While I spent most of this season exploring the woods of Corbett on foot, setting up camera traps to document some charismatic species like tigers, leopards, leopard cats and elephants, the Dhikala photo safari during this Easter weekend was a nice change to the foot patrolling routine. The grandeur of the Saal forests and the vastness of the grasslands is always the key Corbett characteristic which keeps you pulling back to this unique landscape which supports an astounding array of ecosystems.
Here are some images from the Corbett camera trap project along with the traditional Dhikala photo safari. Hope you enjoy these and do pardon me for my long absence from this blog.
In the past few months I have made multiple videos on the various features of the Canon EOS R5 and EOS R6 – the two mirrorless Canon cameras which are transforming wildlife photography globally. Check out these videos again in case you have missed them.
Spent some quality time compiling some video footage taken in the past many years in Masai Mara for my YouTube Channel
We all know most of the Big Cats are lazy. As a still photographer most of the footage I had was full of sleeping cats. So this was the best I could do. Have a look and subscribe to my YouTube channel for regular updates on wildlife and photography.
It has been a hectic but productive June till now. We started our work in Ranthambhore working on T60 and cubs when a news from Bandhavgarh caught our attention. A tigress called Spotty in the Tala zone of Bandhavgarh had given birth to her first litter. Weighing various pros and cons we changed gears and rushed to Bandhavgarh to start some extensive tracking for the newly seen cubs. A 7 day project resulted in some brilliant images of 2 month old tiger cubs for our guest who showed remarkable patience and perseverance in extreme weather conditions.
Monsoons showers have started hitting tiger parks and as we enter the last 10 days of the season lets wish the wild denizens of India a safe monsoon.
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…
The 2016 edition of Tiger Marathon – the annual back to back tiger photography tours by Nature Wanderers – ended this week with some exemplary sightings in Ranthambhore and Corbett National Park. While the lakes were productive again in Ranthambhore, we also got the opportunity to photograph the newly crowned mother T60 and her 3 cubs. Sessions with Noor (T39) and T57 were equally intense and productive.
Corbett on the other hand along with expected elephant action was ruled by Paarwali sightings as the river mermaid of Ramganga gave multiple opportunities for photography in typical Corbett habitats. Here are a few images created in the past fortnight.
Reporting from the lap of the Himalayas under the shadow of the mighty Kanchenjunga range where we are currently following a family of the rare and elusive Red Panda in the wild. It has been an absolute spectacle watching and observing the mysterious lifecycle of this wonderful jewel of Eastern Himalayas. The green moss struck trees in this emerald forest light up when an innocent looking creature opens its red coils against some majestic backdrops in a mystic forest.
Here are some moments… Many more to come!
The beginning of the new year has been a bit low on travel as a lot of work is being done around some exciting wildlife programs to be conducted in the coming months of 2016. Though my colleagues Sagar Gosavi and Jagdeep Rajput conducted some extensive programs in Corbett National Park, I squeezed in time for a photography tour commitment in Kanha and did a impromptu game drive in Ranthambhore.
Here is a brief visual diary of some images created in the first fortnight of 2016. Stay tuned for some exciting updates this February and March.
Wrapping up my annual Sundarbans photography expeditions. Sundarbans has been one of the toughest photographic terrains of India. The challenges of creating images in the mangrove forest are immense but despite the fact the mysticism of the mangrove forest continues to fascinate me. The sparkling kingfisher species continued to give some superb photographic opportunities and so did the breathtaking mangrove formations. Here is a brief photographic brief from Sundarbans 2015 Photographic Tour by Canon India and Nature Wanderers
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!
June is always a tricky month for Ranthambhore. Pre monsoon showers and the western disturbances hamper tiger sightings but the forest sparkles green regaining its emerald flavor and this gives a boost to the images you end up creating during this month.
T19 (Krishna) and cubs were in prime action during the month of June. The interactions between the cubs are no longer playful and they lose no opportunity to showcase their dominance over each other. On the other edge of the forest, T39 (Noor) and her 2 male cubs controlled the sightings till early third week of June. Heavy rains in the last 10 days of the forest season did impact the tiger movements towards the end of June but the highlight of the month was the bold moves by Krishna cubs towards a huge crocodile on the edges of Rajbagh lake. While I was busy with some amphibian assignments in the Western Ghats, I am glad that Nature Wanderers photography mentor – Jagdeep Rajput along with our clients were there at the right time to shoot this epic sequence.
