Wildlife photography requires much more than just photographer skills and competencies. Perseverance and patience are of the utmost importance to wildlife photographers.
If the photographer cannot dedicate himself to a shot, he probably won’t get it. However, this was certainly not the case with photographer Mithun H, who waited for six days and managed to capture a perfect moment!
Being born and raised in the jungles of South India, he has always had a passion for big cats. Leopards were his first love, and he often observes them in the Kabini Forest Reserve in Karnataka, India.
Finally, he has only recently managed to photograph one of his favorite cat couples, Saaya and Cleopatra—in the pose of a lifetime.
Although the female leopard and male black panther have been a couple for four years, he has been watching them from much earlier:
“The female Cleopatra has been a heartthrob of Kabini since 2009. I have followed her for 12 years now—ever since she was a tiny cub. The panther Saaya entered our lives in 2014 as a sub-adult shy cat trying to establish territory. It was only in 2016, when he finally asserted his dominance, that he paired up with Cleo for the first time and I have followed their journey since.”
During these years, he has captured many important moments in their lives, adding that “whenever they are together- it’s a sight to behold.”
Yet, this time, he captured something sensational! He waited for 6 days in the same spot, only several hundred feet away from the amorous couple in thick undergrowth.
The cats had just made a kill, and Mithun was patient to wait until they finished it. Finally, the elegant cats walked past, turned, and looked directly into his camera!
The moment points out the deep bond of the magnificent cats! People were mesmerized by the spectacular view, so the photo, named “The eternal Couple”, quickly went viral.
“I can still close my eyes and relive that moment every single day of my life. You don’t see that often. Probably a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. This is where the knowledge and years of experience of following and tracking the panther came in handy.
I just had to wait at one of his favorite paths, since that was the place he would get her since that was the edge of his territory. And this he did after six days. It was a fruitful wait though. I could wait for 6 years for a moment like this.”
Mithun explains that the element of surprise is what attracts him the most when it comes to wildlife photography. He says that “the woods are mysterious, and to unlock that is my passion.”
He continues that he would spend days and even months, if needed, to take the perfect shot, as those seconds are “magical, and to live for after all that time.”
Mithun hopes that his work will help raise awareness about leopard conservation:
“They are the most neglected of the big cats across the world and in danger because of conflict with humans on the edges of the forests. People need to realize the beauty and grace of this amazing feline and their very important role in the ecosystem.”
For many years, wildlife photographer Mithun H has been following Cleopatra and Saaya
He finally managed to get a once-in-a-lifetime photo of the couple- the leopard and black panther casually looked into his camera.
Here are some of his other photos of the big cats: