Another Hill Trip – Phone vs Camera!

Hills pull me towards them. Couple of days back, I had gone to visit the hills, once again. Plan was made on the spur of a moment and soon everything was packed and I was ready to travel- my camera bag, a book and then my clothes (in the same order). I started off in the afternoon. It was raining heavily. The roads were deserted even in the middle of the day. Sometimes it felt like as if I was driving under a waterfalls. Quite a downpour.

Twists and turns of the hills followed one after the other, while the rains incessantly fell. After a few hours, it was sunset time. The sun setting down behind the hills had painted the sky generously. While leaving for the trip, I had packed my camera back in the boot space. Was this a mistake?


Sunset from Phone

(Sunset captured on a iPhone 5s through a car window with a drizzle on the outside)

The sunset appeared beautiful with the clouds taking up the warm golden hue. After the three hour drive through the heavy rains on the hills, I was too tired to step out of the car, in the rains. Heavy rains do prevent me from indulging in outdoor photography but drizzle does not. (Rainy Season) However laziness won and I captured the above photograph, while sitting in the driver’s seat. The only effort that was made by me was to lower down the glass. I did not get down from the car, let alone take the camera out from the boot. Phone camera seemed like a good option for the photograph that was there in front of me. (Capturing Sunsets) As it turns out, rather than being an iconic photograph, it was more of a snapshot to show to my family. Yet it was acceptable. How about the power of post processing? Even the limited camera settings in mobile phone provided me with options to boost up the saturation a little and recover some details in the washed out areas.

On reaching the destination, the later part of the evening was spent discussing some of the work. After discussions and some negotiations, everything was set. Time for some well deserved rest. I took out my night bag and camera bag from the car. The room where I was to spend the night was on the first floor, with a view of the valley. The hills were beautiful to look at. I took my camera out from the bag and captured one single photograph. Coming from film days, I have a habit of saving on captures by visualizing the final photograph (Learning to Visualize).


(Silhouette of the foreground trees against the bluish hue that the distant hills had taken following the sunset. Nikon Df with Nikkor 105mm micro at f/2.8, 0.62 sec shutter speed at ISO 400. It was a hand-held exposure after taking support from the window sill)


After this photograph, packed the camera back into the bag and then crashed on to the bed. There was a book on gardening in my bag. I took it out, hoping to read about the apple cultivars suitable for this region. Being tired, sleep came quickly. Once in a while, I heard the pitter-patter of the rain on the metallic roof, but it was not loud enough to keep me awake. I got up for a brief moment due to constant knocking on the window pane. A moth was trying to get in. Even in my half-sleepy state, it looked beautiful. I knew that my camera had the 105mm micro Nikkor mounted on it and in my half-asleep state I wondered about the ISO required in the dim light and the shutter speed to freeze the movement. I was however not going to photograph it in the middle of the night, even though my mind was already on the job. After switching of the light, the moth also flew away.

Before I knew it was morning. The sleep had been wonderful and my mind and body were well rested. Nothing better than the fresh mountain breeze to start the day. There were some clouds in the valley, with the hills rising above them. The rain had almost stopped and the valley appeared totally dust-free. For a city dweller like me, this was a pleasant feeling. Another quick photograph on the phone! It seems that in the daylight, the results from the phone camera were better than in the late evening (refer to the sunset photo above), even though the exif for both these photos show the same ISO that was used by the phone. Maybe I am missing something.


(Clouds in the valley – photographed on an iPhone 5s)


On stepping out, I realized that I must be one of the very few humans awake at such an early hour. The life on the hills moves at a slow pace. People go to sleep early and get up late.

After packing everything back in the car, I walked around for sometime. On the roadside, I spotted a few beautiful mountain birds. They would have appeared tiny had I photographed them even with the short tele (105mm) that I had in my car’s boot again. Photographing them with the phone was out of the question. A camera with APC-S sized sensor and at least a 400mm lens was what was required for a usable photograph, which I did not have. I just stood there, admiring their beauty. Sometimes having no camera is also nice. I was enjoying every moment of my early morning walk. There was a fine drizzle which felt quite pleasant.

As time passed, the villagers started getting up. I was now a regular visitor to this part and some of them even greeted me. It felt good to be a part of their community, in whatever small way. One of them had made some tea and he handed me a glass full of the sweet milky brew. It was delicious, especially with the fresh mountain breeze and the occasional drizzle.

By late afternoon, all of my work was finished and I was planning to return back. After bidding farewell to everyone, I started my journey back. This time, I kept my camera bag on the seat next to me, strapped with a seat-belt. This prevents the camera bag from sliding forward while braking.


Mountain Road

(Road on my way back. After rains, everything was fresh and green. Nikon Df with Zeiss 25mm lens, f/5.6, 1/60 sec, ISO 100 on Aperture Priority with -0.3 EV compensation)


Having the camera bag next to me was quite reassuring. I took multiple stops on the way back. There were waterfalls on the road-side, wild orchids and even a few interesting structures. My journey back took about an hour more but I was happier and less tired than what I had been on my way up.

Sitting back in my room, I thought over my trip and realized that I had done more photography on my phone than on my camera. The results from the phone were fine as long as I worked in good amount of light and within its limitations. The phone photographs were shared with my family and friends and got lots of praise too. However when it comes to true happiness for me, it happens when I have a proper dedicated camera in my hand. Now that is true bliss. Mobile phones are quite capable but a good dedicated camera is the real thing.


Further Reading:
Phone camera for photography
Drive in Kumaon

Maini’s Hill Cottages (This is the place I had gone to. Link opens in a new tab)


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