A tail to remember

Monsoon in a tiger reserve has got to be one of the most invigorating experiences, ever. Till recently, there was limited access to tourists and photographers to Ranthambhore National Park during the monsoon season from July to September. Happily, access to Zones 6 to 10 is now allowed during the wet season. 

On a typical monsoon day, I wake up early at the reserve, at my usual 430 a.m. Still in bed, I can hear the rain drops as they hit the concrete walkway outside my cottage at the Ranthambore Regency. I make my coffee and decide to have it in the veranda. As I step into the fresh air, the smell of rain and wet soil fill my nose. I can’t stop thinking about what’s in store for today’s safari. 

To access Zone 6 of Ranthambore National Park, we have to drive through the old town. The old part of town, like most small towns in India, is busy and bustling with life, both human and animal. Street hawkers prepare their stands for the morning footfall. Cows, pigs, goats and monkey roam the streets freely, in total harmony amongst themselves and the humans too that inhabit the area. 

As I reach the park gates I am greeted by the presence of many familiar faces, forest guards, guides and drivers. We exchange pleasantries and head into the forest to start the search for tigers. At the time I made this image, Zone 6 was home to a number of tigers namely Kumbha (T34), Ladli (T8), Jai (T108), Veeru (T109) and Noor (T39). 

The rain had transformed the forest into a lush green canopy overhead and given a new boost of life to other vegetation and grasses. Against the background of this eye piercing green suddenly out of nowhere, walking towards me, was Jai. 

I pulled out my camera, dialled in the exposure and took a sample image. It was a brief sighting where the tiger coolly walked across an open grassland and into the thicket. But that was enough. Even before I could process the images as black and white, I knew how the image would turn out. An important skill set that any black and white photographer must develop is the ability to visualise the work in black and white. The lush green, almost florescent green grass, would turn white and the tiger’s orange would convert to a shade of white too. I knew I had to make a high key image which would be brightly lit, almost angelic. 

We waited for Jai to come out of the thicket, but he did not oblige me and we headed back to my lodge. And that’s when I discovered the gem I had actually been able to get on film.

One safari, one image. This is what I was left with.

Pretty successful if you ask me.

The book, Hamir: The Fallen Prince of Ranthambhore, now available on Amazon.in | Amazon.com