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When landscape photography was in its nascent stages in India, five like-minded people teamed up in Bengaluru, in 2008, to form the Landscape Wizards. Their journey embarked with still photography of ethereal landscapes and spectacles of nature. The young men were diligent in pursuing their passion. Eventually, they got the hang of time-lapse photography. The magic of monsoon, colours from a cloudburst, chasing an eclipse are few of their initial prominent works which they classify as ‘Inspired Landscapes’. Their motto states they are ‘Inspired by Nature’ and in turn, they hope to inspire people through their work.  

“One has to be highly disciplined for landscape photography which is a challenging and adventurous task. In India, nature photography is often misinterpreted as wildlife photography,” says Ashwini Kumar Bhat, a core member of the team.  

The team comprises Ashwini Kumar Bhat, Sriharsha Ganjam and Anilkumar Ranganatha. 

Over the years, the members of Landscape Wizards felt that the still images would not trigger the desired long-lasting effect on viewers. They wanted more than pictures and thus ventured into making video clips of the rare natural phenomena.

Unseen scenes

In 2012, Sriharsha Ganjam, a team member, who has a fascination towards the night sky, captured a picture of the meteor shower in the backdrop of Western Ghats and this was part of their Unseen Landscape project. He stayed in a remote anti-poaching camp in B R Hills in order to witness the celestial event. It took him four years of trial and error to get the right image. 

The next year, the team set about their next venture, Luminous Landscape. Deep in the Western Ghats’ forest range, in the darkness of night, during heavy rains, a rare vision of glowing forest floor can be witnessed due to the presence of bioluminescent fungi. Capturing the scene called for the appropriate setting of the intensity, duration and direction of light with spray flashing, and the outcome was excellent.

In 2014, they headed to an underground cave system in Meghalaya to capture images of the subterranean landscape. 

Entering the cave with a guide was adventurous, and photographing in the darkness tested their skills.  The river inside the cave had carved out a lattice of stalagmites and stalactites. Using multiple flashes and different exposures, contrasting specialised images of the hidden textures and vibrant colours of the landscape could be captured.  

In 2016, the team was able to photograph, for the first time, a moonbow formation. Since their first Unseen Landscape, the team has been releasing one unseen story of Nature every year for the past five years. Through all this, the team has ensured that all the safety measures and precautions were undertaken, including prior permissions from the authorities.  The officials concerned were informed of their whereabouts beforehand as most of the locations were out of range of any communication.

Towards film

Pristine landscapes are only a part of the story. As the team soon decided to introduce a new segment in their portfolio, Cultural Landscapes, which documents the human interaction with nature. 

Ashwini and his team have also ventured into the film sphere — with a documentary Aghanashini. It is the story of River Aghanashini, which flows in Uttara Kannada district, from its point of view.   The river is of natural, historical and cultural significance. Best equipment and drones were utilised to capture the landscape around it.  

During the shoot, Sriharsha could also capture a rare natural atmospheric phenomenon called the moonbow — a lunar rainbow, seen in the night sky at Unchalli Falls, near Sirsi.

Released in 2017, Aghanashini portrays the integrity of the river as well as the impact of human development on its ecosystem. Their upcoming documentary is based on the Nilgiris and its inhabitants.  The story is about the aboriginals of Ooty — the Toda tribe. The tribe follows unique rituals and cultural practices and is very closely connected with nature, all of which will be presented in the film.  

Furthermore, Landscape Wizards organises expeditions and workshops for new and experienced photographers. All workshops and expeditions are organised on the field with a well-laid plan.  Generally, filming a waterfall is the first exercise. Besides the technical aspect, the focus is on aesthetics and composition of an image. “By seeing things from a unique perspective, one can mature as a photographer,” says Ashwini Kumar.  Monsoon workshops were held in Sirsi and Kodachadri where photographers learnt how to handle the camera and equipment in rainy conditions and also to harmonise the light and contrast in a forest setting.  

However, since 2015, their entire focus has been on making documentaries.  “The research and groundwork for such projects are extensive and time-consuming,” says Sriharsha. Also, the team comprises working professionals and therefore, they are not able to devote much time to the activity. Although, they have trained more than a hundred photographers who are pursuing the interest further. The team members have taught the trainees time-lapse techniques and night photography in the sessions conducted by Landscape Wizards.

Basavaraj Totad was an amateur when he was introduced to the team.  “During the expeditions, I grasped the nuances of photography and the techniques used in different locations, for instance, capturing the flowing water with slow shutter speed,” he says.

By showcasing the beauty of nature with their adept pictographic skills, their stories effectively illustrate the human-nature interdependence. Given the present-day scenario, the message seems more relevant than ever.  

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