After a long gap of one year I finally had a chance to break the shackles from my professional commitments and blaze my bazookas in the jungles of Jim Corbett national park, on occasion of wild clicks contest. The grasslands of dhikala, which form the most exotic locations of the park, and unarguably the most pristine grasslands in north India, inhabited by large herds of deer, elephants and of course the elusive striped cat is a dreamland for any photographer as these are truly blessed by light during dawn and dusk. I had exactly a day to be in the wonderland, and so I wasn’t expecting much in terms of variations in light and subject. But nature always has a tendency to surprise us.
I woke up early morning, not by the chime of my mobile alarm , but by the howling of the gale winds over the forests. Not to mention the little drops of rain , and the lightening in between. The weather didn’t seem to cooperate at all, but as they say bad light is the best light for photography, the norm did hold true when the sun came over the horizon. The low light, as if filtered through the cloud layers created a wonderful atmosphere.
As the gypsy kept taking rounds of the grasslands, in search of a subject to shoot in this light, we saw a huge herd of deer near the Ramganga river bed. The soft little fog over the huge expanse of trees in the backdrop and the turquoise blue shade of the river made a perfect recipe of an ideal habitat for the herd of deer. The herd oblivious of any predator around, continued to graze their heart out and seemed to enjoy an undisturbed reunion.
Moving deeper into the jungles bought us closer to the herd of my much awaited and favourite subject to photograph, an animal which is said to have evoked the fascination of human beings since centuries when it comes to strength, personality and emotions, the wonderful Elephants. The light remained amazing, the rays of sun fell on the elephants as if blessing them and the combination was magical.
I’d like to mention a little about elephants here, as no matter how much I speak about them, its less. Such a magnificent animal it is.
Elephants live in parade and their numbers can vary depending on terrain and family size. The herd has a very well established linear social order with males and females living different lives. Females live in closely knit group with other females like daughters, aunts and in-laws 😉 usually led by the eldest female, the matriarch.
Seen below is a female elephant with little family.
The female elephant takes care of its baby for a large period of its life till it has been weaned off from its mother’s milk completely. Elephant calves are totally dependent on its mother till 5 yrs of life for all nutrition, migration, health and hygiene. She teaches its calf everything needed they need to know about the herd, communication, use of its trunk for eating, drinking and bathing, and all necessary things about surviving alone. It is therefore rightfully said about elephants that when it comes to emotions, elephant is closest related mammal to humans.
An elephant calf comes to life after a gestation period of whopping 22 months, also the litter size is mostly 1 and twins very rare. A calf is taken utmost care by the females in herd. It takes an appreciable period for the calf to completely wean off and is frequently seen suckling.
Males in contrast to females live a solitary life spending more and more time on outskirts of herd first for hours, then days and weeks and eventually leaving the group generally after age of fourteen to make his own life. There they may form bachelor herds or wander alone. They do return back to herd time to time in pursuit of a partner and again wander off.
Elephants use their strong trunk not only for picking up food and water but also play an important role in communication. They display affection by continuously fondling and caressing by trunks between elephants in herds and also during courting ,bull elephant will plait its trunk with that of cow as indication of affection.
A wandering elephant in grasslands near the Ramganga river bed…
The elephant herd in itself is a very beautiful and soothing group to eyes. The camaraderie between them and the concentration in their mundane chores is worthwhile to notice as ever.
Returning back to the day so well spent with the gentle giants, it was time to return back to the world of two legged creatures. The light too had dramatically changed and cloud cover had disappeared. It was time of wait and watch more than clicking. On far of distance , near same river bed I could see the same deer herd grazing around and with the change of light, colour and ambiance had totally changed. Just to have an idea how light matters here is a high key of the deer herd.
As I was going out of the jungles, we saw a adolescent elephant male happily playing with the tree trunks on the road out of the jungles. The dusk had just about started to settle in and the huge canopy of the trees prevented the last rays to reach the ground. Though it had signaled the end of my day there, the animals were sure of an amazing dusk as ever. The elephant meanwhile kept enjoying his stroll as I was immersed in my thoughts….