Once I returned from India it was my aim to use my images of the amazing Royal Bengal Tiger to demonstrate to people their beauty and prowess, at the same time highlighting the tragic position these animals find themselves in, now with around 3400 Tigers left in the wild. Where captive Tigers and those kept as pets are now outnumbering their wild counterparts which is a truly shocking statistic.
I have always felt that powerful images and powerful music go so well together and over the last few weeks I have experimented and developed a few examples as a visual slideshow and posted them on my blog and Facebook page. I was amazed at the feedback I received from people and especially amazed when a gentleman called Martyn Ford, a former Entomologist at the British Museum of Natural History, and now a professional conductor and record producer, had seen one of my slideshows and contacted me. We exchanged emails and Martyn invited me to give him a call. Hes a great bloke and was very helpful. We spoke about many subjects and he told me of a lady named Thao Nguyen a brilliant Musician, Composer, and Music Arranger who he works with. She is also a very good wildlife photographer with a great eye for her subjects.
Over a period of a few weeks Martyn came back to me with a brilliant piece of music called Fragile Earth that has never been used and one Thao was willing to let me use on my 2010 Year Of The Tiger slide show which I had been working on. I will use this to show the beauty of the Tiger along with this beautiful music she has composed specially for me to go with my images. To have a unique piece of music to go with this amazing animal is perfect and very fitting I feel. My images hopefully reflect the beauty of this animal that I have captured through the lens during my time in India. Not a day goes by when I don’t think of my time there and how they are doing.
I was also informed this week that there is new life in Ranthambore with the recent birth of two cubs to one of the adult females, which is brilliant news. I am hoping to return in January where it would be amazing to see these little fellows with their mum, where I will be returning later on in the year in May 2011 with my Tigers Of India photo-tour that I will be running. I cannot wait to go back as I love India and its diverse and different wildlife.
I have composed the images along with this beautiful and powerful music now in a slide show, where the hairs on the back of my neck still stand up on edge everytime I watch it. I hope you enjoy the show and it will form part of my talks that I am doing in different parts of the country over the next several months.
A massive thank you to both Martyn, and Thao for your very kind offer of this piece of beautiful music and I wish you both all the very best, many thanks.
Over the last few weeks I have found myself almost tied to my desk either compiling my four-coming trips to India and Kenya and so forth,editing images and making submissions,and processing images.So to find some peace and quiet away from these tasks I like the least I have found myself drawn to some of my favourite places within nature,places I have been so,so many times over the years.So on the odd days I’ve had spare I’ve replaced the pen for my camera and visited the coast,my Barn Owl and my Dipper sites to which I have committed myself to capturing these animals over a twelve month period,through the changing seasons.
Where I have resisted in parts the temptation to fill the frame with the subject on most occasions,instead capturing my style where I love to include some of the surrounding habitat.By doing this I feel the image can tell more of a story about the animal and it’s relationship with the environment.Where the subject itself may be very small in the frame,this helps to illustrate the scale of the landscape and something I have always been drawn towards in my work.But as shown below a large in the frame image works in giving a close up into their world.
Composition plays a key role in this type of image so its important to remember the Rule Of Thirds that I covered in a previous post on‘Composition’ remembering to place the subject away from the centre of the frame.
I have three Dippers sites I am visiting quite regular,time permitting at present,compiling images throughout the year, where all birds are all doing well in different ways within the Peak District,Derbyshire.These birds as you know if you are a regular visitor to my blog have amazed my from when i was a small lad,and they still amaze me to this day,with their character and constent ‘Dipping’ behaviour ever present when you first see these birds in and around freshwater.Dippers nest early and in alot of cases can have a second brood of chicks throughout the season.One pair I have watched are feeding around three at present,when their parent lands the cries and screaming from the chicks in the nest is deafening,piercing through the noise from the fast flowing water close to their nest.
I run Dipper Of The Dales one day workshops,where I take you to the best site depending on the time of year within the Peak District.Giving you the chance to see and photography these Master’s Of The River
Also on the same stretch of river is a family of Grey Wagtails,where I have enjoyed watching their intense and frantic movement gathering food for the chicks,with the male pausing for a second in these lovely shaped tree branches below before he entered the nest,with a bit of a chance shot of the bird taking off using a slow shutter speed below this,beautiful to watch all this happening as its a great time to go out and watch wildlife now,with parents feeding young,juveniles having left the safety of their homes all happening around you as you immerse yourself in nature.
