Leopard photo by Sujatro Bhattacharya

Sujatro Bhattacharyya’s love of wildlife and nature reflects in his stunning photography. We asked him to take us behind the scenes of this eye-catching shot. Here’s the story, in his own words:

“Those who have never seen a leopard under favourable conditions in his natural surroundings can have no conception of the grace of movement, and beauty of colouring, of this the most graceful and the most beautiful of all animals in our Indian jungles.”

The feeling of seeing a leopard in the wild couldn’t have been summed up any better than what the maestro, Jim Corbett penned down. A feline, an epitome of grace and an embodiment of agility, the leopard is arguably the most gorgeous of all big cats. India is a tiger country no doubt about that, every year millions of them flock to Indian parks to see the striped beauty, but under the shadows of the apex predator, lurks an agile, highly adaptable cat with an estimated population of 12,000 odd individuals spread across the country.

Well, I have been ever fascinated by the natural heritage of the world and when I got my camera there was no stopping me. My first real search for a leopard in the wild was in September 2020, when I visited Jhalana Leopard Reserve in Jaipur, a famed leopards lair amidst the bustling capital city of Rajasthan. I had previously been to National Parks to see the Tiger, but spotting a leopard in tiger country is as good as looking for a needle in a haystack, leopard being very coy and wary of the bigger cat. Jhalana on the other is a completely different ball game. Here leopards rule the land and reside at the top of the food chain.

My trip in September wasn’t a complete disappointment, as I managed a glance of the beauty as it played hide and seek in the lush greens of the monsoon, and my basic DSLR and kit lens played spoilsport and I missed shots more often than not. Well, my camera can’t be blamed fully for the not-so-good photographs as I myself was quite the novice in Wildlife Photography back then.

I went back in April this year, determined to showcase the beauty of the beast, that had left me speechless the last time I saw it. This time around we had first explored Sariska in search of the tiger and oh boy! we had a fantastic sighting. Now we were back in Jhalana, eager to photograph the spotted feline in all its glory. Out we went for our first safari and managed to spot our first leopard within 20 mins but it slid into the bushes and after an hour’s waiting we gave up. We again spotted another one far- far away on the hillock and I couldn’t help but think if this time around would be any different. Well, we had two more safaris to go and all hopes were not yet lost.

On the next safari it seemed almost as if the jinx would break now, as the beauty came out in the open to quench his thirst at the water hole. Eyes locked, finger on the camera shutter ready and go and came roaring a jeep in full speed completely unaware of the delicate nature of the situation and the leopard sprang away into the bushes only to never come out again. I felt anger, agony all at once and it was almost certain that getting another chance like that wasn’t really on the cards. The next morning I felt all sore and almost didn’t feel like turning up for the safari. Still, I thought to myself why not one last time, who knows if my fate had that one good photograph. One hour into the safari we were on a hot trail of recent pug marks and an eerie stillness loomed in the atmosphere. Hardly ten metres ahead at the curb of the road, a tail swooshed by and my happiness knew no bounds. Out came the fantastic feline fondly known as Simba, and looked straight into the camera. Then he trudged along the forest floor and sat down on the fallen leaves and looked up as if in a dream, and there at that moment, I had my shot, the one I was after for so so long! Couldn’t have been a better feeling!

Until the next adventure, these are memories I will cherish for long 🙂

Follow Sujatro on Instagram @sujatro_bhattacharyya