Presenting the best pictures from Sanctuary Asia Wildlife Photography Awards 2015. Text and Photographs courtesy Sanctuary Asia magazine.
Every year, since 2010, Sanctuary Asia magazine recognises the best in the field of wildlife conservation -- photographers, activists and bravehearts who are contributing to the nature and wildlife in a positive way.
Presenting the winning photographs from the Sanctuary Asia Wildlife Photography Awards 2015.
Stunning. Brilliant and Mesmerising -- these images will make your jaws drop in sheer amazement! Take a look!
First Prize: Thomas Rajan
With little more than a smattering of her rosettes in focus, a leopardess Panthera pardus fusca streaks down a tree in the twilight forests of Kabini, Nagarahole.
So innately stealthy and swift was she, that Thomas Rajan had little more than a fraction of a second to make this image.
The white blades of her whiskers contrast sharply against the blur of her furiously working limbs and seemingly spinning forest backdrop, epitomising the grace and speed of this most persecuted of wild cats.
Tigers abound in Kabini's embrace, but somehow it is the park's charismatic leopards that have charmed hundreds of visitors through the years.
Second Prize: Shubham Kamlakar Alave
Encased in its glass-like egg, the almost unnervingly developed froglet of an Amboli bush frog Pseudophilautus amboli hovers in nature-imposed quiescence.
The glistening substrate to which the egg clings and the inky background are reminiscent of a lone planet in a vast universe.
This breathtaking macro image exposes the fragile beauty of amphibians as never before.
Upon discovering the egg in Amboli while leading a nature trail, Shubham Kamlakar Alave returned the next day to photograph it.
Joint Third Prize: Aditya Padhye
Gill and Gull
In Bhigwan, Maharashtra, Brown-headed Gulls Larus brunnicephalus take advantage of the by-catch that fishermen discard while hauling in their nets.
Squabbling, bickering and diving, they compete for the choicest morsels.
This compellingly energetic image of a non-breeding gull straining to grab a thrashing fish paints an exquisite picture.
The delicate gradient of colours in the bird's curving wings, the pink gape of its beak, the water streaming from the ill-fated fish… Aditya Padhye has captured normally overlooked details to produce an exceptional frame.
His hand was steady, his timing impeccable, as just minutes later he was caught in a monsoon downpour. Potentially one that saw the birth of the froglet into our world.
Joint Third Prize & Editor's Choice: Abhishek Jain
From the Mycena genus of fungus, our planet is gifted foxfire -- a captivating, unearthly bioluminescence whose purpose we are yet to uncover.
Out to photograph frogs at night in Kerala's Shendurney Wildlife Sanctuary, Abhishek Jain switched off his headlamp and, as his eyes adjusted to the dark, found a troop of glowing mushrooms. To capture the details of the fantastical fungi, he used a tripod and set a long exposure.
For the sheer brilliance of its composition and magic of its subject, this image caught the imagination of our judges. (And yes, some species of Mycena do indeed contain a hallucinogen, but we won't advocate eating them.)
Special Mention: Sandesh Kadur
Children of the Rann
Their muzzles meet in a chaste kiss, as two small Indian fox Vulpes bengalensis pups frolic in the warmth of the setting desert sun in the Rann of Kutchh.
The near-perfect triangle formed by their raised forelegs draws immediate attention to the irrefutable bond between siblings.
Lovingly cared for by both parents, they will be weaned by the time they are three to four months old.
Sandesh Kadur had not just the pleasure of observing these babies, but also the talent to capture this intimate, carefree moment in their young lives.
Special Mention: Kiran Poonacha
Fruit for Thought
It took Kiran Poonacha days of research and preparation to make this photograph of a short-nosed Indian fruit bat Cynopterus sphinx near his home in Bengaluru.
Notoriously difficult to photograph on account of their nocturnal, 'flitty' ways, Kiran had to use a high-speed infrared beam trigger and multi-flash setup, but not before studying the flight patterns of these flying mammals to guess the best path on which to hedge his bets.
Persistence pays, and this stunningly clear picture of a bat in flight, with a Singapore cherry jammed in its mouth, gives us a perfect look at this creature of the night.
