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The Explorer’s Diary

Many great quotes have been written about travel and exploration outside one’s own comfort zones. These words often make us question our dispositions towards travel or the lack of it. Here at Nirvana, we humbly try and go beyond every time we find ourselves looking for excuses not to do something.

The mind plays tricks on the body, inertial towards change, it takes all of one’s passion to overcome the inertia and jump into the beauty this earth has on offer.
Gear up. Throttle up. Explore

The need for adventure, sometimes resides deep within the heart. For those of us burdened with the daily grind of things, it can take some doing to unearth that true calling. Cutting away from what the world calls life and regaining one’s individuality. Becoming the person one truly desires to be is not an endeavour for the faint hearted. Especially not for those who loathe being judged.

Once we’re over it though, once we realise, it is only our thoughts that truly matter in our lives. The world becomes our playground. A palate of dumbfounding experiences which we would never have explored was it not for our heart’s restless beat to the tune of adventure.

Adventurous tunes.

Ever wonder what it feels like to be a vagabond?

We struggle with it sometimes. Forgetting why we started out in the first place, neck deep in ‘work’, making ourselves believe we’re already in the right place. Irony is, there is no right place. Only the place where you are now and the next place where you want to be at.

It is that journey which is worth all the effort in the world.

Where you are now to where you want to be.

Director and Lead Photographer Nipun Srivastava has this to say:

“A day off or a weekend doesn’t cut it anymore. I feel the need for eye opening experiences. Adventures which leave me humbled, add the most value to my life.”

Humbling endeavours

We agree. Slowing down is sometimes a great way of making sure one is doing everything one is supposed to. Not just ‘work’ but spending time actually living and loving where we are. Smelling the roses, from time to time, refreshes the soul – Readying it for the next challenge. 🙂

At Nirvana, motoring powers our soul and the pursuit for great photography is the fuel that drives us forward towards a life of driving adventures. Have you ever felt this intense intrinsic drive to explore?

The Explorer's Diary.

These days, when we head out as photographers, we go out looking for experiences. Whether it involves travelling a thousand miles or maybe just ten, it is the experience that counts. More and more, thanks to our unique clientele, we look at shooting experiences rather than just ‘set up’ shots for our audience. Our job of shooting vehicles and landscapes affords us the opportunities to actually be there in the moment. So much so, that many a time, the roads just run out!

The Explorer's Diary

Our adventures have seen many friends join hands with us in our photographic endeavours. Teamwork, as they say is imperative for success and it’s no different for photography. Someone’s gotta drive while we shoot ;).

It is our constant endeavour to find like minded individuals who are willing to share our adventurous dreams. And we have been lucky.

The Explorer's Diary

We’ve found a few great people, who work with us not just to earn but also to learn, with us. As we grow ever greater into these times, they’ve had our back and we thank them for it.

Now, we move into a new era with Nirvana. Greater stakes, greater endeavours and epic outcomes await. Join us.

Looking into the Sun!

As we wait for the rising sun. As we start engines for the upcoming run.

Do you feel you can explore with us, as one?

The Explorer's Diary

Apologies for the silence on our website for the past few months. We were busy.

But hey! You can now track us daily on our NEW FACEBOOK PAGE!

AND Our Twitter and Instagram!

See you out there!


Photography for this piece has been delivered by our resident Champ – Nipun Srivastava.

The muse for this shoot was our very own Kalmoohi – The Jeep. More about her, here.


 

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Why I ride

Why I ride

Once they asked me why I ride.

I told them, I take everything into my stride,
leaving a trail while through life I power slide.

So that others may have a guiding line.
So they too can break free from the grapevine.

This is how I live my life,
unencumbered and free from strife.

Challenges accepted are challenges won,
failure makes things even more fun.

They looked at me all wide eyed,
as I told them why I ride.

~ Nipun Srivastava

Photographs sometimes have a way of touching the innermost chords with their maker and the subject. These are personal pieces of art. They embody much more than just the subject and thought process. These photographs represent the philosophy behind whole existences. Entire life stories in a picture, meanings of entire lifetimes visualized through action and depiction.

