You’re in the heart of the wilderness. Every silence is magnified a hundred times. Every rustle of a leaf seems like a predator that is getting closer. Every firefly, a pair of watchful eyes. What is the worst that can happen? You cannot afford to let that cross your mind, as the worst is a terrifying nightmare. Instead, you settle down in the shadows and wait for the beast to get close. But never too close. Wildlife photographers tell us how they managed to get that one tough shot without becoming the lion’s lunch.
How tough does wildlife photography get?
Dipak Wagh started his photography journey by visiting different sanctuaries in India. Describing his toughest click (picture attached below), he says it was his first visit to Ranthambore Tiger Reserve. “We expected big cat sightings during this trip. Unfortunately, I spotted a ‘cat’ but it was not a big cat - a tiger or a leopard. I continued to click and after numerous efforts managed to get a single shot which had the creature still. It was only later when I went back to look at the image I had captured that I realised what I had managed to shoot”
“Caracal Cat, the rarest in India is one that many photographer cat lovers spend time trying to spot and capture with their lens. But it seldom happens. I was the luckiest to have had a Caracal Cat sighting and an image of it too!” says Dipak.
“The incident is still alive in my memories. Even after over 90 safaris, I haven’t ever spotted the Caracal Cat again. After this incident, I learned that sometimes size and fame doesn't matter, all matters is the identity you have.”
How risky is it trying to click a leopard?
Kairav Engineer was at Ranthambore National Park for an afternoon safari. It started to get dark towards the evening and the safari jeep was delayed too. “Right after we exited the park area, outside an ancient gate (known is Misradhara Gate) I spotted a leopard towards the right-hand side of the jeep and promptly told the driver to stop. Sighting leopards in high-tiger-density parks like Ranthambore is very difficult so I could not believe my luck when I saw one outside the park,” he says.
“It was almost dark but I had my trusted 400 f2.8 lens and a pro body. So I cranked up the ISO and managed to get a few clicks of this shy beauty before it eloped into the darkness. The foliage, the shy nature of a leopard and the non-availability of light made it a very difficult shot for me, but it is one that is the most memorable.”
How many hours does it take to capture the perfect shot?
Amit Gupta was at the Little Rann of Kutch in Gujarat for a safari. He had the intention of spotting and clicking the Desert Fox, but after patiently waiting for the species for three days outside its den and not chancing a view, he gave up.
However, that is when he got lucky. “I finally spotted the species! The perfect image took three days of patience and when I finally had the opportunity to click it, I was hardly ten feet away from it. The fox and I made eye contact and it gave me chills. I knew I needed to translate into the frame the exact view of what I was seeing and so I had to lie down on the ground.”
“Usually they are shy but on the last day, we were lucky that this particular Desert Fox was sitting still while we clicked away. However, it was evening and the lighting was not great. After struggling for a while with the settings and the specifics, it looked me in the eye, or rather the lens of the camera. I was on the salty Rann for almost three hours, lying flat in order to get the perfect click. Yes. Three hours later, I walked away with the most memorable and toughest click of my photography journey.”
What risks do wildlife photographers put themselves at?
For Urmil Jhaveri, the toughest shot that he has ever had to capture in his milestone wildlife photography journey would be that of a lion couple in Gujarat’s Gir Forest. The King of the Jungle is not merely known by the name for nothing.
A single roar can silence the entire forest and no one dares cross its path. Ironically, mating behaviour too is very aggressive among the big cats. What Urmil witnessed was a pre-mating fight between a male and female Asiatic lion. “Gujarat's Gir Forest is the only place on earth where you can observe the royal Asiatic lions. This place is very close to my heart and I'm attached to it emotionally as well. After waiting for close to ten years, I got the golden opportunity to document such moments in the wild.”
Meeting challenges every day with wildlife photography
Sriram Reddy’s toughest click as a wildlife photographer was not panthers or big cats or dangerous beats, but instead Terns.
These are seabirds that are distributed worldwide and found near wetlands and oceans. Their trademark is the grace and elegance they exude while on a flight. ‘Swift’ is how they can be described and one can only imagine how tough it must be to get a shot of them standing still.
“Photographing these little Terns was the most challenging for me until now. This is photographed in Hyderabad in peak summer. I had to crawl on the lake bed for 100 yards to reach a place to photograph them and what’s more, is that I spent nearly 2 hours with them. The time flew past so quickly, I never even realised until I saw the sun go down.”