Wildlife photographer Hardik Shelat waited eight hours for a “dream” photograph of a mighty lion drinking from a watering hole.
The image, captured in Gir National Park, Gujarat, India, shows the king of the jungle bowing his head for a much-needed drink of water in the scorching jungle heat, as it gazes intensely in the direction of the camera.
Shelat tells PetaPixel that lions generally like to stay camouflaged and that a chance to photograph them drinking water in an open area is an exceptionally rare opportunity.
“We waited almost eight hours on the opposite side of the water hole in the forest while making sure we were also camouflaged,” explains Shelat.
“It was important that we were not easily visible to the lions so that the lion can come and drink water while facing us in the scorching heat of the summer in the forest which was more than 46 degrees centigrade temperature. But it was worth the wait.”
The Indian photographer captured the majestic lion with a 500mm lens attached to his Canon 7D Mark II.
“The main challenge which I face while working on big cats is that they are really really big but still elusive and very well camouflaged with their natural colors,” explains Shelat.
“We can spot them in the forest but capturing them is really challenging because they are in their natural habitat so they don’t care at all, they never pose. We have to wait for their head to turn toward the camera for many hours, sometimes even days.
“The eight-hour wait to photograph the lion drinking water was my dream shot and worth the wait at the end.”
Shelat, who grew up in the state of Gujarat home to vast stretches of grasslands and scrub forests, has trained his lens on a whole host of remarkable creatures. Tigers, leopards, and foxes have all been caught on Shelat’s sensor.
“I have visited different forests, national parks, and sanctuaries as well as different places for my wildlife photos. I keep on visiting those places frequently.”
The young photographer is passionate about biodiversity and hopes his images will spread awareness about the stunning wildlife India has to offer. “I strive to protect endangered, unique lives, which creates ideal balance to thrive on earth,” he adds.
More of Shelat’s work can be seen on his Instagram.
Image credits: All photos by Hardik Shelat.