Saturday 17 October 2009

No Electricity - But Lots of Energy

I met with Mahesh this morning and we have set the plan for my next trek. I leave on Tuesday (20th) for Pokhara on the Tourist Bus. It takes 5 hours theoretically but I have yet to meet anybody who hasn't taken 9 hours. That assumes the bus does not break down. I will fly to Jomsom. Thereafter I plan to walk down the Kahligandaki and photograph Dhaulagiri and much else besides. It is 29 years since I was last there and so it will be interesting to see the changes. There is a new road or let's call it jeep track, recently opened there and this, in a country with no transport infrastructure in the mountains to speak of, is a significant development.

Yesterday I visited the processing lab and viewed my negatives for the first time. They were as as Kirin said all excellent. I have surprised myself as to how well they have turned out. It has taken a lot to get these images. 4 people trekking for 29 days. Then 3 technicians working for 7 days to develop the negatives. But perhaps the main goal of the expedition has been achieved – to photograph with a large format camera at high altitude (18000+ ft). Just need to do some printing!!!

For the photographers – the thing that surprised me most about the negatives is how much contrast they have been able to get out. This, on reflection, is probably because I have exposed the highlights consistently on Zone 7, so lifting the exposure up the exposure curve but not to the point of burning out the highlights. There is a great clip on YouTube by Bruce Burnbaum discussing this. As always overexposure is preferable to underexposure. Anyhow it was a relief to see the negatives.

It is now more than a week since I returned from the Khumbu. As promised some overiding thoughts – firstly I went early and so the views were fleeting and there was lots of clouds and mist. Suits my style of mountain photography – ethereal. The Khumbu was wonderfully green. Secondly as we were coming down there was obviously a serious number of people / trekking groups headed up. Line upon line of trekkers. Stories of difficulties getting beds and queing for an hour to cross the bridges have become legion. Finally I was more than a little shocked by the attitude of some of the trekkers. They seemed to think it OK to keep on ascending and some at fast rates, irrespective of how they felt. Inevitably everyday a helicopter would appear to take someone down to Kathmandu. This emergency service costs 6000 dollars and if you cannot prove insurance or a method of payment then there is no flight!!!! A Swiss trekker died at Pheriche 3 days ago. 16 people died of high altitude sickness last year. Centes like the CAN (Community Action Nepal) centre at Machermo undoubtedly help to keep these numbers down. Finally and most interestingly it is not only trekkers who fall ill – it is also the porters.

Off to Dipawali.


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