A beautiful day in the heat part 1

Wild tigers are scarce. With only around 4k left in the wild, opportunities to see them in their jungle home are hard to come by. Combine this fact with tigers occupying huge territories (males up to 100 sq km), their crepuscular behaviour, supreme camouflage, stealthy movement and shy nature, one can appreciate why they can be so hard to find.

Fortunately, in some reserves, individuals habits have become known, and to a degree, they have become accustomed to our presence. Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve, India, is one such place, where tigers can be seen relatively easily. These unique individuals offer us a rare insight into normally secret lives.

The 12th April 2016 was a day to remember. We had been working the core zone of the reserve for much of our time, but my guide knew of a location where a legendary male known as Scarface frequents an artificial waterhole. It was here where we sat and baked in the 40 degree sun for hours before he graced us with his presence.

All jeeps were facing the waterhole, expecting him to appear from within the jungle. Surprising us all, he walked across the road to the left of us, without making a sound. Visitors were so shocked to see such a large male, so close that hardly any photos were taken. I think everyone was taken aback. He moved through the thickets of bamboo towards the water.

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He eventually reached the pool, reversed and sat in the cool water and pierced us all with his eyes.

  Canon 1D Mk IV, 800mm f5.6

Canon 1D Mk IV, 800mm f5.6

According to locals, the majority of his dis-figuration was caused via a confrontation with a Gaur (Indian Bison), perhaps as well as fights with other males to protect his territory. We can’t be sure, and those scares surely tell of more encounters that were not seen. He is believed to be one of the largest male tigers in India, perhaps weighing between 200 and 250kg.

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Having such a large and powerful male around offers protection to the females in the areas he occupies and defends. A little later in the evening, once Scarface had left, we were fortunate to have seen a beautiful emerald eyed tigress named Sharmeele (translates to the shy one) appearing at the same waterhole.

  Canon 1D Mk IV, 800mm f5.6

Canon 1D Mk IV, 800mm f5.6

She carefully moved through the bamboo thickets and sat down for a much needed drink.

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As she sat and lapped up the water, my guide stated that as she looked quite relaxed, there was a chance we might see her three little cubs…

The Lady of the Lakes and Friends

Suffolk, UK in late 2017 was thriving with Kingfisher activity. Combine this with a beautiful habitat, and presence of other charismatic species, a day or two was all that was needed for a nice set of images…

 Her majesty overseeing her kingdom. Canon 5D Mk iii, 300mm f2.8.

Her majesty overseeing her kingdom. Canon 5D Mk iii, 300mm f2.8.

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 On one of the days, a gentle mist helped isolate the kingfisher from a competing background. 1dx, 800mm f5.6.

On one of the days, a gentle mist helped isolate the kingfisher from a competing background. 1dx, 800mm f5.6.

 Canon 5D Mk iii, 70-200 f2.8. An uncharacteristic shot from myself with a lot of depth of field. Can you spot her?

Canon 5D Mk iii, 70-200 f2.8. An uncharacteristic shot from myself with a lot of depth of field. Can you spot her?

 A moment in light. 1DX, 800mm f5.6.

A moment in light. 1DX, 800mm f5.6.

 You never know who you may bump in to…. 1DX, 400mm f2.8

You never know who you may bump in to…. 1DX, 400mm f2.8

 A gentle hover with a little motion intended in the wings, 1DX 800mm f5.6

A gentle hover with a little motion intended in the wings, 1DX 800mm f5.6

 A first sighting of a wild grass snake in the UK, 1DX 800mm f5.8

A first sighting of a wild grass snake in the UK, 1DX 800mm f5.8

 The traditional fish eating shot… 1DX, 800mm f5.6

The traditional fish eating shot… 1DX, 800mm f5.6

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 A model bird, thank you.

A model bird, thank you.

Tiger cubs @ZSL

A good month has passed since my last shoot with the cubs at ZSLW. They are now a lot more active and a real challenge to photograph.

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Usual gear, 1dx, 400mm f2.8 etc.

Training for Tadoba...

My trip to Tadoba Tiger reserve is fast approaching, and I need to get back in tune with photographing the big cats. I opted for a visit to ZSL Whipsnade, as the tigress has recently given birth to four beautiful cubs....

 The mother carries her cub to a shaded area. 400mm f2.8, 1dx.

The mother carries her cub to a shaded area. 400mm f2.8, 1dx.

  Flehmen  response from the tigress. 400mm f2.8, 1dx.

Flehmen response from the tigress. 400mm f2.8, 1dx.

 Calling for mum, 800mm f5.6, 1dx.

Calling for mum, 800mm f5.6, 1dx.

 A simple portrait, using some lens flare 400mm f2.8, 1dx.

A simple portrait, using some lens flare 400mm f2.8, 1dx.

 Wondering when it will be finally time to switch to meat from boring milk... 800mm f5.6.

Wondering when it will be finally time to switch to meat from boring milk... 800mm f5.6.

 Feeding and grooming

Feeding and grooming

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Global Tiger Day 2018

Ten years ago, I had the privilege of seeing my first wild tiger, deep in the core of Bandhavgarh Tiger Reserve, India. It didn’t come easy. We had days of no sightings, and only hints of their presence. After a lot of fruitless searching, we got the call and at around eleven am, boarded the elephant. The tigers were resting well away from any roads. The ride through the jungle was filmed by my friend, and I have recently found the VHS after a decade. Recalling my own memories, and watching the newly recovered footage… the forest was surreal. Truly beautiful, pristine and untouched. We moved through a gushing river with crystal clear water, through thick Sal growth and into a ravine deep in the jungle where we stopped. I recall looking into the distance, seeking my first glimpse, but in fact, just below us was a large sub-adult wild tiger. It is no exaggeration to say the animal radiated a presence, spirit, and at the same time a vulnerability, that I have seldom seen in front of my lens. So after bagging my shots, I put the camera down for five minutes and did a 360. The idea at the time was rather than remembering a close-up of a wild tiger through a viewfinder, it would be a far stronger memory seeing it with my own eyes, and I am so glad I did.

It was such a powerful experience, that it led me to photograph them constantly ever since. Whether that was at my local zoo, or back in India. More so than a photographic subject, I grew to understand her wider role in the natural world that includes us. Tigers are an umbrella species, and even humans, for all our innovation and technology, are still a part of this system.

To put it simply, if we can protect umbrella species, such as the tiger, we also protect the forests, the other jungle species and underground water reserves at the same time. Ultimately, our own long term survival. This very reason draws me back every year, and has given me a purpose and drive that is partially fulfilled by photography, but more so by helping to resurrect this declining cat. I have used my camera to capture the tiger aesthetically and created calendars and prints to raise money for their protection; I took storytelling images to educate and empower audiences, and now will embark on a long term project to further this purpose.

So this tiger day, ten years later I implore everyone to help support this iconic and vibrant species, whether that be through raising awareness through your own photography and blogs, or generating funds for charities. We only have one chance to preserve the tiger, let’s not hesitate to take it.

Please click here to see how you can help.

 My original shot of the sub adult tiger at a School near Bandhavgarh Tiger Reserve

My original shot of the sub adult tiger at a School near Bandhavgarh Tiger Reserve

 Bandhavgarh Tiger Reserve

Bandhavgarh Tiger Reserve

 Wild male tiger at Tadoba Tiger Reserve

Wild male tiger at Tadoba Tiger Reserve