Through the lens gleamingly
By Swati Sharma
17th June 2012 12:11 AM
Don’t just stop at Aamir Khan, Kareena Kapoor and 3 Idiots. Many photographers have found Pangong lake in Ladakh mesmerise their camera lenses. Ladakh is prayer flags fluttering in the wind; picture-postcard lakes; and belief-defying mountains segueing seamlessly with a ruthless climate and unforgiving terrain. Glaciers sleep in magnificent valleys, monasteries tattoo the mountain slopes, clouds flirt with snow-clad hills, and seemingly barren precipitous ridges bask in a resplendent sun.
Photography is not only ‘sunset and sunrise’, says well-known photographer and travel aficionado Varun Gupta. He has travelled to almost every nook of India, but he feels Ladakh stands out for its ethereal beauty. “I love Ladakh. I just can’t stop going there. It’s very easy to get carried away; the landscape makes you feel like you’re on the moon. The old towns are crumbling and dusty and time-weathered people smile at you warmly, inviting you and your camera,” says Gupta. In spite of suffering mountain sickness, headaches and gloominess, Gupta stayed true to his passion. “In Ladakh, photography is dependent on the climate. With bright sunlight and clear skies overhead, it is very important to have a sense of time. The climate is unpredictable and changes within minutes,” he says, adding, “The dusty condition, the soaring daytime temperatures and the drastic shadow add to the challenges one must overcome as a photographer. Each year I return to Ladakh with my camera in an effort to capture the endless beauty of the land,” says Gupta. “Ladakh is mind-blowing; every two minutes there is something incredible to see and your senses are overloaded.”
Gupta has been going there since 2006. He says he must have shot 800 images a day non-stop and is always looking forward to his next trip. “There’s something intriguing in the faces of people you see there, and you can’t find that anywhere else,” he says. In a bid to promote Ladakh, Gupta has started Travelling Lens, an initiative that arranges an annual photography tour and workshops to acquaint people with the picturesque locales of Ladakh. His workshop trip meanders through Manali, Sarchu, Leh and Nubra, drawing both professionals and rookies. “The idea was to do more than regular trekking or simply driving through Ladakh,” says Gupta.
Travelling Lens was created by a group of like-minded people, who share a philosophy of travel rooted in three principles — safety, senses and slowness. “Our photography tours and workshops give participants the opportunity to not only explore the scenic beauty of the location, but also capture the myriad wildlife in these beautiful locations in an unforgettable way. The Ladakh photo tour focuses on landscape photography. “We also make people experience the wild side of Himalayas as we hunt for exotic high-altitude Himalayan wildlife. I wanted to give them a feel of the pulse of the place, its people and culture,” Gupta says.
His clients include teenagers and senior citizens, indicating that offbeat vacations are becoming popular. “The workshops are modelled on a mentoring system, to help shutterbugs find a niche as image-makers,” Gupta says.
Ladakh is not for everybody. But dare to embark on a photo journey and you come back full of unerasable memories that promise to haunt you for life: cumulus wafting across a startling blue sky, their shadows moving over the grey hills. Cocky geese waddle around with a train of obedient offspring following in military precision. Maroon-robed lamas with gentle faces smile as prayer flags flutter in the wind. Now that’s memory.
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