Ian Lockwood


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Updates to High Range Photography

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Old (2007) and New (2017) versions of High Range Photography.

Over the last several months I have been working at overhauling the www.highrangephotography.com website that showcases my fine art photography and published work. The website was originally designed in 2006 and went live on January 1st 2007. Over the last 10 years much has changed: most significantly, while still working in black & white, I have shifted to digital tools and no longer use film and a wet darkroom. The focus of my work remains South Asian ecology, landscape, conservation and culture with a focus on the Western Ghats/Sri Lanka biodiversity hotspot. Web design has become more sophisticated but easier to do for non-design novices like me. People are using larger, high definition monitors so small images just don’t cut it anymore. It was the right time for a change on the site.

The Colombo-based web design company Vesses, led by Prabhath Sirisena and Lankitha Wimalarathna, had helped me set up the original website back in 2006. We designed the pages to be minimalist and to highlight the photography. Most of the images were black & white low resolution scans of 8×10 prints. Vesses was an excellent team to work with and it was natural to go back to them to help with the updated content on an overhauled website. There efforts were led by Amila Sampath over the last year.

  • For the 2017 changes, Vesses once again helped me out with ideas and setting up templates and the layouts. My goal was to be able to learn how to make a necessary changes myself. WordPress has a great platform to work with but it did take tinkering and some basic coding to get the pages to look like what I had visualized. There are several news changes:
  • The Galleries have been overhauled and updated with new content at a larger, higher resolution. I rescanned many of the images from the original 6×6 and 6×12 negatives.  Several important galleries (Bangladesh, for example) are still in the process of being updated.
  • There is a new Stories tab to highlight in-depth photo-essays and writing on themes from the Western Ghats and Sri Lanka. These are built on a WordPress template similar to what was used by NIF to present my panchromatic to multispectral photo story (metamorphosis of a landscape) in 2016.
  • The Blog page has thumbnails of recant blog posts using a RSS link (featuring content from this WordPress Blog page).
  • The About page combines the old Biography and Technique pages
  • A new page about Exhibitions has been added.
  • I redrafted the logo and had it converted into a vector image to use as a watermark on new content. An exploration of the site will give you a good sense of the view that inspired my sketches that I used to draw the logo.
  • I plan to use the site to highlight geospatial work that I have been learning about and experimenting with. I have started adding simple Google maps to the Stories but hope to have either ESRI maps or OpenStreetMaps embedded in the near future.
  • The Sales page has been taken out (at last until I can set up a better printing and marketing system)

To accompany the website changes I have also set up a Facebook page and I have a Twitter account (that I struggle to find time to use).

High Range Photography Facebook page (click on image to access page)

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2017-10-23 at 8:06 pm

Recent Publications

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Opening image in Frontline article. Th image shows winter mist in eucalyptus plantations below Perumal Peak with remnant montane grasslands.

Opening image in Frontline article. The image shows winter mist in eucalyptus plantations below Perumal Peak with remnant montane grasslands. 

In the last several months I have had the opportunity to have two important portfolios of black & white images published in prominent Indian publications. In September the Indian Quarterly published a photo essay on sholas in the Western Ghats entitled “Spirit Mountains.” This collection of images and a short text grew out of an online conversation with Suprarba Seshan who was looking for images to accompany her article “People of the Rain” article that appears the same issue. Her article went on to be illustrated Diba Siddiq who is also associated with the Gurukula Botanical Sanctuary, while I was allotted ten pages for the shola story. The issue is focused on rain and also includes a story about Agumbe by our prolific writer friend Janaki Lenin. Avtar Singh, the managing editor based in New Delhi, played a key role in pulling it all together. The images, all black & white, were chosen to illustrate the aesthetic themes of rain and diversity as seen in the sholas of the southern Western Ghats.

Some of the pages from the Indian Quarterly photo essay

Some of the pages from the Indian Quarterly photo essay “Spirit Mountains.” Published in July 2015.

