It must have been more than two years ago that I made my last photography trip. It was a solo drive to Chikmaglur to shoot kurinji flowers and landscapes. In the two or three days I spent in the hills around the town, I shot many pictures and came back satisfied, having made some images that stood to my expectation. Not often do I get to feel so.
Since then, every journey I made was primarily to travel and see places and experience something new. The camera was there in my hands in all these journeys, but photography only supplemented the travel and never overpowered the senses. All these journeys have been memorable, in terms of seeing and experiencing the pulse of a new place, its people, culture and landscapes. But they also left me longing, as they left much room for the photographer in me to do better.
It is this longing that prompted me to take the trip to Kasargod and spend five days photographing the colorful Theyyams of North Kerala. Having done my homework with dates and venues of performances, I set off on the Bullet Thunderbird for a 4-5 days photography extravaganza, and to follow it up with a few days in the hills to shoot landscapes. I opted to ride instead of the usually preferred bus journey, which would give me freedom of movement and allow me to be at a location of choice in early morning and late evening hours.
Despite my apprehension to large bikes, the journey went smooth and trouble free, without tiring me much as the wheels rolled on the road for long hours. Reaching Kasargod well in advance, I gathered necessary information by speaking to the secretary of local tourism promotion council and planning my days ahead.
The first morning went smoothly, photographing a Theyyam at Trikannad Temple near Bekal fort, a fifteen minute drive from Kasargod. I spent some time taking pictures, and more time watching the first Theyyam performance I was seeing ever. The highlight of the day was bumping into Tewfic El Sawy, a friendly and approachable travel photographer who was leading a team of photographers to document Theyyams of Malabar. I shot very few images, and hoped to spend increasingly more time shooting the performances in the next four days.
That evening, I headed to Bekal Fort to spend some time shooting the beach and the fort, trying to take advantage of a few rocky stretches that would aid me with some low-light compositions. After randomly clicking for a few minutes along the beach, I stepped in to an area where the fort stretched close to the sea along an elevated shoreline. It is here that I wanted to spend most of the evening, and rested the tripod on the rocks as I worked my compositions. As I walked on the rocks looking for my shots, I heard a low thud behind me and turned around to check the source of the sound. I had not placed the tripod on a secure ground, and it had now fallen off along with the camera. Rushing to it, a quick inspection revealed a broken LCD, but rest of the camera was working well. I could shoot pictures, but would not know how it looked till I downloaded it on the computer.
One of the last images from the trip
I shoot with just one camera body, and it was like a panic situation at the moment. I thought about the next possible steps, and my options weren’t too many. Obviously, there would be no one in Kasargod who can fix the camera, or lend me another one for a few days. I had to choose to continue shooting without the LCD, or abort the mission. Since this was a photography trip, I did not find it appealing to continue travelling without worrying about serious photography. And I knew I can’t get the best from my camera without a live preview. After pondering over it for some time, I decided to abandon mission and head back to Bangalore. The next day was spent retracing the road I travelled on, without the images I was hoping to carry back with me.
The last image from the broken camera
A few days later, Canon service presented a shockingly high estimate to replace the LCD screen. But I did not have much choice here – I can’t afford a new body at the moment, and there is no way I could do without a camera. The silver lining – I had insured the body only a few weeks ago, and will hopefully get at least half the expenses of repairing it!
And to end the story, I did not feel a bit dejected or unhappy as I cut the journey short and rode back to Bangalore. The camera, having lived with me for a long time compared to average life of an evolving digital camera, had been serving me well, and a small incidence like this is inconsequential. May be I shall return to shoot Theyyam again next year.