I have also been able to have a few days at the coast photographing Seabird’s,with the Puffin being high on my wish list again.I just love the clown-like faces on these beautiful birds,which apart from the four months of the year they come ashore to breed they spend the other eight months,living and feeding at sea,now that’s a very hardy bird.
My image called Fighting Puffins made the final round of this year’s BBC Veolia Environmental Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2010,where I was chuffed to bits as it was the first year I had entered this highly prestigious competition,with ten images in the semi-finals,and one in the final round,below is the image of two male Puffins fighting over a woman.
Where if you click onto the link here it will take you to the site,put in firstname.lastname@example.org and the code 223682 and you will see the fore mentioned images.Good luck to all those that have won there respective categories and now go forward to the big prize..co.uk
With my most enjoyable time of late being in photographing Barn Owls in the lovely evening light we’ve been afforded lately.This is the male I have photographed from the beginning of the year who survived the prolonged cold spell,he’s doing really well and has young to feed at the moment.Here he is seen small in the frame with the surrounding habitat turning this beautiful red and orange-yellow colour as the sun had almost set,just beautiful.
A big thank you to all the interest I have had in regard to my Limited Edition Tiger prints,that are now officially on 21 Century Tiger website,promoting these images,where 50% of the profits go to helping Wild Tigers as I really wanted to help these amazing animals that I was privileged to see earlier this year in India.
MyTigers Of Indiaphoto-tour is now live on my workshops page,which promises to be an amazing adventure over the 8 days,also myAmazing Africa photo-tour is now live also .Where I am running a Photo-Tour to Kenya to photograph the Masai Mara Migration this year and next year alongside Paul McDougall who runs PhotographyKenya another amazing trip for wildlife photographer’s and enthusiasts alike.What ever you’d like to photograph it is really, as said a great time to go outdoors to photograph wildlife right now,where nature will always be challenging but when it all comes together there can surely no better feeling and satisfaction as a photographer in getting your images,good luck.
The trip so far had surpassed my wildest dreams in regard to seeing a wild Royal Bengal Tiger during my trip toRanthambore,India,so with the final few days approaching I was filled with mixed emotions as I wanted to stay longer as I’d grown very attacted to these beautiful animals and was sad the end was almost in sight.Some of the close encounters I had were indeed a mixture of things,one being my brilliant guides,Salim and Raj but also I felt lady luck had some how played her hand in this, as the whole trip took me 3 months to plan,my original flight and booking was lost due to the Volcanic plumes of air over British air space,yet through all the ups and downs,never giving in I got here.The biggest support I had through all this was my wonderful wife Vanessa,who had helped me so much with the trip,it wouldn’t have been possible without your help,so thank you to my lovely wife,Vanessa.
I hope I have done the RoyalBengal Tiger real justice with my photographs, below are a few of the images I got on the final days at Ranthambore,India,they are taken with a mixture of lens,from a wide-angled lens to a long lens all trying to capture these beautiful animals mother-nature made so beautiful in their natural environment.
All images of the Royal Bengal Tiger and various other wildlife from my India trip on my website are available to buy throughPayPal,alongside the other various photographs.I have been asked by people living outside of the UK if they can buy my images and the answer is yes as I use UPS .So if you would like to purchase signed,framed prints or Canvases @ A2,A3,A4 size, Printed on Fuji-film,High Quality Pro Lustre paper using Fuji Frontier 570 printers or the digital image(s) supplied on CD and you live abroad then buy them through PayPal on my Portfolio page as normal and the postage cost will be sent to you upon receiving your address/country.
Where each order is seen by myself before it goes out to the customer to ensure the highest quality. There will be a few Limited Edition Tiger images too with profits going to helping Tigers in the wild and a few going to ‘Help the Heroes’ charity,alongside my ‘Lone Poppy’ image so look out out for these in the future .
I had a wonderful time,thank you to Ganesh,Dicky,Salim,Raj and all the wonderful people I met in India,who have become good friends now.I am returning very soon to capture more Royal bengal Tigers,and I also have planned a small Tour/Workshop there next May,details very soon.
The first series of Halcyon River diaries started last night and I thoroughly enjoyed the programme,watching Charlie alongside his wife,Philippa introduce us to the beautiful wildlife that live on the river just outside their home.Charlie is concentrating on a one mile stretch for the programme,with the trails and tribulations of many different species of wildlife that live on this lovely stretch of water played out before the cameras and their aim is to try and inspire people about the wildlife that lives all around them and prove that it can be just as interesting as wildlife anywhere else in the world .
