How One Photographer is Capturing India’s Landscapes One Photo at a Time

Bhaswaran Bhattacharya ventured into photography for the very first time in 1997, during a trip to Varanasi, with a Kodak KB10 point-and-shoot camera. However, the seed of photography was embedded in to him as a child when he spent hours drawing landscapes on his house wall with oil pastels and wax crayons. His love for drawing landscapes was met with a long hiatus during his college days, which however came back with a “vengeance – this time modified and supplemented with modern technology – landscape photography.” Added to that, regular family vacations helped him to transform into an avid travel-landscape-nature photograper.  “It was instant love and through nurturing continued with reading books and magazines of photography and visiting exhibitions to see and understand what the subject really means, and then experimenting with the trial and error method, leading eventually to acquire a Manual Focus SLR camera and the journey continues until today, with adaptation to new technologies that came on the way,” Bhaswaran reminisces.

PhotoConcierge interviewed Bhaswaran about his journey as a photographer. Read on to get an insight into his work and learn valuable tips on landscape and travel photography.

  1. How do you best describe the work you do? 

I call myself a Landscape Photographer. That is my strongpoint. However, adapting to other forms also when needed. As shooting landscapes, more than 90% of my images are shot in wide, ultrawides, and fisheye. As a Landscape Photographer, I see the ever changing colours of nature and the ambience, how dramatically it evolves, from daylight to moonlight. For this, I shoot day and night. I do not believe in the notion that outdoor photography can only be done with good natural light conditions (bright sunlight), then you are not a landscape photographer. As landscapes are there day and night, you have to capture them, day and night. My main interest lies in capturing the romantic ambience of moonlit landscapes at night as well as star trails. For this, I indulge in to whole-night photoshoots during my photographic trips, especially in the Himalayas, where a pollution free nature unfurls her best in a moonlit night. It is a totally different world in front of you.

2. Photography equipment can be heavy to lug around whilst travelling. What is your go-to gear for travel photography?

While travelling, you need to put in a do-it-all superzoom type lens on your camera, so that you can shoot a respectable wide-angle to a good telephoto. If you are interested in specialized photography like wildlife-birding or ultrawides, then your story can be different.  But, for a normal walk-around or travel Photography, a Superzoom is a must. With great technological advance, there are quite a number of good lenses now in the market. I personally always keep a Tamron 16-300 Superzoom attached to one of my cameras during travelling so that I do not miss an opportunity to shoot. 

3. What do you love photographing while on your travels and why?

I am a landscape photographer and shoot mainly landscapes. I am particularly interested in night or moonlight photography because it comes up with new challenges all the time. From changing light conditions which you have to adapt to continuously, to natural challenges that may come up while shooting out in the open at night, especially in remote places. However, when you get your desired result, it is a simple “Wow” and cannot be compared with any image taken during daytime. It has been always a great feeling shooting through the whole night, alone amidst raw nature, while civilization sleeps and there is only nature and you, and nobody else, and ultimate satisfaction comes when you get those dream images as per your expectations. 

4. What in your opinion makes for a good travel photograph?

There is no second way other than hard work. It matters how devoted you are to photography and how much determination you can exhibit at the time of need. The best way is to learn by yourself. Study, study, and study the science behind photography, understand modern technology thoroughly, then study your subject through its behaviour, then activate the artist in you. Observe others’ work, visit photography exhibitions and try to learn from them. I never had any teacher, and none in my extended family was there to show me things, I studied and learnt, observed and experimented, all through the hard way, through trial and error method. There was a time I got confused between zooming and focusing, and did not know what to do, and eventually learnt about it from the books, then conducted self practical examinations. I took thousands of photographs and wasted a lot of films, but never got discouraged. You have to believe in yourself that you can do it. There is no second way or shortcut to this. This is the one and only one way to create a good photograph.

5. What are your top three places to photograph in India and why?

The whole of India is a totally divergent and beautiful to do any form of photography. It depends on your  style of travel photography. It may be Varanasi with people, activity, and religion involved. It could be Jaisalmer with history and desertscapes. It could be Lakshadweep for its turquoise seascapes and lagoons, or Ladakh for its raw nature and star trails. My first three personal favourites are the high-altitude lakes of Ladakh, corals of Lakshadweep, and deserts of Rajasthan. It is divergent raw nature.

6. What do you enjoy most about being a travel photographer?

I love travelling and visiting new and remote places and complimented with my passion – photography, it gives me utmost satisfaction.

7. What are the challenges you have faced to get the image you have visualized?

First thing is the weather. It is a well known fact that to be a good landscape/nature photographer, you need to be a good weather analyst and predict weather and light conditions to match your needs. This quality grows with time. You need to study cloud pattern and formations, understand the wind, and previous patterns. Second is the place and time. I shoot in remote locations and shoot for whole nights out in the open, in the snow or in the desert. It comes with its own challenges, ranging from wildlife to snowstorms, apart from extreme temperatures. Finally, the main challenge will come from within yourself. When the physical challenges try to take you back in to the safe and comfort zone, you have to overcome it with your mental strength – your stubbornness and determination to get that particular photograph. I see hoards of photographers in the river bank in my hometown in the evening, running for cover when the storm or rain starts, just like hoards of cows run while being chased by a tiger. If this is the level of determination, how can one capture the storm ? You yourself need to be the storm. Challenges will be there, so must be the counter-challenge.

8. How do you go about choosing the locations for travel photography?

I study and plan a lot before I actually make a plan for a travel. Many times, I plan two years prior, and 6 months at least. I keep a habit of choosing divergent locations to get different type of photographs. As India is a country with divergent landscapes, there is no dearth of options for you to choose. I try to choose less touristy and remote locations to get that raw flavour.

9. What tips would you like to give to aspiring travel photographers?

Learn it yourself, from the scratch. Observe other photographer’s work, but don’t copy them.  Create your own style. It will not come in a single day but will take years to mature into one.  Never get discouraged, you need to do strenuous farming to yield a golden crop. Accept challenges, don’t run away. Only this way you can get an unique photograph. Finally, forget thinking about your physical endurance while travelling to a place. Ultimately, it is mental endurance what matters.

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