Mohan Bhasker is a photographer and doctor based in the Los Angeles area who treks across the earth capturing landscapes. In the second part of our interview, Mohan further describes his “priority to capture God’s creations” and share them with the world. You can read part one of our interview with Mohan here.
Q: In your artist statement you make two simple but profound proclamations: 1. “I use photography as a means to show my friends and the world my life experiences.” 2. “The determination to enjoy the journey on this path of relentless pursuit for perfection gives me the strength to remain committed.” How do you know when you have, as you put it, encountered the vision that captures the perfect aspect of harmony, and how do you think the endless quest for such visions shapes your creative process?
A: The majority of the photographic destinations I shoot are extremely difficult to reach and are relatively unknown. Therefore, I make it my priority to capture God’s creations that very few have managed to witness on this earth. As a spiritual person and as an artist, I want to share the magical moments that I witness when I am surrounded by the sheer beauty of this earth that is tucked away in the most remote areas. Nature dresses up these landscapes to make them look their best. The peak seasons I try to capture are in autumn and in the spring. I plan my shots to capture the subject at its best to share it with the world. The strength to be persistent, to capture the subject at its best, is derived from my obsession to bring the best and share it with the world.
I never know when I have captured the perfect image, but I strive to find that blend of perfect harmonious balance between composition, color and contrast. I am a very severe critic of myself and I have very high standards that must be met before I approve my final shot.
Q: You’re a trained physician, did you have any formal education in photography, with a mentor, or were you self-taught?
A: I am a self-taught photographer. I spent a lot of time learning the basics of photography by reading books and attending workshops. I have spent countless hours analyzing and understanding photographs from different artists both amateurs and professionals. Each photograph expresses how the photographer wants to present the scene in front of them and I continue to learn the thinking behind a great photograph even today.
Q: The majority of these images were captured at dawn and the others were shot at sunset. Aside from the amazing palette of colors in the sky at these hours what are the qualities of the light at sunrise and sunset that you find so compelling and use so effectively?
A: Sunsets and the sunrises offer the photographer soft golden light. The clouds during this period light up and display different colors dressing up your subject. Some of the colors I have seen in the alpine region are also very spectacular. The hues and shades of the colors in the sky are truly unique. The element of surprise and nature’s display is different each day; therefore I repeatedly visit the same scene trying to capture a different mood. During sunset and sunrise the light is soft, diffused and filtered. Under these circumstances it gives me an option and an opportunity to shoot into the light, which sometimes result in dramatic photographs such as the one from Greece in Santorini. When the shadows are soft, mysterious, and there is mist in the air, it tends to create a romantic ambiance. The nature of the lighting provides the widest choices for photography and varies each time.
Q: Unfortunately, in this digital age, the first word that will come to the minds of many people presented with an awesome image like “Flaming Cliffs at Sunset, Mongolia” will not be “Wow!” but “Photoshop.” The composition is masterful to be sure, but the colors are so far over the top they look unreal. Does this image represent exactly what you saw at the time, and do you ever use Photoshop or similar programs to tweak the digital images you shoot with the Leica M or your X2?
A: Most of my sunsets and sunrises are very colorful and are composed of rich unusual colors and hues. I call this the “transitional period” that is just before sunrises and after sunsets. The colors change rapidly during this phase.
I usually underexpose my images to capture all the highlight details and different hues of colors. If the exposure differential in the zones in my subject is more than three stops and I feel that the details in all the zones are important for my final product I do bracketing with multiple exposures and manually blend them in the computer. I used to do the same when I shot with film except that I blended them in the darkroom. My darkroom experience has helped me in the digital media. I do not infuse colors or saturations into my images. However, I do work in Photoshop to balance my exposures and bring out the shadow details.
To answer your question, yes the colors that I captured in this scene were exactly what I saw and there was no infusion or alteration of colors. Mongolia is vast open land shouldered by the Gobi Mountain Range and vast open areas surround the landscapes.