There are 3 more brilliant programmes and for all the latest on the series and to see when the other programmes are on click on their Halcyon River Diaries website/blog,with up to date news on this amazing series where I hope it can inspire the future generations into loving nature that’s all around them.
There is a brilliant book that accompanies this BBC programme,of which I was really proud to have been asked by Charlie to provide some of my Watervoles images and some text regarding one of my Dipper sites,with a great link to my website, where people have got in touch and attended my Dipper Of The Dales and Watervoles Workshops with great success,getting some really nice photographs and lovely views of these two beautiful animals,that are run at several different sites,depending on the time of year within the Derbyshire Peak District.
Below is one of my Watervole images they picked for the book,this Watervole had climbed up the riverbank and started to smell,then eat lthis Dandelion,a really lovely moment for me to have seen and capture as these animals have a real character about them
I wish Charlie and his family all the best with the new programme,with the second programme being on Sunday 23rd of May then the others the following Sundays.
I have just returned from a great workshop to the island of Texel that I ran alongside Dutch wildlife photographer Jeroen Stel.The weather wasn’t on the groups side for the first few days,but there was still some much birdife around the weather conditions added to the images the group got,with my belief of ‘There’s always an Image’ to be had,ringing out throughout the workshop we all stayed extremely positive,with the clients being rewarded with some beautiful behaviour,courting Avocets,Common Terns,Black-Necked Grebes all going through their courting routines,love was certainly in the air.
The first few days with the weather being so unpredictably we drove around the island to the key spots,chancing our luck with what ever we could work with at the same time trying to dodge the rain clouds that seemed to be here to stay.I have always believed that weather can add some much to an image,capturing unseen and uncommon behaviour prior,during,or after the rain.I covered this very subject some time ago now in a previous topic called After The Rain .When possible try to sit out the rain or take cover with your personnel safety first and foremost,then you will be rewarded with some images that are a little different with the weather conditions adding to the image(s),as below with this simple Avocet feeding in overcast conditions and also while the rain came down,taken with my wide-angled lens to give you a sense and scale of the place, placing the subject within its natural habitat which I feel adds great impact to the image through the art of Photography.
As a group we spent quite a lot of time photographing the Common,Arctic,Little,Sandwich Tern colonies that Texel supports in good numbers,most if not all are inland,dotted around this small islands pools,with the ever present noise and smell’s these busy little communities give off.For me the Tern family is a beautiful bird,on one hand really hardy,tough, on the other so gentle and elegant with such a graceful appearance.I watched as one parent sat on the nest as the other flew in and passed over the sandeels they had just caught,all while hovering for a split second,so beautiful to watch,I was able to capture the sequence with the three images below.
Our daily routine was an early morning start come rain or shine,back to our beautiful hotel on Texel,where the food was brilliant,lovely breakfast,3 course evening meal, it really made the trip for the guests.We covered the whole island during our 3 days on there,seeing so,so much bird life,the island is teaming with,where there is opportunity after opportunity to capture the wildlife Texel has to offer.At around 25 miles long and seven miles wide the island of Texel is the largest of the Wadden Islands. It’s a haven and paradise for thousands of waders and waterfowl during the spring/summer months where they choose this picturesque island to play out their courtship routines and breed.
One of the many species of birds I wanted to see was the beautiful Black-Tailed Godwit,where the Dutch call this bird ‘The King Of The Birds’ with its stunning colours and trade mark proud stance it certainly carries its self like a king.On this day we saw this male on an old fence post,with all the group getting great images from this bird it was a real treat indeed,where the over cast weather played in our favour again with little or no bright,contrasty sunlight the birds shone in the soft lighting.
At almost every turning,each place give up there secrets to us all,where we were able to capture in good numbers the stunning wildlife that lives on this small island.Spoonbills were also a first for me,I’d seen them in my many trips and workshops to Norfolk but never at this close range as on Texel,their bills and marking amazed me,such a handsome bird.With a careful approach,using proven fieldcraft skills that allowed us to get quite close as we watched and observed them feeding,using their massive ‘Spoon‘ shaped bill to great effect.
The group we had was a mixture of UK and Dutch people with one Belgium man who I nicked named ‘Dotty Man’ his real name is Benoit,as we saw a few Dotterel feeding in a large field,another first for me,but sadly it came to nothing as Benoit’s fieldcraft put pay to the groups chances as the birds flew off after they saw his advances,all in good fun though and there is always next years trip Benoit!!, which already I cannot wait for.I hope the group of people that joined Jeroen and myself enjoyed the trip,it was good to show and help them all with the simply techniques and principles I use as a wildlife photographer,and I enjoyed all your company,with a lovely, relaxed atmosphere throughout the trip.
