Updated: Jun 27
I have always found landscape photography to be incredibly fascinating.
There is something awe inspiring to look at a surreal sunset, with amber rays of a setting sun bathing a valley in light, while snow covered peaks tower behind. Or a sweeping field of violet flowers leading straight into a lonely tree in the middle of a field.
You get the feel that the world is not really as mundane as a 10 to 5 office at a cubicle on a Wednesday: planet earth has much, much more to offer than that.
I always wondered, how landscape photographers like Thomas Heaton, Nick Page and Max Rive always come up with images which look like they have the best possible light, composition and weather for the type of image the photographer intended them to be. I soon learned, this was not an accident.
Professional landscapers visualise an image for a location, scout it out for a long time, try to predict the best possible weather conditions with Weather Apps, gauge out the air pressure and in general spend an obsessive amount of time trying to make sure the light is great when he/she finally sets up the tripod and lines up a shot.
In The Art, Science, and Craft of Great Landscape Photography, Glen Randall delves deep into this very subject, and gives an extremely thorough walkthrough into the entire process of creating incredible landscape images. Randall, multiple times in his book, mentions the intention of landscape photography as not just to take an image, but to make viewer feel the emotions which the photographer felt at the time the image was taken. The viewer should be able to smell the flowers, feel the cold breeze from the valley, breathe in the salty air blowing from the sea.
This is the most difficult aspect of landscape photography.
The opportunity to get a shot at landscape photography (no pun intended) sprung up when a few of my friends and I planned a trip to Uttarakhand, at the foothills of the Himalayas. The hitch was that, unlike professional photographers, we don't get to decide when the conditions for an image will be perfect, and then plan a trip. For us, the trip and its duration depends on the discretion of our employer, and how we can slot in two or three leaves before or after a weekend. Ah, the cruelty of life!
Nevertheless, I was excited, and was determined to do good with the time that was available to me.
Skip forward a week or two, and there we were speeding through hayfields, on our way to Delhi, Ananth Bihar.
After a short detour in Nainital, we reached Kausani mid afternoon. It was a tiny village on the side of a mountain, overlooking some hills. Not willing waste any time, after a quick lunch I was out on the street, walking down a forest. I found a group of mules carrying a lot of load, herded down by a man. Crouching down a rock, I lined up a shot.
An hour later, while I sat in the quiet forest listening to the cries of a hundred unknown birds, there was a clap of thunder.
Looking west, I saw a band of black clouds gathering around the hilltops.
Even as I walked back up the road, drops of rain started to hail down. My D5200 had no weather sealing, and neither did I for that matter. I made a run for it.
Rain started pouring down on the tiny village from later afternoon, and my hopes to get a shot of the (currently invisible) snow covered peaks, lit with the rays of the setting sun, was dashed.
But, nature does not follow an ordered pattern. It is the chaos and the unpredictability which makes life the way it is: lively . Much to my astonishment, even as the rains continued, towards the west the clouds receded. Lo and behold, there was the Panchuli peaks!
It was a sight so mystical and magestic, for quite a few minutes I stood there in awe, with my camera resting peacefully on my bed. Snapping back to my senses, I quickly lined up my tripod and the 70-300 lens, trying to avoid the dense growth of trees in front of the balcony, and unable to go out as it was still pouring down. The following image is not the best in the world, owing to the lack of light and my cameras dismal ISO tolerance. But I hope, like Mister Randall, that through my description and the image, I can evoke a similar kind of emotion from you, dear reader, which I felt that evening on the balcony at the edge of a tiny village.