Wednesday 1 July 2009

Yelagiri Photography Trip

Photographie de voyage à Yelagiri

I signed up for this within an hour the invites were sent out. Such was the expectation for this trip, especially with photographers like John Immanuel, Rithwik, Samyak (aka) Sam and most of all “The Portrait King” Viki (though he dropped out in the last moment) were part of the trip, organized by Viki and Sam.

The plan was to meet one set of people outside Tidel Park at 4:00am on 27th and proceed on to Guindy and catch up with the other part of the gang and start from there.

My day started at 3:00. Some call it early morning, but for me it is mid night! I started from home at 3:15. Ansar picked me up at Tirumangalam at 3:30 and we went to Guindy. We were the early birds there and within 5 minutes we got calls from John and Samyak asking us about the meeting point. We caught up in 15 to 20 minutes and called Rajesh, who was coordinating the team from Tidel Park in the absence of Viki. In the next 30 minutes, after a few phone calls to various people and few last minute drop outs, we were 20 of us. We parked 2 bikes and a car since they were in excess and started to Vellore in 4 cars. Vellore was the first stop for breakfast.
Rajesh, Karthik Yadav (I better get the last name of some people as there were couple of them), myself and Ansar were in the lead car. We were driving at an enjoyable leisurely pace on the beautiful Chennai Bangalore highway. People who know me would have already guessed that by now my camera shutters would have started warming up. Yes, after crossing the first toll gate, I clicked a couple of shots on the run experimenting with different White Balance (let me try to use some jargons, after all it is a photography trip) and making use of the early morning light, just before sunrise.

We did a quick pit-stop around 6:00am near Kancheepuram to catch a glimpse of the sunrise. A few shutterbugs went clicking, taking in the beautiful sunrise and its colours. Then we proceeded nonstop to Vellore, but had to slow down a bit when we came to know one of the cars had a minor mechanical problem.

After the breakfast, we proceeded to Ponneri, a village in the foothills of Yelagiri. This is the rendezvous point for the Chennai Super Kings and the Bangalore Royal Challengers (Still not out of IPL). When we called Ravi Ghosh, who has been coordinating the team from Bangalore to know their whereabouts, we were told that they had just crossed Krishnagiri and that a bike had a flat tyre so it might take some time for them to reach the point.

It was just over 10:00 by then.
We then had a more elaborate introduction with each other and did not waste a minute to start warming up (the cameras of course, it is going to be a very tiring day for the shutters). We spread out on the nearby field and started experimenting what little we know about shooting (with cameras).

We never knew that we had been doing this for more than an hour. Around 11:30 or so, the Bangalore team joined us and we wasted no time in starting the journey to the ultimate destination - Yelagiri

The ghat road was well laid out and negotiating the 14 hairpin bends was no big deal for the guys behind the wheel.

We stopped twice on the way. Once in a view point to get a picturesque view of the landscape below and once in the telescope house to get a full view of the Yelagiri hills. We spent about 15 to 20 minutes in each of these stops and then proceeded to the Tourist Information Center in Yelagiri.

We checked with Mr. Sudhakar about the places we can visit and also enquired about the possibilities of getting an accommodation in the YMCA dormitory for the night stay. It turned out to be that Swamimalai, a small hill in Yelagiri which has a cave temple atop is the most famous trekking point and also offers lots of opportunities to use our cameras.

Since it was already around 1:00pm, we decided to have lunch in a small eat-out just opposite to the Tourist Information Centre. Ansar quickly enquired if food is available. We had a good lunch there and in-between had the opportunity to picture a few birds. We started from the eat-out around 2:00pm to Mangalam village, which is in the base of Swamimalai. We dumped all our bags (it was already dumped into cars in Guindy itself) carried only our cameras and started the trek uphill. Ansar stayed back at the base to check with the villagers for a night stay. Karthik Yadav and Nachu joined him, in case they had to roam around looking for a camping site.

We proceeded on to climb the Swamimalai at around 3:00pm. Ravi and Samyak were leading the team and Rajesh and I were sweeping (literally means ensuring that everyone is take car off, till the last trekker). It was pretty climb through a good jungle trail with lots of bushes and trees. We did not feel exhausted as the weather was really good. The sun was covered by some gray clouds threatening to open up anytime. There were loads and loads of butterflies of numerous colours, sizes and varieties. We took our own time clicking lots of photos on the way. By the time we reached the top it was around 4:30. Again some photo sessions of the beautiful landscape.

