The Bengal fox (Vulpes bengalensis) also known as Indian Fox are widespread all over the country but seldom seen due to their shy nature. Seldom seen so rarely photographed and very less is known about them. I have been photographing Foxes for some time now. I wanted to try night photography as well which would have given me a better chances to understand the ecology and habits of these beautiful animals. With all preparations done and equipment's ready I got stuck due to Covid situation.
Still I have photographed them many times and here is a guide to photograph them without disturbing them, in most ethical way. Remember, foxes are very important for our farms and help by controlling population of rodents and other pests.
Something about Foxes: They are mostly nocturnal but, late evenings and early mornings are also good time to photograph them. Have seen them in pairs mostly. They mate around November and December. Young once ore born around Jan / Feb with a gestation period of 7 to 8 weeks. They are omnivorous but mainly eat rodents and birds. Have seen same pair using same den for consecutive years.
Fox Den: Look out for Fox dens, they use burrows or use once made by others mostly in and around agricultural fields, grasslands or semi-arid regions. Check for any activities especially in evenings or at night. Foxes have multiple entry / exits to their den so keep that in mind. I have seen one entering from a hole and coming out from another which was almost 100 meters away. Best way to understand if a den is occupied is to look for pug marks or scats.
Prepare a hide: Prepare a good hide in safe distance and preferably on ground level. If they do not see you they do not feel threatened and give you good chances to photograph them. Hide should be such that you can sit on ground to get good eye level shots. Remember Foxes are very small so if you are on height you will not get good photographs. And, most important is never sit in the open, it will disturb them and if female nursing kittens feels threatened she may not come on time which is detrimental for the young once survival. I use a camping tent as hide as it is large and comfortable as well as has window on four sides to take photographs.
Understand their movement: As per my experience Foxes normally move around late evening and are most active at night. If Female is rearing kittens she will normally come to feed them at almost same time and mostly will use same route. She will scan the surrounding before approaching the den. Once you understand their movement it will be easy to set up hide at right location.
Keep lighting in mind: I use natural lighting only to photograph wildlife and suggest not to use flash as it may disturb the kittens and parents. Best is to set your hide in such a way that you get proper lighting.
Background: Check for uncluttered background. Although it is not possible to get good background always but do not disturb the area just to take a good photograph as this can be harmful for the fox family.
Kittens playing undisturbed and meeting mother after a long wait are times when you can get some excellent photographs. Remember, mother comes unannounced so keep tight watch. Once kittens are a couple of months old they will come out of their hiding place and wait for mother. This is also the time when they play and give you some good photographs. It is simply breathtaking to see the young once playing and especially when they welcome their mother.
Taking wildlife photograph is both time consuming and frustrating at times but the result takes away all your tiredness and can help in spreading awareness and better understanding of our wildlife. Basically it is all about good preparedness, understanding of your subject and your practical knowledge of fieldcraft which can help you get good photographs.
Ethical photography: Last but not the least, always keep safety of your subject on forefront and not that one photograph which you feel can be rewarding. Never disturb your subject or its vicinity and never try to lure them out for that one shot.