Shot Story: “How I Captured The Hooded Giant In Sikkim”

A battle of mind and body.

Ranit Dholey tells us how he took this incredibly beautiful shot in Gurudongmar Lake, North Sikkim. Over to him:

A vacation, to most sane people, is a period of relaxation and rejuvenation. Something which refreshes your body and soul, preparing and reinforcing you for that dreaded Monday office. Not when you are a photographer!

A photographer spends every waking moment thinking and planning about images, starting months before he even boards the train to his destination, and ending only when he is back home. This indeed is a vicious loop, something which takes a toll on your mind and body.

The constant lack of sleep and dejection when you don’t get the shot can make frustrations rise quite quickly. How to get rid of this frustration? Head to a place which is inherently beautiful, somewhere you don’t really have to work hard to make a shot.

But there is always a catch, as I found out when I headed for the 18,000-feet-high Himalayas in Northern Sikkim in April of 2021.

The road to this piece of heaven begins at Gangtok in Sikkim. Your first pit-stop will be when your car takes you on a topsy turvy ride through the rocky roads into the tiny town of Lachen. From Lachen, a four-hour car ride will take you to the alpine Gurudongmar Lake.

The legendary Buddhist monk, Padmasambhaba, crossed into India from Tibet and made his first stop at this juncture, where he meditated for some time. Due to his holy presence, this lake never completely freezes up, even at a negative 30 degrees in the dead of winter.

The Hooded Giant

This lake is frequented by travellers all over India, and is a famous tourist spot. My agenda for going to this place was to make an image which doesn’t give out the location.

The promise of easy pictures was shattered when I found that the 18000-feet height and -15 degrees of temperature has its consequences. Every step felt like a chore, every breath was difficult. The relentless wind was strong enough to knock me off my feet. With my fingers going numb, I took out my 100-400 lens to look for tighter compositions.

The Kangchenghyao Mountain on the right side of Gurudongmar Lake was a vision, with rain clouds hurling in from the North, thus dappling out the sunlight. It was just a battle of trying to keep my hands still and fingers moving, but in the end I was fortunate to have captured this image, which I called ‘The Hooded Giant’.

Follow Ranit on Instagram @ranitdholey

To know about more such strikingly beautiful shots and the stories behind them, watch this space!

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