Shaaz Jung has always loved taking animal wildlife photos, especially of big cats – a trait that earned him the title “Leopard Man of India.” This talented photographer recently made waves on social media after his images of a rare black panther roaming around Karnataka’s Nagarhole Tiger Reserve surfaced on Twitter.
After spending the last five and a half years and 12 hours a day tracking the elusive panther, Shaaz managed to capture incredible snapshots of the majestic creature. In the photos, the big cat—which he named Saya—traipsed among the trees in the jungles of Kabini. Experts say she is probably four to five years old.
With his jet black fur and captivating emerald green eyes, the internet lauded Shaaz’s stunning portraits of the royal animal.
Speaking with India Today Television, he said: “It’s been an absolutely incredible journey. I have been studying leopards for the past 10 years, but in 2015, I first encountered this melanistic leopard and it gave me a once in a lifetime opportunity to finally shed some light on the master of darkness. To finally document an animal that hadn’t been studied this intimately before.”
The pictures going viral were taken between 2017 and 2020 while he was directing the National Geographic feature film “The Rare Black Panther.” Shaaz and his team secured filming and research permits to access the park and take footage of the cat. Throughout those years, their group stayed in the jungle for 8 to 10 hours every day. They’re already lucky if they spot the big cat for just 12 to 15 seconds a week.
“I have spent nearly every day of the last two and a half years trying to shoot the panther, and I would be happy if I saw him once a week. One good picture a month would mean a lot to me,” he told The Logical Indian.
Shaaz took up Economics and Law, but he pursued his childhood passion for taking photos of wild animals. For years, he studied and photographed wildlife, with a focus on leopards. Besides doing his creative work, Shaaz also fulfilled his duty to the environment by helping establish eco-friendly wildlife camps in South India and East Africa. Having dedicated the last decade guiding safaris, he now specializes in documenting melanistic leopards.
Taking wildlife photos of animals in the forest is no easy feat. The jungle is comparable to a perplexing maze; it is undisclosed and unknown. It consists of a web of tree cover, sunshade, canopies, and beasts. But Shaaz said that’s exactly where the forest’s beauty lies – in its mystery and unpredictable quality.
“The beauty of wildlife photography is that you have to go out there and chase your subject. It’s not readily available, and no amount of equipment or money can get you that sighting. A lot of it depends on being at the right place at the right time. The magnificence is that a sighting never repeats itself. You get it only once. So when you get a picture, it’s like you’re immortalising a moment in time. It’s unbelievable,” he explained.
Shaaz has been doing photography for ten years now, and he has earned multiple awards for his magnificent work. However, many would be surprised to know that he has never entered a photo competition. He doesn’t believe that someone else should tell him how to capture a moment; no one but the photographer himself can shape his vision.
His advice for aspiring photographers taking wildlife photos is this: “Go out there and enjoy your work. It does not have to be a black panther or a leopard. Chase a butterfly, chase birds. Go out there in the hope that there is a bigger meaning to what you’re doing.”
Follow Shaaz Jung on Instagram to see more of his incredible wildlife photos.