Jul 21, 2012

Photography Tour to Munnar - Part 1

I went on a photography tour to Munnar in Apr 2012, organized by Darter Photography. My wife found out about Darter Photography guys through internet and gifted me this trip - I guess she could not handle the amount of dust that had been gathering on my photography gear :) I had a wonderful time during the trip.

I am generally a big fan of road trips (driving myself) that include photography - but, have never been on a organized tour focusing on photography. One great thing I felt about this Darter trip was this - you just take your photography gear and shoot and every other logistic issue is taken care by them. That's great!

Travel from Bangalore to Munnar and Back
The cost and the arrangement of travel to and from Munnar is not officially included in the Darter tour. But Arun - our tour organizer and landscape photography expert - mentioned to me that he could arrange for the travel through bus for additional cost covering the bus fare. I took that option and am very happy for that - everyone on the tour was actually travelling from Bangalore in the bus and we had good time. Our onward journey from Bangalore to Munnar is booked through KPN travels. There was one glitch in this from the bus operator's side - the sleeper coach that we were actually booked on, only runs till Udumalai Pettai. From Udumalai pettai to Munnar they have put us on a dingy van for around 85 Kms.

Return trip was booked  through SRS travels. They have run the sleeper bus from Munnar to Bangalore without any "changeovers". The bus was more comfortable as well for the group to sit together and have nice chats.

Stay at Deshadan Mountain Resort
Deshadan Resort, Munnar - Inside the room (HDR)
Deshadan Resort, Munnar - Beautiful View from Inside the room (HDR)
Darter has booked us all in the Deshadan Resort at Munnar. They advertise this resort as the highest (in terms of altitude) mountain resort in Kerala. I am not sure about the claim - but I am very impressed with the rooms, the views they offer and the food. The manager was very helpful and took care of the group's needs well. The downside with this hotel is that, it is located pretty far from the Munnar town. This means that you either need to have your private vehicle or be dependent on taxi for going out to see places. In our case, this was not a problem, as we have had vans or jeeps arranged for our group's travel.
The tour group of 10 enthusiast photographers at Deshadan resort, Munnar
The photography tour officially started off after our lunch on the day that we reached Munnar. There was at first an indoor session about some basics of photography in general and landscape photography in particular. The plan was to go for a photowalk along a road overlooking the valley for sunset. Weather apparently did not like our plans - it was rainy and gloomy and we did not get to see the sun.
Curvy Intersections - Munnar
Curvy intersections, Munnar
So, we focused instead on trying to shoot some interesting pictures of the valley with the bad light. I have tried shooting the curvy roads and patterns that are available in abundance at Munnar.
A Lonely house
A lonely house and curvy roads
Early morning trek to a viewpoint near Deshadan
On the next morning, we have started early (around 6) for a short trek up towards a viewpoint near the resort. Even that day was cloudy, but not as bad as the previous evening. The sun still didn't show up initially.
Photographers at work, Munnar
Fellow photographers at  work
I had bought my tripod quite sometime back - but have never really used it on a photo shoot, mainly due to laziness! But in this trip with all the fellow photographers working with the tripod, I have shot with it for the whole time and enjoyed the freedom it has given me to keep my shots at a low ISO and longer exposure.
Lone Man Standing - Taken at Munnar (HDR)
Lone man standing (HDR) - some light started to show up
The moody sky and misty landscape had its own tinge of nice colors.
Slopes and the moody sky (HDR), Munnar
Slopes and the moody sky (HDR), Munnar
All the directions that one turns to, provide a beautiful view of stacked mountains with a nice contrast in colors, because of the light.
Stack of mountains (HDR), Munnar
Stack of mountains (HDR)
The hill lock that we have climbed on, did not have anybody else at that moment - all the views and serenity, just for us!
Solitude (HDR), Munnar
Solitude (HDR)
Competition (HDR), Munnar
Competition (HDR) - Improved light and the blue sky

Later on the weather improved a little bit more. Though the sun did not show up well, there was more light and some definition in the sky and clouds. A lot of these photos are processed as high dynamic range (HDR) images. This basically means taking multiple exposures for a given scene and then merge them later. This will help expose all the areas in the scene better - to some extend, like a graduated ND filter.

I shall write more about this photography tour in some followup posts - which shall cover our trip to one of the oldest tea estates.