A Portrait of Spiti – The Motivation

Light painting in the Demul village of Spiti with Milky Way in the background

There is something special about looking at a frozen moment in time from the perspective of the photographer. It becomes even more special if the photographer is you, because then it does not remain just a moment, it morphs into a memory. It could be a place that thousands of people have seen and photographed before you; thousands will after you; but no one will ever capture the same moment again.

Sunrays bursting through the clouds over Nako, just as we thought it was too cloudy to get a proper Sunset
Sunrays bursting through the clouds over Nako, just as we thought it was too cloudy to get a proper Sunset

Learning to be behind the lens

We like looking at the world from behind the lens, lending it our own unique perspective. You may have noticed, my blogs are a little heavy on the photographs. A picture is truly worth a thousand words (and takes less time than actually painting a picture with words ?). Photography is a hobby for us, a way of telling stories and keeping remembrances of the places we go to. Its easy to tell a story with pictures, but sometimes, pictures themselves become the stories. I have seen so many photographs, which tell a story all by themselves, needing no words. So while searching for some inspiration and a little direction for our next trip, we stumbled upon the Ecosphere’s photography tour of Spiti. It seemed like a wonderful chance to enjoy the beauty of the Spiti valley , meet like minded people and make some memories. Add to it the fact that it is all for the good cause of sponsoring girls’ education in Spiti and that it was completely eco-friendly, and I was all in.

Behind the lens, somewhere on the road between the villages of Spiti
Behind the lens, somewhere on the road between the villages of Spiti

In search of the Milky Way

Of course, we were a little apprehensive, as we are not usually in the habit of taking long trips with people we don’t know and have never met. But, I think we came out of this trip with some good friends and lots of great memories. The trip was even better than expected, because we had our own mentor photographer, Saurabh , to share with us tips and tricks of the trade. No aims, no agendas, the only goal of this journey was to learn how to create those awe inspiring moments from your own perspective. Being surrounded by the natural beauty of Spiti was an added bonus. But of course, there was one more ulterior motive, to see the milky way! Another reason why this trip was so perfect, it was the week right before new moon, which means everyday the moon would get smaller and rise later, giving us the perfect chance to see the milky way ?

The bedazzling Milky way over the gate of Dhankar Village, finally peeking through the clouds after making us wait a few hours
The bedazzling Milky way over the gate of Dhankar Village, finally peeking through the clouds after making us wait a few hours

Road Trippin’

Over the course of 10 days, we travelled about 5000 kms, 1400 of them by road. We lived in guest houses, monasteries and people’s homes, experienced their day to day life, ate meals with them, climbed some mountains and listened to a whole lot of stories. The stories were my favorite part. Life is so different in these villages. They are self sustainable and completely devoid of network connectivity. We saw a different kind of world, and got to know the struggles of survival that come with living in an inhospitable terrain, in extreme temperatures at high altitudes. Our daily lives could not be more different. But despite it all, we met happy people, entire villages living like one big family. Everything is shared (including income from tourists).

You can checkout the interactive travel map here.

Himalayas! ‘Nuff Said

And the views! The views are to die for! Everywhere you look, there is a picture perfect wallpaper moment looking back at you. We learnt that photography is all about capturing the light. We learnt how to talk to people with whom we didn’t even share a common language. I think a lot of us mistake photography for just taking a camera, adjusting some settings and snapping some pictures, we learnt it’s so much more than that.

It’s about patiently waiting for the sun to light up the view just right, waiting for clouds to form the most beautiful shapes, waiting for the lights of the village to die down so that the stars can light up the sky and the milky way shows the way. It’s about talking to people, listening to their stories and capturing their smiles and the twinkle in their eyes. Most of all, it’s about slowing down, observing life and enjoying the company you have.

The blue sky, the dancing clouds above the majestic peaks. You can just stare at them all day.
The blue sky, the dancing clouds above the majestic peaks. You can just stare at them all day.

A ‘Green’ Vacation

Enough has already been said about the magic of the Himalayas. People from all over the world come to experience the majestic mountains. Some to climb them, some to cycle through but all to revel in the beauty that we may sometimes take for granted. While traveling to a place like Spiti is an exciting prospect, it is very important to keep your carbon footprint under control to preserve the ecosystem. Ecosphere does a wonderful job of helping tourists have a ‘green’ vacation and in helping the residents become self sufficient. They have some wonderful initiatives for people looking for volunteering while vacationing. From building solar cookers to green houses, you can really make a difference in people’s lives.

The breathtaking village of Hikkim, home to the highest post office in the world
The breathtaking village of Hikkim, home to the highest post office in the world

A trip to a place like this is refreshing for the soul, forces you to unplug and focus on the here and the now. Although, it is something you have to experience for yourself to realize the full impact of it, over the next few posts, I am going to try and chronicle this amazing journey. Hopefully, it will inspire some of you to experience it for yourselves.