On our last day on Texel before we headed for the mainland to photography Black-Necked Grebes and Purple Herons,the clouds broke,and the island was bathed in beautiful sunshine,where our continued run of good luck carried on,with lovely views of Marsh Harriers flying over their hunting grounds of farmland and reedbeds
With the sunshine came so many beautiful colours as the island grows Tulips and many other flowers,with vast fields of pure colour.Our cars stopped for a bref moment,with the presence of movement to our left in a field of yellow flowers,this for me was the moment of the trip.As we watched the flowers move,we couldn’t see what was making this movement,it went on for some time as I followed the line of flowers moving in my viewfinder.Then almost comical like this male Pleasant popped his head up for a few seconds,then carried on,with the moving flowers forming a trail upon where he had gone and was heading,I couldn’t stop laughing,as nature does afford you such funny times from time to time ,this being one of them.
On the last day I thought the bird I most wanted to see during the trip would elude me,as the weather was not very favorably,with strong winds it seemed the beautiful Bluethroat would not be seen.During the days on Texel we heard their distinctive call several times among the habitat,but sightings never materialised until later on in the day,I managed a few images but they never came to close,so I composed them within their environment.Such an unusual bird,with the prominent blue patch on their throats where their name is derived from they are so beautiful looking.
The evening finished with a late evening walk after our evening meal in search of one of my favourite Owls;the Short-Eared Owl at a site Jeroen knew of on the island.As with nature you can never count on the subject to turn up when you want,in this case the Shorty never did but we were treated to a beautiful sunset,were I saw a small dark speck on the horizon,on a hill,as I walked forward and composed the bird in line with the setting sun I could just make out it was a Buzzard,beautiful colours and patterns to the sky,for me it was a dream end to our time on Texel,with our departure first thing in the morning to photograph Black-Necked Grebes on the main land.
An early start to catch our ferry,where we got to the main land in good time,we traveled for about two hours until we reached a popular sight where you can get some beautiful close up’s of this striking bird.We found a small spot,where we lay down and watched the Grebes feed at some distance away,over time they came closer into land,all the time feeding and on some occasions displaying to each other.The weather had gone cloudy again,with the sun making the odd appearance,this made exposure a nightmare,so I chose to turn some of my images of this beautiful bird into Hi-Key images,which highlights the brightness and makes for a ‘Arty’ image,going along with my belief of there’s always an image to be had!
It was a brilliant trip,great clients,loved Holland,very flat and picturesque,with lots of windmills about.I hope that the clients got alot from the workshop/trip and I hope to have helped you in some regard with wildlife photography,what it means to me,how you can capture a subject within its environment etc.We will be running another Texel trip next April/May 2011,until then thanks again,big thanks to Jeroen for your time and effort in making the trip a complete success,and sorry for my snoring!!
The days seemed to fly by with the routine of 05.00am start, finish at 10.00am, breakfast with my English teabags I brought to remind me of home, and then sleeping until 02.30pm, as it was just too hot to go anywhere, and then ready for my afternoon safari at 03.00pm finishing at 06.30pm. The days were passing to quick for me, as I eat, sleep, and lived Tigers and the other amazing wildlife that live in this beautiful area of India all day and everyday. Seeing the local people recycling everything, life is tough,and lets you know just how lucky we are back home, yet the people with the least have the most to give, love, happiness, a clear lesson to us all, where everyone has a smile and warm welcome for you, from the man on the street to the guests sitting at your table. I truly felt very welcome in India as the people are so friendly and courteous.
I and the ‘A team’, as I called Salim and Raj, had our photo taken with the scarf Salim had given to me to help with the dust and heat on the back of the neck,all in good spirits as we entered the park.
I was getting use to the intense heat now a little more, drinking litres of water some plain some mixed with a glucose/minerals to boost my own levels which were taking a battering due to sweating, heat etc and the physicality of holding on in an open-topped jeep whilst balancing a 600,with a 70-200 and 24-70mm lens with cameras attached, in the ready position should my continued streak of good luck continue and we see another Tiger.