Here’s one such image. The rider and I spent close to an hour composing and recomposing this particular photograph. Fading light and a slippery riding surface were two major constraints, this shot could have been better. But like somethings usually are, this image is beautifully imperfect. Enjoy.

The Motorcycle: Royal Enfield Classic 500.

The Camera: Nikon D 800.

Motorcycle rider: Vishal Kankonkar.

Photographer: Nipun Srivastava.


Gir and Gujarat

Early this year, we hightailed it through the Indian state of Gujarat in a car. A 2500 kilometre long journey packed into a tight 4 days. They say the best journeys are the ones that are planned the least. This mad drive into Gujarat was exactly that. One crappy car and four drivers can do a lot more than one might assume.

Gir and Gujarat

Gir and Gujarat

Our biker friend, Pankaj Goyal, was getting married deep inside Gujarat and we had to be there to bid our boy goodbye. We drove endlessly and under the cover of darkness in mid January. Swapping driving and navigation responsibilities at every rest stop, we saw the sunrise. While we were still on the road and now only about 50 kilometers from our destination, our minds started wandering.

Gir and Gujarat

Wanderlust

500 miles from home, it was imperative that we make the most of our journey. But, time was short. We met our friend and his lovely fiance, stayed and shot the wedding (our first wedding shoot evaar!) and then darted out into the vastness that is Gujarat.

The Gir national park and wildlife sanctuary is very popular amongst tourists and hardcore photographers. To be true, all our wildlife gear was sitting pretty back at base! Our photography, cameras and lenses were optimized to shoot a wedding, not the wild!

Gir and Gujarat

Trails

Thus began our trip to Gir, the final stronghold of the Asiatic Lion.

This was the first time any of us were visiting this part of the country. Yet again, we started our drive in the night. Gujarat, in India, is synonymous with ‘development’ or so we thought. We drove into the interiors and were taken by surprise, the roads in this part of the country were abysmal. To make matters slightly more challenging, the gates into Gir National Park did not open till 8am.

We snoozed in our car till a shabbily dressed, half asleep forest guard let us in. At 8 am and on the outer boundary, things got worse. As one drives into the sanctuary, roads virtually disappear. This was bad news for our overloaded car. Our speed was less than an average of 25 km/h.

Gir and Gujarat

Nothing but nature

They say everything happens for a reason and after 2 hours the slow, irritating and bumpy early morning drive bore fruit.

We saw her, as she walked protectively behind her two cubs. Protective but not concerned, we were on her turf. The four of us suddenly froze, as if in a daze. She was aware of our presence, we shut off the engine of our car. Just for a second, she turned to look at us.

Gir and Gujarat

I see you

That was the moment when the photographer in us took over. Before she could look away, we had our shot. That little moment felt much longer when we were in it. In her gaze, she sized our vehicle up. We were no threat.

Just as soon as we had clicked a couple of photos, she turned and walked away. As if she knew she had given us what we wanted, our first sighting. Before even entering the safari zone, where people go weeks without a single sighting, we had met the Lioness.

Gir and Gujarat

Luck and a Lioness

It was clear, luck was on our side.

We reached our campsite cum hotel a little after noon. All four of us were eager to try our luck at catching a glimpse of another Lion. We just had to go on safari. A completely modified SUV, optimized for carrying up to 6 people arrived to take us around the forest.

Our group of four was allotted one of the longest safari routes through the main forest. Our driver and spotter (Forest department registered) were adept at telling us about every aspect of the flora and fauna here. Albeit in a routine and practiced manner.

Gir and Gujarat

Dust, grime and a whole lot of fun!

One hour into the safari and having seen just a few hundred deer and buffaloes our spotter got news of a Lion sighting over the radio. We reached the spot with about 25 other jeeps already waiting at a distance.

A safari at Gir is rather amusing. There are unsaid practices here which make sure the paying tourists get their shots.

Sightings at Gir are actually enabled by people called ‘Trekkers/trackers’. These Trackers are local villagers hired by the forest department to patrol a designated piece of land. Their job is to relay the presence of Lions in their sector to the higher ups.