This month Frontline has just published “Plantation Paradox” a photo essay accompanying my rambling exploration of the complications of non-native timber plantations in the Palani Hills. The Chennai-based magazine is part of the larger Hindu publications group-known for their reasoned, somewhat left-leaning reporting and support of secular, multicultural India. The pictures in this story are also all black & white and closely illustrate themes from the 3000+ word article. The article includes a version of the GIS-generated map (utilizing 30m SRTM USGS/NASA tiles) that I worked on earlier this year. It illustrates the 1,500m contour (shola/grassland areas) in the southern Western Ghats. Vijayasankar Ramachandran, the editor at Frontline was my contact who made this publication possible. We have worked together on several past articles that explored themes of conservation and ecology in the Western Ghats and Sri Lanka. In particular several of my Frontline articles have focused on issues in Kodaikanal and the Palani Hills where changes in the ecology, pressure from tourism and ambiguity about the status of the conservation of remote hills has been in flux (see list & links below).


  • 2012 April                  “Breathing Life Back into the Sholas”
  • 2009 November         “Fragile Heritage: Bombay Shola”
  • 2006 August               “Kurinji Crown”
  • 2003 August               “The Palni Hills: On the Danger List”

* There used to be web links for these but my understanding is that they are not active anymore.

Note: My spelling of Palani has evolved over time as seen in the title above. I previously used to use “Palni” (as in what is used by the PHCC). However, after talking with Tamil language experts and looking at changes in official documentation, I have adopted the widely accepted “Palani.” This is how the temple town, that the hills are named for, is spelt. For Kodaikanal, I continue to use “Kodai” while I have noted attempts by some individuals and publications to shorten this to “Kodi!”

Landforms of India

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Cover from Landforms of India book (published in July 2014). The image on the left is the view of the southern escarpment of the Palani Hills.

Cover from Landforms of India book (published in July 2014). The image on the left is the view of the southern escarpment of the Palani Hills.

Over the last few months I have been collaborating and contributing to several book projects that have given me a sense for the complexities of the design, layout, editing and printing of large coffee table books. It has been a healthy experience and moved me a few steps closer to getting my own projects on the Western Ghats and Sri Lanka off the ground. A handsome atlas that is hot off the press from Pragati Offset printers in Hyderabad is Landforms of India from Topomaps and Images. I was privileged to be able to contribute photographs as well as the text used in the introductory jacket flap of the book.

Landforms of India from Topomaps and Images is authored by Dr. R. Vaidyanadhan and Dr. K.V. Subbarao and is published by the Geological Society of India. It was supported by several key Indian agencies including the National Remote Sensing Centre, the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) and Geological Survey of India. It was by happy coincidence that the authors, both of who are eminent personalities in the world of geology and remote sensing, approached me to use some of my Western Ghats and NE India landscape work in their book. With the focus on education and helping students in schools and universities to better understand their country’s diverse physical geography, I was happy to get involved.

The Atlas is structured around 60 different sets of topographical maps (sourced from the Survey of India) that are aligned with remotely sensed images of the area and often include terrestrial photos of the same scene/or of similar features. They include a broad selection of examples of different features from all over the country (Jog falls in the Western Ghats, the Satpura Range, Himalaya, Khashi Hills, Brahmaputra etc.). There is a clear introduction to broad themes (remote sensing, topographical maps, terrestrial photographs etc.) and nomenclature. At the end of the book a helpful glossary highlights key terms. Several large, two-page spreads highlight some of the key physical features of Indian’s diverse landscape.

Landforms of India from Topomaps and Images was officially launched by the Geological Society of India on 25th July 2014 at the Sate Gallery of Fine Arts Hyderabad (I was unfortunately in transit back to Colombo from Madurai at the time). The atlas was released by Dr. Swarna Subba Rao, Surveyor General, SOI while the chief guest was Dr. Shailesh Nayak, Secretary to the Ministry of Earth Science.

Over the last years my interest in India’s landscapes, and specifically those of the Western Ghats, has used remotely-sensed images (especially NASA/USGS Landsat) to better understand features (including land cover) as well as change. Combining these satellite images with detailed ground truthing and analysis has now become a key aspect of my interest in the Western Ghats (and Sri Lankan) landscapes. Though the Landforms Atlas doesn’t use the Landsat images or my studies it has a wealth of ISRO-collected imagery (usually stressing the thermal or infrared bands) combined with difficult-to-access SOI maps. Much of this remotely sense imagery of India is now freely available through the Bhuvan web portal.

