Aug 19 is World Photography Day. A day commensurate this wonderful form of art. A day to remind all you photographers that our role is to create inspiring story telling images. ‘Create’ is the key word to remember out here… Creation is an ever evolving process and every moment in your journey as a photographer this evolution will keep helping you take a step forward as an artist. Keep creating & Keep inspiring!
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!
As the lockdown continues and the world strengthens the battle against COVID19 I continued my discussions with global photographers on various topics pertaining to wildlife photography. Over the years I have closely interacted with Federico Veronesi throughout my journeys in Kenya and understanding his work and approach to photography helped me to broaden my scope of work.
On the Panel was a great medium for me to get the message out to a larger audience as Federico explained how creativity plays a major role in working in locations which is always flooded with photographers. There is always a scope for an image if you think beyond the obvious.
I ended this series of On the Panel with an interaction with Graeme Purdy. where we discuss about remote shooting using camera buggies. Graeme shares his experience using this technology which helped him to conceptualise his unique book showcasing some intimate images of African wildlife.
The COVID19 lockdown has locked everyone and the present and the future looks uncertain as of now. However the positive side in the creative world is that the photographic community has come forward and has been very open in sharing knowledge in innovative ways. We started a discussion series bringing together the best of natural history photographers from across the globe to discuss various aspects of wildlife photography and for me it has a great experience interacting with all my international colleagues and recording some of these interactions.
Check out the first 3 episodes of On the Panel hosted by writer, film maker and journalist – Shatabdi Chakrabarti as she grills us on DSLR camera trapping, photographing wildlife after dark, creativity in wildlife photography, evolution of wildlife photography in India and much more.
On the Panel – Episode 1 : Evolution of Wildlife Photography in India
Panelists : Shivang Mehta, Rahul Sachdev & Prakash Ramakrishnan
On the Panel – Episode 2 : DSLR Camera Trapping
Panelists : Ben Cranke (Award Winning Photographer from South Africa) & Shivang Mehta
On the Panel – Episode 3 : Night Wildlife Photography & Usage of Flash
Panelists : BBC Wildlife Photographer of the Year – Wim van den Heever, Nature’s Best Africa Wildlife Photographer of the Year – Brendon Cremer and Canon EOS Ambassador and Siena International Photographer Award (Wildlife) Winner – Shivang Mehta.
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.
My annual Tiger Marathon photo safari schedules are now up on Nature Wanderers Photo Safaris
4 back to back photo safaris have been planned for Ranthambore and Bandhavgarh – 2 of India’s best tiger habitats. At Tiger Marathon you can either pick up one batch or club multiple batches to spend longer time in the field and go back with an amazing portfolio of summer images
Schedule of Tiger Marathon 2020
- May 7 – 10 : Ranthambore National Park – 6 regular safaris
- May 10 – 13 : Ranthambore National Park – 6 regular safaris
- May 14 – 17 : Bandhavgarh National Park – 6 regular safaris
- May 17 – 20 : Bandhavgarh National Park – 2 full day safaris, 2 regular safaris
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.
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
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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.
Just completed a week at the stunning Torres Del Paine National Park in Chile. Amidst the picturesque landscapes of wild Patagonia, we had countless sightings of 12 pumas. The highlight was a female with 4 cubs which we managed to track on 4 of our 6 field days and the family kept the cameras busy for hours together.
Here is a brief pictorial summary of a week of hikes and hard work by a talented bunch of photographers I had the opportunity to lead.
Satpura National Park is always a special place for me. The leopard and sloth bear infected forest has always been a great location for documenting their behaviour. Night in Satpura makes the forest more special as a lot of nocturnal species can be observed in the fringe areas of the park. In May 2019, I spent a week exploring Satpura after dark. The target was the worlds smallest wild cat – Rusty Spotted Cat but every night was an element of surprise with some unique and fresh perspectives of Wild India.
Here are some images from Satpura… after dark!
The 2019 edition of my Tiger Marathon photo safari series just concluded in Bandhavgarh National Park. A fortnight filled with tiger action as we worked with Dotty and Solo – the two devoted mothers of Bandhavgarh who have been raising their litters in the park this season. From cubs playing to some charismatic males, Bandhavgarh always throws up surprises every day. Here are some of the many moments witnessed in the past 15 days.
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.
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
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.
In the past 14 years I have documented the lives of some of the most iconic tigers of India. I am pleased to announce the launch of my book – A Decade with Tigers – which is a compilation of images and stories depicting love, romance, motherhood, rivalry and revenge in the world of tigers in the past decade. Here is a curtain raiser to the book.
Stay tuned for launch updates…
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.
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 email@example.com