Fine-art Nature & Wildlife Photography Talk by Jayanth Sharma

Fine-art Nature and Wildlife Photography – Talk

HP and Better Photography Magazine organised the EscapadeZ event in Bengaluru on the 15 February 2019. The main focus of the event was Toehold’s CEO Jayanth Sharma sharing a power packed one hour presentation about the Art, Science and Business of Fine-art Nature and Wildlife Photography.

Speaking about philosophies like capturing photographs which can be printed versus printing photographs that were shot, Jayanth enlightened the spectators with stunning photographs and thought-provoking ideas.

Brand ambassador for the HP Z9 Design Jet printer, Jayanth answered questions of various members of the audience about photography, printing, business and many aspects of being a wildlife photographer.

We bet the audience loved the show and in the months to come, we hope to host more such gatherings of photography enthusiasts.

Tigers of Bandhavgarh: Bamera Junior (T37)

Bamera Junior, Bandhavgarh

This is the third of a six-part series on the tigers of Bandhavgarh. To read the first part, on Spotty, click here and to read the second part, on the Banbehi female, click here.

Bandhavgarh has been one of our most beloved tiger destinations. And we have had the fortune of following the lifestories of individual tigers over the years. In this series, we share with you what we have learned about the current feline beauties from our frequent visits to this national park.

Meet T37 Bamera Junior, or Kankati’s son. He’s my favourite among the present dominant males of Bandhavgarh.

He’s a son of our beloved Bamera: And hence he carries a precious legacy.

He’s seen in Magadhi.

His mother was the fierce and maverick Kankati.

I first saw him in November 2011 when he was barely two months old. He was born to Kankati’s first litter, which had two females as well.

In 2013 one of his sisters was killed by a new male. He was seen with the other sister till June.

After the season reopened that October, save for a couple of stray sightings, he remained largely incognito for more than two years.

In February 2016 he made a dramatic comeback when he was seen mating near Magadhi’s Arariya fireline by Sachin Rai.

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His consort was a ravishing daughter of the Rajbehra Female. Coincidentally, her name too was Kankati (T35).

Thereafter, they lived together without cubs, often being seen in and around the Arariya waterhole, popularly known as Tadoba.

Towards the end of 2016, Kankati birthed three cubs. They were seen regularly in the summer of 2017 at the Arariya waterhole.

Incredibly endearingly, T37 would spend significant amounts of time with the whole family, often sharing the waterhole with Kankati and the cubs.

When the season reopened in October 2017, Kankati wasn’t to be seen.

A partial skeleton was soon recovered in her home-range.

T37 became seperated from the cubs, as the department constructed an enclosure for the young ones around Arariya.

The fairy tale was over.

Later, T42 Solo was seen spending some time with him, and she has since been reported to have had cubs.

But we don’t know if the cubs are T37’s.

As a fan on T37, I hope he’ll pass on his genes and keep the B2-Bamera lineage alive.

Tigers of Bandhavgarh: Banbehi

Banbehi Female Bandhavgarh, Santosh Saligram

This is the second of a six-part series on the tigers of Bandhavgarh. To read the first part, click here.

Understated and heroic are adjectives that usually don’t coexist, and yet, that is precisely what the tigress under today’s discussion is. For today’s tigress is no ordinary cat, but the venerable Banbehi Female.

 

Banbehi female - habitat

For us, writing about her is like writing about a person. She has a distinctly human presence. She’s seen in Tala but has permanent residence in our hearts.

 

Banbehi female - profile

She was born in late 2007 or early 2008. She’s a daughter from the last litter of the Old Banbehi Female.

 

Banbehi female - strolling

Her mother died in May 2009, when baby Banbehi was a little over 12 months old. She has survived being orphaned at as a cub. That’s why she’s a hero.

 

B2 tiger

We adore her also because she’s one of the last direct progeny of the iconic B2. (She even looks a lot like him.)

 

Banbehi Female resting under a rock

Her habitat is breathtakingly vintage-Bandhavgarh.

 

Banbehi Female - on the verge of a leap

I first saw her in May 2010.

 

Kalua tiger

She was mating then with her nephew, the famous Kalua.