Introductory pages from Landforms of India from Topmaps and Images

Introductory pages from Landforms of India from Topmaps and Images

Screen shot of pages and examples of Landforms of India from Topmaps and Images

Screen shot of pages and examples of Landforms of India from Topmaps and Images

This is not a small book and Landforms of India from Topomaps and Images is printed on a large (27 mm x 40 mm) scale, high quality paper. It is not priced cheaply but ,given what you get, the atlas is a worthy investment for individuals, institutions and libraries. If you have the remotest interest in India’s diverse physical Geography it is a must have resource. In sum “the union of different ways of viewing the earth’s features presented in this volume create a more holistic view of India’s geological and human landscape.”

At the moment the best way to get a copy of the book is to order it using the following form. It should be available in major bookstores in India in the coming months.

Landforms_of_India_from_Topomaps_&_Images (Order Form)


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2014-08-04 at 4:38 pm

A Calendar for the Palanis

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Cover images from the KIS Calendar 2014. The view is one looking south from Coaker’s Walk to the Vaigai Dam and Highwavy mountains. Taken in September 2013 on a short visit to Kodai.

Cover images from the KIS Calendar 2014. The view is one looking south from Coaker’s Walk to the Vaigai Dam and Highwavy mountains. Taken in September 2013 on a short visit to Kodai.

In the year of 2013 the challenges faced by small hill stations and communities in India’s Western Ghats continued to multiply. The double-edged sword of tourism and development has brought both prosperity and ecological upheaval to these fragile areas. They were originally settled for their beauty and salubrious climates, but today they are besieged by issues of noise, solid waste, water shortages, poor governance and other concerns of sustainability. Kodaikanal, located in the Palani Hills of Tamil Nadu, has unfortunately become a case study in uncontrolled growth and lackluster management. Record numbers of tourists continue to visit this south Indian hill station (160,000 in one particular ten day period according to the Hindu). In the heart of the township that hosts these growing numbers of tourists is Kodaikanal International School. In its 112th year KIS continues to offer a global education based on the International Baccalaureate curriculum for students from South Asia and beyond. There is a strong spiritual foundation for this learning; something that I like to see as an agglomeration of its Christian missionary roots, India’s mosaic of faiths and something special, quite indefinable in the air.

As an alumnus who was shaped by experiences in the hills and school, I continue to stay involved with the school through its alumni association, Council of Directors and contact with friends who have given their professional lives to the school. This year it has been my privilege to help contribute to the school’s annual calendar. After a few initial suggestions from my side, the calendar was designed by the intrepid KISCO team (Sonny Deenadayalan,  Judy Redder, Billy and others). I selected 13 different black & white panoramic images that highlight important ecological themes in the Palani Hills. The images are all digital panoramas and owe their final presentation to DSLRs and software rather than the wet darkrooms where I used to spend so much time. Calendars will be available from the KISCO office (located at the front gate of the school). I will also print a limited series of 40” long enlargements for spring art shows in Kodai and other locations.

January spread

Screen shot of the January spread

December spread

Screen shot of the December spread

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2013-12-15 at 1:43 pm

Western Ghats Revisited

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The Southern escarpment of the Palani Hills looking west to the Agamalai range and illustrating the varied vegetation and surprisingly rugged geography of these mountains.

The Southern escarpment of the Palani Hills looking west to the Agamalai range and illustrating the varied vegetation and surprisingly rugged geography of these mountains.

Last year there were significant milestones and steps taken to recognize and protect India’s Western Ghats. In July 2012 a handful of sites up and down the 16,000 km length Ghats area were given the UNESCO World Heritage Tag. Previous to this the release of the lengthy and comprehensive Gadgil report (made public first in late 2011) by eminent scientists had stirred a spectrum of responses to the proposals to protect the areas ecology and landscapes. The negative perception from some government agencies and vested interest was such that another report was commissioned (the Kasturirangan panel)! The Western Ghats encompass an enormous and diverse ecological area that I’ve been fortunate to be intimately associated with and the news elicited a more personal reflection on what the area has meant to me.

