Every March, Nagarahole Tiger Reserve drapes itself in a wide range of brown hues. In the summer months, the dry yet dense vegetation creates a wonderful opportunity to sight many wild animals in their natural habitat. I enjoy photographing landscapes and animals in their natural surroundings. There is always a story that unfolds when observing animals in their natural environment. The entire habitat becomes both the canvas and the painting.

I was on an early evening safari in Kabini, which is part of the Nagarahole Tiger Reserve. During our drive, at a distance, we heard strong alarm calls of the langurs – the eyes of the wild. Alarm calls are music to a photographer’s ears. Slowly the Spotted Deer joined in. As we drove towards the calls, we met fellow photographers in a jeep, who had witnessed a tigress crossing and were headed in the same direction as us.

We arrived at a spot where a small stream cuts the path between the safari and the core zone. Jeeps were not allowed beyond this point. The two jeeps stood facing the stream, hoping for the tigress to quench her thirst and ours as well. While all eyes were fixed on the stream, I picked my long lens, often used as binoculars, to scan the forest around me. Everything around was dry, brown and bright under the sun with the odd sliver of green that still held its ground. At a distance, through the only opening available, I scanned the vegetation. I saw what looked like a big black rock. In the blink of an eye, the rock came to life. It looked up from the ground, straight at me. I exclaimed in a hushed tone ‘Sloth Bear!’. There he was, this big, furry, black ball staring back at me. I clicked once. He was gone in a flash. Every photographer hopes for of the perfect frame during a safari. This was mine. I had captured the shy and elusive bear in his beautiful habitat, in one of my favourite jungles in India.

The image was a Runner-up in the Wildscape & Animals in Their Habitat category in the Nature inFocus Photography Contest, 2021.