21 October 2011

The Wild Road Trip

A road trip which was planned to traverse the width of Karnataka, moving west and touching Gokarana, really took a long detour and ended up into the Jungle of Nagarhole, Bandipur and B R Hills of Karnataka. The experience of the not so chaotic wilderness, the excitement of tiger and leopard sightings and reconnecting with an old passion made me believe that destiny did have some good reason for the change from original plans. This post was earlier intended to be tips on photography, but ended up being a bit of travelogue as well.

The Wild Road Trip - April 11
It was sometime in March earlier this year, that an old friend of mine and me started discussing about this road trip. Usually most plans remain at planning stage only, the hectic work life and the family committments often taking toll on all such dreams. This time perhaps, I was ready to make a change. So me and an old buddy 'B' finally hit the road in April. (C) Nagarhole (Kabini), (D) Bandipur (Tiger Resever), (E) K Gudi (BR Hills) and (F) Cauvery Fishing Camp - Gadibore were covered over 5 days, and 1000 kms of driving . Believe it or not, but in first 3 days of Safari, I had my first Leopard and my first Tiger sighting in the Wild. And for very good reasons Kabini, became my most loved wildlife reserve.

Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished - Lao Tzu

We started early morning from Bangalore and hit Jungle Lodges Resort at Kabini by 1 pm in the afternoon. infact at all the places, we had chosen to book property of Karnataka run Jungle Lodges and we were delighted we did that. We had planned a 2 night - 3 day stay at Kabini, which allowed us 4 safaris. I had no expectations, but was rewarded by a freaky sighting of a leopard on the tree, the very first safari. It was late evening, almost time to leave the park and we were on our way out, when we spotted this Leopard,   on a tree just 25 mtrs away from the track. The feeling of seeing a big cat in the wilderness is unmatched. My trip had already paid for itself. The next 2 safaris were quiet, as if the jungles was testing our patience. Probably yes, we did get rewarded again on the last day at Kabini, with a large male tiger sighting. It was hard to believe that my first leopard and tiger sighting were destined for this trip. The next 3 days at Bandipur, BR Hills and Fishing Camp were good as well, no where close to the Kabini adventure though. I had no regrets, I already had experienced something which not many can boast of. And boy, am I glad I had a camera and I wasn't completely raw with photography. My gear (a 55-200 mm) lens was grossly inadequate I know, severely limiting me. But gear alone would not help.. And here is what I think;

Right Gear is important: Animals do not like us encroaching their space. A long glass, a minimum of 400 mm is advisable though in most Indian jungles you can make do with 300 mm (on a crop frame camera). I struggled with a 200 mm and had to do with cropping my frame and compromising resolution. I was the one with smallest lens on my jeep and I can tell you 'Size does matter' when it comes to wildlife photography

Know your Camera well: Knowing your camera inside out, understanding all knobs and sweet spots is crucial. The subject is there now, oops now it is gone. Animals will not wait for you. Having a faster FPS (frames per second) helps but is not essential. 

Its not how you frame the shot but when you press the shutter: Everyone in your jeep / bus will frame the shot similarly. You cannot get off the jeep, as a matter of rule. So what instance you press the shutter and how many frames you click will really make a difference. No surprises for guessing that everyone comes back with almost similar looking shots. 

So, what makes a great wildlife photograph(er), in my opinion is the time one spends in jungle. Its about perseverance and patience, its about understanding animal behavior , its about loving the jungle and its residents. No surprises then that those who love nature  tend to be great wildlife photographers too. By being close to the wild, they also increase there chance of finding that special moment, that brilliant frame which makes you say wow. 

Ending this post with a series of wildlife photographs from this trip. The effort is amateurish at best, but I hope you enjoy them. Unfortunately only if you shoot yourself, do you relive the moment, which I do when I look at these photographs.


Share your stories and tips on wildlife photography. Am happy to share any details / tips on travel planning if needed. 

13 comments:

Cloudninetalks said...

Awesome images, Mayank! Especially the tusker looks magnificient. Wildlife photography is an art that can be mastered only by patience. Your pictures speak volumes of your hard work and patience. And nice tips on how to photograph in the wild. Will sure follow it! 

magiceye said...

wow! we spent 1 and a half days (3 safaris) in Corbett Tiger reserve but no tiger sighted though got some lovely birds and insects :)

mayankpandey said...

thanks.

mayankpandey said...

As I said I was lucky. I hear Bhandavgarh and Ranthambore as tiger sighting heavens. 

Kaushal said...

Some really nice images here.  This is as good as it gets for someone spending just a few days in the jungle as part of a safari so you should really be proud of your effort.  To go to the next level of wildlife photography takes a whole lot of time, patience, special permissions and some crazy expensive gear.  Good stuff Mayank!

mayankpandey said...

Thanks Kaushal. Photograph or no photograph, i do want to go back and visit the other tiger reserves and Gir as well. I have always loved the wilderness, have grown up in towns that boasted decent forest covers around and this visit made me realize that i should do it more often. 

Prabhu Karthik03 said...

Loved the photos and the route map :)

mayankpandey said...

Welcome to the blog @prabhu and thanks for comments.

vaivhav t said...

Awesome pictures. You are really lucky that you got to see a tiger and a leopard. As for wild elephants, I see a lot of them here in Northeast India where I live. :)

mayankpandey said...

Vaivhav - firstly welcome to the blog and hope you liked your stay here. Yes indeed, i was very lucky - infact it was probably luck of others on the jeep that could have worked for me. :-) Where in northeast are you from?

joshi daniel said...

really outstanding images!

mayankpandey said...

Thanks Daniel. I am so happy to hear that. I thought they were just about ok

Greener Pastures said...

This is like a really late reply. :) I'm based in Dibrugarh in Assam, and is part of an ecotourism company here. Again, the leopard shot is brilliant.

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