A Bimbo’s guide to Photography

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Pre-Script (If that’s a thing, anyway) : It’s strange how I get an idea in the middle of the night and start writing. How throughout the unending hours of daylight, volcanic thoughts entangle with the mundane colours of life and splash into nothingness. And suddenly, like meeting a stranger on a rainy Paris street, it strikes you, that you have known this person even before discovering their existence.

Similarly a quirky mélange of ideas at the devil’s hour meets me and I pull the pencil off my hair bun and just-start-writing. My thoughts aren’t  processed much, they are raw and honest!

Quick downpour: Read this only if you are a willing shutterbug. Going to a photography school and learning photography are two very different realms.

“Your first 10,000 photographs are your worst.” – Henri Cartier-Bresson

Remember, a camera never clicks a picture, a visionary does. If you are still there, you need to grow beyond the auto mode.

Here’s what it is:

That picture, up there, makes me feel that I am learning. You grow as a photographer, just like you grow as a person!

So here’s what I started with, the three pillars of photography:

1) Shutter-speed: That sound your camera makes, every time you click a picture is because of the camera shutter. The camera shutter opens and closes for a set interval of time (that you decide). The amount of time your camera shutter remains open is your shutter speed.

Example: I need to freeze the movement of fluttering prayer flags/birds. Since my subject is moving fast, I need my camera to capture the movement quickly, without blurring the picture. So I choose a higher shutter speed (let’s say 1/350). Now, 1/350 would mean 350th part of a second.

On the contrary, say, there’s dark room and I want more amount of light to enter my camera to click a well exposed picture. I will set a shutter speed of 1/30. Now, that means 30th part of a second.

Get that?

2) Aperture, the tricky F guy: It’s just a goddamn hole! No, don’t confuse! It’s a hole in the camera lens that allows light to enter the camera. The larger the aperture, the more light enters the camera. It is measured in “F stops”.

Example: It’s a bright sunny day in Paris, and you are out in one of those cafés. When you decide to click a picture keep the F around, say, 13, or so.

On the contrary, let’s say you are again in Paris, it’s raining and you are in one of those nostalgia shops with those hazy tungsten lights, keep the F around 4.5 or so

Also, if you are reading this carefully, by now you should have a question, how is F 4.5 bigger than F13. It’s like Phoebe, it works the other way around. You’ll get a hang of it!

Take a look at this, Photo Credit:  Wikipedia

Aperture-f-Number

3) ISO: Helps create artificial light. In those dingy times, when you don’t have enough light to expose a frame, increase the ISO. But, life ain’t that easy, my friend, ISO increases the camera’s sensitivity to light. A higher ISO makes the available light more abundant to the camera. However, the higher the ISO, the grainier the picture!

Pro Tip: Composition matters! Never cut the feet or hands, be it a human subject or a monument! That’s not even amateur!

So I am saying: You’ve wasted good 10 minutes reading and understanding this, go play with your camera, only then can you understand photography!

 

 

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I, write this!

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I write, as the last bidi finds it’s way into the ashtray. I write this at 04.30 in the morning.

Writing, because the backpack resting at the corner of my room, stares at me, with a little dust settled on the un-promised adventures.

Next to it lies a pair of trekking boots, yearning to go out there.

Aching of restfulness, lies a rugged camouflage jacket on the chair.

Next to the chair is a table full of maps.

Maps of hamlets and towns, sleeping at the moment.

Thus, sweet sleeps the travel journal, dreaming of the blank pages to be bloomed by the awaited adventures.

So, wakes up the wandering soul!

P.S : This is dedicated to all you travellers out there, aching of wanderlust! To all the mountain beasts caught in the concrete jungle. I love you all, I really do! And soon, we shall all embark on a new adventure! Until then, I know my pep talk doesn’t help much!

 

Auli, his childhood dream!

Quick downpour:

This story starts at an altitude of 10,000 ft.

498 km away from cabbage-head, Delhi

This is about the euphoria  of exploring a realm surrounded by the revered peaks of Nanda Devi, Chaukhamba, Panch Chuli, Mana and Kamet.

This story is about, the dreamland called Auli bugyal!

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Here’s what happened:

Windows rolled down. involuntary, I craned my neck out like a happy dog. We were about to reach Rishikesh. When about Uttarakhand, Rishikesh always announces the beginning of an adventure.

