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A blend of Adventure Photography and Trekking: Nitish Waila

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For some people being passionate is not just a HOBBY, it’s a WAY OF LIFE. Finding a love and passion for photography and trekking, he is one of the best story-tellers we have come across. Photography and trekking for him is like devotion. He believes in the blessed forces of the mountain and has explored what many of us don’t even think to venture into! Meet Nitish Waila, adventure photographer/trekker and this is all about the passions he believes in. He has been traveling all over India, especially the mountain regions, photographing the beautiful peaks and the unexplored north-east! Nitish has been spending most of his time travelling and capturing the beauty of the hills in pictures. Rachana from team Livingit got an opportunity to interact with him and the passionate side that he lives can be explained through his pictures!

Nitish has also written a blog post here on Livingit: 15 Treks in 12 Months – An Adventure of a Lifetime.

RJ: You are a mix of a trekker and a photographer. Tell us something about yourself; your journey to what you are today.
Nitish: I still remember the moment when I saw an overhanging patch of huge black rock almost 60 degree inclined and it looked impossible for us to climb, but there was no other way. So, I started first, trying to crawl towards a steady rock around 50 metres above me. The moment I reached up, I sat on the flat stone and turned. The valley down below send jitters down my spine, however, that sweet rush of adventure crept in me right at that moment. It was the Eureka moment! This happened during my very first trek to Kumaraparvatha back in 2012, considered to be one of the most difficult treks in the Western Ghats. It was my first interaction with outdoor adventure and it actually struck me like love at first sight, with the mountains of course!

About photography, I think I have loved holding a camera and clicking pictures since childhood but took that passion seriously only after buying my very first DSLR a couple of years back, which I still use as my primary gear. Almost about the same time I have started pushing out to the bigger mountains that are The Himalayas. Clicking the beauty of snow covered peaks, climbing up to the higher altitudes in order to get closer to capture the nature from top became a collective passion. Slowly progressing into the art of combining both my passions together, I got introduced to the term Adventure Photography and that is what I am pursuing right now.

A blend of Adventure Photography and Trekking: Nitish Waila - Livingit

RJ: You spoke about adventure photography. What is adventure photography?
Nitish: It’s a blend of both worlds, bringing out the stories from various adventures using photography as a tool is what is termed as Adventure Photography. The biggest challenge is to get an expertise in both the skills, handling the camera and equipment can become a humongous task if a person is not well skilled in the adventure. Trekking or climbing in the Himalayas is my adventure and I am trying to build this style of photography to bring out the amazing stories from the highest grounds of earth.

RJ: Well, what first drew you to adventure photography—and how did you discover it?
Nitish: I discovered the term Adventure Photography much later, as I was already working towards learning something on the similar lines without knowing what this style is called. Since I am a self-learned photographer – YouTube and Instagram are my biggest source of learning and inspiration. One fine day while surfing the internet, I stumbled upon a documentary about National Geographic adventurers and photographers. That was like the Eureka moment when I found a direction for my work, a style of photography called Adventure Photography to look forward to.

A blend of Adventure Photography and Trekking: Nitish Waila - Livingit

RJ: You did a series called “50 days of happiness in the Himalayas”. Tell us about that.
Nitish: 50 days of happiness was a project which was really close to my heart. It’s more of an inspirational journey with a sole motive of spreading happiness, to motivate people to bring happiness in their life by doing what they always wanted to. Happiness, as I feel is the core value of our lives, which gets lost somewhere when we start getting deeper into the tiresome schedules of our daily routine. So I went on for 50 days to the Himalayas, the place where I find my happiness when I am foot climbing the mountains, trying to spread the message of happiness across as it is the heart and soul for all my travel plans.

A blend of Adventure Photography and Trekking: Nitish Waila - Livingit

The broad plan in my head was to head from Kinnaur to Spiti and then to Ladakh. I didn’t really want to restrict myself to a day to day itinerary as it was a very long journey and I can easily afford to plan on the move. So, I started my journey from Kinnaur district of Himachal Pradesh, and it was almost the end of monsoons which is not an ideal time to be there but off season travel is something I personally prefer, only because one can understand the true nature of people and the place during that time. Next stop was Spiti, but not without any adventure, so rather than going by the normal road route I chose to trek across the mighty Bhabha pass (almost 16000 feet) and landed in the barren beauty of Spiti. After spending a decent amount of time exploring each and every village of Spiti my journey continued towards Ladakh, I was planning to do that on foot again via a trek but the weather conditions didn’t allow me for that. So I went on to Markha Valley in Ladakh and trekked there for an ample time to cherish the Ladakhi lifestyle. Although my 50 days got over according to the plan but I overstayed near Manali for some more time of my Happiness in the Himalayas. I also did a series called 15 treks in 2015 which was actually my new year resolution, then.

RJ: Any current project that you’re planning to do?
I recently came back from North East after a long journey, so staying put at one place for now and working on the financials to plan another journey soon.

