Sunday, 19 October 2014

Best of Himachal Pradesh In Early Summer

Between last week of April and first week of May this year(2014) a visit through Kinnaur, Spiti and Pin valley in Himachal Pradesh was unique in a sense that the weather – a very important element in Himalayas, remained sunny and there were no obstacles anywhere on road. However, we missed out on few destinations as snow was not cleared for the vehicular traffic to resume. Following frames have been selected based on visual appeal and photographic clarity and a few lines in form of Photo Essay.

Frame 1 Apple Blossom
A drive of 342 km from Chandigarh with a night halt at Narkanda took us to Kalpa - the finest destination in Kinnaur valley. Apart from great Himalayan vista, it is famous for its luscious apples. In early summer the profuse flowering of apple trees everywhere across the habitat makes the surroundings lively.    

Frame 2 Kinnaur Kailash at Sunset
Most sought after visual at Kalpa is Mt. Kinnaur Kailash (20,000’). At sunset the golden glow on its peak mesmerizes the tourists.

Frame 3 Cherry Blossom
Kothi – a small village at a distance of 5 km from Kalpa is famous for Chandrika Devi Temple. By the side of temple, soothing green paddy cultivation plot is interspaced with blooming apple trees. More conspicuous are a couple of blooming Cherry trees adding color to landscape with a backdrop of snow-capped hills.

Frame 4 Nako lake
A drive of 100 km from Kalpa took us to Nako village. At 12,000’ it would rank as highest altitude destination in Kinnaur valley. Tourists savor the beauty of lake and experience the village life by taking a small walk. The Gompas located at the extreme end of village is worth while exploring. Famous are potato fields of Nako, where each fully grown jumbo potato weighs  more than 500 grams.  

Frame 5  Confluence
Leaving Nako behind and driving along for 115 km we came to the fringes of Spiti valley. At 3 km mark from Dhankar (12,774‘), one gets the best visual – very shallow Pin and Spiti rivers  merge and flow downstream  in  unison as Spiti river. 

Frame 6 Dhankar Gompa
It is not surprising to hear from fellow tourist of seeing too many Gompas for comfort in the higher altitude of Himachal. The Gompas, apart from serving the religious interests of Buddhists, seen from a photographer’s point of view, ‘break the monotony of the vegetation-less rugged hills.’ The red and white colored Dhankar Gompa clutching the hill slope add an element of balance to the landscape.

Frame 7 Pin Valley Drive
The Pin valley journey from Dhankar to Sagnam via Kungri has a combination of good and not so good roads. The scenario changes every minute and we were in full of anticipation as to what the next stretch of valley would reveal!

Frame 8 Glacial Lake
We had a bumpy ride on a mud-stone track along the Pin valley and came across a glacial lake formed due to mud slide from adjoining hills, blocking partially the Pin river flow.

Frame 9 Pin Valley View from Kungri
While traversing through Pin valley a halt at Kungri village gave us a bird’s eye view of Pin river, with accumulated snow on both sides and backdrop of snow-splattered hills.

Frame 10 Pin Structure
Departing from Kungri, it was a sheer chance to have given lift to a villager from Khar village, who drew our attention to Pin structure near his village. There is a possibility of Pin river and Pin valley acquiring their name from it. 

Frame 11 Mute Spectators
Beyond Kungri, the near vegetation-less tract of Pin valley for a change reveals the leafless trees, bearing the brunt of harsh winter and still surviving.

Frame 12 Bridge to Sagnam
We reached Sagnam - our final destination in Pin valley by crossing a bridge over oasis of snow.

Frame 13 Field work
With the advent of summer, the snow cover getting lifted off the cultivation plots, tilling is a priority among the villagers of Sagnam growing green pea, barley and buck wheat.  

Frame 14 In the lap of Himalayas
Sagnam is a village with picture post card beauty comprising, the cottages, the snow melt forming rivulets, the backdrop of snow-clad hills and villagers cultivating the agricultural plots.

