Hills always attract me. They have a magnetic effect on me and I get pulled towards them. Every once in a while I give in to this pull and travel to the hills. Few days back, I got a chance to travel to a Hindu temple located near Bhimtal in Kumaon region. This was my second visit to the place.
(Temple bells – Golu Devta Temple near Nainital / Bhimtal in Kumaon)
I took along a Nikkor 50mm f/1.8 G lens along with a Zeiss 25mm f/2 lens. I have realized over the years that I make better photographs when I have less number of lenses and I am not faced with the choices. When I am busy composing my frames, limited number of lenses, especially primes, help me improve my visualization. (Learning to Visualize) These two lenses were more than enough for me. In fact, one lens would have been enough since I used mostly the 50mm lens on my trip to this temple.
(Pine forest – Nikon Df with Zeiss 25mm lens, f/8, 1/500 sec at 100 ISO)
The temple is located at some distance from the town of Bhimtal. I drove down to the base of the temple with a couple of my friends. The drive as usual was fun. Kumaon roads with their twists and turns and surrounded by the forests of Deodar, Pines and occasional Rhododendrons, are a pleasure to drive on. (Drive in Kumaon) Unfortunately, I did pass a couple of careless rash drivers. I fail to understand the reason for rushing on these wonderful roads, when even a slow walk does not provide ample time to fill our senses with the natural beauty that abounds. Driving on my slow pace and absorbing the beauty that surrounded me, I reached a small patch of tea plantations. The tea plantations were beautiful but with criss-cross of power lines overhead. I did not try any landscapes there. Mobile phone towers, power cables, power cable towers… these all and many more signs of so called development spoil many landscapes. Clone stamping and further editing during post-processing stage can help, but to me it seems futile. This patch of tea plantation was a very small stretch and soon I was back on the road surrounded by the typical forests of the region. In a few more minutes, I reached the base of the temple.
The temple is built on a high point on the hill. There are a little over 120 steps leading to it (as was told to me by a person in the temple itself). The first thing that I noticed was a large bell hanging on the entrance, which was accompanied by many more bells along the stairs. After a few steps, I was able to see the town of Bhimtal at some distance, in the valley. Captured a few photographs on my mobile phone. Mobile phone photography has matured a lot over the last few years. The cameras are fine and good was simple photography shots. One has to understand their limitations and work within them to get the best out of these phone cameras. (Phone camera for photography)
On the steps of the temple, I also found an old beggar. He had not been there when I had visited the temple earlier and I did not meet him during my various future visits too. He was a jolly person and told me that he had problems in seeing properly and asked for alms. The fellow was happy to be sitting there on the steps leading to the temple. Why should he not be? Without a care in the world, on the steps to a temple, surrounded by beautiful forests and enough money to support himself, this was his panacea. After becoming friendly with me, he confided that he could not see only the distant houses, which were quite far off. He informed me that the earnings during tourist season were good for him. I said bye to him and proceeded to climb the stairs further.
(Old beggar on the steps to the temple. His smile says it all. Captured with Nikon Df and Nikkor 50mm f/1.8 G lens at f/4, 1/50 sec at ISO 100)
I am no athlete but the elation that I felt with each rising step, I kept climbing and soon I was at the top, near the temple. The view from the temple was wonderful. I could see the distant down, hills all around and the clouds closing in on them. There was a beautiful interplay of light and shade. The scattered clouds were floating through the hills and sometimes covering up the peaks. I stood there for sometime, mesmerized by the scenes in front of me.
(Golu Devta Temple – Temple of Bells, as I like to call it. This photograph was clicked just to show how densely bells of all shapes and sizes were there in the temple. This photograph shows a small part of the temple complex.)
The temple itself was full of bells. There were bells in various shapes and sizes, all around the place. Every pillar and every rope had bells hanging on to them. It seems that people pray and tie a bell here. The temple is recognized by the local folks as the one where wishes get fulfilled. Many of them write down their wishes and prayers and hang them along with the bells. I clicked some photographs of the bells too. These look good when the whole of the bell is in sharp focus but the background is blurred. Now I had to choose between a small aperture to get the required depth of field so as to get the whole bells in focus or use an open aperture and get good bokeh. Focus stacking would have helped but I was without a tripod and I did not want to spend time on stacking later on. So, I chose a medium aperture to get the required image in focus while still maintaining the background blur.
(Temple Bells – f/4.5, 1/50 sec with Nikkor 50mm f/1.8 G lens)
The temple is dedicated to ‘Golu Devta’, a reincarnation of Lord Shiva, one of the trinity in Hindu religion. After offering my prayers at the temple, I clicked some more photographs around the temple. A monkey came running close to me, scaring me for a moment. However it seems that the monkey was more interested in what I was doing with my phone camera. The monkey wanted to peep and see what I was clicking, but the scared individual as I am, I just hid the phone away in my pocket. Sitting here in my home, I feel amused at that monkey. I wish I had a video of that to share but I don’t.
On a lighter note, how many people are clicking photographs now a days, as that monkey would have done, had it understood my phone camera? The only difference between the two that I see is the willingness to learn and improve. The creativity already exists in one side of our minds due to our evolutionary history.