me on the opposite direction as I observed their morning chores while they merrily swam braving strong river tides in search of a meal. For quite some time, I avoided the distraction but the otter antics were hard to resist and for a change I prioritised subjects over light and changed the direction of the camera. As soon as I looked through the viewfinder of my camera, behind my back, a ghostly figure royally stood on the smoking orange stones of the river. The subject was 200 times the size of the expected kingfisher and as soon as I looked back, we both stared at each other in shock.
At the blink of an eye the ruler of the Ramganga – a huge male tiger – traced back and ran back towards the bushes from where it was making up its mind to cross the glowing river. Some photographic opportunities remain edged to your memory even when you miss them. The frame was blank but the memory of the soul of the river in that dramatic set-up will remain forever.
For the records, here are few images from the year-opening photo tour to Corbett National Park.
Season 2015-2016 has started on a great note with multiple tiger parks showcasing a promising future. While Ranthambhore still leads the charts as Krishna and Noor clans are beginning to carve out their own path, Bandhavgarh, Tadoba and Pench have all reported tiger cubs which throws open a lot of photo opportunities in all the parks through the coming spring and summer. The evergreen Corbett National Park had ended on a high note last season and we at Nature Wanderers are all geared up for our winter Corbett schedules to be led by a photographer who has been breathing Corbett for 25 years… Mr. Jagdeep Rajput.
I am pleased to share with you the calendar for 2016 spring and summer schedules for various tiger reserves.
Bandhavgarh Sunrise to Sunset Safaris – Jan 13-17 (5 seats… 2 seats left)
Unexplore Corbett with Jagdeep Rajput – Jan 23-26 (6 seats)
Tiger Marathon with Shivang Mehta
Tiger Marathon – Batch 1 – Ranthambhore – May 5-8
Tiger Marathon – Batch 2 – Ranthambhore – May 8-11
Tiger Marathon – Batch 3 – Corbett – May 12-15
Tiger Marathon – Batch 4 – Corbett – May 16-19
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):
(Published in Deccan Chronicle, June 2011)
As my car passed through the Chandrapur district of Maharashtra, the sight dampened my spirits. Massive mining and quarrying operations on the wild lands dents the buffer zone of Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve – the Jewel of Vidharbha. The apprehensions died down as soon as I entered the reserve with the sun rays filtering through a lush green forest that was sparkling after the monsoon showers.
The highlight of my Tadoba visit could easily have been those 4-5 minutes I spent with the striped queen who walked in front of my vehicle marking her territory and majestically patrolling the picturesque Telia Lake. The highlight was not the pair of wild dogs that came out in the middle of the road from no where. It was not even the two sloth bears I saw on 2 consecutive days. The hours that followed these short and sweet sightings had something amazing in store which became the feature of the visit.
The weather was a bit cloudy and the trees and bushes were buzzing with activity as the avionic wonders of Tadoba had just started their daily chores. We passed through the scenic Tadoba lake looking for some traces of the big cat and the sudden cheetal alarm calls caught my attention.
Taking refuge under a huge banyan tree, I strained my ears for alarm calls that were slowly dying informing us that the predator has either settled down or left the area. The intensity of the anxiety of the cheetal called for a waiting game and we were holding our breath in anticipation.
In the midst of the excitement that a predator movement can cause in a forest, you tend to ignore the action going on around you. A flameback woodpecker suddenly took off from a tree towards the back of our vehicle and flew towards this peepal tree drawing my attention towards this chirping patch of vegetation where the woodpecker joined its companion perching itself on a nearby branch. As I was observing the hops of the woodpecker pair, a golden oreole darted inside the tree flaunting its bright yellow coat in bright sunlight.
Further scanning of the tree revealed a pair of black drongos calling each other on adjacent branches. The drongo conversation was intervened by their specie counterpart as a white bellied drongo perched itself right on the branch above. On the right hand patch of the tree, the tree tops were dominated by a parakeet family. In the beginning it was just a couple of rose ringed parakeets that were feeding in the golden morning light. Within minutes, a pair of plum headed parakeets joined the party and before I could take the entire family in one frame, an Alexander parakeet caught hold of the top most branch to make it a complete family picture.
With eyes glued at the top of the tree, I missed some action in the center where purple sunbirds were flying in and out of the bush in search of flower nectar in the bushes behind the tree. The buzz inside the patch forced me to lift my binoculars for a closer look. Oriental white eyes, red vented bulbuls, jungle wabblers were the reason for hustle and just as I was lowering the binoculars, a blackish silhouette perched itself on the left hand corner of the tree.
I caught hold of my camera and as the lens focused on the patch, a beautiful pied cuckoo emerged from behind in bright light with a caterpillar catch as its morning breakfast. Hoping from one branch to another, it relished its breakfast and finally came out in the open posing in front of me for some good couple of minutes.
The peace and tranquility of a tree for a few minutes made it a hot spot for birds around the location but the peace was momentary. The predator somewhere in the deep and dense bushes decided to continue its morning walk and the cheetal gave frantic alarm calls yet again. The drongos were the first to leave and were followed by the parakeets. Within seconds a tree that was sheltering around 40 odd species of birds stood bird-less… this was another form of nature I witnessed for the first time – natural shelters are momentary!