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Misty Darjeeling (July 2006)

After a very hectic first half of the year, my wife and I were both getting a little frayed and decided to take a weeklong break to recharge our batteries. We decided to head to Darjeeling to relax in the cool mountain air, catch up on some reading and generally just get away from everything.

Darjeeling is a very popular tourist hill town in the lower Himalayas, at an altitude of 2100m. Over the last 15-20 years that I have been going there, it has become a lot more crowded, a lot more polluted and a lot dirtier. However, a part of it still retains a very unique charm which brings me back there over and over again.

This trip was during the monsoons, which envelop Darjeeling with heavy mist and clouds. This means no spectacular vistas (or even sun, for that matter), but I find the atmosphere at this time of the year to be very invigorating. This is a time of introspection, solitude and rest.... perfect for our needs.

I also wanted to use this opportunity to shake up my photography a little bit, as I’ve been in a bit of an unproductive spell of late. My plan was to try to get back to what made photography fun - being outdoors, shooting things that interested me and generally, pleasing myself, as opposed to editors, agencies and buyers. So I started by leaving my “serious photography” rig behind: no DSLR, no multiple lenses, no laptop or portable hard drive, no filters, no flash, no tripod; the only piece of camera gear I took with me was a Panasonic LX1, a 1gig card inside it (not even a spare) and the charger.

Between my familiarity with the town and the deliberate lack of “photographic goals”, I was successful in controlling my self-induced urge to get out there and try to create photos. We'd sleep in till 9am (even 10am a couple of times), have long, leisurely lunches, read on benches, etc. And I'd carry my LX-1 in my pocket, whipping it out to take a shot when something struck my fancy. No bracketing, no multiple angles, etc. Just one shot on a subject, and done.

The Panasonic was the perfect camera for this sort of a trip: it was easy to carry all day; its relative lack of flexibility compared to a DSLR system forced me to start thinking differently and also let me take unobtrusive candids. And somewhere along the way, I started to have fun again....

The following photos are my impressions from this week in the mountains. As always, comments are welcomed.

Thumbnails are cropped. Please click on them for a full, enlarged view

    darjeeling laborers carrying goods   monk using mobile phone near monastery in darjeeling   druk monastery darjeeling   children feeding monkeys darjeeling   mahakala temple observatory hill darjeeling    
    mahakala temple observatory hill darjeeling   boy feeding monkey by hand in darjeeling   monkey monk chowrasta darjeeling street scene   ghoom monastery monks darjeeling   buddhist monks playing soccer in ghoom, near darjeeling    
    old meets new in darjeeling   prayer wheels in buddhist monastery in darjeeling ghoom   schoolboy in chowrasta on misty day, darjeeling   sleeping dogs at poet festival in darjeeling   lion statue outside monastery in ghoom, darjeeling    
    old tea shop in darjeeling   bull statue in mahakala temple darjeeling, observatory hill   tibetan refugee self-gelp center darjeeling shoemaker traditional craft   tourist horse-rides darjeeling chowrasta snapshots   old grocery store darjeeling    
    woman in mist amidst pine tree  forest in darjeeling zoo                    

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