The forest was biding its time to be held by a shivering moonbeam. It was a world brimming with lyrical metaphors…
The Toehold troupe reached Bandhavgarh, accompanied by Skipper Phillip Ross, and settled in at the hotel. Sleep didn’t come easy, in the wake of the exciting times anticipated over the days to come.
With permits for the Magadhi zone, they left for the first safari after a cup of tea had warmed them up for an exciting initial foray.
Merely fifteen minutes after entering the park, the group heard alarm calls and saw a vehicle in front slowing down. And a moment later, the sight they had dreamed of manifested into reality.
A tigress was poised perfectly in tune with the expanse of an open meadow in which she was sitting.
Her graceful stance and intense gaze made her own the frames that the participants stored away in their cameras with furtive enthusiasm, before she moved on to her other appointments of the day.
It was then a pair of jackals that stole the participants’ hearts away, delightful as they were to photograph.
What followed next during the sighting was a diverse display of exotic birds, sambar, and the ever-adorable spotted deer. The day was chirpy and animated, with the wildlife in action on almost every trail that the safari vehicle followed.
After a spectacular beginning to the Tour, the group went back to the lodge for a quick nap. At lunch, the participants and the Skipper discussed different strategies to make the most of the Photo Tour.
That evening, the group made its way to the Tadoba waterhole. When an alarm call went through the fabric of the forest silence like a pair of scissors with an unknown urgency, the participants were earnestly expecting a sighting.
There was a surreal stirring behind the bushes nearby, which caught all the attention of the participants. And there she was, another tigress, superb in stylish demeanour. It was as though her presence took all of them to a state of trance that made them freeze every charming movement of hers.
Although she did not come to the waterhole, the group was happy with what they could see and capture. The participants were about to leave the park in about five minutes, but they spotted a tiger in the woods. He offered another magnificent photo opportunity, like an afterword to an album of numerous pictures that the group had already managed to take.
The first day of the Photo Tour was a rewarding experience for all the participants. They returned to the lodge, and just before dinner, had a discussion with the Skipper on exposure and the best ways of composing a picture. After a scrumptious dinner, the satisfied bunch of participants went to sleep.
The gratifying first day made the participants set out with a high expectation of sighting many more animals and birds. The first half of the safari, rather unusually, didn’t yield much, but towards the end of the drive, the group saw pugmarks, and waited for a tiger somewhere in the vicinity. And then there was one, walking with an aggressive snarl that splintered the tranquillity of the forest. Mr. Gopinath Guptha, one of the participants, managed to capture the tiger and his splendid presence in the wild.
Over lunch, Phillip discussed the different aspects of photography such as focussing and exposure compensation. The session was helpful, as the participants had learned better ways of making their art of photography even more effective and aesthetic.
That evening, the group entered the park and drove towards a waterhole, where they were fortunate to find the same tiger they had seen in the morning. He sat in the shadow cast by the heavenly evening light, close to the waters. This photo opportunity proved to be great to the group, with the subject sitting in a picturesque setting.
With several pictures having now been taken, Phillip took to discussing post-processing techniques in the evening, which helped participants understand the ways of making their photos as pleasing as they could be.
The next morning, the group went to the park hoping for more photo opportunities in sundry settings. After an hour of eagerly roving around to sight some cats, they came across a vehicle with people who had spotted the young Sukhi Pateeha female a roughly 15-minute drive from where they were.
Phillip decided to pursue, and after driving for around half an hour, found them. What’s better, the tigress started walking parallel to the safari vehicle! With what seemed like a breathtaking view, the group had a gala time taking dramatic pictures of the cubs, who didn’t fail to strike a few poses and impress them with their gallant walk.
The morning safari was still warm in the memories of the participants, as they waited for the evening drive. The past few days had been quite hot, which only made going to Tadoba in the evening a strategic move. The tigers were expected with bated breaths, and after an hour or so, the group finally had the privilege of sighting and capturing the charisma of a male tiger that showed up.
The group decided to keep a track of his path and had great fun following him rather slyly. This idea left the group with a treasure chest of images to be taken back home as beautiful frozen memories.
The evening witnessed a session of image review, as Phillip critiqued each participant’s pictures, sharing highly personalised feedback and helping everyone identify points of strength and areas of improvement.
It is no exaggeration to say that the last day of any Photo Tour begins with a bit of poignancy edging it. An intermission in the woods, which had come as an opportunity to connect to the primeval self, was marking its end, and that was perhaps another reason for the participants to aspire for a few more memorable pictures in the mythical Bandhavgarh forest.
That morning, the participants were taken to the Khitauli zone. There, they could feast on their visionary senses as species that were in the hiding the previous days showed up in all their generosity. Nilgai and jungle cat – the only cat the group saw on the drive – now added to the opulence of the forests in the eyes of the beholders.
Later, it was time for the last safari of the Tour. As they set out, the lovers of wildlife, with cameras in their hands, anxious to make some more pictures and satiate the thirst of capturing every beautiful frame in the wild. Within 15 minutes, a Mahaman male cub was found somewhere in a bamboo thicket very close to the road, his stripes in a strange sync with the bamboo there, which he seemed to play hide and seek with.
With an hour to go on the last safari, Phillip decided to check Sukha Dam, and on their way there, they found the Rajbehra adolescent female lying on the vehicle track. She lay there in beautiful light looking adorable for about 15 minutes, before dislodging herself from the position of a desirable roadblock.
And so the Tour ended. When words yield to the immense beauty of a world far from civilisation, devoid of pretence and unnaturalness, you stop conjuring metaphors. And maybe that’s why you need a camera and capture pictures as they are, in a world where everything is simple and true to what it just is.