Friday 30 April 2010

Clouds - Fluffs of fancy

Clouds seem to catch my fancy on almost every trip. I'm quite intrigued at how clouds look so drastically different in different cities. I've found several variations on my trips. Here are a few of my favourite images of clouds: 

This was clicked in Mumbai itself. I was in my office (Lowe Lintas at the time), which is located on the 13th Floor of Express Towers, sitting in the conference room that faces the sea. Gazing on for several minutes, my eyes fell upon this breathtaking sight and I immediately captured it on my cell phone. Thanks to the fairly good clarity, the picture looks lovely.

 Another picture I clicked in Mumbai with my cell phone (the Sony W580i rocks!). I just love the way the clouds seems to be enveloping the landscape beneath.

These soft rays of light coming from behind a snow-capped peak were captured on my recent trip to Himachal Pradesh. We (my pals and I) were on our way from Chitkul to Kalpa when we spotted this sight. The saying 'being at the right place at the right time' sure holds true!

While we were in Sangla (Himachal Pradesh), we walked around quite a bit. And everywhere we looked there were snow-clad mountains. The mild spray of light here was just perfect to illuminate the snow.

Another one of my favourite pictures on the HP trip, this was clicked at Sarahan. The view from the Temple Guest House we stayed at couldn't have been better!

The thing I like about this picture is how well the sunlight is laying its reflection onto the sea. I clicked this one while on a cruise to Maldives.

This was captured in Goa, on one of the many walks I took from Calanghute to Sinquerim beach. It was monsoon time, and this was a signal to the oncoming rain.

This was also clicked in Goa, just before it began to rain. This solitary log of wood in the midst of the beach caught my eye; I couldn't help it, I had to click it. It looked so lonely.

Clicked in Binsar, it was a view so stunning that I stayed there (at Zero Point) and continued watching this mountain as the clouds slowly came close and began surrounding it, eventually covering this entire peak...only for a few moments before moving on the next mountain.

Last, and certainly one of the best, is this image I clicked at Binsar. The shrouds of mist you see are the clouds...see, ain't it great to 'be at the right place, at the right time?'

Wednesday 14 April 2010

Sepia toned photographs

Sepia tone is a personal favourite because I love how old pictures look. It is used either as a filter or added in photoshop mostly to transform modern photos into old ones. It lends a brownish tint to the picture that creates an old-fashioned effect. Well, I've tried to attempt just that, let me know what you think.

 This was taken en route to Old Goa. I really like the long stretch of endless road seen here.

This is a picture of Jodhpur station, taken from the overhead foot bridge. One of my all-time favourites.

I took this at a monastary in Sangla, Himachal Pradesh. I love clicking prayer wheels; I think there is something immensely effortless and peaceful about moving the prayer wheels.

This one is an original shot. No Photoshop. I love the way the light fell just perfectly on the prayer flags.

Thursday 8 April 2010

Rajasthan's heritage hotels - A legacy of luxury

This is my first full-fledged photo feature that I did for Time n Style magazine's March-April issue. I visited the Jodhpur in 2008, after a gap of 5 years, and came across some incredible heritage properties, most of which are ancestral homes converted into hotels. It was a time when I began experimenting with my brand new Canon 400D. Here are the results:

An introduction:
Centuries have gone by, but Rajasthan has remained a mélange of rural heritage and urban culture. Join me as I make a royal appointment with some of the most beguiling heritage properties across this desert state...

Ajit Bhawan—tradition in a contemporary avatar
Formerly the ancestral home of late Maharaja Ajit Singh, Ajit Bhawan was the stepping stone that laid the foundation of the concept of ‘heritage hotels’ in India. Contemporary fittings such as a swimming pool, spa, shopping arcade and gym, coupled with intricate carvings, arched doorways and a fleet of vintage cars adds to the royal luxury they offer.

The swanky swimming pool, set against the backdrop of elaborate stonework depictive of traditional Rajasthani architecture is a clear reflection of the hotel’s contemporary fusion of ancient and modern.

 The portrait of a bejeweled prince and an antique chandelier, paired with plush furnishings and a spacious Jacuzzi adorn this luxury suite.

 A royal rendezvous is incomplete without a royal steed. With vintage classics such as 1948 Buick or a 1934 Ford, it may take a while to make a choice.

Fort Chanwa Luni—the haveli experience  
This magnanimous structure carved out of red sandstone is an epitome of sheer grandeur not only in size, but also its nature. Replete with ornate lattice work friezes, intricate jharokas, courtyards, towers, water wheels, stables, passages and rooftops with panoramic views, this grand fortress renders a rare imperial expedition. 

This open-air courtyard is a popular location for film and television shoots. The décor comprises a carved marble throne, marble statues, cane chairs and antique lanterns.

The rooms here capture the romance and grace of a bygone era with elements such as elegant four-poster beds, long flowing curtains, Rajasthani paintings made by local artisans, quaint lamps and ethnic furnishings.

This spacious courtyard hosts romantic candle-light dinners under the starlit sky, with the folk musicians serenading you with their soulful songs. 

WelcomHeritage Bal Samand Lake Palaceold world elegance
Built on the banks of Bal Samand Lake—an artificial lake that was used as a water reservoir to supply drinking water to the city—this hotel served as the erstwhile summer residence of the Maharajas of yore. This colonial red sandstone property is set amid 300 acres of sprawling manicured gardens, a marble cascade-shaped water fountain and a stepwell that marks the entrance to the lake.

