Monday, September 6, 2010

Lost in translation

It came to my mind to turn east towards Spiti instead of enjoying the pleasures of Rohtang Pass one more time; however, when trying to get information on the road conditions I was told that that the Spiti road is blocked on three spots, another source said four and yet another told me about two big landslides. If I take the statistic median of these 9 alleged landslides, that makes 4,5. Instead of verifying the numbers we made our way early next morning to Manali, hoping to see Spiti and Chandratal Lake on another trip.

Our little convoy mae good progress and when we arrived to the first northern slopes leading up to Rohtang, weather improved a little bit. We stopped for having our passports checked and coffee at Gramphu where I took a few portraits; and this s a good time to apologise for the photos in this post because I screwed up something while converting them from RAW and hence they look like washed out. In general, I have a problem optimising my photos since I purchased my new screen. in PS and RAW Shooter they look perfect but much less so on the web.

At last we saw blue sky. Time for a roadside breakfast. By the way... I was suprised that my compact Panasonic Lumix LX3, used at an amateurish P setting with 1 stop underexposure, had much less difficulties in dealing with such bright sky-dark valley situations than the EOS 5D (the 5DMkII I used last year wasn't better at all).
Canon version, ISO 50, 1/100, f=7 + Cokin ND4 NG:

Lumix version, ISO 80, 1/1000, f=4,5:

Life is great, Dominique said, and I couldn't agree with him more.

I also took a few shots of Mobsingh, Soni's fellow-driver from Rajasthan 4WD. Being a Rajput, a people famous for their martial past and pride, he was a very different character from Mr Soni. To put it this way: in the client-driver relationship he obviously meant harder business for the client. His photos didn't work out very well until I told him he's looking in the pictures like a drunk Shahrukh Khan. Oh dear, did he laugh.

Rohtang was covered in mist and fog and rain again but descending was much easier business than toiling up on the muddy road (if it can be called a road at all).

Misty landscapes do have their poetry too...

...and are extremely useful for the digital photographer because one can clearly see when it's time for sensor cleaning :)

We even saw a Bollywood movie in the making. Actually it was a scene of a Punjabi soap opera showing the hero and the heroine driving around. Such bad luck. I had better enjoyed some action movie with people blowing up things or at least the compulsory wet sari dance, but then one can't have everything.

Arriving in Manali with aching bones, tired and hungry the best thing to do was to st down on the hotel veranda with a pot of tea and think about a new itinerary.

The Lokotars invited me for dinner at Manali's best, the Mount View. At last some food without dhal and spicy gravy. While we bid our time in the crowded restaurant, the local Tibetan community held a memorial service for the victims of the flashflood in Leh; it was quite touching with a long line of Tibetan women lined up with candles, singing a slow and sad song of which I only understood "om mani padme hum", with a huge crowd of locals and tourists on the other side, some of them lighting candles but wth the majority takng photos and movies; I wonder what the Tibetans were thinking of all this. It was all the more weird because I watched the scene and lit a candle too but my mind was rather occupied with the food inside the restaurant than compassion. I have to admit that. A strange mix of emotions - the sad Tibetans and the tourists, both foreigners and Indians, for whom this was nothing but just another occasion to take photos, as the flashes were sometimes brighter than all the candles.

(The boy in the clip is Timothy Lokotar.)

Next day we separated from our travel companions and headed south to the Kullu Valley, Jalori Pass and Rampur, backtracking the route we had taken last year. At last there was no rain and driving through the lush, green forests of Kullu along the Beas river was pure pleasure.

Again, a 5D vs LX3 match:

It was shortly from the top of the Jalori Pass (a steep ride but a piece of cake compared to the Rohtang) that I saw a girl carrying firewood. I asked Soni to stop the car, ran after her and prayed she's not camera-shy.

She wasn't. Her name was Usha (giving this name a new meaning and making us forget about her arrogant counterpart from Kinnaur) and she was a very kind person. To my surprise, she suddenly asked me in nearly impeccable English and a voice that was sweet, innocent and prematurely sexy at the same time:

"Why do you take photographs of me?"

Oh dear, that's a good question I thought. Usually I reply: I take your photo, upload it to the internet, my buddies tell me it's nice and this makes me feel good. I could have told her the truth, too: I take it as a trophy for my own narcissistic pleasure. Or: maybe one day I'll publish a book about your beautiful hills and people and you will be in it. I was prepared, however, because I've been asking myself the same question for a while and had a honest answer ready.

"Dear Usha, you are a khub surat larkhi, bahut sunder indeed! But who will see your beauty? Your family, your friends... I take your photo and hope that many, many people will see how beautiful you are, and be happy to see you, just like I am happy now."

She looked at me with a hint of skepticism...

...and then reached into her pocket from where she took a battered English-Hindi dictionary, looked into it and replied:

"I am sorry, I don't speak your language."

"Nevermind, Usha, nevermind", I murmured and took a polaroid shot which she gladly accepted. I felt a sudden sadness as I walked back to the car, waving good-bye to Usha who waved back at me with a smile until she disappeared in the woods.

Last year, I could admire the great Himalayan Range from the top of Jalori Pass (about 3600 meters) but this year it was foggy and cloudy; a perfect time to have tea in Mr Dollodrum's dhaba. When not serving tea, he is the pujari (resident priest) of the Hadimba Temple atop the pass.

Our ascent led us through dense, misty jungle where it was obligatory to take long-exposure waterfall shots, more for the pleasure of enjoying the fresh air and quiet than photographic creativity.

Early evening we passed through Ani, where we met the israeli couple last year. This time we only stopped for ... who first enjoyed being photographed...

...but since light condtions were tricky - the usual dark valley-empty sky combo, dark-skinned model and all this at dusk - I took many photographs with high ISO, then low ISO+flash, filter on, filter off and she got hopelessly bored.

Anyway, Usha had already made my day as far as photography and memorable encounters are concerned; and after 12 hours of driving, at last we made it to Rampur and the Sutlej valley.


Balogh Zoltán said...

Sosincs időm végigolvasni az angol beszámolóid,de a képeid mesélének helyette és csak irígykedem!:-)

Pataki Balázs said...

Pedig hát annyira, de annyira igyekszem legalább megközelítőleg érdekesnek lenni :) Sajnos az van hogy egyetlen külföldi barátom sem beszél magyarul, viszont szinte minden magyar barátom ért angolul... nekem is fáj ez az állapot :(

Mallardbsor said...

Sosincs időm végigolvasni az angol beszámolóid,de a képeid mesélének helyette és csak irígykedem!:-)