 

Bamera tiger, Bandhavgarh

But she didn’t have cubs with him. Instead, she did with the adorable Bamera.

 

Tiger cubs of the Banbehi Female, Bandhavgarh

Her first litter had three cubs: two males and a female.

 

Male cub of Banbehi Female, Bandhavgarh

One of the males was very bold…

 

The female tiger cub of Banbehi Female, Bandhavgarh

…and the female, extremely pretty.

 

Banbehi Female litter, Bandhavgarh

Her second litter, of four cubs, didn’t survive long.

 

In her third litter, only a male survived. He was called Samrat.

 

She then had a fourth litter, of two males and a female.

 

Banbehi Female - closeup

She had a fifth litter in the summer of 2018, but the cubs didn’t survive.

 

Banbehi Female in Bandhavgarh

In October 2018, we were thrilled to learn she may have given birth again. If true, this would be her sixth litter!

 

Banbehi Female portrait, Bandhavgarh

All tigers are special, but Banbehi is a beloved.

 

Banbehi Female, Bandhavgarh, India

Tigers of Bandhavgarh: Spotty

Spotty - the suave Bandhavgarh tiger

Bandhavgarh has been one of our most beloved tiger destinations. And we have had the fortune of following the lifestories of individual tigers over the years. In this series, we share with you what we have learned about the current feline beauties from our frequent visits to this national park.

 

Spotty - Bandhavgarh tiger

Today’s featured tigress is Spotty, probably Bandhavgarh’s most famous tigress right now.

 

Spotty, Bandhavgarh tigress

Bold and beautiful, she is seen mostly in the southern end of Tala.

 

Spot-T - Spotty, Bandhavgarh tiger

Spotty’s name derives from the ’T’ mark above her right eye. (‘Spotty’ is a corruption of ‘Spot-T’)

 

Sukhi Pateeha female, Bandhavgarh tiger

She is the daughter of another of our favourites, the Sukhi Pateeha female.

 

Blue Eyes, Bandhavgarh tiger

Her father was the handsome Blue Eyes.

 

Spotty, the Bandhavgarh tiger

Spotty is around six years old. She was born in mid-2012 after Blue Eyes killed Pateeha’s first-litter cubs and sired his own litter.

 

Dotty, Bandhavgarh tiger

Spotty shares her litter with a sister, Dotty.

 

Mirchani, a Bandhavgarh tiger

In 2015, Spotty ousted the Mirchahni female and took over much of her home range.

 

Spotty tiger litter, Bandhavgarh

She then had a litter of three females. They’re all grown up now and moved on.

 

Mangu, Bandhavgarh tiger

Her mate is Mangu, the dominant male of Tala.

 

Bandhavgarh tiger Spotty

Spotty had a second litter in October 2018. A legend in the making, she promises to be the torchbearer of Bandhavgarh for a long time to come.

This is the first of a six-part series on the tigers of Bandhavgarh. To read the second part on the Banbehi Female, click here.

Kamchatka – A Life-changing Experience: Hymakar Valluri

Kamchatka brown bear

A year-long wait to visit this magical land in the Far East proved to be worth every minute of it when I set my foot on its pristine soil – a paradise graced by snow-capped mountains, lovely-hued lakes, and breathtaking endemic flora and fauna.

 

Brown bear family, Kamchatka
© Hymakar Valluri

 

Kamchatka in Russia had been my dream destination, especially so because I wanted to watch and photograph the mighty brown bear.

The dream finally came true in August, when I signed up for the Toehold Wildlife Photography Tour to Kamchatka, led by Santosh Saligram. I was able to see and make images of a lot more geographical beauty and wildlife than I had anticipated.

This journey involved almost all modes of travel, and not knowing Russian proved to be adventurous enough on the first day itself, when I arrived in Moscow. Because there was a 10-hour layover for my next flight to Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky (PKC), I decided to explore Moscow. Saint Basil’s Cathedral had all my heart while I was there, before leaving for my next flight to PKC.

After a nine-hour flight, we arrived in PKC, a beautiful and clean city. You cannot miss the Koryaksky Volcano as it can be seen from anywhere in the city. We were briefed about the Tour, down to every little detail, and we called it a day, looking forward eagerly to our visit to the Kurile Lake.

