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Old 6th October 2022, 16:52   #1
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Default Photographing Tigers in the Wild

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Have you ever had the opportunity to click a Tiger in the Wild? The sheer presence of this mighty animal sends a chill to most while leaving them spellbound under an aura of tremendous magnitude.

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Generally speaking, anyone and everyone who enters a Wildlife reserve is doing so to photograph our most glorious and beloved National Animal - the Royal Bengal Tiger (Panthera Tigris). But while having such an expectation is but natural, many a times the Safari drive turns out empty leading to dissatisfaction. What we need to understand is that we are trying to photograph a Wild Animal who's survival is based on the fact of being able to remain unseen at will and control a terrain much larger than we can fathom.


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I will try to address a few points on understanding the Tiger, the knowledge I hope can be applied towards a much improved Safari experience. I would not get into the technicalities of how to click the photograph, I would leave that to the readers good judgement and expertise.

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I have classified this into 2 parts

A. The Tiger
B. General conditions for Photography

Lets have a read through them

A. The Tiger

Presence of the Animal :

India has always been home for this absolutely wonderful species of major carnivores such as Tigers, Lions, Leopards etc. However, the distribution of these cats is no longer uniform across the country, but are now restricted to the areas designated as Tiger Reserves, National Parks, Wildlife Sanctuaries and Biosphere and Nature Reserves. Now just like Human population is not uniformly spread across the country, same goes for animals, some regions may be better suited in terms of prey base, terrain, availability of water, climate and 'interference from humans or lack thereof'.


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Now while many reserves in India are home to the Tiger, the distribution and numbers vary greatly and some parks have higher numbers than others.

It is also important to note that we hear a lot about some Tiger Reserves while some are unheard of, its not due to the presence or absence of Tigers but mostly due to the connectivity of those reserves from major cities


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Type of Animal :

Tiger (Panthera Tigris[/b]) is a very large carnivore and and an apex predator at that, they have large territories where they move around; typically a Male Tiger may have a territory of up to 40-50 sq. kms. This territory may also have a few Female Tigers, their territory though is smaller at around 25-30 sq.kms . There may be more than 2-3 Tigresses in one males territory, there are sometimes overlapping areas around the fringe areas. Territory boundaries are formed by scent marking, cats have a distinct method for the same and spray urine at an upper angular manner.

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Mood & Behaviour of the Tiger :

The Tiger being the alpha animal of the forest, is a headstrong animal and a Male Tiger will go about his business without being impacted with the presence of vehicles, people etc. This trait is also seen in some Alpha Tigresses, they continue to remain unperturbed and give a grand audience, sometimes even using the vehicles to their advantage for hunting. They are curious by nature and love to walk on the road giving everyone a sight never to be forgotten. But when they are not given the right of way, they may move inside and wait it out until the path is clear and then continue on their journey. They are usually good natured and given a chance encounter with people on bikes or even on foot, they will announce their presence while at the same, allowing for a safe transit.


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Range and behavior of any particular Tiger :

Now like people, each Tiger has its own unique identity and behavior, these genes get passed on to their off-spring and for those of us who have spent a considerable time tracking a particular Tiger family, can mark out the similarities in the movement, choice of den, behaviour whether shy or extrovert etc.

Mostly Male Tigers love and prefer solitude and can be seen gazing at their magnificent kingdoms from breathtaking locations

"Whether or not you saw the Tiger, but the Tiger definitely did see you."

We are entering their world and without their willingness it is just impossible to get a picture.


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B. General Conditions for Photography


Terrain

Depending upon the location of the Tiger Reserve, the terrain changes drastically. Tigers are quite adaptive and can be seen from the evergreen rainforests of the Western Ghats to the extreme temperatures of Rajasthan right to the snowy mountains of Uttarakhand and North East and at the other extreme, they have adapted themselves to the constant moving mangrove islands of Sundarbans as well. So, if Tigers is what you are chasing, then be prepared to have the time of your life as you move around all this. Now, terrain plays an important part of photography, as it allows you a view of the habitat of the Tiger and the landscape shots thus present a pretty picture. Some places the terrain is more conducive towards portraits or close-ups (Tadoba, Bandhavgarh, Ranthambore), other places you have the possibility of a beautiful landscape (Panna, Jim Corbett). There may be also varied terrain within a single park, offering opportunity to click a myriad of shots (Panna is a fine example of this)


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Climatic conditions

What is the best season to photograph Tigers, is the most asked question!
My answer: all seasons!



Each season presents an aspect of the life of the Tigers and a shade of color of their coat as it adapts to the changing weather. From a sighting point of view, of course peak summers and the scarcity of water and being a hot bodied animal, it needs to cool itself down for a few hours every day, so chances of sightings are very high, but at the same time, the summer temperatures in Tigerland are in the higher 40s and not something that most humans can bear too.

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Light

Oh to be able to capture a Tiger basking in the golden rays of the early morning sun is what photographer dreams are made of and I hope we all get that opportunity some day.


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Photography gear and lens

There is no end to this discussion, but essentially I would carry a long range (telescopic) and a short range (portraits) and be ready. Of course nowadays, mobile cameras can do most of the things at close range.