Auli was sleeping when we reached, late at night. Heavy breathed, we climbed 56 stairs to get to our room in the GMVN guesthouse. Such a labyrinth!

If you are there:

– Ignore the caretaker, wearing a strange monkey cap

Auli  rained its way through the morning, slowly and calmly. It wasn’t a rebellious one, it was one of those rains that sweeps all the sorrows away. Stepping an octave down this philosophical tone, it was raining cats and dogs, plain and simple!

It washed away all my time-lapse dreams, at once.

But as a photographer you are a, stubborn soul! You lurk in the ambush like Satan, waiting for Eve to step in the garden. It did and how…

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This is how I got Leh’d! Literally!

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P.C: Debleena Sen

Quick downpour: 

The other day, Khardungla Pass looked like a college fest, with a certain sense of adventure. A bash where everyone was happy to meet everyone, for the sheer joy of what binds us more than blood-and-brotherhood,

Travel!

The faces, I remember the faces,

they were happy! Their smiles, honest, without any knives.

If you’ve been there, close your eyes to imagine how centuries ago a caravan of hundreds and thousands of horses and camels, crossed this pass to reach kashgar in central Asia. I pictured all that in monochrome, for some weird reason, it has an old world charm.

We lived through the clichéd selfie next to the Khardungla board (which I am too conceited to confess or show, but we are mortals!), pouted exactly like Pummi aunty would have!

Next up, was Khardung gaon, our lunch stop, before we head to Nubra Valley (3 to 4 hours drive).

If you are there, don’t miss:

-Aunty’s “maa ki daal”

-Aunty’s honey lemon ginger tea.

Thank me later!

But you really don’t care about all that, you wish to know how I got Leh’d, and my radar is stuck on  “Maa ki Dal”! 

Okay, here’s what happened: 

Across the dhaba, was Khardung gaon. Lush green valley surrounded by barren mountains with timeless expressions on their curves. Scroll to the end for the image, but read first! Utterly fascinating!

A picture perfect, quaint hamlet! I jumped off the dhaba stairs, crossed the busy road to face a wall between the village and my camera.

Damn the wall! You really don’t want a wall to spoil the frame. So, you climb!

Now apparently, all the Godforsaken walls in the world are not for Sunny Deol to break! Even I could break one or two. So I did! (If you took that literally, sarcasm is not your suit!)

What followed, now seems like a quick scene stolen from a Tollywood drama. Let’s go back to the scene.

The sky blazed blue with heroism when I stepped on the first stone of the wall. Hopes were high, and so were the stakes!

Next two steps were encouraging. Just like the girl-at-work, you thought never noticed you, but today morning, she smiled at you! Yes, that encouraging!

The fourth step was me running to kiss the ground and all the stones of the (then) wall, running to kiss me. I kid you not!

Hence,

Capture

However, two endless days and night, lived between, when I got Leh’d and when I got plastered. But that’s a story for some other day, other time… my tea is cold now. Just for the sake of a trailer, I’ll let you know, the plaster story features:

An electrician turned doctor who was simultaneously attending an old Tibetan man with a paralysed hand, Leh Govt. Hospital, a noble Pathan who is a chemist, partial doctor, and also runs a camp in Zanskar valley, an uncertain nurse who asked me to visit again because she was unsure of the OPD doctor, last but not the least, me getting a dislocated bone fixed without being high on anesthesia or alcohol, not even love. Fun, eh?

Concluding, I don’t know if there’s a translation for the Hindi word “chull”, but for those who know it, will understand exactly why I got Leh’d!

It’s absolutely fine if after reading this, you feel that one of the stones also hit my head!

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You little rebel, I like you!

P.S: I took this picture on our way back! 🙂 #onehandphotography

Deo Tibba Moments!

 

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Quick Downpour:

As we live, there are things that happen to us! As we travel, there are places that happen to us!

An octave down this philosophical tone, I was really excited for this one. I brushed and bath, for the big day!

When four strangers pack their bags for a Delhi-Manali road trip followed by a trek, you know you are at the brink of epic stuff! So here are some facts:

Region: Himachal Pradesh

Location: Manali

Altitude: 4800 meters

Best Time: June to October

Duration: 7 days

Grade: Moderate

Here’s what happened:

Day 01:  Manali (2050m) Rest & Acclimatise

After Rohit baba drove for an insane Five-Hundred-and-thirty-six km, all on his own, from Delhi to Manali, we thought rest & acclimatisation would be good. All nice and cozy! But that would be too boring for us!

