Photo tours in Ranthambore National Park
Ranthambhore with its varied and beautiful landscapes, excellent light and relatively easy tiger sightings is one of the best parks for photography in India. Some of the best photographers in the world have come to Ranthambhore.
Ranthambhore is one of the few places in the world to photograph tigers in their wild, natural habitat and some of the best wild tiger photos in the world have been taken in Ranthambore. There are a number of reasons for this and the most important ones are:
1. It is "relatively" easy to find tigers in a wildlife safari in Ranthambhore national park, thanks to the dry nature of the reserve. On an average a photographers should be able to get at least a few good tiger photography opportunities in a 3-4 days. When I say good opportunities, I mean great sightings in good light for at least 15 minutes and a good photographer can get a lot done in that time.
2. All the wildlife pictures in Ranthambhore are taken from jeeps (or Canter "safari bus"). This means that one is taking wildlife pictures from a much lower angle and the end results are eye level photos, that are much more impressive. In most of the other Project Tiger reserves, a lot of tiger photo opportunities that one would get are from the top of an elephant, which is not only a poor angle but also a very unstable platform to shoot wildlife from.
3. Ranthambhore has some very interesting backgrounds to offer. The forest here changes it colors in every season. It varies from lush green in October, to yellows and reds in winters (from the end of November to February), to yellows and browns in the summers (March to June). The ancient ruins that are found all over the park add to this environment.
4. Ranthambore also has a lot to offer wildlife photographers, besides tigers. It is the best place in the world to take pictures of Sambar deer. One can get excellent pictures of ungulates, birds (particularly the ones that prefer drier habitats), landscapes, old monuments in the jungle etc. So when you can not find an obliging tiger to take pictures of, one can still get a lot of other very interesting subjects to shoot.
There are some downside of wildlife photography in Ranthambore too and the main ones are:
1. It is difficult to book jeeps in Ranthambhore. Only a limited number of jeeps are permitted to go inside the park and since there is a huge demand for them, they get booked well in advance. The Canter "safari bus" are not so good for photography. Not only do they offer a much higher angle than jeeps, there are other people in the Canter too and they may all be moving at the same time.
2. When you book a jeep in for safari, you are allotted a zone and you have to stay on the allotted zone during your jeep safari. This can be painful for photographers because it is important for them to get the right zones and these can vary from time to time. The only way to go around this is book 8 to 10 safaris so that you get to see all the zones.
3. You could get stuck with the wrong team of drivers and guides. There are a few (only a handful - I would say) excellent guides and drivers in Ranthambhore, who understand the light, angles etc. and can predict action with some degree of reliability. You could end up having a pretty lousy trip if you are not with one of them.
You can easily come over these drawbacks by keeping a few things in mind. Remember to book your trip well in advance. I would recommend booking at least 90-100 days in advance. If you do that you will end with with confirmed jeeps with good routes and look around for a good team.
Some tips for wildlife photography in Ranthambore:
1. Equipment: I would recommend carrying at least three lenses - one wide (I use a Nikon 24-70 mm), one telephoto or zoom lens (I use Nikon 70-200 mm and 200-400 mm). A super telephoto (500 or 600 mm) would be mind blowing and I use a Nikon 600 mm. However this is one lens that you can do without as most of your shooting opportunities will be in the range of 200-300 mm. I would also recommend carrying at least two camera bodies (I have two Nikon D700 and one Nikon D800) and carrying a dust proof bag to keep all this stuff in. Dust is a big problem here, so always carry all the things required to clean your gear.
2. Media: Carry all the cards, hard drives etc that you think you would need because you can not get any of those here. In our place you can download you images on our computer and back them up on CDs / DVDs but you can not do it everywhere.
3. Support: Tripods are great but they do not work on jeeps and canters unless you modify the vehicle (if you are planning to stay here for a long time you could do that). However, I would still advise you to carry the tripod - it does have its uses outside the national park. If you dont like to carry extra load, you could always borrow mine. Beanbags, on the other hand, are great in the vehicles. They are easy to carry and can be set up almost anywhere inside a jeep or a canter. Best of all, you can buy them here for a very low price. I have a tripod and a monopod but have shot most of my stuff inside the park on beanbags.
4. Light: The terrain in Ranthambore national park is hilly and so the lighting is totally different at different times of the day. The best lighting (the soft winter light) is between November and February, though this is not the best time to find tigers. April, May and June are the best time to find tigers but the summer light of these months can be pretty harsh. During all the months the light is nice and soft in the early mornings and in the late evenings.
5. Time duration: If you want to get some serious wildlife pictures, I would recommend coming here for at least 4-5 days (more if you are planning to come here in the winters). If you are planning to spend less than that, then plan on getting lucky.
"It is highly advisable to get a local feedback from the park a few days before one start his trip. For a feed back on tiger sightings, lighting condition and any other information that may help your photography, write to us.
I have been shooting pictures in Ranthambore for long and have worked with some of the best. I like photographers and if you need any assistance or information do not hesitate to drop me a mail. We will help you as much as we can even if you are not staying with us" - Aditya Singh
There are no fees for still cameras in Ranthambhore but a fee of Rs 400 is charged per entry to the park, for video cameras used by non-professionals.