With the monsoon season, well advanced, rains have taken their hold on the hills of Kumaon. The persistent cloud cover and high humidity gets quite depressing after a time. It also happens to my late grandmother’s birthday, who I was very fond of.
After a week of almost incessant rains, today, the weather cleared up a little. It was not raining but the sky was still overcast. The diffused light from overcast sky is what I needed for a photograph I had in mind. Armed with my camera, I once again set out to photograph some more cascades that appear with the rains.
Cascade at Do-Gaon
On way to the famous hill-town of Nainital, there is a small village called Do-Gaon. Do-Gaon literally translates to ‘two villages’. So, maybe it was a pair of villages at some time but now it is just a single village. Apart from a handful of shops that serve the tourists, there is practically nothing that interests the regular tourists here. For me, just around the turn after the village of Do-Gaon, there was a small cascade on the road side. The road passed on a small bridge next to it.
There was a board next to the road warning people not to venture down for photographing the cascade. It seems that during heavy rains, sometimes small rocks also flow down along with the torrential flow of water. These can injure people. I am extra-careful around such places. Forget venturing down the waterfalls, I did not even try setting up my tripod near the edge of the road, and it was good that I was this extra careful.
About half a meter away from the edge of the bridge, I set up my trusted Vanguard Alta-Pro 263 AT tripod with a Manfrotto 496 RC2 ball head. A low angle shot seemed interesting, so I opened up only the upper two segments of the tripod legs (Tripod – using it efficiently!). The tripod seemed stable enough. Next, I mounted a Nikon Df camera with a Nikkor 50mm f/1.8 G lens. The normal lens was just fine. It framed the cascade perfectly, from the place where I stood. After adjusting the focus manually, I set the camera to – Manual Mode, ISO 100, Shutter Speed at ‘T’ and Aperture to f/11. Next, I mounted the lens-hood and then screwed a step-up ring (58mm to 67mm). On the ring, I tightened my all time favorite ND filter (Hoya PRO ND 1000 filter). The hood had to be mounted first since it’s mount was suited for the small diameter of the lens body but would not permit the large diameter step-up ring and filter to be mounted. Using step-up rings helps me keep my filter purchases low. All I have to do is buy a single filter for the largest diameter lens and then use these rings to fit the same filter on other lenses too. Next, I double checked the focusing distance on the distance scale once again. ND1000 filter practically blinds out the viewfinder due to its darkness and so checking the distance scale on the lens remains the easiest way to confirm the focus.
(Cascade near DoGaon – Photographed with a 50mm lens using a dark ND filter)
The photograph came out well. I had counted a 45 second exposure in my mind but the exif information shows the exposure at about 40 seconds duration.
While I was contemplating on capturing another photograph, a loaded bus passed by on the road. A few seconds later, the half meter ledge on the side of the road crumbled down and fell into the flowing water. My tripod’s front leg was just about a couple of inches behind the crack that had appeared. The warning on the roadside that I had mentioned earlier was not complete. They should have written that even standing on the side of the road bridge was dangerous. Thankfully my equipment was safe and I had a good photograph with me.
Next, I moved on to my right, towards one end of the small road-bridge. This was a place more suited for a wide-angle shot. I had to remove the filter, the step-up ring, place the lens cap, unmount the lens, mount the 25mm lens and store the 50mm lens back in the bag… all these things while standing on the road side with a shoulder camera bag. No matter what the travel gurus might say, shoulder camera bags (or messenger bags) are the easiest to use. And yes, I forgot to mention that I also removed the lens cap and kept it in my hip-pocket as usual (Lens caps and gravity), all the while holding on to the ND filter carefully.
The framing with the 25mm lens seemed to include some extra elements in the composition which I could do without. Anyway, I went ahead with the photography. The extra elements were on one edge of the frame and could be easily cropped out in post-processing (Cropping Tool). Focused the scene, mounted the ND filter and reduced the ISO to 50. A wide-angle lens requires a longer exposure than a normal lens for the same motion blur. This is due to the wide angle of view, that the same object is required to travel a longer distance for a similarly good motion blur. The exposure time was a little less than a minute. Sure, the leaves blurred out a little due to the winds but then the silky flow of the water, makes up for that.
(Cascade photographed with a 25mm lens)
The way back
Crowded places are not my favorites, so traveling all the way to Nainital was never my intention. After photographing the cascade, I turned back. A little lower down on the hill road is a nice cafe named ‘Mr Lee’. It is said that they serve authentic Chinese food. Authentic or not, it does serve delicious preparations. My favorites here are the ubiquitous momos. While I sat there in the cafe, waiting for the momos, I wondered how the dish so simple as this can become one of the world’s favorite. English speakers have their dumplings, Russians have pelmeni, Chinese love their dimsums and Indians are crazy about the Tibetan momos.
Letting the hot momos wait while I photographed them would have been a disrespect to the momos. If you want to read between those lines – On seeing the momos, I forgot about the camera and did not capture any photographs for this article. If you happen to visit this part of India, do try out the momos there.
Further down the road, there was yet another small waterfall. This was also just next to the road and the bridge built on it seemed in a better shape than the one on the cascade above.
Out came my camera and tripod. Within no time, everything was set and I was ready to photograph this waterfall. The luck was not with me. While the exposure was taking place, the clouds gave way to bright sun which happened to shine down directly on front of my lens (ND filter actually). I had to reduce the exposure length as the waterfall was also lit up. Still the sun ended up playing spoil-sport. The photograph was ruined with a streak of bright light all across the mid of the frame, all the way from top to bottom. The sun got brighter and brighter. I packed everything up.
(Recovered photograph of the waterfalls. This was the best I could do from the spoilt raw image.)
A day well spent! Captured two good photographs, enjoyed a nice lunch and remembered some of the good times I had spent with my grandmother.
Rainy season does not necessarily mean low spirits. (… and that reminds me of the approaching evening and gives me an idea about what to do now. 😉 )