It is one of those places on the face of Earth that combines breathtaking natural beauty with dangers lurking at the end of every bad decision; the mighty Himalayas takes an awful toll on man and machine, a merciless piece of land created out of nature’s whim, a place desolate, and yet unforgettable. It is for a reason that they say you must visit the Indian Himalayas at least once during your lifetime, to see it with your own eyes and hopefully in the process discover yourself. Photographers have been photographing the Indian Himalayas for ages and it has always been a test of the man’s skill, his endurance and to a large extent his luck.
When it comes to photographing these sheer natural wonders you will need your luck to be by your side at every step to get away with the most stunning and breathtaking captures. In this brief write-up we shall be looking at some of some essential tips on photographing the Indian Himalayas.
Field of View
Unless you’re focusing on a single mountain, in order to capture its character and ever-changing mood, it is best to use a bigger Field of View, because otherwise, the enormous mountains and their scale will be completely lost in a tightly cropped shot. Wide angle lenses (which have a smaller focal length) have bigger Field of View. Anything hovering around the 100 ˚ mark and you have a good lens in your hand to capture a breathtaking vista.
Scale is almost as important as Field of View when it comes to photographing the Indian Himalayas. Many times the hugeness of the mountains are lost because there is nothing to compare them against in the picture (true enough!). A small house, a tent or even a lone climber standing against the backdrop of the mighty Himalayas are great ways to convey a sense of scale.
Habitat and human settlements
The Himalayas are intertwined with the lives of the people who live here. There is no single culture, no single language and no single believe, but it is their common reverence for these mountains that forms the foundation of their existence. In many places, across the Indian side, these desolate mountains are the only source of sustenance as many from the villages work as guides and porters for tourists, trekkers and pilgrims. It is important to capture a slice of their life in your pictures else your photobook will always remain incomplete.
Capturing life with the Himalayas as the background will require patience, understanding of the local culture and above all respect. In many places photographing people or places of worship is a taboo. A local guide is your best reference.
Flora and fauna
Stretching for more than 2500 kilometers from east to west the Himalayas divide the plains of the Indian sub continent from the plateaus of Tibet. This vast area is haven for countless plants, birds and mammals which makes interesting photographic opportunities.
Light in the Himalayas is an ever changing aspect, one that the photographer has to take into consideration and work around to get the best pictures. It can be perfect one moment and change suddenly, the very next giving the photographer only a narrow window of opportunity to capture the pictures that he needs. Getting started very early in the morning always helps as the light tends to cast interesting shadows and often brings out details that are otherwise hidden during the normal course of the day.
The wind, the dust, the cold and the occasional rain are all threatening for someone photographing the Indian Himalayas. It is best to carry protection in the form of sheets of waterproof material, lens cleaning brush, filters, hoods and cleaning fluid to ensure you’re protected against anything that mother nature can throw at you. It pays to have a body and lens set that is dust proof, can work in cold temperatures and is sealed for spills and splashes.
Always carry fully charged spare batteries for your cameras, Speedlights, wireless triggers and anything else you need for your photography sojourns. You won’t find a place to recharge or buy new batteries when you’re 50 Kms from the nearest town photographing the Indian Himalayas. What you carry on you, often is all that you have got. Apart from your camera gear you my also need to lug some extra pounds of other supplies for the trek, so be selective about what you need for the trek and drop the rest.
A local guide who knows the terrain and speaks the language is a must-have. It is easier to get lost in the mountains then to be found. The vastness of this place sinks in at nights when you’re camped out in the open with absolutely no sign of anything man-made in any direction and with only the sound of the wind bouncing off and swirling around the tent to keep you company. It is obviously a good idea to travel in a group even if it is only a few people.