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The Falls Expedition - Abhi Madangeri

A long drive through green fields dotted with lakes filled with grebes and coots took us to the foothills of the highest peak in Karnataka. As soon as we started our drive uphill, we were greeted with mist from all sides dropping the visibility to just a few feet. The monsoon drizzle kept us company all the way through. The lush green surrounding covered in light grey mist was an unforgettable sight and the stage for our photo-expedition was set. Everything we expected was in place, and we just wished, the place we were heading to should be as per our expectation to get our shot.

After an amazing drive, we had almost reached our destination, and here we parked our car and we were taken in a 4x4 vehicle to our cottages, which was nestled deep within a valley filled with water falls and streams all around. As soon as we reached the place, we freshened up and segregated the camera gear. We packed only those equipment which we needed and set out for our first session of photography.

Crystallized Falls

This photo-expedition was all about creating an image of a water fall which was pre-visualized. The plan was to create an image of a water fall which was neither smooth flowing nor with the tack sharp droplets. It would fall somewhere in between these two flows and give a feel of a beautiful crystallized cascade.  

Initial Hiccups

The first water fall was right next door and it was a tall one with a huge amount of water plunging down a steep slope and hitting the rocks below with all its might. The water fall was an amazing sight and we moved around to compose and light the rocks with external flash from all possible angles. The splash from the waterfall along with the continuous drizzle made it quite difficult to shoot long exposures and after sometime we realized things were not happening and this waterfall was not the right one for our image. 

Post lunch we moved down to a point where the water pushed through a couple of rocks and created a pool below before flowing down into the dense valley. After spending a long time here shooting in heavy rain we called it a day. 

The night was spent in the room reviewing the shots and discussing the challenges we faced during the day. We realized we needed a waterfall where the water would not plunge down with full force but one which would be of cascading type creating thin blankets of water over the rocks on its way down. We had two more falls to cover the next day and did not know what type of waterfall they were and what to expect from them. We had no idea about these two falls as we had not seen any images of them, but we had to do it the next morning and hope for the best.

The Trek

Next morning we started our trek to the falls bare foot. We knew we couldn't avoid the leech bites, but our guide suggested we apply oil mixed with snuff (powdered tobacco) on our bare feet to minimize the leech attack. Though it was a short trek of around 500 meters, it was a treacherous walk (or should I say slide) down to the waterfall. The slippery mud covered with decomposed leaves and the monsoon which made everything around wet and slippery, off course, the leeches which had a feast that day. We did expect rain, and monsoon was what we had come to shoot, but we just hoped for a glimpse of sunlight to execute our shot. We had carried the camera, lens, flash, monopod, tripod, rain cover and couple of umbrellas. 

The first waterfall was a small one but the sound it made was deafening. It was an amazing sight but we were disappointed because it was not the one we had visualized. Our guide told us the next one was big, we should try that. This was our last chance and we after some discussion we proceeded further. After another 100 meters of literally sliding down, we reached the place. I was the first to reach the spot and on seeing the waterfall, I had a big smile on my face. The others following me understood that we had got what we were looking for and hurried down. We were awestruck by the beauty of this amazingly beautiful waterfall hidden inside western ghat. Least bothered about the leeches that were feasting on our blood, we set up our equipment. Just before clicking the shutter button, the weather cleared up, lighting the waterfall by the rare rays of the sun. After a couple of shots, we just stood and admired the beauty of western ghats and its hidden treasures, but sorry I cannot explain that feeling of joy in words or pictures, you have to be there to feel it. 

Thanks to Vijaysimha, Dhanush and Mohan for making this happen. This picture is a team effort and belongs to all four of us, and it wouldn't have been possible without them. Cheers!!!

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