A beautiful snowy winter day at Bradgate park. The only option here was to hand hold the Canon 800mm f5.6 with the 1dx attached, as the Stag, doe and calf were together for only a few seconds…
Tadoba Tiger Reserve, April, 2016. We arrived at the waterhole early afternoon knowing a tigress and her cubs were fast asleep in the bamboo thickets. It would have been a pointless exercise trying to photograph the here. I decided it would be best to position our jeep according to where she would likely come to drink. The calculation paid off and we were rewarded with a lovely sighting of the resident tigress and her three cubs.
Contact me here if you would like to join me in India to photograph an icon of nature.
Very late in the day, the sun had already set and darkness had taken a grip in the jungle. This turn of events coincides with tiger activity increasing and we were rewarded for our patience.
After witnessing the three cubs drinking together, I thought to myself “things can’t get any better than this” but they did….
The scar-faced male returned to the water, to be met by a cub… his cub.
It was a rare and tender moment in the jungles of central India. A male tiger showing affection toward his cub.
Moments later, the female known as Sharmeelee (the shy one) appeared, and also head rubbed the male. It was amazing to witness her with the male, as she is rarely seen out in the open. Perhaps she felt safer as the was around.
Finally another cub appeared and completed the family ritual with a head rub greet…
And the crowning moment, the family portrait. A male, female and cub in the wild.
The three cubs…
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.
He eventually reached the pool, reversed and sat in the cool water and pierced us all with his eyes.
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.
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.
She carefully moved through the bamboo thickets and sat down for a much needed drink.
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…
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…
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.
Usual gear, 1dx, 400mm f2.8 etc.
Bird on a stick... but... what a bird! 800mm f8, 1dx.
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....
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.
It means a lot to have my images used in this context. I had always wanted my images to help with the conservation of wild tigers and this particular shot has served them well. Please visit https://conservewildcats.org/ to see how you can help. I've seen tigers in the wild many times, and for all their strength and courage, they are still extremely vulnerable and need our help...
A beautiful wild tigress @ Tadoba Tiger reserve, India.
Taken @ a hide