We were staying in Jagatsukh, a tad farther from the hurly-burly Manali. To be truthful, no one fancies Manali mall road. No-One! It is the Colaba Causeway of Mumbai and Sarojini of Dilli, if you know what I mean!

But the moment anyone says Old Manali, I am sold! I have a history there, which you will find in my personal diary (page: whatever)! Not that you care, of course!

So we decided to hit Old Manali, as soon as we could. If you are my kind, you’d love it! If you are not my kind, well God save you then! Love having coffee next to the rasping Beas or a refreshing mug of beer? The place is a hub of free spirits. Live music, good food, greater shopping, hot firangs and hotter pancakes, need I say more?

 

Dear child, if you go there, don’t miss:

-Hot Chocolate at cafe 1947

-The singer in his pyjamas

– All the pyjamas

 

Day 02: Manali (2050m) – Jobra Naala (2707m) – Chikka (3100m) {Drive: 1 hour and Trek: 2- 3 hours}

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En route Chikka

The night before a trek lives in the wake of a looming adventure! You never know what tomorrow holds for you, literally.

We started at ease around 9 in the morning from Manali to Jobra Naala. It is quite a rickety one. The road has been under construction, yes, has been! But the drive, it made us feel like  men-on-a-mission! The trek starts from Jobra Naala, with rebellious Dhohangan river being your flowing companion. It speaks a lot, if you listen!

Dumping most of the load of our existence on tragic mules, we started heading towards Chikka. It is an easy hike unfolding every moment in a wonderland. Lush green meadows, boulders with inexplicable expressions on their  timeless face, and thousands of goats, keep the traveller’s heart humming.

Chikka, for sure, is an anti-depressant . I rushed to the ancient snake fossil, engraved in the heart of a rock! An old Sheppard there, explained the meaning of the name of the place. Quite surprisingly, “Chikka” is a strap tied on the muzzle of an animal. It has been a grazing ground and hence to stop excessive grazing a “chikka” was tied on an animal’s face. Kind of retard, I know.

Nonetheless, you will fall in love with this place. That’s destined!

Day 03: Chikka (3100m) – Pandorupa (3500m) {Trek: 3-4 hours}

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Pandorupa

You know that feeling… when your wake up call in the mountains, says “chai piyogi?” I was taken, that very moment! This is when I woke up with a smile!

We packed our essentials and left at ease around 9.

Making our  way crossing little rivulets, old wooden bridges, humming along with the loud Dhohangan, walking next to a hanging glacier, amidst a mixed forest, we reached Pandorupa. Setting a few steep patches aside, it was an easy hike.

Now, here’s a little mythology. They say once upon a time, Panadavas planted rice here. The paddies are flooded with water, till date. The huge boulder on the campsite, as huge as a mountain, wearing a strange expression of history, written all over its face.  Almost, making imaginative souls believe that it has something to say. No, I am not schizophreniac, just a dreamer!

Moving to my favorite part of camping, we lit a bonfire in the evening, played bengali-punjabi songs, did exactly what you are thinking and slept snug in our tents.

Day 04- Pandoupa (3500m)- Seri (3900m) {Trek: 4 to 5 hours}

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En route Seri

By now we were all sun kissed, we were all children of the wild! We were all singing Himachali folk songs, kissing goats, patting horses… we were all, of the mountains. We were different people, once again!

It was around 8 in the morning when I lifted my tripod to head towards Seri. The sun was as bright as last night’s bonfire. Not that comforting, though! I still remember becoming a zombie dipped in sunscreen.

When Samik dada, smiled and said, “take whatever the mountains give you, even if it’s harsh!”

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En route Seri

Thus, we started another day, another adventure! Amidst we met a melting glacier, pouring river Dhohangan, straight from its heart. Melting bit by bit and unbecoming itself to flow. Damn, the mountains always do this to me, make me a philosophical sucker! Anyway, the trail kick starts as a mix of beautiful wild flowers: purple, yellow, pink, and little rivulets. But as we dived deeper in this exploration, I found myself in the middle of an unending moraine zone. Mighty boulders!

To add a hint of drama to this tale, the weather drastically turned into a misty storm, Dhohangan became calmer: closer to the source , and boulders become larger than life!

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En route Seri, the moraine zone

When I was practically preparing myself to spend the rest of my life in this moraine zone, the unexpected happened.