Frame 15  Temple & Gompa
From Sagnam we have a 32 km drive to Kaza - the subdivisional headquarters of Spiti valley. Here Buddhisma and Hinduism eo-exist. From balcony of hotel we see Hindu temple at a short trek up the hill and Buddhist monastery at the base.  

Frame 16 Road discovered
Most of roads at Kaza village and market are narrow mud tracks. By sheer chance, we discovered a broad road lined with trees, leading our eyes to distant snow-covered hills.

Frame 17  Kaza landscape
At outskirts of Kaza, the vegetation-less landscape of Spiti valley comprise of snow-melt forming rivulets leading our eye to few cottages doting the landscape completing  the scenario.

Frame 18   Dream House
Some distance from Kaza, a beautiful looking cottage located in a near perfect pentagonal plot, creates an identity of its own.

Frame 19 Poetry in Sand
The river bed at the outskirts of Kaza is a picture of random pattern on sand created by snow-melt flowing downstream and changing its course at random throughout summer till snowfall in winter. The distant settlement is that of Rangrik village.

Frame 20 Langza Village
Driving from Kaza for higher elevation destinations, Langza village located on a clearing with scattered cottages below the Buddha statue standing like sentinel and backdrop of snow peaks looks gorgeous.  


My collection of videos and blogs are as per the following url

Thursday, 17 July 2014

Small Bird Photography – The Easy Option

Small birds of size as small as sparrow or even smaller are a great deal of frustration for catching in the lens. The hyperactive creatures are too fidgety to get stationed in one place. It does become extremely difficult to focus and frame it and press the shutter at the appropriate time with a steady hand. Ninety nine chances out of hundred they would have flown away or just took off while one presses the shutter. If at all the bird is in the frame, the image invariably looks hazy and out of focus. An expert photographer will select a higher shutter speed as much it permits him to get a good image by freezing the shot to make it clear. Even some photographers take multiple pictures of the same frame (read bird ) where the shutter is kept pressed and then multiple images are captured as per camera’s default setting of specific number of frame per second, thus enabling the person to choose and select the image of his choice.

As author I have no pretensions of having the expertise to take small bird images by using digicams. My bird photography began by taking video clips through Handycam and occasionally taking the frame out of the clips in video editor to get an image of the bird. Here I will present some images of the small birds created out of two Handycams giving videos and images of different resolutions. Handycams typically gives 30 frames per second allowing a wide range of bird frames to choose from.

Handycam Sony DCR–SR 47: Video Resolution 640 x 480 pixels
Image created by Microsoft Movie Maker Video Editor
Image size: 53.5 KB / 41.8 KB / 53.5 KB / 53 KB


Handycam Sony HDR-CX 240 E: Video Resolution 1440 x 1080 pixels
Image created by Sony PlayMemoriesHome Video Editor
            Image size range: 1.1 MB to 1.3 MB



Comparing two Handycams for qualities of their images, the High definition frames from second Handycam gives a reasonable quality pictures, which perhaps will be far difficult to achieve by lay photographers by taking still images by digicam. Check it out!

Friday, 13 June 2014

One Image & Many Compositions - Part 1

In 2006, I used a 3.1 MP digicam and was fairly satisfied to get a well composed photo in my first attempt – or took multiple exposure of same scene with a different composition and different settings to get image worthy of showing in full screen. Past few years saw a rapid increase in Mega Pixel rating of the digicam. It is rather impossible to get a camera with less than 8 MP nowadays. An 8 MP photo will give an image of 2 to 3 MB each which is really not necessary. Moreover, the memory stick gets exhausted too fast for comfort. One gets over this problem of high MP by setting the digicam at lower MP and then goes ahead for photo shooting. But, then one has really not used the camera to capacity for which it is designed. Those who take their picture with high optical zoom and also make use of digital zoom do make use of the full pixel rating. In such an attempt a tripod mounting of digicam becomes a necessity. One way of making full pixel capacity of camera is to take a picture and use the photo cropping to get multiple meaningful images. Such an exercise is demonstrated as below.
The demo image is one I captured at Pin valley, Himachal Pradesh, in May 2014. The camera is Canon IXUS 132 with 16MP and 8X optical zoom. Image size is 2.47 MB with 3264 x 2488 pixels with no photo editing what so ever.