The next morning, at around 10:30, we were in a helicopter, taking off to Kurile Lake. I was eagerly waiting for a long time to see this paradise to photograph brown bears fishing salmons, and that’s precisely what I did, along with the group of photographers I was travelling with.

On day two at the Kurile Lake, the weather changed dramatically, for the better, and it was looking much better the previous day. We had not seen a salmon push and were hoping to see some salmons today and also get some bears in action. Bears are known to come out of hibernation after the winter and they start feeding on berries, mushrooms, flowers etc., and then get to hunting for salmons and eat them for the fat and protein, to eventually keep themselves warm and safe during hibernation in the following winter.

As the temperature keeps increasing, they shed their winter coat by brushing off against the trees. And salmons, every year during summer, swim back from the sea to the lake, upstream, to hatch their eggs. Bears wait for the Salmons to return to Kuril Lake and to catch them during their journey upstream.

We were allowed to stay in the open but with rightful strict rules about photographing the bears from a safe distance. The push was not strong and there were few salmons, but we still got some brilliant action between the bears.

 

Brown bears, Kamchatka
© Hymakar Valluri

 

On day three at the Lake, we wanted to catch the morning light as the weather was looking better and hoped that the sun would show up. We got some action shots clicked and got back to the camp and rested till noon. After lunch, we walked to a nearby watch tower and saw a salmon big push happening. There were hundreds of salmons pushing their way through in a hurry to the Lake, fighting against the stream. The whole place turned from green waters to red salmons!

We started walking towards the Tundra along the river and saw lot of bears and hundreds of salmons on the way. After spending sometime in Tundra and understanding the history of the place from the Ranger who had accompanied us, we returned to camp and relaxed for the day, and it was our last night at the camp.

On the last day at the Kurile Lake, we had a few hours to make the best of our time photographing the bears. I tried wide-angle close-ups, capturing the habitat of the bears. We headed back to PKC in the noon and it was time to go to the Bering Sea for the next two days.

 

Kamchatka brown bear
© Hymakar Valluri

 

As we set sail for our next destination, we headed towards puffin colonies. We were asked to get into the Zodiacs and we spent almost two hours making images of thousands of puffins, kittiwakes, skuas, guillemots and other seagulls.

 

Kittiwakes, Kamchatka
© Hymakar Valluri

 

We also got to see spotted seals and sea otters. I was delighted to see my dream-bird horned puffin as well.

 

Horned puffin, Kamchatka
© Hymakar Valluri

 

We headed further into the sea looking for whales, and we got to see a mother and two calves of humpback whales.

 

Whale, Kamchatka
© Hymakar Valluri

 

After photographing the whales to our hearts’ content, we headed towards the islands where we could see sea lions.

 

Sealions, Kamchatka
© Hymakar Valluri

 

By evening, we reached one where sea lions were resting and decided to anchor close by to photograph them the next day in the morning light.

As planned, we woke up at sunrise, got into our Zodiacs and headed towards the rocks on which perched the sea lions. The sea was choppy, so we got back pretty quickly to our boat and as we headed back to the town, our Captain waved to me asking me to scan the hill-top for the Steller’s sea eagles and we were lucky to see a mother and her chick atop that hill. And with that, our wildlife photography had come to a satisfying end.

 

Tufted puffin, Kamchatka
© Hymakar Valluri

 

Kamchatka is an experience I will remember and cherish for a long, long time. Its pristine beauty has only left me thirsting for more adventures into untamed wildernesses across the planet and I hope to travel and photograph more in the days to come.

 

Sea otters, Kamchatka
© Hymakar Valluri

Happy World Tourism Day!

World Tourism Day

Our love for the world we inhabit with all other living creatures is devotional, faithful. And it only increases with each passing day. We express this love through our ways of experiential travel and the art of photography. And with all this love that exists the way it does – complete by itself in its hushed glory – we wish you all a very happy World Tourism Day!

