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Old 17th December 2015, 15:17   #1
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Default Tryst with a Leopard in Kabini

I was in Kabini again last weekend. We were very fortunate to spot and track a leopard on our second safari into the park. This particular leopard is known as Torn Ear to the guides and drivers since one of his ears is torn, allegedly in a fight with another leopard. We came across him when he was lying down almost prone in a salt pit deep in Zone A, where he was hunting for a spotted deer. The deer alarm calls alerted us to his presence and the tour guide from Toehold (the amazing Phillip Ross, check out his photographs when you have the time) along with the safari van driver carefully tracked him down. Once we spotted him and stopped for photographs, he gave up the hunt and decided to grace us with his presence. He came towards the van and walked beside it first on one side and then on the other, giving occupants on both sides equal opportunity to photograph him to our heart's content. Then for reasons best known to him, he thought he will walk ahead of us on the path for some time.

Finally, a non JLR safari van, which you can board at the park gate with no guide and a driver who wants to simply run through the forest as fast as possible, filled with loud yelling tourists came on the path from the other side, causing him to instantly vanish into the undergrowth and dense forest. We were frantically waving at them to keep quiet and just stop the van, but the driver didn't bother and the guys inside never cared. We were very happy to have spent nearly 30 minutes with this wonderful creature of the wild, but we still blamed those yokels, without whom we could have had another 15 minutes at least. It was getting dark already inside the forest even though it was still around 5:15 pm. So we returned back to JLR a happy and excited lot.

All photos were taken with a Nikon D7200 and a Sigma 150-500 lens. I'm not too happy with the quality of the photos since that lens is not sharp enough compared to say the Tamron 150-600 or the amazing Nikkor 200-400. I won't be hiring this lens again. Too heavy, too slow to focus, not sharp enough. The Tamron 150-600 is way better for a similar price.

I'm consistently amazed by the high ISO performance of my D7200, some of the photos below were taken at ISO 4000, some even at ISO 5000 (the last one with the leopard). Noise at these high ISO levels is quite manageable if you are not planning to print the photos. This camera is totally worth its price.

On to the photos:

For those of you who have not been on a safari in Kabini, or elsewhere, we travel around in small open vans like this one here:

Tryst with a Leopard in Kabini-kbndec2015033.jpg

Seconds after we spotted him he got up to check out territory, by smell:

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Then he walked towards us across the salt pit:

Tryst with a Leopard in Kabini-kbndec2015298.jpg

After which, he walked beside us for some time:

Tryst with a Leopard in Kabini-kbndec2015314.jpg

Next, he felt, I should give guys on the other side more chances to photograph me and crossed the path:

Tryst with a Leopard in Kabini-kbndec2015366.jpg

So he walked for a while on the other side:

Tryst with a Leopard in Kabini-kbndec2015457.jpg

Then, he thought Let them follow me, so he walked ahead of us for some time:

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We played tag with him for quite a while:

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When that van filled with tourists loudly yelling "Chiruthe! Chiruthe!" (Leopard! Leopard! in Kannada) came from the opposite side. On seeing and hearing them, he just took off into the forest.

Tryst with a Leopard in Kabini-kbndec2015501.jpg


Some of the other photos from the safaris:

A lone elephant in the distance on a very misty morning:

Tryst with a Leopard in Kabini-kbndec2015042.jpg

A herd of elephants taking a mud bath. If you see carefully there is a little one in between, you can see an extra pair of small legs in there:

Tryst with a Leopard in Kabini-kbndec2015208.jpg

A male langur bares his (unbrushed) teeth at me, for daring to look at his wife:

Tryst with a Leopard in Kabini-kbndec2015626.jpg

A female sambhar deer crosses the path in front of us, we were in a slight dip, so she looks higher up than I was:

Tryst with a Leopard in Kabini-kbndec2015574.jpg

A huge male Gaur browsing along the river banks:

Tryst with a Leopard in Kabini-kbndec2015594.jpg

We also made a flying visit to Ranganthittu Bird Sanctuary on the way back to Bangalore, where we spotted quite a variety of birds, mainly pelicans and ibises. These photos were taken with a Nikkor 200-400 f/4 lens, it is far sharper and super fast to focus.

A pelican takes off from the water:

Tryst with a Leopard in Kabini-rgndec2015662.jpg

A tiny pied king fisher rests in the shade:

Tryst with a Leopard in Kabini-rgndec2015710.jpg

When you want to turn quickly and you are flying over water, this is probably the quickest way to do it:

Tryst with a Leopard in Kabini-rgndec2015861.jpg

Another pelican dives for a snack:

Tryst with a Leopard in Kabini-rgndec2015916.jpg

I hope you enjoyed the photos as much as I enjoyed taking them. Seeing these animals in their natural habitat is just so much more satisfying than visiting the local zoo. I will post more when I come back from my next safari, whenever that may be!

Last edited by Stryker : 17th December 2015 at 15:22.
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Old 18th December 2015, 11:03   #2
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Default re: Tryst with a Leopard in Kabini

Thread moved out from the Assembly Line (The "Assembly Line" Forum section). Thanks for sharing!
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Old 18th December 2015, 12:19   #3
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Default Re: Tryst with a Leopard in Kabini

Nice shots.

I keep thinking of going to Kabini, but JLR and the other resorts are so expensive. And there is no other option for a Gypsy/Jeep safari.

What's the real value add of a Toehold trip, in your opinion? Is it technical/field guidance, or the opportunity to meet and enjoy with like minded nature photographers?
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Old 18th December 2015, 12:33   #4
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Default Re: Tryst with a Leopard in Kabini

Ahh, another big cat sighting by you at Kabini!!