An hour into our safari we noticed a few jeeps on the small dirt track ahead, Salim spoke to them and there was a female Tiger called T39 laying down cleaning herself, but at some distance away, so while the rest waited, hoping for her to come down close enough so we could all see her, I watched here through my viewfinder. I had to use manual focus due to the dense vegetation, it seemed ages before she’d look up, but eventually she did as she heard us. I captured the meanest of looks as she stopped licking her paws and looked up. I used the out of focus tree trunk to my left to frame her within the image below.
The sun pierced through the tree canopy with a few rays of light landing on her face. This highlighted her beautiful eyes and facial features. I watched her for some time as she cleaned her massive paws, after she stood up and started to walk away from us, to my left, Salim slowly drove the jeep along the only track their, a basic dirt track and we all looked back into the jungle to see if we could see her but the Tigers markings are some of the best camouflage I have witnessed in nature, she disappeared from view, yet we could here the alarm calls from monkeys and peacocks. I named the Tiger ‘The Ghost Of The Forest’, as literally they just vanished as you can see from the images below. As she sat down the markings blended so well with the habitat, how wonderful mother nature is!
She lay here for sometime then got to her feet with real purpose and started to stare at something that had caught her eye, it was Spotted Deer, one of the species of deer the Tiger hunts for here in Ranhanbhore. I watched as she took on the characterises of the cats we see back home stalking a bird on the lawn, low, slow and intense stare.
The Deer became jumpy and moved away quickly leaving this female Tiger a little deflated, so she continued to walk and we drove on the dirt track some 60 feet below here.
As she settled down she was joined by her brother T38 and for the very briefest of moments both Tigers sat alongside each other, to close for the 600 so I used the 24-70 lens and D300 to capture this moment.
After a few close ups of the male T38, he then decided to move off and was heading our way!!
My guide Salim had waited back a little and let the other jeeps head off as for a moment the Tigers seemed to have vanished again, we stayed put and waited as I changed cameras and lens to the 7-200 and wide angle, then with an almighty ringing of alarm calls from the Black face langur Monkeys we saw the male walking towards us, almost level to our jeep but some 20 feet higher up from the road we were on, I lay flat on my belly inside the jeep, held my camera and watched as the most beautiful of animals the natural world has,weighing in excess of 200KG walk towards us.
I used the wide -angle and captured him below just looking up at the Monkeys as the alarm calls rang out through the jungle, echoing for miles, my hairs were standing up on the back of my neck, my heart was beating so fast I not only felt the beats but could hear them in my head, as I captured the very moment he looked up, completely camouflaged in his habitat, with a few rays of sun light piercing down on him. Oh my god! was I lucky this day, and for me this has to be the best moment I have ever felt whilst watching/photographing nature, 20 feet away from a wild Tiger, who earlier had been hunting and was hungry, what a truly special moment I have on record now and also in my mind, just beautiful!!
He carried on walking but we stayed still and let him be and go off onto his travels. We headed back to our check point and again as they spoke and drove I was left in the back just in shock at what I’d seen,completely privileged and honoured with the experience of this day, which will be with me forever. 2010 The Year Of The Tiger, and I am 20-30 feet away from a wild, large male Tiger, it doesn’t get much better than that for me as a person who loves wildlife, and waited 30 years to get my chance to see one, Wow, wow!
As we headed back for my much needed cup of English tea,courtesy of my Yorkshire Teabags, I was still on the look out for images, as I’d seen the beautiful birds that live here. I managed to capture a Bee-eater,and a Ring-Necked Parakeet feeding in some lovely light and dream back grounds,another beautiful day, god was I glad I came!
Well its all go, as I’m off to Texel tomorrow for my ‘Texel Workshop’ co-hosted with my friend and fellow wildlife photographer Jeroen Stel for 4 days photographing the beautiful wildlife that lives in and around this part of northern Holland. I will continue with my RAW India when I am back as I carried on becoming luckier,bye for now!
I have just come back from an amazing trip to Ranthambhore, India amd after three months of planning the trip was all I could have hoped for and much,much more. With British airspace being closed on the lead up to my trip it looked however I tired that I would be beaten by an unprecedented event in history-Volcanic dust in the atmosphere, but lady luck was on my side and a few days after my first flight was cancelled the airspace was reopened and I was back in business! Last Saturday I made my way to Heathrow Airport,Terminal 5. British Airways,who during the issues were great in the help to customers and I for one will always use this airline from now on. The flight was nearly 9 hours,very comfortable, good food. As we landed in Delhi Airport at 11.30pm local time the captain welcomed us and let us know the time etc and the temperture which at 11.30pm at night was 35c!
