TIGER! TIGER!

Be in­spired by a wildlife shoot in In­dia

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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 [03].

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.

Cool cats

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 [02]. 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 [01]. 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

02

03 A male walk­ing through a meadow in Ran­thamb­hore

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