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Shooting tigers.…with a camera of course.

Where can you have a good possibility of taking a shot at a Bengal tiger with her cubs?

At Ranthambhore National Park  in Rajhastan, India.

Machali the tigress

Machali the tigress

Regular visitors consider Ranthambhore, as one of the best national parks in the world to see Bengal tigers, wild, in their natural habitat. But here you don’t just see Bengal tigers you see Jhumru, Machhli (from the “machali or fish” like mark on her cheek), Bachhi, Kankati and so on.Each of Ranthambore’s denizens are well identified and The Ranthambhore Bagh, with its trained team, is perhaps your best bet to know which is which.Aditya Singh is your man for everything photographic there -just take a look at his photos. He has led many photographic tours around Ranthambhore as well as other reserves.

Ranthambhore's tigers

Ranthambhore's tigers

The Reserve lies in Rajasthan’s eastern districts of Sawai Madhopur and Karauli. Chambal river lies on the eastern side of the tiger reserve, at a distance of a few kilometers and the river Banas (a tributary of Chambal) flows through the reserve, from the north-west to the south-east, dividing the project tiger reserve into two equal halves – the Kela devi Sanctuary and the other parts of the Reserve. Kela devi Sanctuary on the north-east of the river Banas, lies in the Karauli district. This wildlife sanctuary is slightly smaller than 700 square kilometers and was a part of the Karauli state before independence. The Kela devi Sanctuary along with some other smaller forests are categorized as the Buffer area of the Ranthambore Tiger Reserve.

Ranthambhore is one of the best places in the world to photograph tigers in their wild, natural habitat. Some of the best wild tiger photos in the world have been taken in Ranthambhore. There are a number of reasons for this and the most mportant ones are:

1. It is relatively easy to find tigers in a wildlife safari in Ranthambhore national park, thanks to the dry nature of the reserve. On an average a photographers should be able to get at least a few good tiger photography opportunities in a 3-4 days. When I say good opportunities, I mean great sightings in good light for at least 15 minutes and a good photographer can get a lot done in that time.

2. All the wildlife pictures in Ranthambhore are taken from jeeps (or Canter “safari bus”). This means that one is taking wildlife pictures from a much lower angle and the end results are eye level photos, that are much more impressive. In most of the other Project Tiger reserves, the only tiger photo opportunities that one would get are from the top of an elephant, which is not only a poor angle but also a very unstable platform to shoot wildlife from.

3. Ranthambhore has some very interesting backgrounds to offer. The forest here changes it colors in every season. It varies from lush green in October, to yellows and reds in winters (from the end of November to February), to yellows and browns in the summers (March to June). The ancient ruins that are found all over the park add to this environment.

4. Ranthambhore also has a lot to offer wildlife photographers, besides tigers. It is the best place in the world to take pictures of Sambar deer. One can get excellent pictures of ungulates, birds (particularly the ones that prefer drier habitats), landscapes, old monuments in the jungle etc. So when you can not find an obliging tiger to take pictures of, one can still get a lot of other very interesting subjects to shoot.

Dara-male tiger

Dara-male tiger

Aditya Dicky Singh

Aditya Dicky Singh

Dicky Singh (owner manager of Ranthambhore Bagh with his wife Poonam) is very generous with his expertise as well as his time and the notes for photographers can be found for all to read on his blog and the Ranthambhore Bagh website.

Some tips for wildlife photography in Ranthambore

1. Equipment: I would recommend carrying at least three lenses – one wide (I use a 17-35 mm f
2.8), one normal (I use a 24-85 mm) and at least one tele (I use a Sigma 120 – 300 f 2.8). A super telephoto (500 or 600 mm) would be mind blowing and I use a 500 mm f 4.5 Sigma. I would also recommend carrying at least two camera bodies (I have
an EOS 1D Mark II, one EOS 20 D and one EOS 3) and carrying a dust proof bag to keep all this stuff in. Dust is a big problem here, so always carry all the things required to clean your gear.

2. Film: If you are still shooting film (or slides) and I am, carry 100 and 400 ISO films. I know that the Fuji Velvia 50 is great but you need to be a very brave person to shoot wildlife in India with a 50 ISO film. If you are shooting on digital carry all the cards, hard drives etc that you think you would need because you can not get any of those here. In our place you can download you images on our computer and back them up on CDs / DVDs but you can not do it everywhere.

3. Support: Tripods are great but they do not work on jeeps and canters unless you slightly modify the vehicle (if you are planning to stay here for a long time you could do that). However, I would still advise you to carry the tripod. Beanbags, on the other hand, are great in the vehicles. They are easy to carry and can be set up almost anywhere inside a jeep or a canter. Best of all, you can buy them here for a very low price. I have a tripod and a monopod but have shot most of my stuff inside the park on beanbags.

4. Light: The terrain in Ranthambore national park is hilly and so the lighting is totally different at different times of the day. The best lighting (the soft winter light) is between November and February, though this is not the best time to find tigers. April, May and June are the best time to find tigers but the summer light of these months can be pretty harsh. During all the months the light is nice and soft in the early mornings and in the late evenings.

5. Time duration: If you want to get some serious wildlife pictures, I would recommend coming here for at least 4-5 days (more if you are planning to come here in the winters). If you are planning to spend less than that then plan on getting lucky.

Next post -conservation in Ranthambhore =shooting tigers with camera only!

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