Q: On the whole “Taj Mahal at Sunrise” is a more compelling image than “Taj Mahal at Sunset,” partly because the closer vantage point of the sunrise shot and its vertical composition lets you see the spectacular reflection of this magnificent structure, forming a kind of mandala. But the quality of the dawn light also gives it an airy ethereal quality that is lacking in the horizontal shot. Do you concur, and which, if either, is your personal favorite?
A: The Taj Mahal with the reflection is my personal favorite. It is a strong contender for the front cover for my 2nd Edition of “Seven Continents” which will include images from India. This picture was shot handheld with the M and 24 mm lens because inside the Taj Mahal, tripods are not allowed due to security issues. The pinkish yellow hue was only present for the first three-four minutes; then it turned yellow.
Q: Aside from the crescent-shaped array of incredible stony palisades sweeping across the horizon in Scala Del Turchi, it’s the amazing light in the sky reflected on the choppy seas and off the gray rocks that transforms this picture into an amazing emotional statement. What feelings do you get when viewing this image, and can you tell us exactly where and how you shot it?
A: Scala de Turchi, Sicily is an example of a remote unknown location that I decided to photograph. I gave myself three days to study the location. It was a very simple scene with a crystal blue ocean and with white cliffs that gave it a lot of character. I visited the scene for two days in a row during the sunrises and sunsets but I knew that if I was patient enough I would capture it at its full splendor. On the third day, I was rewarded with this sunset that was God sent. It was again during the transitional phase about 20-30 minutes after sunset. The colors and display were beyond words and a feast to my eyes. It was extremely windy, especially standing above the cliffs. I had to hold on to my tripods that were placed on very uneven terrain, for fear that they would be blown over the cliffs. The scene changed very rapidly and was very unexpected. The saturation of the colors increased from a level three to a 10 in less than five minutes. I was rendered speechless as the red and orange hues were perfectly reflected on the crystal blue ocean. Within 10 minutes it began to fade quickly but I had caught the peak and my pulse began to slow down from the extreme excitement I felt due to such beauty that I had been blessed to witness.
Q: “Santorini Caldera at Sunrise, Greece” looks like a surrealist painting — it’s hard to believe that a place like this, and in such stupendously dramatic light, actually exists on this planet! How did you come to take this picture, what did you feel as you were just standing there, and how do viewers react to this image?
A: I spent one week in Santorini and shot every sunrise and sunset in different locations. For this particular sunrise, I had set my camera on a tripod to photograph the city of Santorini during the first few minutes that the golden rays were striking the city. It was a cloudy morning fueled by rapid winds and the dynamics were changing every minute. Just before the early rays of the sun had a chance to light up the city, heavy clouds rolled in and completely covered the sun. I was very disappointed to miss the first few minutes of the golden sunlight hitting my subject because the subject I was going to shoot did not light up with the morning rays of the sun. I looked back and I kept staring at the region of the sun covered by the clouds, hoping the winds would blow away the clouds to reveal the sun. Suddenly to my surprise and out of nowhere, the sky exploded with radiant color and created a very dramatic display of sheer beauty. I turned my camera around and shot the scene. The viewers in my gallery are amazed with this image and always want to know the specific details of my experience.
Q: How do you see your photography evolving over, say, the next few years and do you plan to explore any other genres? Do you plan on creating any follow-up books of your images that include personal narratives?
A: My passion is to continue to explore remote places that this earth has to offer through my strenuous hiking and trekking expeditions and capturing that beauty with my camera. As a photographer and as an artist I like to share my skills with budding photographers; therefore I will continue to expand my photographic tours and offer an array of different venues. This coming September, I’ll be releasing my 2nd Edition of “Seven Continents” at the NYC Book Expo America. From the beginning to the end, the book is composed of detailed story-telling, hair-raising adventures that I experienced during my photo shoots of the seven continents. Also, during my photo expedition in India in January 2014, I started to venture into photographing people and structures such as the magnificent forts and palaces of Rajasthan, India. I was also very fortunate to capture a tiger, which is rare to see, in Ranthambhore National Park, India. I guess you can say I am definitely venturing into other genres besides landscape photography.
Thank you for your time, Mohan!
– Leica Internet Team
Connect with Mohan on his website.