Around 5:30pm, as we feared, the clouds opened up slightly and there were a few drizzles of rain. We immediately covered our cameras and put it in the shelter of the caves, but decided to stay on the place. That decision to stay back paid off in a few minutes. The drizzling stopped and we saw a colourful rainbow coming showing up on the eastern sky. The cameras were out again to capture the rainbow and everyone were successful in getting at least a couple of shots. Again there was a slight drizzling, but this time no one felt like keeping the cameras inside as we knew that the cloud would clear up in a minute or so. But what we did not expect was another rainbow above the first one. Though it was not very bright there was a glimpse of it. So more clicking of the rainbows, some trying out silhouettes of people with the valley backdrop.

Soon it was about 6:00pm and due to the overcast conditions, it was getting darker. So we decided to head back to base. Once again Ravi and Samyak doing the lead roles and Rajesh and I swept from the last. Before we could reach the base it again started raining, this time a bit heavily than before. Around 5 of us took shelter under a big tree, mostly protecting our beloved electronic gadgets, than ourselves. We waited about 15 to 20 minutes and when the rain slowed down, we dashed towards the base. There we were welcomed by some hot tea in one of the village tea shops. By the time we reached back, Ansar and co had spoken to the villagers and had managed to get their consent to sleep in the verandah of a small temple and the community hall which is being constructed just near the temple.

We decided to back into the town as there was no way of getting any food in Mangalam village. The town in about 5 km from the village, so had to take our cars and bikes. We had a good dinner at Hotel Hills in Yelagiri and requested them to make arrangements for the next day’s breakfast. We returned back to the base at around 10:30 and spread out our sleeping gears. Myself, Rajesh, Ansar, Karthik and Nachu decided to play cards for some time, while others had already called it a day. We played until about midnight and then went to sleep.

There were 2 plans for the next day. A few decided to back to Swamimalai for a sunrise shoot and few decided to venture into to village to get some shots of birds.

People who know me would have already guessed, yes I was one of those who chose to go on bird watching and was fairly successful.

Rithwik, John, Abdul and Venu had woken up early and had started for the bird watch by around 7:00am. We were a bit lazy and started around 7:30. We were fairly successful in spotting some birds. Again there were lots of colourful butterflies, which I am sure John and Samyak would have loved to click. By the time we caught up with Rithwik and others in the YMCA campus, it was around 9:30am. We just then received some angry calls from Samyak and Ravi asking us to head back straight to Hotel Hills in the town for the breakfast. By the time we reached there, almost everyone had finished their breakfast.

We had a quick breakfast by which time Samyak and Ravi were debating whether to go into the Nature Park or the Nature trail just next to the Tourist Information Centre. I suggested that we take the Nature Trail, as I had been there 3 months back and know that place houses lots of butterflies, birds and views that we can photograph. When we reached the end of the road and were about to park the vehicles and get into the trail, we saw the pavement in which we were about to park (this is the place we parked our vehicles before entering the trail, when I was here 3 months back), was leading to a resort. It was cut off from the road and had been laid out in a very calm beautiful place. We immediately changed plans and went into the resort and sought the permission to use their premises for some theory session. The owner was very hospitable and more than willing to let us use the space. We found a huge tree with shade for the session.

Samyak started the session with some most used jargons and technical aspects of photography. Soon he was joined by Rithwik and John and they too shared their tremendous knowledge and experience with all of us. We discussed about framing or composition, Aperture, Shutter, ISO and how these three are inter-related, exposures, metering, white balance, bracketing, shooting landscapes, portraits, shooting in low light etc. it was a very interactive session with everyone participating, unsurprisingly. The session went on from 11:00am to about 01:30pm. By the time Ansar had again pitched in and had organized for the lunch in the resort itself. After the session people wandered off to try out what they had learnt. Some within the resort itself and some outside. People were given time till 2:45 to experiment and then to be back for lunch. I checked the accounts, tallied it and then set off into a field next to the resort all alone in search of more birds.

We all returned back to the resort on time and the lunch was ready by 3:00pm. After having a good meal, I settled the accounts with everyone and we started back home. We bid farewell to the Bangalore team and headed back to Chennai. There comes the end of the wonderful two day photography trip to Yelagiri. Hope we would soon get another chance to gather again, maybe in a different location.

For more photos click here


Sethu S said...

i missed this - Sethu


rams! you are a good camera man; why do not try a documentary?

Surbhi said...

Simply awesome.

Its so natural and some experiences are very rare .

the best part was the Rainbow,

its been years i have seen it .

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