The Rajbagh crossing

We’d heard Arrowhead (T84) had been seen near the ruins of the hunting palace on  Rajbagh lake. Monkeys had been shrieking their alarms all morning. My team of Vijay, Meetha and I rushed to the spot in our safari vehicle.  

Rajbagh Lake  is one of the most iconic parts of Ranthambhore National Park. On the banks of the lake, are the ruins of the hunting palace, a former lookout tower and resting point for Rajasthani royalty and their guests during shikar. Over the decades the hunting palace has been consumed by the forest, a testament to the afforestation and conservation efforts of the Forest Department. Now, this hauntingly beautiful spot has been turned into a heaven for tigers and other wildlife. 

The palace area is connected to the mainland from two sides. This main crossing area is a series of stepping stones over the channel between the land areas. This has been a favourite of wildlife photographers since Ranthambore became a National Park.  I myself have taken hundreds of photographs at this picturesque spot. 

But three years and over a dozen crossings later, I still had not created one image that I was really happy with. Ordinarily, tigers crossing over is a boring affair– a tiger walking on a narrow ledge of rocks —  a passe shot and not appealing enough for me. If that isn’t bad enough, there are also some technical difficulties adding to the frustration of my ever having got a good shot. If the tiger crossed during the day, the light was too harsh, and if the crossing happened in the evening, the light was too low. 

Now, I honestly did not know what to do. How could I make my shot any different from the hundreds of others before me? What kind of shot would I be satisfied with? Was today really the day?

There are about four places one can position oneself for the crossing, so I decided where I wanted to be positioned—in the foliage opposite the crossing. I was carrying my Nikon D850 camera and the Nikon 200mm f2 lens. The abundant cloud cover was casting a soft and diffused light over the lake, which is perfect for photography. 

Now we just had to wait for the tiger to show up. 

A few minutes later Arrowhead emerged from the foliage around the hunting palace ruins and ambled her way towards the crossing, directly in front of us. 

I took a few test shots to check my camera settings. No mistakes could be made at this point. 

She finally reached a point where the water had submerged the track. She stood still, contemplating what to do. It was as if she was giving me time to focus the shot.

I knew the jump was coming as soon as I saw her stiffen. And as the thought crossed my mind, she jumped. 

I clicked. 

It took me three years to get this image.

And that’s what wildlife photography is all about. Patience and perseverance. And it eventually pays off.

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