I passed through customs with no problems having sorted my visa some months earlier, and I looked for my driver who would be holding a card with my name on,we met, his name was Ellios, and ahead of me was a 373km drive to Ranthambhore Bagh seen above where I was to be staying throughout the 7 days there. The journey was hard and hot,the roads were hard and not like roads we know back home but I was on a high and the journey had to be done..I reached Ranthambhore Bagh at 08.30am after seeing the sun come up as I passed through small villages, it was a beautiful sunrise. I met my hosts and Salim Ali who was to be my guide during my stay. Salim had grew up in the area as his dad was a ranger/guide in Ranthambhore before him so I was in the best hands. I went to bed until around 02.00pm where a little dinner was put on and then my first safari at 03.00pm with Salim and Raj. I had a jeep on my own throughout the week, it was a great choice as this gave me great flexibility as I was using my 600mm lens and tripod alongside a 24-70 and 70-200mm lens with D300’s to hopefully cover many different images/angles.
The Ranthambhore National Park, which is a part of the much larger Ranthambhore Tiger Reserve, a Project Tiger reserve, lies in the Sawai Madhopur district of eastern Rajasthan. It is right now the only forest reserve in Rajasthan state and in the entire Aravali hill ranges where tigers exist. The Chambal River forms a natural boundary of the Park towards the east, and on the eastern shore of Chambal lies the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh,this Project tiger reserve spans over 1334 sq. km of area, of which 282 sq. km is the Ranthambhore National Park.
During the 19th century there was excellent forest cover almost all over India. The population density was very low and exploitation of forests to fulfill local needs was negligible. During that period the forests of Ranthambhore were the private and exclusive hunting reserves of the Jaipur and Karauli royal family. These forests were managed by the Shikar Khana Department (Hunting Department) of the state. The local villagers were allowed to take many kinds of forest produces in unlimited quantities for their private use, after payment of an annual tax (called Babs). In selected areas of the forests, which were used for hunting by the royalty, grazing and tree felling were strictly forbidden, but there were few restrictions, elsewhere. However, due to the low population density, there was hardly any damage to the forests.
By the end of the first quarter of the 20th century, the need for conservation of forests was being felt all over India. The population was growing rapidly and the forests were coming under pressure. In Ranthambhore, the system of “royalty permits” for commercial felling (mainly for firewood and charcoal) of entire blocks of forests was taking its toll. In 1925, the Jaipur state created a post of Superintendent of Forests and in 1939 the Jaipur Forest Act was enacted. The Rajasthan forest Act was enacted in 1953, giving these forests some legal protection. In 1955, these forests were declared as “Sawai Madhopur sanctuary” and the practice of sale of forest produce through “royalty permits” came to an end. This was when the forests received their first “real” protection. However, legal hunting continued unabated till 1973 and by then the tiger population was almost totally decimated.
In 1973 a part of this sanctuary came under Project Tiger Scheme. At that time there were 16 villages inside the sanctuary but between 1976 and 1979, 12 of these villages were shifted outside the sanctuary. In 1980, in order to give greater protection to the forests, an area of 282.03 sq. k.m. of the inner part of Sawai Madhopur sanctuary was declared as national park.During the 1970s, tiger sightings were extremely rare in Ranthambhore but by the mid and late 1980s, as a result of the decade long protection given to the forests, Ranthambhore became the best place in the world to see wild tigers. Ranthambhoretiger reserve attained notoriety for illegal poaching of tigers in the year 1992.. Since then the forest authorities became very strict and now, generally speaking, poaching is not a serious threat in these forests. Since 1992, the tiger population has gradually recovered and in 2002 the Park boasted of nearly 40 tigers, a density of nearly 10 tigers per 100 square k.m. – which is one of the highest in the world,with the present count around the same which is great news for the Tiger within this area of India.
There are seven’ old’ gates within the national park and twice a day we passed through the gate called ‘Mishra Dhara Gate’ as seen above on our way to one of the 5 zones you are allocated before each trip,with each zone being around 25 km plus in size where your jeep has to stay on a small path which takes you around the chosen zone,with a very strict code of conduct on board eg.no shouting/loud noise, you cannot get out of the jeep, its all controlled really well with the Tigers welfare being paramount. The terrain of Ranthambhore Tiger Reserve is mostly rugged and hilly,with day time temperatures of 45c its very hot and dusty. For me carrying my 600 as we drove around over the bumpy terrain was hard at first as I rested it on my forearms as the roads were just to bumpy to place it any where, with your heart in your mouth all the time as to that magic word you hope to hear all the time -‘T’iger’! Then seconds to compose yourself and your camera before the Tiger has gone.
