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 email@example.com
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.