 

 

After crossing a stretch of silt and sand, a flat lush greenland, surrounded by snow mountains welcomed us. Yes, Seri welcomes wanderers! It was still raining cats and dogs but we were in mood to pet, so we rushed to a trekker’s hut. The damp cave made me feel like an ancient sadhu, there to pay homage to the unknown.

Soon the rain stopped to take a deep breath, until it rained again soon. And again. And again. We knew it, either the rain God was way too impressed or just downright pissed off.

So we all snug tight in the kitchen tent together, singing sagas of the mountains. Indranil kar, the founder of Ongoz Escapades and a dear friend, is a man of humour. It would be hard to imagine what would we do without his whicked-bitchy humour! His love for the mountains is beyond reverence  and so are his stories.

 

Day 05: Seri (3900m) – Tenta (4200m) NO?

Seri-Seri, yes!

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Towards the water fall in Seri

As much as we wanted to go Tenta, the rain wouldn’t let us! Just wouldn’t! So we got other things going. Interesting stuff like, two bongs by the river side discussing what would be the diameter of the outermost ripple credited if we throw a stone in the rivulet! Ahem! ***Smiles****

Dumb charades, oh yes, loads of Dumb charades! From “Being Cyrus” to “Finding Nemo” and much more! Playing Dumb charades with Rohit is once in a life “woh” experience: Arey wahi… wahi wala! In minutes he can run you through the script of the entire movie, but not the name! Sheer fun!

In the evening, when rain took a deep silent breath, we rushed to the waterfall. It was a quick 30 minute walk from our campsite in Seri. The calm Dhohangan, green pastures oozing of water, the left shoulder of Deo Tibba peak, fresh snow on Jagatsukh peak and the hike up to the waterfall, stirred the adventurous souls again.

 

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Day 06: Seri (3900m) to Chika (3100m) {Trek 4 to 5 hours}

When we climb down from Chika to Seri, it was hard to believe that we ever climbed up! It was raining softly when we started but sun kissed us soon!

Day 07: Chika (3100m) to Manali (2050m)

And this was it!

 

Concluding, I always say this, the essence of a place can never be captured. Neither in words nor in photographers. It can only be experienced! And that’s what Ongoz Escapades aces at, helping one experience the mountains!

Special Thanks to:

Group leader: Harsh Thakur

Host in Manali: Deepak Thakur

Wonderful Cook of all times: Rohit

The guy who does it all: Yashwant Bhai

The man who introduces Himalayas like no one else: Indranil Kar

I’ve also created a short video about our experience: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aEWSo6IVN1M&t=366s

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Behind the lens

Whenever I look at a photograph, I wonder about the moments exactly before it was captured.

What were the thoughts of the photographer? Was it shot by chance or did he hold his breath still? Did he lie flat on the burning marble or cold ice for long?

How fast did he run to take another shot at life? Did he smile when he pictured the shot in his head before pressing the click button?

A photograph becomes a moment, even before captured!

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Sehri (Deo Tibba), Himachal

©Ambika Bhardwaj

Nothing to be done, until…

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Quick Downpour: Trekking Deo Tibba. This picture was captured in Seri (Himachal Pradesh), rained like fucking rabbits… (google that). Was stationed there for 2 days. Nothing to be done, until… 🙂

Here’s what it is:  Seri welcomed us with a “warm” hailstorm! There is a moraine zone that one needs to wade through to reach Seri. Now, this moraine zone is stark and beautiful, in it’s own isolated existence. It is one hell of an oxymoron of a place. So picture this:

There’s bright sun. Sunny enough for you to even paint your eyebrows in sunscreen. You are trekking in a valley full of wild flowers with a revolting river sprinting along. You are walking on the edge, when suddenly, it rains. And how… as if hell broke loose!

Dreamy and drenched, you look around. Little rivulets flowing straight out of rocky boulders. It is hard hitting. You are hopeless! You are awestruck!

No sooner than you sink this, the story turns into a fairy-tale! The moraine zone unfolds as a surprising meadow. “Seri” is what they call the place!

It has been two days now in Seri. You are time-lapsing between clouds and random thoughts. Drinking loads of tea, smoking bidi… endlessly. All this with just one constant: Rain!

It is then! When an unforeseen sun, greets you in the evening and you run! Run with your camera! Run like children of the wild! This is what you capture! And you smile!