Puma Paradise – Patagonia Wildlife Photography Tour

Puma portrait, Patagonia

There is beauty in the crimson clouds and mystery in the jagged peaks. There’s mindrest on the flaxen grass and life depth in the azure pools.

There’s a paradise in Patagonia. And pumas in it.

Join our next Photography Tour to Patagonia to experience unique beauty!

For more details, visit:
https://www.toehold.in/phototravel/patagonia-puma-paradise/

Animal of the Week: Malabar Gliding Frog, Amboli

Malabar gliding frog

Malabar gliding frog (Rhacophorus malabaricus)

Great place to see the Malabar gliding frog: Amboli, Maharashtra

In the quivering green-black forests of Amboli in the Western Ghats, if you see a little moist green blob of a thing moving about or perched on a twig, you are looking at the Malabar gliding frog, which is also called the Malabar flying frog.

One of the largest moss frogs, its belly is yellow and has skin fringes between and along its long limbs. The webbing between toes and fingers is an orange-red. While the back skin is finely granulated, its belly is coarsely granulated.

This amphibian star has a rounded snout but not a wide one. It builds foam nests above little pools of water, into which it drops its tadpoles after hatching. The male Malabar gliding frog is smaller than the female.

The name ‘gliding’ frog is derived from its ability to break its fall by stretching the webbing between its toes, especially when leaping down from the treetops. It can make gliding jumps of about 115 times its own length, and for this amazing reason, the Malabar gliding frog is our Animal of the Week!

See this adorable frog on our ‘Monsoon Magic’ Macro Photography Tour to Amboli!

Animal of the Week: Crab-eating Macaque, Borneo

Crab-eating Macaque, Borneo

Crab-eating macaque (Macaca fascicularis)

Great place to see the crab-eating macaque: Borneo, Malaysia

Also referred to as the long-tailed macaque, the crab-eating macaque is one of the primates endemic to Southeast Asia. Its tail is longer than its body and helps for balance when it jumps distances as long as 5 metres and hence the name. It is called the cynomolgus monkey in laboratories.

This macaque often forages beaches for crabs, but it an omnivorous monkey that feeds on a variety of animals and plants. In Thailand, it is called ‘mangrove monkey’ as it lives and forages in mangrove forests. It lives in social groups which have fewer males than females. The group living is known to be maintained mainly as a safety measure against predation.

The crab-eating macaque, unlike other primates, can spit large seeds out. This ability is thought to be adaptive because it avoids filling its stomach with wasteful big seeds that cannot even be used for energy. And an interesting detail connecting this macaque with humans is that it can easily adjust to human settlements and is considered sacred at some Hindu temples.

Apart from using the incisors and canine tooth, the crab-eating macaques in Thailand and Myanmar are known to use stone tools to crack open hard nuts, snails and oysters, and to wash and rub food like potatoes, papaya leaves and cassava roots. And for this intelligence it possesses, the crab-eating macaque is our Animal of the Week!

See this macaque on our ‘Rainforest Revelation‘ Wildlife Photography Tour to Borneo!

Animal of the Week: Hyacinth macaw, Pantanal

hyacinth macaw

Hyacinth macaw (Anodorhynchus hyacinthinus)

Great place to see the hyacinth macaw: Pantanal, Brazil

With its sagacious bearing, the gorgeous hyacinth macaw is bound to make you ecstatic even if you were feeling blue up until you set your eyes on it. It is one of the prettiest parrots you can see and photograph in the Pantanal of Brazil.

This macaw feeds mainly on Brazil nuts from native palms. It has a strong beak to crack hard nuts and seeds and even coconuts. Interestingly, its tongue is smooth and dry with a bone inside it like a tool to tap into fruits. Charles Darwin called it a ‘splendid bird’ with ‘enormous beak’ for this reason.

Both wild and tamed hyacinth macaws are known to have shown limited tool use. This bird is also known to be very even-tempered and calmer than other macaws, which has earned it the name ‘gentle giant’.

The hyacinth macaw is longer than any other species of parrot, is the largest macaw, and the largest flying parrot species, and for all these records it has in its name, it is our Animal of the week!

See this wonderful bird on our ‘The Phantom and the Wetlands‘ Wildlife Photography Tour to Pantanal!