There were a lot of tourists at this sanctuary, the kind who come for the heck of it and not for the value forests of such nature hold. There were mammoth lens toting photographers too, who maybe didn’t care about the way they got their shot, as long as they got it.

And then there was us. Four confused guys, on a safari in India for the first time. We didn’t have our lenses but our conscience was alive. Sort of.

Gir and Gujarat

Spotted!

Here’s the truth about Gir. Everybody wants a sighting but not everybody gets one. It is sort of possible to ‘arrange’ for one to get a proper sighting. If a Lion has been sighted, drivers and forest guides act as if their vehicle has broken down. Then, once everyone else has left the spot, one ‘pays’ the tracker and gets the shot one wants. The moment guides/drivers learn that you’re interested in taking pictures, the offers come up.

We were gifted with another sighting. A slumbering male Lion, snoozing in the afternoon shade, lying on a carpet of dry grass.

Gir and Gujarat

FlatLioned

The Lion was lying flat on the ground. Looking at us photographers the tracker walked to a bush and shook the branches, which alerted the King. It looked up to see what the commotion was about. We all got our shot.

It is at this point that I realized the sorry state of the wild here. Yes this was a forest and yes the Lions were free to roam the boundaries of Gir, but there was something missing. That thrill of the chase, the chance of getting lost. And the sheer convenience of looking at these Lions had made this a very mediocre wildlife experience.

The only issue we had to deal with was dust. Which, had we been prepared, would not have caused us any discomfort.

Gir and Gujarat

My land exists but my wild is lost.

Gir is simply not what it is cracked up to be.

We had our share of fun. Buttered paranthas in the biting cold, under the stars and around the bonfire, licking pickles of unimaginable potency with me carefully keeping my distance from the sweet Gujarati Daal.

We had to be heading home, people among us had work to get done. But the disease of travel is such that it never leaves you cured. We took the long route out, stopping over at Somnath to check out what the temple holds.

Gir and Somnath

Somnath, the forbidden temple.

It was a lackluster trip once we left the wedding but as any good road trip is incomplete without its share of mishaps, ours was yet to give us the final challenge.

On our way back, doing three digit speeds, we lost our brakes. Yes. The game was still on!

At a remote dhaba, we waited for 5 hours as a mechanic charged us a bomb and got us new brake pads. Then, we drove for a thousand kilometers and reached home. Safe.

This land holds secrets, too many to count on ten fingers. Gujarat.


Chasing the Sun..

..could have been the perfect title to this article if it wasn’t for its rampant (mis)use and further transformation into a cliché. Anyway, this article is about the sun and how one goes about capturing it in various different situations.

Let’s start with the situations. Sunsets are relatively easy, since they are in the middle of the day and you don’t necessarily have to wake up before dawn to catch them. It’s the sunrises that can be tough, even before you think about your camera.

Talking about Sunrises, getting up in time is always an issue but that’s your problem. If by chance you happen to be in Africa and on the Eastern side of the continent, make sure you get in early every night and wake up in time for the rise every single morning. Each morning is different and so are the ways the sun chooses to rise every different day. This is true for most places in the world though. The morning mist has a profound effect on the colours you will see. Plus the darks in the foreground will force you to work harder to get that perfect shot.

The Pangong Tso By day.

Rising early in the mountains.

I was there, I didn’t wake up every day and I suffered. I had the chance to shoot around twenty five sunrises but ended up shooting just about ten. Sometimes I wonder what beautiful shots I could have got. So try not to make the same mistake I did, if photography is your aim with travel.

Also, since I assume you are now going to get up early tomorrow morning, make sure you have had your trip to the loo before you head out. Yes, I know, it may sound funny when you read this but there are only a few things worse than knowing that the perfect sunrise is about to happen and then realising that you’ve got to head to the crapper. It has happened to me, more than once, it makes you feel like what you’re ‘doing’.

The day I missed it.

The day I missed it.

Okay, Sunsets as I said are easier but only by way of not having for you to wake up at an unearthly hour. Everything else, while shooting the sun in the evening is more or less similar to when you take a shot at the early morning sun. Here though, unlike early mornings where the light consistently increases you will face the opposite situation. The light will vanish quicker than you can change lenses, so be prepared.