My earliest memories are of walks and camping trips amongst clean, gurgling streams and cool sholas in the Palani Hills. Several years earlier, before my first memories and birthday, my parents had backpacked me through the rolling downs of the Brahmagiris on the Kerala/Karnataka border. As child and teenager growing up with an eclectic mix of American, Bengali, south Indian and global influences the mountains offered a unique opportunity for self-discovery, an appreciation of the interdependence nature and spiritual appreciation of the infinite. Since 1992, issues concerning ecology, landscape and human interaction in the Western Ghats have been the focus for my explorations, learning, photography and writing. These are passion pursuits that eventually became the focus of my life and teaching as I entered and became comfortable with a career in international education. In recent years my geographic focus has shifted to Sri Lanka’s Central Highlands, cousins of the Western Ghats in so many ways, yet I maintain a strong interest in developments across the straits.

My response to the news and then the swirling controversy was to write something about it and this eventually found its ways into the pages of Sanctuary Asia, India’s preeminent wildlife magazine that was founded by Bittu Sahgal in the early 1980s. By the time the article came out this month (see screen shots below) the news was long forgotten but the issues of conservation, loss of biodiversity, water security, community rights and tourism development remain relevant and unresolved.

Screen shots from Sanctuary Asia article (May 2013)

Screen shots from Sanctuary Asia article (May 2013)

Following the UNESCO designation of the Western Ghats a World Heritage Site in July 2012 there were a series of informative pieces published friends and colleagues in the Indian media. On July 3rd the Hindu ran an editorial that highlighted the UNESCO announcement. Subraba Sehsan emphasized the challenges of living up to the new limelight of the UNESCO World Heritage listing in her article in the Hindustan Times on July 8th. Janiki Lenin wrote about the Western Ghats controversy in Outlook Traveller with a rich selection of images from Kalyan Varma. Organizations such as ATREE, the Nature Conservation Foundation, the French Institute in Pondicherry and WWF-India continue the important work of addressing conservation challenges from a scientific point of view. Others in organizations, such as Kalpavirksh, work to promote environmental sustainability and ensure that communities are empowered to participate in conservation decisions.

For a further exploration of my published work on the Western Ghats see the Published Work page on High Range Photography. In July 1994 I published my first significant photo-essay and article on the Western Ghats in the India Magazine (a publication that is now, sadly, defunct). I then spent several years researching, photographing and assembling pieces on the Nilgiri tahr, as an example of an endangered Western Ghats species. In 2001 I exhibited and gave lectures on the Western Ghats at the India International Centre and Bombay Natural History Society. In August 2003 I wrote about the Palani Hills in Frontline and advocated for a protected area to be designated in the range. The focus on the Palanis has been followed up with articles on ecological restoration in Sanctuary Asia (June 2006) and Frontline (April 2012). Both of these highlight the important work of the Vattakanal Conservation Trust in restoring native vegetation in the Palanis. For several years my wife Raina and I lived, worked and explored in the Sahyadris just outside of Pune. An account of this unique range of the (northern) Western Ghats was published in Sanctuary Asia (2005) and Man’s World (2004).

Asian Geographic (2008) and Geo (2009) have also published my photo essays and articles on the Western Ghats, which give a sense of the whole range from a visual and descriptive point of view. ARKive has a dedicated page on the Western Ghats and I was honored that they have profiled several of my color images (by way of the Nature Picture Library). In all of these efforts, my goal has been to paint a picture of the landscapes in black & white to illustrate the stark magnificence of landscapes, varied vegetation types,  human interaction and conservation. I use color imagery to highlight aspects of the biodiversity-one of the two main reasons that the Western Ghats are vital (the other being water). The field of photography has changed in these last 20 years and I continue to work on the same themes using a variation of the early approach but in the digital medium. In the last five years I have become intrigued with spatial aspects of the Western Ghats and Sri Lanka biodiversity hotspot and am using GIS to explore, analyze and understand the landscape and its changes.

Post Script

Just two weeks ago news emerged that the government of Tamil Nadu has designated the Palani (or Kodaikanal) Hills as one of four new protected areas in the state. This comes as welcome news, though it is yet to be seen what the exact boundaries are, how this will affect the significant human communities and activates (tourism, plantation agriculture etc.) and if restoration activities will be allowed within the protected area.