Superb pics, of both the cat and also the birds. The pelican take off has come real sharp.

You have mentioned about hiring the lens, could you please let know the details of the same.
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Old 18th December 2015, 14:55   #5
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Very crisp photos and photologue. True that a picture is worth a thousand words!
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Old 18th December 2015, 15:32   #6
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Default Re: Tryst with a Leopard in Kabini

Quote:
Originally Posted by nilanjanray View Post
Nice shots.

I keep thinking of going to Kabini, but JLR and the other resorts are so expensive. And there is no other option for a Gypsy/Jeep safari.

What's the real value add of a Toehold trip, in your opinion? Is it technical/field guidance, or the opportunity to meet and enjoy with like minded nature photographers?
Thanks, Nilanjan. I'm a big fan of your photos too.

For me, going through Toehold means getting the best field guides and the best van drivers. These drivers will make or break your safari, since they control where the van will go. The rapport between Toehold and JLR authorities is quite good, so you can be assured of the best possible experience and the best chance of spotting the big cats or whatever you want to specifically see. Of course, the company of a van full of like minded photographers is always a plus.

Quote:
Originally Posted by mpksuhas View Post
Ahh, another big cat sighting by you at Kabini!!

Superb pics, of both the cat and also the birds. The pelican take off has come real sharp.

You have mentioned about hiring the lens, could you please let know the details of the same.
Thanks, Suhas. Toehold also hires all types of photographic equipment (lenses, cameras, TCs, etc.) and if you are going on their tour you will also get a small discount. I find that hiring big expensive lenses are much more economical than buying them obviously. They may be heavily used and not in pristine condition, but even then spending say 2K for the lens for the weekend is definitely better than spending 90K to buy one!
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Old 18th December 2015, 17:46   #7
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Default Re: Tryst with a Leopard in Kabini

Absolutely outstanding images.

The leopard really made great pictures...and thankfully it was there long enough to be able to get you the pictures you wanted.

And thanks for the comparison between Tamron/Sigma and Nikkor.

JLR people really make a good effort.

Cheers
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Old 18th December 2015, 20:05   #8
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Default Re: Tryst with a Leopard in Kabini

Loved the Pelican taking the turn photograph- the streak in the water with its wing, wavy reflection in the water, light on the back of the bird and the background making it stand out. Thanks for sharing the pics.
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Old 18th December 2015, 21:51   #9
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Default Re: Tryst with a Leopard in Kabini

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Originally Posted by Rajain View Post
Absolutely outstanding images.
Thanks, Rajain. Yeah, the staff at JLR are outstanding and are always smiling. It does make such a difference.

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Thanks for sharing the pics.
Thanks, bhargavd.
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Old 19th December 2015, 14:22   #10
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Default Re: Tryst with a Leopard in Kabini

Awesome captures & really loved the way of your captioning :-)
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Old 19th December 2015, 18:42   #11
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Default Re: Tryst with a Leopard in Kabini

Really nice photos there Stryker! You have amazing skills with the camera, and are very lucky to have gotten so close to such a magnificent animal. Looked at all the photos 3 times over .

Me and a couple of friends were supposed to visit Kabini this month, but things didn't work out. Hopefully I'll be able to visit it soon, and be as lucky as you to spot some of the big cats .
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Old 19th December 2015, 20:13   #12
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Default Re: Tryst with a Leopard in Kabini

Really a treat to see your pics, almost feels like i am seeing the Leopard at Kabini sitting in my home @ Bangalore.

I myself had the privilege of spotting one while at Nagarhole in 2012, it was close to dusk and this one was trailing its prey when our guide spotted him and he sprang from one side of the road to the other and vanished.

Leopards are very intelligent hunters ( more chaalu than the other cats but not as powerful) , in fact during my trip to Leh this September was hearing tales of how the snow leopard hunts !

Mr. Torn ear seems to enjoy the company of a small group of enthusiasts than the loud howling of the masses - admire his taste.

From your post got to know about toehold and looks like i am gonna attend one of their basics of photography workshops soon - thanks mate for the information !

Keep clicking !
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Old 19th December 2015, 21:33   #13
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Default Re: Tryst with a Leopard in Kabini

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Awesome captures & really loved the way of your captioning :-)
Thanks, hnp.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Joxster View Post
Really nice photos there Stryker! You have amazing skills with the camera, and are very lucky to have gotten so close to such a magnificent animal.
Thanks, Joxster. Yes, luck plays a very big role in spotting these wonderful animals. So far, I've been lucky.

Quote:
Originally Posted by The Observer View Post
Really a treat to see your pics, almost feels like i am seeing the Leopard at Kabini sitting in my home @ Bangalore.

...

Keep clicking !
Thanks Observer, I certainly aim to keep clickin'. Never been to Toehold's workshops myself, but I've heard they are pretty good.
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Old 19th December 2015, 23:21   #14
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Default Re: Tryst with a Leopard in Kabini

Absolutely stunning photographs - there simply ain't any other creature more graceful than a leopard. My first ever jungle visit was with Toehold (co-incidentally to Kabini itself) way back in 2010. Being an absolute douche at that time, I had went armed with the kit lens (55 mm) and as a result (and without a doubt) - the photos were absolutely useless. Your photos have brought back the urge to visit Kabini one more time (and this time with better lens )
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Old 20th December 2015, 10:52   #15
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Absolutely stunning photographs - there simply ain't any other creature more graceful than a leopard. ... Your photos have brought back the urge to visit Kabini one more time (and this time with better lens )
Thanks, Ikonification. I agree, a leopard is the most graceful animal I've ever seen. After seeing this animal for the first time, I understood the word "slink"!

Good to see someone inspired by my photographs to visit this beautiful place.
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