Be inspired by a wildlife shoot in India
When it comes to photographing tigers, I’ve worked in four National Parks in India: Ranthambhore, Bandhavgarh, Kanha and Kaziranga. All of them are all classed as tiger reserves by the Indian government. As well as providing vital habitat for the Bengal tiger population, the reserves are also home to a vast array of other mammals and birds. The Bengal tiger is the most numerous of all tiger subspecies in India, but all the same, there are fewer than 2500 left in the wild, with poaching to fuel the illegal trade in body parts in Asia being the largest immediate threat to their remaining population.
Back in November and December 2014, I travelled out to Ranthambhore, in Rajasthan. I have a good friend there who is a very experienced guide and now runs a hotel, so he’s a mine of information about the local tiger population. In Ranthambhore, I got some particularly nice images of a female going across the lake, and another of a male walking in a meadow surrounded by lovely autumn colours .
In April and May 2015, I also went to Bandhavgarh National Park. It’s in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh, and gets very hot – hot as in 42 0C – at that time of year. While Ranthambhore has this amazing old fort and other interesting old historical buildings, making it feel rather like an exotic film set, Bandhavgarh is more like classic Indian jungle.
I knew the tigers were more likely to venture into the water when it got too hot, and the plan worked. The heat would literally flush them out, even by eight or nine in the morning . I think my stand-out shot from the Bandhavgarh trip was of a tiger cub in the air, just about to land on its mother’s back . This particular shot came about by chance; I was tracking the mother as she began to head back to the forest after bathing, when one of the cubs leapt exuberantly onto her back. I had my 500mm f/4 lens at the ready, so I managed to capture a sequence of action images. The exposure settings were 1/1600 sec at f/4 and ISO640.
When photographing tigers, I shoot from an open-back jeep, with my D800 supported by a beanbag, which gives me far more freedom than tripods do in this situation. People often ask me if it’s safe to photograph tigers in this way, and it is, although it does make your heart race a bit when a big male walks close to the jeep. Generally, they just aren’t interested in people in vehicles, and although I have heard of one jumping in and out of a jeep once, this is extremely rare, as are fatal attacks – in the parks, at least. Tragically, one experienced park guard was killed in Ranthambhore by an older male tiger just after I left. Sometimes older tigers can really struggle to hunt and they can get desperate and therefore dangerous to people. I have only just started seriously marketing the images from my two trips to India, as I wanted to wait for the whole set to come together first, and so far they have been well received. The World Wide Fund for Nature has expressed an interest, so I hope something comes of it – it’s always satisfying when your pictures are used to help communicate a strong conservation message.
I knew the tigers were more likely venture into the water when it got too hot… The heat would literally flush them out
To see more of James’s work, visit www.jameswarwick.co.uk
01 01 The shot of the trip – a tiger cub in a playful mood 02 Three tigers take respite from the 42-degree heat in Bandhavgarh National Park
03 A male walking through a meadow in Ranthambhore