June 30th was a befitting end to a challenging, tiring yet rewarding season in Ranthambhore. T28 (Star) walked in pristine light at the edges of the lake with the majestic fort in the backdrop. For a change there were no vehicles around to hasten his slow and graceful walk before he disappeared in the Rajbagh palace.
Presenting a few glimpses of June 2015 from Ranthambhore. End of a memorable back-to-back 9 month run with the denizens of the lakes. Wishing the young brigade a happy and safe monsoons.
Just wrapped up a 2 month schedule at Ranthambhore. Come May and a lot of drama unfolded in Ranthambhore post T24 (Ustaad) killing a forest guard on May 8th during the tourism hours on the fort road of the park. The tiger has now been shifted to a enclosure in Udaipur which has caused a massive uproar across the wildlife fraternity and social media platforms have gone viral with hate campaigns. As the legal bodies decide the fate of T24, here is a brief round up for May.
There has been a visible change in the family dynamics around the lakes as Krishna cubs started making a few independent kills while the mother wasn’t around. On multiple occasions I felt that the mother displayed her irritation towards the cubs and on a lot of days the family was scattered around the lake areas. However the moments of unity were touching as I caught the entire family chilling out one morning as the family united once again and moved towards Rajbagh.
While clouds of uncertainty surrounded T24, his offsprings have been literally controlling the sightings of the park in May as the mother T39 (Noor) was seen frequently along with the family. I also documented T24 a day before the tragedy and couple of times post the tragedy. It was quite emotional to shoot a tiger who was spending his last days in the wild.
Talking of some last images of a tiger, the exiled queen Machali (T16) made a surprise entry in the tourism area for just a few hours after a long gap. She has been suffering from cataract but still holds her charm. Probably the last we have seen of Machali … though she always comes up with surprises so you never know!
Here are some images to round up the month of May in Ranthambhore:
The days of innocence are finally coming to an end in Ranthambhore. It was a quite morning around the lakes in Ranthambhore. Krishna (T19) and her young battalion of 3 cubs were scattered all over the lake area and there were no signs of the tigers for the first few hours in the morning. Scenarios can however change within seconds and Krishna sprung out of a dry river bed with the 3 cubs and they marched towards the hunting palace in the middle of the lakes.
One of the cubs separated from the family suddenly got distracted because of a cheetal fawn and sprung up in action sprinting towards the prey in dense foliage. The cub caught hold of the cheetal fawn but catching hold of the prey is just step 1 of being an experienced tiger in the wild. Bringing the prey down with that lethal blow is the key for a successful hunt. The cub definitely lacked this experience as the canines are not yet effective to suffocate the prey.
The painful cries of the young fawn echoed in the forest as the young tiger cub failed to understand how to kill its first catch. The tiger then started ripping the fawn apart from its hinds and started consuming the morning meal alive.
Experience does matter to survive in the wild!
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:
March was a month we all were looking forward to in Ranthambhore. The stage was set for some great tiger action to kickstart the long summer. Scanty monsoons had ensured that the water sources in the park were drying up fast which would have resulted in some easy pickings in terms of tiger sightings around the lakes. However unseasonal rains which last for a few days dampened the spirits in mid-March as the forest turned lush green again with water tables going up again for the first time in the past many months.
Despite of the overall tiger sighting dipping in the park, T19 (Krishna) and her clan made some appearances around the lakes. The cubs are growing fast and are at their active best when the mother is around. Here are some glimpses from Ranthambhore this March.
Light, mist, habitat and action – these are the ingredients which make Keoladeo (Bharatpur) rock in winters. I always consider it to be the Masai Mara of India when it comes to photographic opportunities for this is the place where you can experiment and keep experimenting till you succeed. For the past 10 days, I have been walking amidst the Keoladeo woods exploring the beauty of the avionic world.