To judge the amount of time I have before the sun sets at the horizon, I use the FFF or the four fingers forecast. It’s simple, hold out your arm with your palm folded in an L shape and line it up between (just below) the sun and your eye. Each fingers gap between the sun and the horizon will give you about 10 to 15 minutes, so you have a rough idea about when it’s going to get over. If you are reading this at the North or South Pole by any chance, do not bother, you probably have other things to worry about. (Carry a Neutral Density filter if you ACTUALLY do happen to head to the poles).

I'm not alone.

When you still have a while.

Many ask me, do you walk around when shooting a sunset or sunrise or do you stay in one place and shoot from there and around?

Well, it depends on the drama. Yes, the amount of drama present in the frame when I’m shooting decides whether I move about or not. Take for instance, if I’m shooting a sunset where the sun is actively playing with the clouds or rain and every second picture has the light of a different shade, then, I would choose to sit tight mostly. On the other hand if the sun isn’t in a mood for dance, I move around and look for subjects which will make the sun a more interesting part of the frame. It’s a personal choice, really. Here is what can happen when you walk around with a plain and clear sunset.

Somewhere I can find peace.

When it’s plain, saunter.

This photograph is being curated by National Geographic Stock.

Shooting on a beach can be rather pleasant as you may encounter everything from crabs to couples and have a good time while at it. Scan the horizon through your camera for any interesting subjects that your naked eye may not deem photogenic. Reflections have an uncanny ability to give great shots, especially on the wet sands, right after a wave retreats. Even flowing water can make for a great photograph.

I see myself.

Inducing reflections.

When in the mountains, hurry! The sun will come up slightly late (for your eyes) and set before you know it. Tall mountains can be a tricky place to take a picture if you know what I mean. Not always will you be able to get a good exposure on the mammoth rock faces. Hang in there and keep an eye on the changing light, as the sun sets, the hues of the sky will change and the mountain faces will gleam with shades of orange and yellow, which is a highly ideal situation.

Himalayan Hues.

Gleaming grandeur.

As anyone who knows their job will tell you, timing is everything. Anticipate shots, try and make good photographs great by using what is around or by changing your position if you can. Go lower, go higher or try something unusual. Making mistakes is an integral learning chapter of photography. Who knows? It may just pay off.

Walk with me.

Walk with me.

Better Photography Magazine, February 2011.

The power of will is a major factor in any endeavour and taking photographs is no different. Persevere and persevere.

Now what?

Its evening and the sun has just slipped under the horizon. Don’t pack up that camera just yet, instead, take out the tripod and get ready for some long exposures. You will be surprised at the low light long exposure images you may capture. Forget the flash. There is a lot of fun to be had, after the sun goes down! If you know what I mean.

Jump!

Jump!

A lot many people who tot cameras will tell you that you should have used this or that filter and other blah blah, the common denominator will turn out to be the CPL or the circular polarizer. Yes it will help you a lot when you do get the hang of using it but let me tell you one thing, it is expensive and can be quite a headache if you decide to shoot the sun or its light with a different lens and end up wanting a CPL for that lens too. So I say, sit tight and use what you have. All the pictures you see on this particular post are shot without the all-important CPL.

Clean that lens before you shoot, okay?


– Nipun Srivastava

Want to see more photographs of the Sun? Click here.


Dunking the cliché

What it means for travel: Nothing of the ordinary, far from it.

In today’s day and age, tourism is full of lavish and luxurious holiday packages, which cater to a select segment of society.

Tourism.

Travel though, contrary to what some people believe, is becoming increasingly easy. It is easier to get around, more independence, more resources and the urge to explore is a common character trait in most individuals. Yet, when it comes to actually pulling all the stops and heading out, most settle for true blue/tried and tested travel planning.

When you sign up for such travels, you make sure (in most cases) that you don’t experience even a bit of the ‘extraordinary’ that this world has to offer. Since everything is researched and surveyed, seldom will you venture out of your comfort zone.