RJ: You also covered the Sandhakphu trek while visiting the North-east. Tell us about that.
Nitish: Sandakphu is really one of the most beautiful treks in India; the views that one can see on a clear sky day are beyond amazing. I really consider myself lucky at times when nature opens up itself and lets me capture its marvels which are how I was able to click the shining bright clear sky images of Kanchenjunga at night. The trek is moderate in terms of gradient, but one has to walk for longer hour’s every day. Beyond Sandakphu, if one chooses to go to Phalut then it’s a long trek of about 21kms in one day but the views are equally rewarding. Looking at Everest and Kanchenjunga together in one frame is like a magical moment for me and it happened only because I was willing to walk those extra miles.

A blend of Adventure Photography and Trekking: Nitish Waila - Livingit

RJ: Tell us about the North-east experiences. How long were you there and what did you do?
Nitish: This is the recent one as I just came back from it in January, spending my Christmas and New Years in North East as well. This was a very different journey as I have not planned for any number of days and even this one went on for almost 50 days or so.

A blend of Adventure Photography and Trekking: Nitish Waila - Livingit

After travelling to the mountains for some time now, I got an opportunity to explore the darkest of areas beneath the earth and I was really excited to take up this new challenge to be into the closed confined dark spaces in the subterranean Meghalaya and put some light through my adventure photography into these seldom explored Caves. I was lucky enough to be invited as a part of this expedition team with experienced Cavers who have been mapping thousands of unexplored caves in this region since last 25 years. Hence, Spelunking adds up as the newest form of adventure in my bucket of Adventure Photography.

A blend of Adventure Photography and Trekking: Nitish Waila - Livingit

RJ: What cameras and lighting gear did you start with and what are you currently using?
Nitish: I am using Canon 60D, which is a semi-professional range of DSLR. I have started with the same camera along with the basic kit lens but then slowly upgraded by investing in good lenses. Right now my go to camera kit for every trip includes a 24-105 mm L-lens from Canon and an ultra-wide angle 11-16mm Tokina lens. In terms of lighting, I don’t really need any external equipment because shooting the landscape is all about shooting at the right time with a perfect natural light.

RJ: Locations and weather conditions seem to be a crucial aspect to a successful picture. How do you handle these unpredictable factors?
Yes, the weather is a crucial part of any adventure and if we add photography to it then it becomes double the task. A good photo needs very good natural light in the outdoors and that depends totally on the weather conditions. Unfortunately, I can’t, rather no one can predict the mountain weather with accuracy but I always try to plan the trips based on the weather trends of previous seasons. It’s the very first step before planning any adventure and once I am out in the mountains, I can only pray and hope that the weather remains good at least at the time when I need to shoot.

A blend of Adventure Photography and Trekking: Nitish Waila - Livingit

RJ: Any photographers who influenced you, and how did they influence your thinking and photography?
Quite a few, Jimmy Chin and Cory Richards, the ones who have defined the term Adventure Photography for me. Chris Burkard is another such name whose amazing photography skills have made me learn so much from his work. I am constantly learning and trying to improve with each and every picture that I click.

RJ: If you were allowed to showcase just one photograph from your entire collection, which one would it be and why?
This is a really hard one, I have always had trouble selecting that one photo. Going purely by the efforts behind making this shot I would pick this one.

I was taking a big risk with this shot by getting my camera drenched with water as I was standing right inside the huge waterfall. It was a make or break shot for me. Jogini falls has two different levels from where you can experience the beauty of this amazingly huge waterfall. I went to the upper level climbing up through the dense forest cover to witness the scintillating rainbows at the fall. This point is also called as the Rainbow point. Just when I reached the spot, I saw a decent enough space below the waterfall where I could stand right behind the water stream. Unfortunately, the water was so rampant that it can get me wet within seconds and I had to save my camera from the wrath of the waterfall. But then I went inside and took the risk, covering the camera somehow and cleaning my lens after every single shot because the water was making it completely wet and I couldn’t get anything in the shot. Finally, after 4-5 attempts, I manage to get out of the waterfall, fully drenched, with this shot. And hence this one is really close to me just because of the efforts and stakes behind the shot.

A blend of Adventure Photography and Trekking: Nitish Waila - Livingit

RJ: What are your future plans?
Nitish: The plan is that there are no plans. Fortunately, I have stopped making those 5-year plans after my last job interview. Living in the present is what matters most now. So being a selfish guy, I don’t want to die regretting anything and hence I only have present plans and no future plans. I guess it sounded a little filmy, but that’s how it is.

Well, to sum it up, Nitish’s message to all budding photographers would be to practice, practice, and practice. Never compare your work with anyone else, instead, get inspired by them and improve your own skills to get better at your work with every click of a shutter. And don’t take it too hard on yourself, there are good days and then there are some bad days, it happens with everyone. Nitish is completely living his passions for adventure photography. Are you?

Passions can often go hand in hand, complimenting each other. Such as Photography and Trekking!

Photography and Trekking in the Himalayas with Sujoy Das.

You can follow him @NitishWailaPhotography