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Cost

At present day prices, each Wildlife Safari within the core zones of Madhya Pradesh Tiger Reserves are roughly INR 6200 per drive (6 people in a Gypsy). Yes it is an expensive affair and normally one should look at 3-4 safaris within their vacation time to be able to get enough opportunities to look for the Tiger and maybe photograph it too.


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My end note are these series of pictures shot at Panna Tiger Reserve, hope you find the read helpful in your search for Tigers. There are many stalwarts present in this group, hoping they all share their expertise too.
Attached Thumbnails
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Old 7th October 2022, 10:44   #2
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Default Re: Photographing Tigers in the Wild

Wow just Wow! Amazing and mind blowing pictures. It seems like you have lived a dream to capture so many pics of the majestic animal. I have always preferred the Majesty of a Tiger over the majesty of a lion. The colours, the swag in their walk, the stealth and the size have made me a fan the animal.

I really wonder how you were able to capture the full on frontal shot where the Tiger is walking towards you. Amazing skills.
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Old 7th October 2022, 11:04   #3
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Default Re: Photographing Tigers in the Wild

Great narration.
I loved the OP pic.
Thanks for sharing.
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Old 7th October 2022, 11:43   #4
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Default Re: Photographing Tigers in the Wild

Amazing pics, thanks for taking out time and sharing.
Two questions.
1) Lenses you used.
2) Total time you spent.

Thanks again.
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Old 7th October 2022, 11:59   #5
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Default Re: Photographing Tigers in the Wild

Amazing shots and beautiful pictures. Love the way the pictures have a clear shot as well as a beautiful setting. And Panna just adds to the emotion! Thanks for sharing.
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Old 7th October 2022, 12:37   #6
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Default Re: Photographing Tigers in the Wild

Quote:
Originally Posted by Trojan View Post
Lovely sighting and equally amazing photographs too. Thanks for sharing the nitty-gritty of picturing Tigers.

This picture is my favourite. The eye says a lot, as if its saying- please take some courage to come near me then we will show you.
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Old 7th October 2022, 15:18   #7
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Default Re: Photographing Tigers in the Wild

Amazing Photography skills. I practised wildlife photography but i didn't have the guts to encounter these majestic animals as yet.

While most of others run behind the love of their life, wildlife photgraphers runs behind their love for wildlife - Alvis lazarus.

Last edited by sammy1705 : 7th October 2022 at 15:21. Reason: Spelling Mistakes corrected. Sorry for not checking before posting
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Old 7th October 2022, 15:26   #8
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Default Re: Photographing Tigers in the Wild

Incredible pictures, and excellent writeup. Thanks for your thread.

One poor animal seems to have a deep wound on their face and as they can't lick it due to the position will soon become infected and be a death sentence. Not at all a nice way to go. Hope it somehow survived.
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Old 7th October 2022, 15:33   #9
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Default Re: Photographing Tigers in the Wild

Great photos of the most gorgeous big cat! Enjoyed my time there in your camp. Will come again, soon.
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Old 7th October 2022, 16:22   #10
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Default Re: Photographing Tigers in the Wild

A delight to the eye for all wild life lovers and very nicely written with close photographs. Hope it was not very close.
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Old 7th October 2022, 19:11   #11
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It was post no. 500 for me, had to make it special!

Quote:
Originally Posted by vimalgk View Post
Wow just Wow! It seems like you have lived a dream to capture so many pics of the majestic animal.

I really wonder how you were able to capture the full on frontal shot where the Tiger is walking towards you. Amazing skills.
Thank you, patience is core when one enters the forest, I knew the region well and knew it to be an apt territory for Tigers, patience got rewarded!

Quote:
Originally Posted by coolmind View Post
Great narration.
I loved the OP pic.
Thank you coolmind, that is one of my most memorable clicks.

Quote:
Originally Posted by RaviCar View Post
Amazing pics, thanks for taking out time and sharing.
Two questions.
1) Lenses you used.
2) Total time you spent.
Thank you Ravi, I spend a lot of time in the forests of Panna. These pictures are clicked over a few years and just a subset, did not want to cause an overdose.

Most have been clicked with a 150-600 and some by 70-300.



Quote:
Originally Posted by buz View Post
Amazing shots and beautiful pictures. Love the way the pictures have a clear shot as well as a beautiful setting. And Panna just adds to the emotion! Thanks for sharing.
Thank you so much! Imagine finding you here, a small world indeed. Funny we never spoke about cars, though I was mighty impressed when you drove down in your brand new BMW all the way from Mumbai!


Quote:
Originally Posted by UD17 View Post
Lovely sighting and equally amazing photographs too. Thanks for sharing the nitty-gritty of picturing Tigers.

This picture is my favourite. The eye says a lot, as if its saying- please take some courage to come near me then we will show you.
Thank you! Yep those are special indeed, the cub peeping is actually peeping from right above my head (Zone 6, Ranthambore). We were the last vehicle and were under the Arch, which was not the best place as the mother was sleeping a bit ahead and all were waiting for her. Knowing how curious cats are, I felt that the cubs just might look down and I was ready focused at the edge of the arch on top and just like that, this fellow peeped.