Special Mention: Kishor Gumaste
Clear pictures of unique, unexplained behaviour hold special rank for our judges.
This one by Kishor Gumaste wholly fits the bill. What you see is a male Wayanad night frog Nyctibatrachus grandis guarding the eggs he has fertilised, in a crevice above a stream in a coffee estate in Coorg.
But why does he seem to be pressing the eggs?
We can only speculate that this father to be is reinforcing his precious cargo to the rockface to keep them from falling into, and being swept away by the flowing waters.
Special Mention: Praveen Mohandas
Kicking Up a Storm
Thrilled with the dexterity of her trunk, an uninhibited Asian elephant Elephas maximus calf gives rise to a miniature dust storm as she mimics her out-of-frame aunts and mother, all of whom had just taken a dip in Corbett's Ramganga reservoir.
The flamboyant little one is beautifully framed by the halo of rising dust, while her more reserved friends balance the frame.
With this image, Praveen Mohandas has fittingly given us a joyous glimpse at the emotionally rich and complex lives of the elephant herds that roam the terai landscape.
Special Mention: Arpit Dubey
Jack of All Trades
It would only be a fool who labels the golden jackal Canis aureus a mere scavenger.
In Pench, Madhya Pradesh, a pack of these versatile canids displayed their hunting prowess when they charged a troupe of Hanuman langurs Semnopithecus entellus.
One of them sank its teeth into a baby langur that was ripped apart in seconds as the others claimed their share.
This individual made away with the entire upper third of the baby monkey.
It's a morbid image by Arpit Dubey, perhaps even heartbreaking, but one that conclusively showcases the first law of the jungle -- eat or be eaten.
Special Mention: Dr Lalith Ekanayake
Jaws of Death
A brief drizzle provided respite to the floundering fish in a rapidly-drying waterhole in Kirinda, Sri Lanka.
The relief though was short lived for one particular fish that found itself in the jaws of a young crocodile Crocodylus palustris.
Lalith Ekanayake had mounted his remote-controlled camera on a tripod, and was monitoring the scene for several days, waiting for the perfect natural history moment.
For the streaks of water that slant across the frame, the clearly visible diaphanous fins of the fish, the texture of the crocodiles scales, and the overall wet gleam of the image, Lalith wins a well-deserved special mention.
Special Mention: Rohit Nagar
Rohit Nagar has two good things going with this image -- a good picture and a good story.
In Ahmedabad, when a fledging Spotted Owlet Athene brama crash-landed while learning to fly, Rohit carefully placed it back on its tree to keep it safe from urban predators.
For the rest of the day, the baby bird sporadically used a hole in the tree as a peep hole to view the big bad world beyond.
This wonderfully enigmatic photo sparks the imagination, and won unanimous approval for its unique framing.
Special Mention: Kiran Poonacha
Going with the Flow
This picture by Kiran Poonacha pays glorious tribute to the possibility of co-existence.
In small pockets of the myriad streams that crisscross the Kodagu district, the critically endangered Wayanad mahseer Barbodes wynaadensis find respite from the pressures of water pollution, sand mining and hunting thanks to the ancient codes of conduct that prohibit their exploitation.
This spectacular underwater frame captures a school of wild mahseer swimming alongside a farmer's Mallard Duck Anas platyrhynchos whose webbed feet are the only indicator of its presence.
The rising bubbles, the seemingly concerned expression on the face of the fish, the dreamy tones of the underwater world that soften the scales on the mahseer... exquisite.
Special Mention: Lingesh Kalingarayar
An extraordinary vantage point gave this image of a commonly-photographed species -- elephants Elephas maximus, a unique perspective.
A mother and calf wade through the Injipara river near a shola grassland among the Anamalai Range.
As the mother diverged from the herd to enter the river, her calf followed. And with every step forward, beautiful ripple formations enhanced the scene, presenting the photographer with this image.
Special Mention: Shashwat Jaiswal
The beauty of macro images lie in their ability to open the viewers' eyes to species seldom given a second thought.