On my first trip on the Sunday we didn’t see any Tigers, but I got a good idea of the place,how it worked a little, where the sun came up and set etc. I can connect with a new place really well and get a good or bad feeling almost there and then, most of the time being proved right, I call it my ‘Sixth Sense’ or luck who knows! On this occasion I had a good feeling I would see a Tiger for the first time in my life since my fascination with Tigers after receiving a book called Animal World from my late mum for my 8th birthday, the book forms part of my Profile images on my website,and with some thirty years now passed since I first received this book my dream of seeing a Tiger was about to happen!
The routine in the morning was an early start at 05.00am, get my cameras+lens ready, the staff would make me an Indian coffee which was the perfect start to the day for me, Salim+Raj arrived at 05.40 and we set off to the park on my first morning. I always relax when trying to find nature as I have found if you put pressure on yourself then the nature just doesn’t show up! My first morning there was beautiful,we had a lovely sunrise,the noises of the place were so different to that of the UK wildlife I am use to, so many different calls it was just an amazing time!
I watched Great and Little Egrets fishing, Night Herons watching the sun come up, India Lapwings, male Peacocks displaying, and so many different species of birds I’d only read about before that were just all around me here!
All of this stunning nature around me I was in heaven! and I had’nt even seen my first Tiger yet. As we drove around our given zone, I saw so much different and interesting wildlife it was amazing, just then my guide said ‘Leopard’ and pointed up and to my left I swung the camera,600 and tripod around and just managed a few images before this very shy, rare animal vanished, Salim told me you must be lucky Craig, sightings of leopards are rare here with around 30 living here they are very hard to see and I had just seen this beautiful animal with its real distinctive face and big, round eyes. Wow!
He was gone in a flash but I really felt blessed I’d seen a Leopard, indeed very lucky, what a first morning. The safaris are from 6-10am and 3-6pm in the evening, and on my first morning we were in the final hour when we spotted my first ever, wild Tiger, I froze for a second, stood up and there she was, T17, a 3 year old female walking along the dirt tracks the jeeps use, with the Tigers using them too.
As we got closer the sheer size of the Tiger became very apparent to me, Salim went down another track hoping to get in front of her should she continue on this path, we managed to get in front and a nervous wait of a few seconds to see if she’d gone into the forest or had carried on,then I heard something,she was there walking towards our jeep T17 full front on view,wow she was beautiful,she was heading to a very small pool of water to our left, I captured her drinking with the 600, I then switched to another camera with my wide angle on (24-70mm) as she had finished drinking and carried on walking our way. I wanted to capture her within this habitat as she came closer, my heart was beating so fast I could feel the beats in my neck!!
T17, female tiger walking towards me, taken with a wide-angled lens as I leaned out of the jeep for a lower view point, it was a beautiful, surreal moment for me and one I will never forget, after she’d gone my driver and guide drove us back while I just sat there going over what I had just witnessed in my head, completely amazed. Just after the image below was taken she went into cover and was not seen again, but the memories will be with me forever.
My first encounter of a Bengal Tiger was just amazing, thirty years ago when I was eight my interest in Tigers began after receiving a animal book with a roaring Tiger on the front cover, so on this day my dreams had come true with a beautiful moment I managed to capture not only with my eyes but also with photographs. I am completely taken with these beautiful animals and with each safari I would see even more of the Tigers of Ranhambhore, some days I’d see 4 in a single trip, not all can be photographed as with the dense vegetation and the brilliant disappearing skills its a lot harder than you think to compose a good image with the small amount of time you get upon first seeing these stunning animals.
That evenings safari brought more beautiful encounters for me as I was living up to my nickname of ‘Lucky‘. We were in another zone now, and we lay in wait at a popular watering hole used by 1 or 2 different Tigers. Nearly an hour had gone by and nothing, the temperature was 45c and I was melting, 2 litres of water in the morning and two litres in the afternoon, a must as dehydration can creep up on you without warning, I also had glucose/mineral salts to to replace what my body was losing, it was a constant battle to rehydrate yourself and be on tip top form for the Tigers and the rough roads. The surrounding animals give a warning that you don’t forget when a Tiger is about and I heard this, the next thing a male Tiger, T7 I was told was heading for the waterhole, but for a moment had noticed the jeep and give me a look I managed to capture below.
