Over a long weekend in August, Ramachandran called up some fellow enthusiastic photographers, and they headed out to Meghalaya, also known as Abode of Clouds, a state in the northeast of India. “The only condition I had was to make sure we cover lesser known and untouched places,” Ramachandran tells PetaPixel.
The unsettled weather throughout India this year led Ramachandran to expect overcast conditions. His expectations proved accurate, and monsoon season rendered some river crossings and paths challenging. “I always love moody and dark compositions, and this trip offered plenty of those,” he explains.
The rainy season also made the region’s many waterfalls especially spectacular. “This is the first time I am witnessing waterfalls in their full glory,” Ramachandran tells PetaPixel.
Ramachandran’s larger project is “all about the Road Less Traveled,” and he aims to showcase the diverse beauty of India. “When it comes to landscape and nature, India truly is a treasure, and every state has something unique to offer. And you need at least two or three visits in each state to cover the terrain, and surprises never end.”
Although he returned home from his trip with great images, he also brought back valuable memories. “For me, it’s a memory that will stay forever, like a photograph printed on the brain.” Each trip also presents new opportunities to learn. “We met a few local folks who explained to us the entire process behind how living root bridges are formed, which reminds us of the Avatar moving setting, and what it takes to maintain them. Some of them are close to 200 years old.”
While waterfalls and wet conditions can make for great photos, they also present challenges to photographers. “We needed to constantly clean the lens and camera, as the water droplets splash on the gear every time,” Ramachandran says. “Every night, we need to make sure that the camera is dry and ready for the next day.”
The trip was also his first chance to try out a super wide-angle lens, a Nikon Z 14-24mm f/2.8 S. “Using a super wide-angle lens was not easy in the field as it was my first experience. It is difficult to train your eyes and compose images with that lens. It takes time to adjust to that point of view,” Ramachandran explains. “But it did offer a lot of creative and close-range shots.”
Beyond the 14-24mm f/2.8 zoom lens, he used Nikon 24-70mm and 70-200mm zoom lenses on his Nikon Z7 II. Aside from excellent image quality, his kit is also weather-resistant. “You absolutely need a weather-sealed camera and rain protection for these kinds of monsoon trips.”
Beyond a good eye and capable camera gear, photographers must also be flexible. Ramachandran notes that while he and his fellow photographers had planned an itinerary ahead of the trip, they needed to constantly revise it in response to rapidly changing weather.
“Morning visibility was virtually zero due to clouds and fog, so we improvised daily. We ensured that we were the first to arrive and the last to leave any location. Our day starts at 4 AM, and we get to our hotel at 9 PM,” Ramachandran says. “90% of people will stay home sipping a hot cup of tea in these conditions, but we are different from the rest,” he adds.
Although art is always created in part for the benefit of the artists themselves, Ramachandran was thrilled with the feedback he received for his recent images of the stunning Zanskar Valley and the remote, wintry Ladakh region in 2021. “I’m super excited to hear the feedback.”
He also tells PetaPixel that he went on his recent trip with talented photographer Himadri Bhuyan, “without whom the trip would not have been successful.” As for what is next, Ramachandran is not sure, but most likely, he will visit Arunachal Pradesh in the northeast of India, the country’s least densely populated state.
Image credits: © Venkitesh Ramachandran