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Best of 2014-2015

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.

October 2013 - Lady of the lakes T19 (Krishna) along with one of her 3 cubs

October 2013 – Lady of the lakes T19 (Krishna) along with one of her 3 cubs

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.

The King & The Fisher

November 2013 – The King & The Fisher

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.

December 2014 - In His Kingdom - Munna, Kanha National Park

December 2014 – In His Kingdom – Munna, Kanha National Park

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.

Dancing to the tunes of Krishna cubs - Jan 2015

Dancing to the tunes of Krishna cubs – Jan 2015

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.

The Winter Couple - Jan 2015

The Winter Couple – Jan 2015

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.

Thunderbold Krishna - Feb 2015

Thunderbold Krishna – Feb 2015

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.

Tiger Off-Springs - March 2015

Tiger Off-Springs – March 2015

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.

Sloth Bear with cubs

Sloth Bear with cubs – April 2015

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/

The deer tries to escape the strong clutches

His First Catch – April 2015

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.

Shot just 20 hours before he killed a forest guard

T24 Ustaad – The extreme portrait – May 2015

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.

The Corbett Queen - May 2015

The Corbett Queen – May 2015

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.

Patiha cub in Bandhavgarh - May 2015

Patiha cub in Bandhavgarh – May 2015

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 month old Krishna cubs suckling - May 2015

14 month old Krishna cubs suckling – May 2015

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!

Star (T28) - Last tiger sighting of the park on June 30

Star (T28) – Last tiger sighting of the park on June 30


Nature Photography : Answering your Whys

T19 (Krishna) walking through a forest thicket in Ranthambhore

T19 (Krishna) walking through a forest thicket in Ranthambhore

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


Ranthambhore : 20 day round-up

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:

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Ranthambhore Post Monsoons

A week in Ranthambhore post a 3 months monsoon break is rejuvenating as usual. The forest is like a green book full of mysteries unfolding in every nook and corner and every day is a new chapter in this book. This year was particularly interesting because of the presence of cubs all around the park. The progress of the few key tiger families like the celebrated lady of the lakes  -T19 and her cubs and charismatic T39 (Noor) was particularly in question as everyone wanted to know how the little striped wonders of the park were doing post the monsoon break. Though monsoons is a tricky period for tiger sightings, the entire park (zone 1-10) flourished with sightings announcing Ranthambhore to be the place to look out for in 2014-2015.

Here are some of the key tiger moments captured in this first week of season 2014-2015 in Ranthambhore National Park – the tigerland of India.

Lady of the lakes T19 (Krishna) along with one of her 3 cubs

Lady of the lakes T19 (Krishna) along with one of her 3 cubs

T39 (Noor) and cub

T39 (Noor) and cub

T24 (Ustaad) wading through the monsoon waters

T24 (Ustaad) wading through the monsoon waters

The future ruler of the lakes - T19 cub

The future ruler of the lakes – T19 cub

The handsome hunk Ustaad (T24)

The handsome hunk Ustaad (T24)

First Day... First Show (T39 in zone 2 on October 1st)

First Day… First Show (T39 in zone 2 on October 1st)


Wild Jewels from Kanha & Pench

2 weeks with the wild denizens of Kanha and Pench in the company of some amazing shutterbugs. Presenting a brief gallery of images created during the fortnight.

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Bandhavgarh Bloom

As winter bids farewell to Bandhavgarh, mild showers continue to breath a fresh life in a forest which is all set to face a tough summer ahead. The mahua bloom is on the swing and damp smell of the mahua along with the fresh budding on the saal tree tops adds a fresh flavor to the park just before the onset of the summer.

Having said this, Bandhavgarh springs are fascinating to shoot the striped wonders of this tiger country. The soft morning and evening light along with breathtaking backdrops of colorful saal, tesu and cotton silk flowers give the edge to images which are normally very bland during summers.

Here are some images from the 2013 Bandhavgarh spring:

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Golden Crossing

Living on the edge

Sky-Walker


Nature’s Touch – A Nature Wanderers Wildlife Photography Show (8th Dec – 13th Dec)

Lokayat Art Gallery, New Delhi

Lokayat Art Gallery, New Delhi

New Delhi, December 8, 2012 : Nature Wanderers – the leading wildlife photography training organisation – launches Nature’s Touch : A wildlife photography show that would showcase the work of a talented bunch of 25 photographers from across India at the Lokayat Art Gallery in New Delhi from December 8th to 13th, 2012.

The exhibition is the first of its kind to promote wildlife and nature photography in the capital city of India. The exhibitors are a mix of senior corporate executives, school kids and entrepreneurs who have seriously pursued wildlife photography as a passion and have worked really hard in creating these wonderful images across forests like Bandhavgarh, Ranthambhore, Corbett, Tadoba, Yala (Sri Lanka) and Masai Mara.

Leading wildlife film-maker Mike Pandey would be inaugurating this show in the presence of top notch nature photographers of India.

Venue : Lokayat Art Gallery

Opening Ceremony : Dec 8th at 5pm

Exhibition Timings : 11am to 8pm from Dec 9th to 13th

For Queries Please Contact

Kahini Ghosh Mehta – kahini@naturewanderers.com, +91 9871367945

Attika Jain – +91 9953240242