Snapping up the subterranean

Meet photographers obsessed with shooting unusual landscapes and gape at the beauty of the subterranean caves of Meghalaya

January 30, 2015 07:16 pm | Updated 07:16 pm IST

HANGING GARDENS Limestone formations in the caves of MeghalayaPhoto Courtesy: Landscape Wizards

HANGING GARDENS Limestone formations in the caves of MeghalayaPhoto Courtesy: Landscape Wizards

Two techies from Bengaluru went deep down into subterranean caves in remote parts of Meghalaya, stood in waist deep water from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. to photograph the wonders of the insides of these caves — beaches, rivers, bats, stalactites. They are now ready to share their story through a film and photographs at an event in the city.

Sriharsha Ganjam and Shivakumar L. Narayan are part of a group of five Bengaluru-based photographers called Landscape Wizards. “We were all doing wildlife photography for over 10 years. And we realised that the first thing which comes up in wildlife photography is ‘tiger’. We are all obsessed with that. All of us started out like that too. But we wanted to show that there is potential for things apart from wildlife too, so we decided on landscapes,” says Shivkumar. “In India people don’t take landscape photography seriously.”

They started out with Ladakh and Leh, Rajasthan, and the Andamans but people started pointing out that they too could visit these places and take such pictures. “That’s when we decided that we should do something that gets people excited; not just vibrant sunsets. So we started doing a series called ‘Unseen Landscapes’.”

Every year two or three of the members of the group would go on a photography expedition; after trial and research they would figure out the spot. They started off with a series on ‘Meteor Landscapes’, shooting meteor showers near Pune at night. “When we shared the pictures, people were like ‘You can really see meteor showers in India? Moreover, for a wildlife photographer, the standard practise is that you put your camera away after sunset. So night photography was fascinating.”

The next in the series was ‘Luminous Landscapes’ where they documented the monsoon phenomenon in the Western Ghats where fungi on trees exhibit the phenomenon of bioluminescence. “It’s the only place in India that it happens and it’s an annual event. We made a video documenting the phenomenon and the photography process and presented it at the Nature In Focus event. People were bowled over by these neon green fungi that burn brighter than tube-lights…you have to shield your eyes sometimes!

Their current series is on Subterranean Landscapes, for which Sriharsha Ganjam spearheaded the project. After a recce in Meghalaya, which has the highest density and network of explored and unexplored underground caves in India, they finally went in December 2014 on a photography expedition to the Mawmluh region, where nearby factories exploit these caves for limestone and coal deposits. Researchers from all over the world explore and study these caves. “We took the help of guides and professional cavers who equip you with ropes, shoes, helmets and went into this seven kilometre long cave that you have to crawl to enter. Every half a kilometre the scene changes and you come across river systems, sand and pebble beaches, steep climbs, 12-feet drops, ‘hanging gardens’ of stalactite and stalagmite formations, flowing calcium that looks like milk…We found fish, bats, poisonous spiders,” says a breathless Shivakumar. They have filmed the entire process of doing their photography, and damages caused to the caves by blasts during mining ores.

Sandesh Kadur, noted Bengaluru-based NatGeo filmmaker will deliver the keynote address on life in North-East India. There’s also a talk on ‘Bats & Caves as an Ecosystem’ by Rajesh B.P. of the Bat Conservation India Trust; this will be followed by the six-minute mini-documentary film and unveiling of photos.

The event, titled Confluence’ 15 is on February 1, 4 p.m. onwards at the National Gallery of Modern Art (NGMA). Entry to the event is free.

For details see >

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