Night Photography

This was the first time when I tried night photography at Nako, Spiti Valley. Normally we do not get clear sky view from Delhi or any nearby place where we live. Nako is on high altitude place so we were getting clear sky view. Nako is situated at 3662 meters above sea level.

It was 09:30 PM on the month of March 2017 at Nako. We, Nakul, Sunny and Jatin, finished our dinner. The temperature was around zero degree Celsius. There were cold winds outside. It was very difficult to stand outside for a long time due to cold weather. When we went outside, we saw a very clear view of stars. Stars were like very close comparing to when we see from Delhi.

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Our Accommodation at Nako, Spiti

Jatin was having an app on his iPhone which tells the exact location of Milky Galaxy. We were unlucky because Milky Galaxy was just opposite side of the earth. We have to satisfied with the clear view of the shining stars that we were getting that time. We decided to have to photography. We went into the room in pick our gears.

The small accommodation was situated at the entrance of Nako. It was having only two rooms above the DHABA (restaurant). On the back side of the Dhaba, there was a helipad. This helipad is only used during any emergency conditions. It was very close to Nako village surrounded all side by snow capped mountains.

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Snow Capped mountains at Nako

We set our camera’s on helipad for night photography. For night photography one should know how the camera works and some rules of physics. When we take a photo, it all depends on light, camera sensor sensitivity (ISO), shutter speed and aperture. When shutter open, light strike to the camera sensor thru the lens. Based on the light conditions and ISO, we control the shutter speed that how long shutter should open so that only the required amount of light enter the camera. For example, during the day time, shutter opened for 1/250 second with low sensor sensitivity (ISO 100) could be enough for a good shot. During the night, we have a very low light so we have to open the shutter for a long time from 1 to 30 seconds with ISO from 100 to 6400. As we increase the sensor sensitivity, noise increase on the photo.

One most important point to keep in mind that during the night, since we open the shutter for a long time, so we have to put the camera on the tripod to avoid the camera shaking. Even if we are using the tripod, when we click the shutter release button, camera shakes a little bit which adds blur in the photo. To avoid blur, there are two options. One is to use remote to release the shutter and second are to use 2 or 10-second delay timer for shutter release to avoid shake when pressing shutter release button.
We all were ready in very cold weather on the helipad. If it is very dark outside, then camera auto focus do not work. There was the same situation with us. In this condition, we have to use manual focus. When using manual focus, it becomes difficult that where to focus. The best way is to find the brightest thing in the frame and try to manual focus. Sometimes it comes with the practice. After 2-3 attempts, I was able to focus on the brightest star and that was the first successful shot.

Spiti Night Photography at Nako
Nako Village at Spiti- Night View

After the first shot, it came in our mind that let’s try having us one by one in the frame and then try. I set the camera on manual focus on one point and set this to 10-second delay timer shutter release and stand in front of the camera. It worked and we tried multiple shots.

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Nako Village night View

Sunny Malik was having Nikon with a good lens which was having an option to focus on infinity and was showing that where it is focusing so it benefited for him. I and Jatin were having Canon lens on which we have to rotate focus ring with some idea that where it is focusing but this comes with practice. It was good learning.

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Final Night Shoat at Nako

We thought to continue our session however it was very cold outside and it was planned to wake early in the morning and have to drive from Nako to Delhi which was more than 750 KM. We decided to pack the camera bags and have rest. We went into our rooms where Karan and Anil were already doing rest. We set the alarm for 5:30 AM, put temperature meter outside to record the lowest temperature and had a good sleep.

Here are the tips for night photography.

  1. Use a tripod to stabilize the camera.
  2. Use remote to release the shutter. If shutter release remote is not available, use the timer to avoid camera shake during pressing shutter release button.
  3. If it is completely dark, autofocus may not work so use manual focus to capture a shot.
  4. Do not use very high ISO as it may add noise into the photo. So use low ISO with large shutter open time.
  5. Shoot in raw format so we can make light adjustments later during post processing. 

If you have missed my previous blog about Spiti, here you can read LEARNINGS FROM A BAD SITUATION ON SPITI TRIP

Night Photography

Learnings from a bad situation on Spiti Trip

We can have any kind of problem in our life due to any unknown reason. Sometimes we fix the problem easily. In some cases, we know the solution but it didn’t work. This is what happened with us in Spiti where we stuck in a situation. Everyone in our group knew the solution but all the doors were closed for us, may be for some good reason.