Backpacking is one way the young and vibrant excuse themselves of the cliché and do what they feel like with travel in a budget. A very good practice, that. Though, what about the people who have the money? Who don’t have a pressing need to save on flights and accommodation, what about them? Some would argue that such people don’t really want a special experience, they just want to relax and get away from it all. I disagree.

The majority of people I have spoken to tell me that they would have liked a more engaging vacation. Wanting not just the opportunity to sit in a hot tub and drink beer but also the chance to really get wet with perspiration, leaving footprints at places no traveller has gone before. Wouldn’t you like the same?

Take for instance, the time I spent in Africa on the island of Zanzibar. A foreign land, living among Swahili people, trying harder to speak the language a little every day – everyone does that or can do that. Not to say I was backpacking around as I did get the chance to rent a bike and head out across Zanzibar and stay in the best of hotels too, thanks to the magazine I was working with.

While on tour, one of our contacts in a small village on the coast called Unguja Ukoo, invited me for a rather different kind of get together. Initially he told me it was something like a dance party or the likes of it, I don’t quite remember now. Dance party? I thought to myself, doesn’t sound particularly interesting but I could sense a little hesitation in his voice when he told me that. Mussa, the contact, was a very chirpy and effervescent person and his hesitation in calling it a ‘dance party’ got me thinking – maybe there is more to the ‘dance party’ than just dance.

I asked my editors to speak with him to try and understand what he actually meant. I rode on out and completed the 6 day bike tour I was taking or as my editors at Mambo Magazine named it ‘The magical motorcycle tour’.

The editors did have a chat with Mussa and guess what; we had been invited to an exorcism. Yes, the real thing! In Africa! Some people would make faces when offered this chance but for a travel photographer on a mission, this was like the ultimate opportunity.

On the day, our team geared up and jumped into a 4×4, we made our way to the village. Mussa met us at our designated rendezvous point and then led us to a cave in the middle of the bush. It was more of a big ditch with a huge tree in the middle and a big outcropping of coral rock on one side. Full of local people, dressed up and ready for the ceremonies.

To be honest, I did get an unsettling vibe from the people. But of course, this was going to be no ‘party’. Everybody took up positions around the big tree. There were local women crowded around in the middle, around who I realized was the person for whom this ceremony was being held. On the opposite side of the rocky outcrop were seated five musicians, making music with nothing more than beaten out metal plates and drums along with one very loud trumpet of some sort. The music was, well, loud.

Exorcism in Zanzibar. 3.

The head of the village then called all of us to the cave and asked us to get a blessing from the demons, which to be polite, we did. I am not much of a believer to tell you the truth but at such gatherings, one needs to play along.

Exorcism in Zanzibar.

The ceremony started without warning. The trumpet blew and the cohesive beating of drums entranced the people in the centre with a cryptic melange of sounds. The older women of the village started dancing around, while the men were present on the sides in a periphery.

Exorcism in Zanzibar. 2.

I cracked on with the photography, it was pretty cloudy and the thick bush was tough for the sun’s rays to navigate through, so the light wasn’t too good. With people giving me weird looks all around as they probably wondered who I was and what I was up to, I clicked till I felt I had enough shots.

After a while, the experience actually told me something. If I didn’t have this contact and drove through the village and to the beach like a normal tourist would, there was no way I could have found out about this exorcism. So close yet so far, it would have been.

And there we have it, would I have had this experience on the main road in my air conditioned taxi? Hell no.

A thing that all travellers need to keep in mind is that you have to respect the other person’s turf and culture. No one by virtue of being a tourist has the right to go barging into someone else’s life just because one wants to get closer to the action. Sometimes that tactic may end up backfiring and you will find yourself in a tight spot. It is easier to get invited, most cultures out there respect new visitors and honour guests wholeheartedly and that is the way to go.

Times are changing, also people are too and hence nowadays some hard core travel buffs do take to the road without an aorta of planning. That my friends, is the path to the future of travel. If you’re the kind of person who likes to know where she/he is heading or the kind that like to have a hotel reservation in place before venturing out, move over. The junkies are on their way!

The junkies are coming!