It started with a Facebook post about a photography tour to be conducted under the supervision of an eminent photographer from Delhi, Mr Ashok Dilwali. I had attended his lecture on Himalayan Photography in Pune earlier and the vast repository of knowledge that he has from the Himalayas are too tempting to resist. Things were dull in Pune, Ekta was serving her term (onsite) in the US and I was more than willing to escape the heat of the city. So, after some research and interaction with the folks from Samaa resorts (they were organising the tour), I was sold.
Distant Glimpses of Shimla
Chandigarh was already sweltering at 9:00 AM when I packed my bags in the hotel and started for the rendezvous point. It was a restaurant on the Chandigarh-Shimla Highway somewhere near Zirakpur where I met Diwali Sir, and our other companions – Rajesh, Prasad, Poonam and Jitendra. Manmeet and Manali, from Samaa resorts, joined us soon and we were off to Shimla, picking up Vinay, the remaining mate, on the way.
The weather started cooling down slightly as we gained altitude. On our way, we crossed Solan and made a pitstop to buy some essentials before starting again. Since Shimla was not part of our itinerary, we took the bypass to avoid traffic. However, the bypass by in no way less crowded, given it was a weekend.
Shimla looked beautiful from a distance, perched pretty on hills slopes about 7500 feet from the sea level. Cameras came out and we started making infrequent stops to take photographs. The trip had finally revved up!
Our destination for today was Fagu, where one of the properties of Samaa is located. A small town away from the hustle and bustle of the capital, it packs enough punch both in terms of accessibility and retaining its sanity.
It was late afternoon by the time we reached our stay at Fagu, a set of beautiful bungalows in the middle of an apple orchard, just off the highway. The quaint tranquillity of the place was an immediate balm for the roasted soul. This was the first time I was seeing apple trees, and they were laden with beautiful flowers. Needless to say, did not waste any time in taking rest and spent the afternoon wandering around the place with camera in hand.
The beautiful Samaa Resorts property at Fagu. The apple trees are covered with a net, either to protect from dew or from birds, not sure now. Look at that view from my window!
The First Lessons
As darkness fell, we assembled for our first session – a quick reckoner on Night Photography. The resort has a conveniently placed platform overlooking a valley which can accommodate 7-8 photographers in full gear. Tea and snacks were served on location as we dabbled with shutter speeds, apertures and ISO.
The valley was lit with faint lights from matchbox houses that looked like tiny fireflies in the darkness. We were guided on the proper use of the camera and tripod, and on some slightly advanced subjects like bracketing and taking photographs in slow shutter speed.
Hunger and falling mercury forced us to finish the workshop after a few hours and head for a delicious dinner. Discussions around photography went on well after the dinner till we realised it was getting late and we should call it a day if we were to execute our 4:30 AM plan.
Kalpa was waiting…