As an Indrella ampulla, a snail species endemic to the Western Ghats, descends a twig, a drop of mucus rolls off a gland near its mouth and slowly gathers weight.
While the clear, viscous globule remains suspended, a fly moves in to feast.
A stunning interaction, an adroit display of technical talent -- Shashwat Jaiswal weaves magic.
Special Mention: Radha Rangarajan
But for Radha Rangarajan's poignant image, it would have been just a regular market day at the fishing dock at Karwar, Karnataka.
The out-of-focus, bustling, laughing figures behind, only accentuate the deep sense of despair that permeates the image as you focus on the lifeless long-headed eagle ray Aetobatus flagellum, won at an auction, being carried to its final destination in someone's kitchen.
So little is known about rays in India, that even the five experts we contacted for a positive identification on the species gave us five different answers.
This picture is a grim metaphor for the state of our oceans which are rapidly being emptied of species, even before they can be properly studied.
Special Mention: Swaroop Singha Roy
Through the curtain-like petals of this Madagascar periwinkle flower Catharanthus roseus, peers a deadly assassin.
A jumping spider belonging to the Salticidae family, an expert ambush hunter, had just made a housefly catch and settled underneath the pink petals, looking to feast comfortably, when the Swaroop Singha Roy noticed some movement between the petals.
On a closer look, his camera locked in on this unusual and thrilling frame that highlights once again the natural treasures that are ours for the asking if we only seek to look.
Special Mention: Mitash Biswas
From the depths of a Chinese hat plant, or the 'cup and saucer' plant, a Streaked Spiderhunter Arachnothera magna takes its first drink of the day.
Mitash Biswas spotted this gorgeous specimen on the outskirts of the Mahananda Wildlife Sanctuary, West Bengal, at 5.45 in the morning.
A single ray of sunshine motivated him to set-up his tripod and get this crisp, mid-air image.
The flawless fit between beak and flower demonstrates how seamlessly our fellow inhabitants of planet Earth have co-evolved.
Special Mention: Dr Alagiah Lathaharan
Long Live the King
Prepared to photograph crocodiles in Panama, Sri Lanka, Alagiah Lathaharan was distracted by the events unfolding on a tree above the riverbank.
The intended meal of this green vine snake Ahaetulla nasuta, a Blue-eared Kingfisher Alcedo meninting, appeared much too large for its slender form.
Though Alagiah missed the precise moment of attack, he was able to compose a superb frame where the pointed head of the snake is balanced by the pointed beak of the bird, almost like jousting duellers!
Special Mention: Aditya Singh
Year after year, big cat photographer Aditya Singh slams us with unbelievable images from Ranthambhore.
You wouldn't be judged for mistaking this frame to be a stitched 'stop-motion' of a single tiger Panthera tigris circumventing the Rajbagh lake.
In reality though, it is a tigress with three near grown-up cubs who dot the left side of this frame.
Special for so many reasons beyond the fact that it was taken with an infrared camera, this superbly balanced, skillfully-focused image, wordlessly explains why Ranthambhore remains a hotspot for wildlife aficionados.
Special Mention: Ansar Khan
In one fell swoop, this Bronze-winged Jacana Metopidius indicus defies the patriarchy that insists child nurturing and protection is the mother's job.
In Bharatpur, Ansar Khan was alerted to the presence of a Marsh Harrier by the cries of alarm that rang through the park.
He watched as this feathered father protectively swept his two chicks under wing to keep them safe from the hovering raptor, and photographed the exact moment at which the bird appeared to be some mythological six-legged creature.
Special Mention: Arvind Ramamurthy
Join the Dots
The thrill of the chase only heightens the exhilaration of an actual big cat sighting.
This tease of a picture by Arvind Ramamurthy, one that graces our cover, combines the best of both.
With all but its tail concealed by the lush canopy of its tree perch, this Kabini leopard Panthera pardus takes an afternoon siesta while the photographer patiently waits for him to surface.
It's amazing how just this languid curve of his tail is enough to spark a love for wild nature in almost any heart.
This priceless image will no doubt trigger deja vu in the dozens of wildlife enthusiasts who have had 'almost sightings' of these quiet cats.