Much bigger than the females, with a totallydifferent attitude/approach I found, quite shy on one hand but outwardly more aggressive too. These two images clearly show just how well camouflaged they are within their own natural habitat which amazed me, because away from these surroundings they really stand out with the beautiful markings.
The first two days were brilliant and my first sighting was amazing. Over the next few days I will update my blog with the rest of the special days I spent there, in the meantime I hope you enjoy these images of this most beautiful of animals, the Bengal Tiger.
On February 14, 2010, the Chinese lunar calendar moved into the Year of the Tiger,an animal that has captivated me with its beauty from the moment I received my first wildlife book as an 8 year old,with the face of a roaring Tiger on the front cover-I was hooked.This book started my love and interest for wildlife and more so the Tiger,as I’d trace around the Tiger,copying it on all my school books.The book is an integral part of my younger years and forms one of the many images on my ‘Profile’ .So with this year being the year of the Tiger it was a wish of mine to visit India and hopefully photograph these beautiful creatures in the wild,so at the beginning of the year I contacted my friend and fellow wildlife photographer Ganesh H Shankar who lives in India, asking could he help in this matter.
Ganesh has a brilliant ‘Compositinal’ eye with stunning vision,he strives very hard in the field to create a unique and artistic composition, not bound by the rules of conventional composition.We met on ‘Flickr’ some two years ago and have become friends over the years,where we share the same vision in our photographs we take.Below are a few images Ganesh has taken,showing his unique style of wildlife photography
Ganesh wrote a few words “Close usual portraits of subjects in nature stopped impressing me long back and found myself a comfort zone in portraying my subjects small in the frame yet drawing enough visual attention. I didn’t know any nature photographer who liked her subject small in the frame till I discovered Craig through a nature photo forum Yes, Craig and me seem to share some common
interests when it comes to composition and treatment of light in our images. Very happy to know Craig is visiting India to to see tiger through his lens.
Looking forward to see his wonderful creations in the new future !” Ganesh April 2010
His help and advice on my four coming trip to India has been second to none.I am flying from London to Delhi then a 5 hour train journey to Sawai Madhopur,a district of the North Indian state of Rajasthan and staying with his good friend Aditya ‘Dicky’ Singh who owns and runs a small lodge on the outskirts of the Ranthambhore tiger reserve in India.Aditya’s help and advice has also been great and it promises to be a trip I will never forget whether I see a Tiger or not.The title ‘Raw India’ will be the name I’m giving to the blog entries I’ll make covering the trip,as I am doing it alone,going to heart of India in a ‘Raw’ manner,hoping to seeing parts of India far removed from the tourists eye.
My wish is to capture some beautiful Tigers images and help the profile of this beautiful creature,as the plight of wild tigers is suffering greatly where three subspecies having already been driven to extinction in the past century alone and experts estimate there are as few as 3,200 tigers left in the wild.Tigers are being persecuted across their range – poisoned, trapped, snared, shot and squeezed out of their homes,there is hope for them in this Year of the Tiger,as there has never been such a committed, ambitious, high-level commitment from governments to double wild tiger numbers alongside top wildlife experts,photographers all helping in their respective ways by highlighting the Tigers case both domestically and worldwide.
The WWF are doing brilliant work in raising the plight and profile of the Tiger.They are securing habitats with their partners,working with local communities trying to give sustainable alternatives to logging,also they are creating forest ‘corridors’ to allow Tigers to roam and breed.The programmes are working and have helped the Amur Tigers in Russian come back from a population of around 40 to its present day total of 500.The WWF with your help can save the Tiger by just giving what you can, also you can Adopt a Tiger for as little as £3 pounds a month,with all the money going towards helping the world in which Tigers live and roam
21st Century Tiger do a great job in Giving wild tigers a future whilst raising funds for wild tiger conservation since 1997 with 100% of funds raised going directly to wild tiger projects. Tiger Awareness founded by Phil Davis from Leicestershire do a brilliant job also,a voluntary non-profit making charity, giving free talks to schools, the public, and other organisations with all donations and funds raised going towards tiger projects.I spoke to Phil recently and I’m hoping to help him with this charity anyway I can in the future when I return from my trip as I feel we can all do a little to save this stunning animal from disappearing from the wild,with only captive ones to remind us of the beauty and what they looked like,not a choice in my book as its never to late to do something to save these beautiful animals
I will update my blog on how I got on India with my ‘Raw India Dairies’ once I have come back.