Written by ianlockwood

2013-05-14 at 6:25 pm

ARKive updates in the Western Ghats & Sri Lanka

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Collage of ARKive photographs highlighting Western Ghats habitats and species. These were taken mostly in the Palani Hills during  the 1990s on color slide film and later sourced through the Natural History Picture Library (NHPL).

This year marks 20 years since the landmark 1992 Rio Earth Summit  and the signing of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) that was signed by most countries. The continuing loss of biodiversity remains a pressing global concern of our times. At my regional level, Sri Lanka and the Western Ghats have been identified as “biodiversity hotpots” and it is worth reflecting on their unique biodiversity. An easy way to do this is through ARKive, one of the most dynamic sites highlighting biodiversity in the world. It is a fascinating  project in its ninth year with support from Wild Screen and the patronage of Sir David Attenborough. It seeks to create a digital reference and archive of all the world’s known species. Each species is highlighted with images and text on status, description, range, habitat, threats  etc.

I have been using ARKive’s digital archive as a reference in my teaching and writing for several years now. A few months ago I was pleasantly surprised when I stumbled across a special section focusing on the Western Ghats that features several of my color landscapes in a gallery on the habitat. Most of these were taken on forays into the Palani Hills and neighboring ranges in the 1990s. I also have some images of emblematic  and lesser-known species (Nilgiri tahr, Large Scale Pit Vipers, Giant Grizzled Squirrels, Scaly Lizards, Bronzed Frogs, etc.). A little searching will  uncover some familiar Sri Lankan species (SL Green Pit Viper).The pictures are supplied to ARKive though the Natural History Picture Library where I have been submitting pictures for some time.

ARKive page on Nilgiri tahr (Nilgiritragus hylocrius). One of 30 or so images on the species. This was taken in 1993 and was aimed at my early articles (published in Environ and Sanctuary Asia) on the conservation and ecology of these endemic Western Ghats mountains goats.

Two pit vipers (Sri Lankan Green and Large Scaled) and a winter view of Pambadam Shola on the border between the Palani Hills and High Range (taken in 1997).

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2012-05-30 at 5:42 pm

Ecological Restoration in the Palani Hills

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Breathing life back into the sholas…spreads from the Frontline (20 April 2012) article.

Last summer while enjoying a holiday in Kodaikanal filled with hiking and outings with friends at the Vattakanal Conservation Trust it occurred to me that it was time to update the status of the ecology in the upper Palani Hills. Some of the observations were published in earlier blog posts but Bob, Tanya and I were also looking to reach a broader audience.  Frontline, with the able support of Vijaykumar has now published a series of my articles on the Palanis (2003), the Kurinji flowering (2006) and Bombay Shola (2010) all geared at raising awareness through text, photographs and maps. It was thus logical to look to them to highlight the current status of the upper hills. We took several fact-finding expeditions during June and July into the hills and the state of remnant montane grasslands was quite alarming. The spread of non-native species into these last outposts was significant.

It took me a while to get the article and pictures together for Frontline but earlier this month it was published as Breathing Life Back into the Sholas(click here for the HTML version). Bob & Tanya, meanwhile worked with various authorities to get permission and raise funds to do some emergency restoration work in the habitats that we had visited. Their field notes had alerted people to the issues that I have highlighted in the article. On our family’s recent visit to Kodai I was thrilled to hear that VCT has the go head and will shortly be organizing a team to spend time doing restoration work in those highly sensitive cliff areas. Above and below are the spreads from the article. In spite of the title, the article is really about recognizing and restoring remnant montane grasslands habitats (sholas, you will read, are actually doing quite well in the Palani Hills).

Breathing life back into the sholas…more spreads from the Frontline (20 April 2012) article.

One of the key recommendations of several conservationists, as well as the article, is that there is an urgent need for an updated and dynamic GIS of the Palani Hills. This may well be in the process with the support of various agencies and NGOs. In the meantime I’m working on a map for VCT highlighting the 1,500m contour (where shola/grasslands start in most areas). This is still a work in progress…

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2012-04-21 at 6:25 pm