So you want to shoot a tiger?
Mihir Gandhi is addicted to tigers. “Once you experience seeing the tiger in the wild, you just want more of it!” grins Mihir, who has combed the forests of Ranthambore, Tadoba, Bandhavgarh, Kanha, Pench and Kabini in their pursuit. He shares, “Tiger sighting is extremely unpredictable in our dense, hilly Indian forests. What’s more, spotting tigers does not necessarily mean you will get good pictures. Lighting and getting a good shooting angle plays a crucial role.”
His advice – “Patience is the most important key. Pick the right forest. It’s impossible for any safari driver or guide to guarantee tiger sighting, but if you pick the right location you’ll surely improve your chances.”
(Mihir Gandhi is an industrial automation entrepreneur, wildlife enthusiast and photographer)
Tails & Tales
Sudeep Mehta brings the chase alive…
WHEN LIGHTENING STRIKES – “The faint chill in the air on the early morning drive of September 8, 2016, hinted towards the impending winters, while the lush green washed foliage signalled the departure of monsoons. No better time to be in the forest! Ten minutes into the drive we observed scores of herbivores merrily grazing along the way with an occasional sounder of wild pigs alongside startled newborns in tow. To our gleeful surprise, we came across a pair of courting wild dogs on the road alongside a depleting rivulet. Oblivious of their surroundings, the usually vigilant dholes were mindless of not only our presence but also of something else that lurked nearby.
Whilst trying to capture this unique animal behaviour, we noticed a slight flutter in the grass ahead. As if almost on cue, the hair on my back stood up in rhythmic excitement as the reality of the situation dawned upon me. I was sure I saw stripes. Camouflaged perfectly, she lay silently waiting for the unsuspecting couple to move into striking distance. With shivering hands and fervent anticipation, I hurriedly set up my camera to record this remarkable natural history moment that was about to unfold in front of my eyes. What happened next was going to be etched in our memories forever. Synonymous to a lightning strike, the tigress leaped towards the ill-fated dog with unbridled fury. A fraction of a second and a paw swipe later, she delivered a deathly bite to the dhole’s jugular.
Maya’s face drenched in blood, mouth moving in a periodic panting motion, the tigress’s eyes peered feverishly for the fortunate male who escaped within an inch of his life. Truly Darwinian in nature, the unrelenting laws of the wild gave us a reality check and reaffirmed our belief in its unpredictability.”
SECRET AFFAIR – “Wild tigers are among the most elusive creatures in the world and even more so when they are engaged in the secretive and intimate act of procreation. Recently in May, during my safari in the adjoining buffer areas of Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve, I came across a relatively young and unknown tigress luxuriating within a bamboo thicket next to a waterhole. Her pink snout indicated that she had very recently stepped into adulthood. Constantly turning her head to see something in the background, she looked far too frisky for a tigress sitting next to a waterhole on a hot summer afternoon. Suddenly, we heard a rustling sound come from behind the tigress and almost as if on cue, walked out this behemoth of a male tiger. Those who have seen and heard tigers mate will swear by the sight as probably the most gratifying ever. Tigers are known to indulge in the coital act as many as 20 times a day and believe me when I say this, it’s a loud affair. Roars and grunts that almost always culminate in a climactic paw swipe by the female; only to do it all over again. This image holds a special place in my heart as it is very rare to catch the animals looking in your direction. Their eyes were like a window to the soul, speaking a thousand words. I was utterly humbled by this scenario.”
TIGER TRAIN – “A succession of tigers at Tadoba Andhari tiger reserve, blocking our path. We were almost on our way out and had packed our cameras up when our driver shouted..”Tiger..Tiger”. Right ahead was a streak of four tigers, intently looking in our direction. We knew we could not go ahead till the tigers did not get out of the way. Our thrill knew no bounds when the entire tiger train decided to walk towards us, thus giving us this photo-op.”
Sudeep Mehta, owner of a chain of award-winning hotels including one in Tadoba Tiger Reserve, is involved in a myriad of conservation efforts along with following his passion of wildlife photography.