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Until that day the girls managed to get really good shots of
1) small animals like lizards, hares, gazelles.
2) leopards and boars.
3) all the target species.
Long ago in Eastern Rajasthan, where the Aravali hills meet the Vindyan plateau, tigers were once hunted by the Maharajas of Jaipur. And for the last three days they have been hunted by me, Lucy and Gemmy: three girls out to shoot a tiger in Ranthambhore Park in India.
As you might guess our hunting weapons of choice are not guns, but cameras. We had been told that nowadays this is the best place in the world for photographing a tiger in the wild, but until today we had no success.
On the technical and logistical side all had been going really well. We got the best possible guide — Farid. He has been up early every morning to queue for a jeep and also to book the best routes. Without him we would be limited to the giant canters (big trucks) that haul round large numbers of regular tourists. Also the cameras have been operating well.
We knew in advance that the dust would be a serious problem and we have been rotating cameras via fleece lined bags that keep out dust and protect them from the harsh sun.
Ranthambhore is a mixture of dense forest and open bush. So far our best shots have been in low light and fast lenses with wide apertures have been the norm. We were also glad that at planning stage we took note of the advice to pack warm clothes. In the early morning it is really chilly sitting motionless in the open jeep. By mid morning it is Tshirt weather and the afternoons are simply baking — so we were glad to have prepared for all extremes.
Until today we had only a few good shots of “lesser” target species and a few bad shots of more interesting ones. This means that our pictures of gazelles, hares and a monitor lizard are rather classy; and the shots of leopard and boar came out rather blurry — but not a glimpse of tiger. We knew that it would require a huge amount of patience. In fact we also knew that sometimes tourist groups come for a whole week and don’t spot a single “stripey”.
But today we got lucky. Very early this morning, just a few hundred meters from the ancient fort, Farid motioned excitedly to a small mess of Dhok and banyan trees. Lucy and Gemmy were already set up and adjusting settings and shooting simultaneously. I was much slower but in the end it didn’t matter. We had a clear and sustained view of a beautiful tigress and three cubs. For five minutes we took literally hundreds of pictures: one is very special — of a cub just staring straight at my lens.
And then Farid said we had to leave; that we were the intruders and politeness to the animals demanded our withdrawal. Afterwards we celebrated like mad, showed our photos to the group and received warm congratulations from everyone on shooting our first tiger.
Until today we had only a few good shots of “lesser” target species and a few bad shots of more interesting ones. This means that our pictures of gazelles, hares and a monitor lizard are rather classy;