Capturing a Snow leopard in 4K
~ by Gautam Pandey
PUBLISH DATE: Sept. 23, 2020
A National award winner, Gautam Pandey is one of India’s most accomplished wildlife filmmakers. Born into a family of nature-enthusiasts, Gautam discovered animals in their most intimate and natural state. As a filmmaker and photographer, he has gone above and beyond to make sure that his images captured are that candid nature of animals.
Like most artists, his passion for filmmaking started at an early age. He pursued this passion by studying film making in Canada. After graduation, he worked on several award winning projects. Almost all his photographs and films documented the lives of wild animals in extreme weather conditions. He is best known for his stint as a co-director and presenter in the film “Gyamo- Queen of the Mountains” and “Looking for Sultan” which featured on Animal Planet and Discovery Channel.
We caught up with the ace filmmaker after he had just completed an arduously long stay in Ladakh, that too in the peak of winter. He tells us the tale of an elusive subject he’s just captured with Sony cameras in crisp 4K video.
Here is a detailed account of who is this mysterious subject, what all challenges he faced during his journey and how he turned one of his dreams into a reality.
In pursuit of the Queen of the Mountains
For his Ladakh trip, Gautam’s subject were the enigmatic Snow Leopards. Gautam told us that these wild cats have a strong build, allowing them to scale steep slopes with ease. They have evolved to live and thrive in places with some of the harshest conditions possible on Earth. In India, they are found along the Upper Himalayan ranges usually above 4000 metres and are extremely difficult to spot one.
The Challenge That is Ladakh
On his first trip to Ladakh, Gautam faced several challenges. He tells us that with average temperatures of -20 degrees, one has to get used to shooting in such conditions. Add to this the fact that snow shuts down all major roads and the city of Leh almost comes to a standstill. It’s almost impossible to find a hardware or a camera shop, at this time. But, when it comes to Snow Leopards, there’s another twist. These rare and endangered creatures are mostly nocturnal animals whose territory area is anywhere between 30 to 65 square kms. This means that a snow leopard would pass through a designated spot only once in 10 to 12 days.
Faced with all these challenges, Gautam needed a gear that is easy to carry, is extremely durable, has a tremendously long battery life, and is perfect for low light photography.
Surrounded by these obstacles, on his first trip, despite his best efforts his camera equipment failed to capture the snow leopards. After spending many days in the mountains, a defeated Gautam decided to go back home. However, his desire to click the majestic beauty of snow leopards kept burning. After some weeks, he returned to the pristine hills of Ladakh to fulfil his dream.
Armed with Sony camera traps, he set out again!
After a first-hand experience of the challenges that lay in front of him, Gautam began to plan his next expedition with success on his mind. He decided to film the snow leopards with Sony 4k camera traps. In his bag, he carried a Sony Alpha 7S II camera, a Sony Alpha 7R III camera and a Sony Alpha 6400 camera. Additionally, he packed along with him IR triggers that turned his Sony cameras into camera traps. A camera trap is a remotely activated camera that is equipped with a motion sensor or an infrared sensor. It is used for capturing wild animals on film when film makers are not present.
Gautam also shared that this time he had attached the camera to a large battery. Recalling how it solved his problem of continuous shooting, he said that the battery of Sony Alpha 7R III camera lasted for four days, allowing him to shoot continuously without a single worry.
Finally spotted the Snow leopards
Armed with Sony 4k camera traps, Gautam said that he was ready to chase his dream once again. After waiting for more than 15 days, Gautam returned to the area where he had set up his camera traps. Gautam said that he took a video of Snow Leopards and then later took a screen shot of it for images.
After countless attempts and 4 years of trial and error, he finally captured the perfect shot of a Snow Leopard who had walked past the camera trap just as dawn was breaking. Gautam told us that he used a Sony Alpha 6400 camera to capture shots of the snow leopard. He had also used the Sony Alpha 7S II camera to click images and videos of the snow leopard from the side angle.
As he was scrolling through the pictures, he realised how grateful he was for placing his trust in Sony cameras. He shared that the evolved processing system of the Sony Alpha 7S II camera offered him superb Auto Focus performance. The pictures that were there in front of him were perfectly focused. Add to that the camera’s Auto Exposure precision enhanced the color and contrasted the wild cats perfectly against the white of the snow. But, most importantly, the Sony Alpha 7S II camera’s ISO performance ensured that the results would be perfect even in situations of extremely low light. The low noise in the photos despite the high ISO made the colour analysis precise.
Talking about the Sony Alpha 6400 camera , he said that it offered him with accurate autofocus in dim lighting. Gautam says that one of the biggest challenges with shooting Snow Leopards with camera traps is that you will only get one chance to capture them. With the help of the Sony Alpha 6400 high-speed continuous shooting with AF/AE tracking, he was able to capture multiple shots of the snow leopard moving past his trap area.
Applauding these features of our camera gear, he said that our cameras functioned remarkably well in sub-zero temperature and snowfalls.
As Gautam scrolled through the pictures, he remembered that he had been dreaming of this day for the last four years. It was only through his persistence and perseverance by which he was able to turn this vision into a beautiful reality. We are proud of how well our products didn’t break the trust that Gautam had placed in them. We are sure that Gautam will choose us for his next big dream.