Ian Lockwood

MUSINGS, TRIP ACCOUNTS AND IMAGES FROM SOUTH ASIA

Palani Hills: Then and Now

with 7 comments

Looking east to Mount Perumal and Shembaganur from Eagle Cliffs. A DR image composed of five single images exposed at different exposures. September 2013.

On the Palani Hills southern escarpment, looking east to Mount Perumal and Shembaganur from Eagle Cliffs. An HDR image composed of five single images taken at different exposures. September 2013.

Douglas Hamilton's sketch of the same area. Done in the mid 19th Century and published in his posthumous 1892 book A Record of Sport in Southern India.

Douglas Hamilton’s sketch of the same area, made in the mid 19th Century and published in his posthumous 1892 book A Record of Sport in Southern India. His view emphasizes the Pambar Valley (to the left) and the ridge leading to Coaker’s Walk (center). I was likely standing on the upper spur (seen in the far left) to get the above image. Hamilton has included himself in the image, seemingly stalking a Nilgiri tahr on the cliffs.

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.

Looking south over the edge of Eagle Cliffs to the Vaigai Dam.

Looking south over the edge of Eagle Cliffs to the Vaigai Dam and Periyakulam. The Highwavy Mountains are on the far side with monsoon clouds blowing over from Kerala. This was once a favorite haunt of Nilgiri tahr and other large mammals.

Pillar Rocks, Palani HIlls (September 2013)

Pillar Rocks, Palani Hills (September 2013)

Pillar Rocks by Douglas Hamilton (mid 19th Century). The angle to get this view is now wooded with non native plantation trees. Sambar deer, meanwhile, are making a comdback int he Palanis after years of poaching decimated their populations.

Pillar Rocks by Douglas Hamilton (mid 19th Century). The angle to get this view is now wooded with non-native plantation trees. Sambar deer, meanwhile, are making a comeback in the Palanis -after years of poaching decimated their populations.

View of the lake and Perumal (September 2013). Hamilton also sketched this in the mid-19th Century (before the lake was made by Henry Levign) but a good digital copy is not yet available as far as know.

View of Mount Perumal and the lake (September 2013). Hamilton also sketched this in the mid-19th Century (before the lake was made by Sir Vere Henry Levinge) but a good digital copy is not yet available, as far as know.

Lower Palani HIlls, after recent rains, looking south. September 2013

Lower Palani Hills, after recent rains, looking south. Taken on the way down the Ghat as I journeyed back to Colombo,September 2013.

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.

Written by ianlockwood

2013-09-25 at 5:05 pm

7 Responses

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  1. Love that perspective.

  2. Beautiful – reminds me of home! Thanks.

    Peter Rudd

    2013-09-26 at 5:03 pm

  3. This is very close to the first impression of these Hills that I experienced about fifty years ago. Of course, even that was a very ‘modern’ impression. But these photos capture the essence of what has existed for centuries in this amazing part of the world. Thanks, Ian.

    Bob Granner

    2013-09-27 at 11:08 pm

  4. Lovely photos! Kodai was one of the most beautiful places I have ever lived or visited.

    Stephanie Vandrick

    2013-09-28 at 7:55 pm

  5. Ian,
    I am intrigued by your use of HDR imaging. You discription sounds complicated but the results are spectacular. Thanks for sharing these. Hope to see even more in the future.

    Mark Garrison

    2013-09-28 at 9:42 pm

  6. Was there recently Ian, the images you’ve captured are stunning.

    garnishednonsense

    2013-10-02 at 4:50 pm

  7. […] Lockwood, Ian. “Palani Hills: Then and Now.” Ian Lockwood blog. September 2013. Web. […]


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