Always be prepared for all kind of situations, handle the situation with patience and have faith in God.

Last month we planned to go for Spiti. This was our third trip to Spiti. We were going every year since last 3 years. The Spiti valley is a cold desert mountain located high in the Himalaya mountains in the Indian state of Himachal Pradesh. There are two ways to go to Spiti, one is from Delhi to Shimla and the second one is from Delhi to Manali. The best way to go to Spiti is from Shimla.

We decided that Anil Banger, who was coming from Sikar, will meet me at Hero Honda Chowk and then we will pick Karan Bhardwaj and Jatin Sharma from Central Secretariat Metro station. Then we all go to Meerut and will gather at Sunny Malik‘s house. We reached Meerut at 12:00 AM.

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Ready for Spiti Again.

Our plan was to cross the Shimla early morning to avoid Shimla traffic. Shimla is 380 KM from Meerut. There was traffic jam between Shamali and Karnal. There was no reason for traffic jam and when we think about the traffic Jam reason, we still can’t stop laughing. There was traffic jam because a truck driver was sleeping in truck stopping in the middle of the road. All other drivers behind that truck were thinking that there is jam on the Road and they was waiting for clear but they were not aware the truck driver is sleeping and the road is clear. It seemed to us that earlier there was jam which cleared and that driver was still sleeping.

We were late as per our plan. We reached Shimla at 09:00 AM. Again there was traffic at Shimla. Our next plan was to stay at Nako. Nako was 330 KM from Shimla and road condition was not good. To reach Nako, the route is Shimla, Narkanda, Rampur, Jhakri, Pooh and then Nako. When traveling off roads, it is mandatory that you take proper liquids and food. As always we had lunch at Tapri on PAPPU KA DHABA.

Flowers

The construction of the road is not possible on some patches on this route because these mountains are not solid and a mixture of sand and stones. There is always landslide and have shooting stones on the road. Our car missed with few millimeter when a stone dropped from the mountain in front of our car. That is the reason this route is known as World’s most treacherous road. This is national highway number 5.

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World Most Treacherous Road

Our two friends Rakesh Bishnoi and Dhirendra were going on the bike and were ahead of us. In Spiti, after some location, only BSNL cellphone network works. We were having two BSNL phone on each group. Dhirendra and Rakesh reached to Nako early. They booked two rooms at Nako. We reached there around 8:00 PM. It was completely dark and very cold outside. We thought to do night photography but everyone was so tired so had rest. In the night, the temperature was minus 6 degrees.

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Ready for Ride

Next day in the morning, we wake up early. We took group photographs and started our remaining journey. It was a nice day. No one knows that how will be our remaining day. So far everything was going great. Our plan was to go till Kaza. Based on the time we reach Kaza, we will plan for Kibber, last Indian village or Langza. We took good photographs on the way to Kaza. On the way to Kaza from Nako, there is famous Dhankar Monastery. Also on the way, there is Gui Mummy which is 9 KM on the different route.

Near Kaza
Near Kaza

Kaza is having world’s highest fuel station. We reach Kaza at 3:00 PM and decided to go to Kibber Village. Dhirendra and Rakesh planned to rest at Kaza. Something wrong was about to happen with us. On the way to Kibber, there is very famous Kee Monastery. We decided to go to Kibber directly.

Frozen Waterfall
Frozen Waterfall

There was a snow wall on both sides of the road. The height of the snow wall was about 5 feet. The road was so wide that all the local vehicles were crossing very smoothly including Tata Sumo. It was our turn to cross the snow wall. When we crossed, our XUV touched both sides on snow. Since it was soft snow, we could easily cross it. Sunny Malik was driving the car. Suddenly I heard air leakage sound from the tyre. I asked Malik to stop the car and to check the tyre. He reversed the car. When we checked, left back tyre was completely flat and the front tyre was having a puncture.

There was cut on both tyre. Malik always carries puncher kit, air pump, and tools to handle any kind of bad situation. Since there was big cut on one of the tyre so we decided to replace the tyre with spare tyre. We were thinking that we will replace the tyre easily but we were wrong. When we started opening screw, we were not able to open even one screw. It becomes worse when our screw opening tool bent and it was of no further use.