This imposing structure laden with striking jharokas and stained glass window panels leads you towards the terrace that faces the Bal Samand Lake.  


The limited accommodation of just 10 luxurious palace suites complete with lavish furnishings, separate seating area, a viewing corner to glimpse at the lake and modern amenities such as a Jacuzzi make it even more enviable.

Rohet Garh—a hidden retreat  
With a visitors list that features names like Madonna, William Dalrymple, Bruce Chatwin and Patrick French, Rohetgarh was certainly doing a great job maintaining its secret getaway status…until now. Tucked inside the belly of a quaint little village called Rohet, Rohetgarh is a less obvious kind of heritage hotel. The simplicity of its structure on the outside and the grandiosity you’re welcomed with upon inside is reflective of its understated luxury.  

The 34 rooms are all individually decorated with hints of traditional Rajasthani paintings, murals in myriad designs splashed across the walls, stained glass windows, and furnishings bearing ethnic prints.

This room at the property takes you through a visual representation putting together pieces of a bygone era depicting the story of this ancestral home.

This inviting swimming pool—surrounded by four charming pavilions—is often transformed into a cosy evening as folk musicians enliven the ambience.

Tuesday 6 April 2010

The hitchhiker’s guide to travelling solo

Solo travel often invites mixed feelings of excitement and apprehension. However, with a list of dos and don’ts, paired with a safety net of which destinations to visit, you’re all set.

Safety rules
Like art, safety is largely subjective. Its magnitude depends on numerable factors, such as the political situation of the country you’re visiting or the religious conventions that tourists are expected adhere to. So don’t go dancing on the streets at night or wear a bikini to a park! A city or country that may seem unsafe to you, may seem safe to another. However, it still remains an area of concern, especially for women. It’s best to be one’s own guardian at all times.

• Carry a pepper spray as a precautionary measure.
• Since you will be travelling alone, it’s advisable to inform family or friends of your whereabouts regularly.
• Read up all you can on the destination you’re visiting so that you are aware of what to expect there.
• Avoid staying at nondescript hotels or hotels that are located at secluded spots. You can also opt for homestays, as you will be staying with a family who is well versed with the city.
• With regard to the city you’re in, carry all important phone numbers with you at all times, so as to have easy access to local facilities if needed.
• Follow basic rules that you would abide by in your own country. For example, don’t walk around on empty streets at night.

Cultural awareness
Every country follows different customs, thoughts and views, and in order to enjoy their traditions, you must know about them, or else you may end up unknowingly stirring sentiments. Your awareness will not only prove helpful to you while navigating the place, but it will also aid you to bond with the locals thereby opening the window to their lives. More so, there are basics about every country that you must learn about. For example, in India women wearing skimpy clothing invites unnecessary attention from the men; whereas men in a country like Bangkok are more open-minded in this respect and don’t resort to wolf whistles or catcalling unlike in India.

Do your research
Grabbing your backpack and stepping onto the next train that comes by may sound like an exciting proposition. It could even be one of the best trips you have. But, doing your research about the destination is very crucial if you plan to go the solitary way. Acquiring accurate knowledge is the mark of a great traveller. Okay, I just made that up. Still, it holds true. Read up all you can find online or in books about the destination you want to visit. Talking to friends or friends of friends who have been to that destination are also great sources of information. There are several travel-related websites, forums and personal blogs online that provide first-hand experiences giving you valuable insights on what to expect from a certain place.

Find like-minded people or groups
Okay, since you set out alone I know that you surely enjoy your own company. But you’re going to get bored at some point, right? Oh well, take my word for it then. Making new friends comprises the fun part of a memorable journey. However, this doesn’t mean that you need to go on the typical bus tours with a varied mix of people you may not even like. Every city has its share of adventure enthusiasts’ clubs or a biker’s club, so you can find like-minded people or groups to hang out with in the city you’re visiting.

To go or not to go
Leyla Giray, owner of the website Women on the Road, lists down places she’s known to be the safest and some that drew her towards caution. This list can't guarantee your safety, it does however point you towards places many Leyla and women travellers across the world consider as safe as possible.

Safest destinations:
• Northern Europe (Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden)
• Some Western European countries (Malta, Monaco, Switzerland, small towns in most countries)
• Canada and USA (unsafe in parts)
• Australia and New Zealand (unsafe in parts)
• Cuba (one of the safest countries)
• Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore and China
• India and Bhutan
• Bahrain
• Panama

Least safe or most daunting destination:
• Any region at war or in conflict, such as Afghanistan, Darfur or Iraq—no ifs or buts, just stay away.
• Countries facing a natural disaster - Aceh in Indonesia right after the tsunami, Bangladesh during floods
• Burundi, Central Africa, the Niger River Delta, Zimbabwe
• Sudan, Somalia
• Large African mega-cities like Lagos, Nairobi, Johannesburg
• Saudi Arabia, Lebanon and Yemen
• Pakistan
• North Korea

“Most cities, though, are as safe as you make them! Remember that pickpockets live everywhere, as do overly affectionate men. Take basic precautions, such as avoiding walking alone at night, and always keep your valuables in a safe place.” - Leyla Giray.