Finally, I was convinced to put together a reconnaissance safari to Bandhavgarh India to photograph some magical tigers. In no small measure due to Barbara Flemming sharing her Bandhavgarh images with me. What a pity that she was not there when we all nailed our first great tiger photographs. The lodge we stayed at came as a pleasant surprise – also kudos to Barbara on that one. Then I need to acknowledge the great work that Nico did from the CNP Back office putting together a difficult itinerary with multiple flights that run as smooth as clockwork is no mean feat any given day. Our group consisted of 5 (not all photographers) spread over two of what we in South Africa will call a Jimmy Jeep which is ideally suited for the terrain with a small footprint and a good low range based 4X4 system. So how did our photography expectations lived up to the reality of Bandhavgarh? 

We expected some vehicle overcrowding at tiger sightings, more so because zone 3 of the park was closed due to elephants that entered villages resulting in human fatalities. How amazing then that despite experiencing the chaos that can ensue, when a large number of frantic vehicle drivers fight for a better tiger sighting for their clients,  the CNP group got our tiger shots while being totally on our own or sharing tigers with only a few other vehicles. Initially, our success came about because we got lucky, but later on during the safari, it was because we became tiger wise. The change in strategy delivered beautiful results.

Our further expectations were that we will photograph tiger portraits in mostly dim light putting huge demands on our skill sets and equipment. Wow what a relief then to say we got much much more than the occasional tiger portrait, we got some good action shots not only of tigers but also other mammal and bird species. The beauty of the forest came as a bonus and added some unexpected flavour and variety to our photography that makes Bandhavgarh competitive on the CNP rating system. The camera sensors of all cameras used by all photographers on our Bandhavgarh safari coped exceptionally well with every possible technical problem that came our way. Lastly, we expected to be bowled over by the sheer beauty of the tigers of Bandhavgarh and I am happy to report that our expectations were exceeded by far. Not only was there consensus amongst the group that the tigers of Bandhavgarh were the most beautiful, and largest, cats that we all have ever seen we were also pleasantly surprised at the end of our safari to conclude that the quality, quantity, and diversity of the tiger photographs that we were able to take home, after only one week of photography, far exceeded a lifetime of African Leopard images in our individual portfolios. Now that is some statement and the reason why we are going back to photograph Bandhavgarh’s tigers.

Nikon D850 | Tamron 150-600mm F5-6.3 @ 550mm | 1/640sec at f6.3 | ISO 1600 | EV -1.3

By far the most difficult technical situation we had to deal with. This 18-month male tiger sitting in deep shadow against a sunlit backdrop. Elana did a great job here.

Nikon D810 | Tamron 150-600mm F5-6.3 @ 600mm | 1/2500sec at f7.1 | ISO 640 | EV -2.0

A difficult photographic situation, black background with sunlit foreground, and high contrast tiger in the scene. Superb shot Brenda Botha!

Nikon D850 | Tamron 150-600mm F5-6.3 @ 600mm | 1/800sec at f14 | ISO 1000 | EV -0.7

A portrait to die for by Julie Steelman!

Nikon D850 | Tamron 150-600mm F5-6.3 @ 550mm | 1/5000sec at f6.3 | ISO 250 | EV -2.0

This double storey tiger action shot by Elana required depth and speed. Excellent shot Elana.

Nikon D500 | Tamron 150-600mm F5-6.3 @ 450mm | 1/6400sec at f8 | ISO 800 | EV -2.0

Two female cubs exiting a dark forest tree backdrop, that created all sorts of technical difficulties. The metadata is as good as it gets. Well done Julie!

Nikon D810 | Tamron 150-600mm F5-6.3 @ 600mm | 1/2500sec at f6.3 | ISO 800 | EV -2.0

A high-speed action tiger shot, with extreme contrast, deep black shadows and tiger white. Shot to perfection by Brenda.

Nikon D850 | Tamron 150-600mm F5-6.3 @ 600mm | 1/4000sec at f8 | ISO 1600 | EV -0.7

An action shot to die for, nailed by Julie – well done!

Nikon D850 | Tamron 150-600mm F5-6.3 @ 500mm | 1/4000sec at f6.3 | ISO 1250 | EV -0.7

Difficult contrasty light gave Elana a great opportunity, and she nailed it!

Nikon D810 | Tamron 150-600mm F5-6.3 @ 600mm | 1/2000sec at f9 | ISO 640 | EV -2.0

Brenda’s playing tiger cubs superbly tells the story of Bandhavgarh’s tiger magic!

So what will we change for our next Bandhavgarh Tiger Safari? We will go two months later when it is much drier and warmer when the tigers that love water are actually forced out of their forest home into more open spaces. We have done just that so talk to Nico and make your booking for this amazing safari like no other.

Warm photographic greetings,

Lou Coetzer