We called Dhirendra, who was doing rest at Kaza, to carry a tool to open screw and a mechanic who can help us. We were 9 KM far from Kaza. While he was arranging mechanic, we send Karan and Jatin to get help from Kee monastery. There were very fewer vehicles on the road as it was extreme outside. No one was having the tool that we were looking. Malik put multiple puncture rubber strips on the tyre cut and we were able to drive for 2 KM but again air starts leaking.

Rakesh arranged a tool. When we tried to open the screw with the new tool, we were able to open three screws but then new tool also broke. Rakesh also took a packet of rubber strips for puncture. We added these more rubber strips on the cut then we were able to reach Kaza. The mechanic also tried to open these screw but no luck. When there was no more option available to remove the screw, the mechanic removed complete tyre assembly, removed the tyre from stepney RIM and added on the rear back tyre. then we were able to reach to Gurgaon back. Check Sunny Malik vlog about How do I get out of life threatening Situation?

We should always be prepared for all kind of situations, handle the situation with patience and have faith in God. Since Malik was having all gears for puncture so we were able to handle the situation for some extend. If there will be no gears then it was not possible to reach back to the city where we get help. If our planning is perfect and having all necessary things then we can come out of trouble.

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Next day again we stayed at Nako, and first time tried night galaxy photography. it was a nice experience. I will discuss this on another blog.

Learnings from a bad situation on Spiti Trip

Lahaul and Spiti – an Ultimate place to visit

Lahaul and Spiti is an untouched natural beauty. We Visited Lahaul and Spiti in the month of  Oct 2015. It was one of the best off-road trip. We started from Delhi and followed the route, Delhi – Chandigarh – Shimla – Chitkul – Kaza – Chandratal – Manali and Delhi. We were a group of 4, Sunny Malik our lead, friend Sandeep and Manu.

Night Stay at Chitkul

Chitkul
Chitkul

Last Indian Dhaba (Restaurant). After this, China border starts.

India's Last restaurant
India’s Last restaurant at Chitkul

We were traveling world’s most treacherous road. Reason – Shooting stones. You can have unexpected shooting stones from due to sliding. The Team below: Sunny Malik, Sandeep, Manu and Nakul (Left to right)

world's most treacherous road
World’s most treacherous road

Ultimate background of Lahaul Spiti

Can you see on architecture on the hill? Its Kye Gompa is a Buddhist monastery on top of a hill at an altitude of 4,166 meters. During winters, there is only snow even river also froze. Read more about Kee Monastery. 

Kye Gompa is a Tibetan Buddhist monastery on top of a hill at an altitude of 4,166 meters

Words Highest Retail outlet at Kaza, Himachal Pradesh. Height 12270 Ft. (3740) above sea level. Hat off to Indian oil and truck drivers who drive till Kaza so that we can have fuel.

World's Highest Retail outlet Kaza Himachal Pradesh
World’s Highest Retail outlet Kaza Himachal Pradesh. (Manu, Nakul, Sunny and Sandeep.. from left to right)

On the way for Chanratal.

It was totally off roading. See below the road, (Sorry No Road) for chanratal.

Preparing to night stay.

Preparing for night stays near Chanratal Lake
Preparing for night stays near Chanratal Lake

Stay at Chandratal: Ahh temp dip to -14.1 Degree and snow layer on the tent. We were not able to sleep the complete night.

Ohh Man, It was so cold that fuel froze and the engine was not starting. We have to trek to Chandratal.

Ultimately when we reached to Chandratal lake, it was like heaven. What do you say?

Chadratal lake
Chandra Tal lake. shot using iPhone 5S.

At Chandratal Lake.

And then short stay at Rohtang, Kothi and back to Delhi. Hats off to Sunny for his off-road driving for continuous 4 days.

If you are planning to for Spiti then I will advise:
1. At least, you should have one complete week.
2. Never plans to go to spiti with hatchback car.

Thank Sunny Malik, Sandeep, and Manu.

Comment below to share your experience, feedback or need any information.

Lahaul and Spiti – an Ultimate place to visit