Image Composition 1
Image size 278 KB with 1600 x 1200 pixels & 20 points color saturation.

Image Composition 2
Image size 561 KB with 1600 x 1200 pixels with 10 points color correction

Image Composition 3
Image size 345 KB with 800 x 600 pixels with 20 points color saturation

Image Composition 4
Image size 345 KB with 800 x 600 pixels with 20 points color saturation

Image Composition 5
Image size 345 KB with 1200 x 900 pixels with 20 points color saturation

Image Composition 6
Image size 600 KB with 1600 x 1200 pixels with 20 points color saturation

* All composed images are obtained after editing for cropping and color saturation.

Monday, 5 August 2013

Snow Swept Baspa Valley – Rakcham, Kinnaur, Himachal

It is rare to get ‘peak winter‘ like conditions in ‘peak summer’ at destinations like Rakcham in Himachal Pradesh. Tourists who were holed up at this place between 16th – 18th June, 2013, carried indelible impressions in their mind for having watched a continuous snowfall for two days, followed by a clear sunlit day. The extreme chill in the air notwithstanding, it was a god sent opportunity to capture the scenario through the lens, for once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and share it with nature lovers.

Frame 1 Date: 16.6.2013 Time:5.25 am
After getting up in the morning and coming to verandah, a cool surprise! Icicles hanging from corrugated roofing catch my eye. With the previous day’s rainfall being reinforced by today’s snowfall, it took everyone by surprise. One could foresee a chilled atmosphere for the rest of the day.

Frame 2 Date: 16.6.2013 Time:5.26 am
Not so distant view of Kailash View Camp offering luxury tents, the two parked cars indicated two families as inmates. The infiltration of cold air through the tent canvass in such a climate perhaps makes them rue the fact that they were not holed up in a hotel. The three lights are the mute spectators in the murky morning.

Frame 3 Date: 16.6.2013 Time:5.49 am
The neighboring stone and wood two storied building had the agglomerated snow mass hanging by the roof edges. The rain accompanying the snow was aiding in detaching the snow mass with wavy impressions from the roof and slide down the edge.

Frame 4 Date: 16.6.2013 Time:5.51 am
With canvass roofing holding on well, the onslaught of slanting snow mass and raindrops can easily leak through the zipped joints in canvass. That must be ominous for the inmates.

Frame 5 Date: 16.6.2013 Time:5.51 am
The bridge over the roaring Baspa river is conspicuous by the absence of people or animals like cows and sheep which is usual in early morning. From indoors one can vision the roaring river from extreme end of valley and passing by the hotel.

Frame 6 Date: 16.6.2013 Time:6.22 am
The brick colored two storied private bungalow in mid-ground with snow mass hanging down the roof and a lone light in one of the rooms indicates activity in the kitchen. The pine trees in backdrop collects some of the snow and the foreground apple trees make rest of the picture.

Frame 7 Date: 16.6.2013 Time: 6.24 am
Switching the location, I face the road from corridor running along the rooms in the hotel. The parked cars had a layer of snow with blistery appearance. Compounding the woes for the tourists, roads were blocked with boulders sliding down the hill. The cars will surely not see any people venturing anywhere near it. The guests holed up in hotel missed their chance of vacating the hotel with their tour itineraries going for a toss. 

Frame 8 Date: 16.6.2013 Time:7.40 am
The much touted picturesque Modern Village of Rakcham looks bereft of any activity. The lush green hill in backdrop as was visible yesterday takes a pale white hue. The accumulated snow on roof tops gives the impression of an destination in Indian Himalayas in winter. 

