Palani Hills: Then and Now
One of the developments in digital photography that has helped photographers create amazing images from otherwise ordinary scenes is High Dynamic Range (HDR) photography. Thanks to developments in digital photo editing it is now a process that takes little effort other than some careful planning, the use of a tripod and some editing on Adobe Photoshop. My interest in the process is based on an ongoing fascination with light, the photographic process and working the visual present what the eye sees. Ansel Adams’ writing on the Zone System served as key background reading to understanding light, tonal range and exposure. Thus, before I started these digital experiments I had made efforts to capture and present a broad tonal range with photographic film and paper. In recent months I have been experimenting with multi-spectral satellite data that often extends beyond what the human eye can perceive. Issues of tonal quality and range are just as relevant here as in with a analog or digital photograph. I’ve taken a while to come around to HDR but recently had a chance to experiment with it in the Palani Hills.
The pictures in this post were taken on a recent sojourn in Kodai where I was participating in KIS council meetings. It is a privilege and an enormous responsibility to be a part of the governance of a school deeply involved with innovative international education. Nevertheless, I am always more effective in meetings if have had a chance to get outside and commune with the landscape! On both mornings that I was there I had a chance to take short walks before our sessions started up. It’s my habitat to walk up through Bombay Shola to Coaker’s Walk and check the air clarity. In the morning the birds are active and there are always White-bellied Shortwings (Brachypteryx major major) and Grey-breasted Laughing Thrushes (Garrulax jerdoni farbanki) to listen to and glimpse. This time there was a Malabar Whistling Thrush (Myophonus horsfieldii) lurking and calling near one of the streams that has sprung up from the recent rains. Unlike last year, I did not see any gaur or hear their rutting. The views at Coaker’s were good and I extended my walk up by St. Mary’s and then down through Pambar Shola to the cliffs that overlook the southern plains. After a prolonged drought the hills and plains have had rain and the views were excellent. There is no better way to start a day in Kodai…
Some of these areas are the same places that Douglas Hamilton had visited, hunted in and sketched in the late 19th Century. Marcus Sherman has led a quiet but determined effort to put information and links about Hamilton on Wikipedia, which I have linked here. I even had a chance to squeeze in a quick motorcycle visit to Pillar Rocks before the tourists came out. Hamilton made some of the earliest sketches of this natural granite edifice that all good tourists in Kodai visit. It still has some of the finest views of a classic Western Ghats escarpment.
For more information on HDR look up Cambridge in Colours’s site, Adobe’s page and the Luminous Landscape (2012). There are also several Photoshop Plugins that help you with your HDR work flow. I have used Nik Software’s HDR Efex Pro for most of the images here.