This is what happens most of the time, there is no right spot when you are chasing Tigers. At that time I had requested a few vehicles to allow us some space so that we could also come ahead but no one obliged. And yet I was the only with a picture at the end of the day

Another one in this thread, look at picture no.12 from top, we were delayed by 15mins due to rain and were vehicle no. 21 and everyone was gesturing about the Tiger being inside the trees. We could see the Tiger exactly from where our Gypsy was parked and there is the picture - it was an extremely challenging shot but worth every bit. Hate to repeat it but I was the only one who could get any decent picture again, so I always say, fret not - the Wild is as unpredictable as it can possibly be.

Quote:
Originally Posted by sammy1705 View Post
Amazing Photography skills. I practised wildlife photography but i didn't have the guts to encounter these majestic animals as yet.
Thank you, please do not miss it for the world, think what Lazarus said!

Quote:
Originally Posted by digitalnirvana View Post
Incredible pictures, and excellent writeup. Thanks for your thread.

One poor animal seems to have a deep wound on their face and as they can't lick it due to the position will soon become infected and be a death sentence.
Thank you, that one is P-243, a very famous Tiger who reared his cubs when the Mother passed away, that incident was covered widely and took place in the Akola buffer zone of PTR. This picture which I clicked was the first ever shot of him as he moved from the buffer to the Core zone of Hinouta.

Worry not, sometimes food fights back, but Tigers are built tough and this wound healed completely. He is very much there and still ruling the Hinouta plateau region.

Quote:
Originally Posted by nilanjanray View Post
Great photos of the most gorgeous big cat! Enjoyed my time there in your camp. Will come again, soon.
Thank you Nilanjan, I look forward to meeting you - as mentioned, I am at the camp now.

Quote:
Originally Posted by sukhbirST View Post
A delight to the eye for all wild life lovers and very nicely written with close photographs. Hope it was not very close.
Thank you Sukhbir, sometimes they do get very close, especially 151 the Tigress, but apart from rendering my camera useless there is no other impact or risk.

Every image is a story by itself and remains etched in memory with the entire sequence of events.
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Old 7th October 2022, 20:16   #12
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Default Re: Photographing Tigers in the Wild

Beautiful pictures with a lovely write up. I myself am trying my hand at wildlife photography and this thread has surely ignited more sparks in me. Kudos! Will surely plan a trip to your camp in the near future.
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Old 8th October 2022, 01:29   #13
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Default Re: Photographing Tigers in the Wild

What a beautiful thread. Chasing and clicking big cats in a jungle safari is like an addiction. Rated 5*

But sadly this hobby is getting expensive day by day.
Now a days a trip to any reserve forest has become damn costly. Affording a decent hotel with a non sharing Gypsy easily costs north of 15k per day, plus the bookings need a lot of planning. Atleast we need to book the zones 60 days prior to the trip, getting hold of a good driver and a guide is a must too.
And am not even mentioning the cost of a proper photography gear required for wildlife photography!

I have a dedicated folder for tigers in my laptop. Have a collection of around 37 tiger pics clicked by me. Sharing a few. All the pics have been clicked by my humble Canon 70-300 Is Usm lens.

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Last edited by Samba : 8th October 2022 at 01:34.
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Old 8th October 2022, 02:14   #14
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Default Re: Photographing Tigers in the Wild

Very nicely put, really helpful for someone like me who is new to this.

I had gone to Kanha this May (3 Safaris) and got to see a tiger behind bushes, I really wanted to see him clearly. That experience really motivated me to come back in December but it's really expensive, especially if you go by your own car.

Reading this really brought back that sight. Do you suggest Kanha in December or Jim Corbett? I don't know but I want to have more of Kanha National park but I don't think I'll have many days in December to go there.
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Old 8th October 2022, 10:59   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Samba View Post
What a beautiful thread. Chasing and clicking big cats in a jungle safari is like an addiction. Rated 5*

- But sadly this hobby is getting expensive day by day.
- getting hold of a good driver and a guide is a must too.
- the cost of a proper photography gear required for wildlife photography!

Have a collection of around 37 tiger pics clicked by me. Sharing a few. All the pics have been clicked by my humble Canon 70-300 Is Usm lens.
Thank you so much for contributing here and I must say those are some brilliant pictures there Samba!

Yes, expense aside getting a knowledgeable guide and driver is a must, else everything goes to waste. But at the same time I see most of them only interested in Tigers and once a Tiger has been spotted and photographed, they are done for the day!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Sahil00090 View Post
Very nicely put, really helpful for someone like me who is new to this.

Reading this really brought back that sight. Do you suggest Kanha in December or Jim Corbett? I don't know but I want to have more of Kanha National park but I don't think I'll have many days in December to go there.
Thanks Sahil, I am glad its helpful, that was the intent of this blog for I repeatedly meet people who return back a little disappointed after their drives.

Geez that's a tough choice between Kanha and Corbett, I would suggest cut down your travel time and proceed to Corbett, that way you will get to spend more time in the forest and that is always better. Stay in the buffer zones if possible, that really takes the experiences a couple of notches above.

Cheers,
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