Frame 9 Date: 16.6.2013 Time:12.17 pm
By noon it was exceedingly clear that the inclement weather was there to stay. The drivers of the vehicle hold a conference on the wet road, discussing the prospects of their vehicles getting stranded for days due to blocked roads. The tourists resigned to fate with no option but to be confined in their rooms. 

Frame 10 Date: 16.6.2013 Time: 5.27 pm
Snowfall intensifying in afternoon, the cottages had roofs totally covered with snow and sliding down the edges, from time to time, with a spectacle of its own.

Frame 11 Date: 16.6.2013 Time: 5.33 pm
After a cup of evening tea and snacks to go with it to beat the chill, it was worthwhile exploring the scenario from hotel entry gate. The makeshift steps of wooden planks placed on stones, did not look too encouraging with a layer of snow cover, making it slippery. A few inmates did venture out as can be seen from foot marks on door mat. 

Frame 12 Date: 17.6.2013 Time: 5.19 am
As has been a ritual with me, coming out on verandah after waking up in the morning, more surprises. Overnight heavy snowfall did not spare any portion of landmass, houses and trees. Pure and pristine white landscape was being displayed in all its glory. We reconciled for another cold, snowy, rainy and power starved day in hotel. 

   Frame 13 Date: 17.6.2013 Time: 6.16 am
Switching my position to corridor and facing the road and the village, the lone villager, gingerly walking on snow gives some life on this snowy day. The overnight snowfall was very heavy, with about 10” snow on ground and prospect of more to come. We were like sitting ducks holed up in hotel. 

  Frame 14 Date: 17.6.2013 Time: 6.17 am
Looking beyond, the village house roof tops were heavily loaded with snow as a result of lashing snow particles in full fury.

Frame 15 Date: 17.6.2013 Time: 6.50 am
Ordering for a cup of tea in canteen, looking through the window, the road to freedom to take us to Sangla, was totally covered in white deposits. So was the triangular arch with signage for Modern Village.

Frame 16 Date: 17.6.2013 Time: 6.51 am
On the hill side the giant trees give an impression of having stopped quite a bit of snow, unable to shed all that was incident. One gets reminded of Christmas trees crafted out of paper and wood with white cotton stuffed to give impression of snow cover. Here a real life Christmas scenario in summer! That is the vagaries of Himalayan weather this year. 

Frame 17 Date: 17.6.2013 Time: 6.53 am
The tourist cars were doomed to remain mute spectators for last two days. When they will whir to life is anybody’s guess. 

Frame 18 Date: 17.6.2013 Time: 8.37 am
From the room verandah, facing the backyard consisting of apple trees, one can see the lone soul wondering about the desolate road,  which is usually sees a lot of activity on a normal day. Today was different.

Frame 19 Date: 17.6.2013 Time: 9.02 am
The Baspa river, bridge and the pine trees and even the rocks see enough deposition of snow. The tented camp in far end is conspicuous by the absence of cars. This means the guests have abandoned the tents finding it not too comfortable a place to stay during heavy snowfall. What better place to move than the hotel where we were holed up. 

Frame 20 Date: 18.6.2013 Time: 6.05 am
At last rainfall and snowfall totally relenting, the morning view from verandah was prominently green and white with a splash of brown shade of river Baspa.  The bright sunlit day brought some warmth in weather and hope at heart. Can we come out of our hibernation today? 

Frame 21 Date: 18.6.2013 Time: 6.05 am
Another view of landscape with the river, the tented camp, the greenery, the fresh snow splattered hills in backdrop give a picture postcard scenario. 

Frame 22 Date:18.6.2013 Time: 6.10 am
The bright sunlit day and blue sky surfacing after 3 days in hibernation brings in the hope of moving to our next destination. Will the road reopen for vehicular movement today?  

As a post script, only on 20th June we were able to leave the hotel and trek 14 km to Sangla.

The readers can view some astounding footages of snow swept Baspa valley by taking the following link: