O’er vales and hills

Between my undergraduate college and postgraduate school now, I spent four months looking for a reason not to pursue physics. I found none. Physics has a logic to it, and an emotion few are lucky to see; once you are acquainted with it, it is hard to find anything else more satisfying than looking around you and being able to trace why something is the way it is, all the way back to around 13 billion years ago.

As I pen this, I sit with a cup of coffee, over two-thousand metres high on the edge of a balcony in a stoneclad house overlooking a deep valley embraced by several lush, green tropical mountains.

And it is not physics that I am thinking of.

Continue reading

Photo foray: One house with a lot to say

About a fifteen-minute drive from my house reside my relatives — distant relatives, but relatives nonetheless. And fine people too. Their residence is a sprawling, 78-year-old, single-storey house built in 1935 British India: a place oozing welcomeness and carrying an ambiance (of what appeared to me during the couple of hours I spent there) of serenity and distance, yet closeness, to the urbanity of Mysore city.

The living room has an architecturally simple but rich feel to it
The living room has an architecturally simple but rich feel to it
A stairway from an inner room
A stairway from an inner room
What is at the end of the stairway
What is at the end of the stairway
Photographs like this enrich blank walls throughout the house: a glimpse into history even as we stand inside history itself
Photographs like this enrich blank walls throughout the house: a glimpse into history even as we stand inside history itself
A classic Murphy radio that I just might fancy more than my Tune In account
A classic Murphy radio that I just might fancy more than my Tune In account

The feel

I admire and am excited by everything vintage — I’ll readily step into a time machine taking me back to Victorian England — and this little visit was no different. I am indeed very grateful to them for allowing me to invade their privacy and shoot their house more or less unrestricted.

The first thing I saw as I entered the house: a bookshelf by a window
The first thing I saw as I entered the house: a bookshelf by a window
The near-perfect bedroom: voluminous, high-roofed and warmly lit
The near-perfect bedroom: voluminous, high-roofed and warmly lit
A side-view of the old house, looking South
A side-view of the old house, looking South
The Madras Sanskrit Academy (c. 1940)
The Madras Sanskrit Academy (c. 1940)
Looking up, towards the roof
Looking up, towards the roof

The look

A fine lawn covers most of the grounds around the place in which potted plants abound and a scatter of trees rise from down south. With glass doors opening to a cozy portico and a smaller, wooden one serving as the main entrance, the place oozes old school sophistication from the moment you step in.

Looking north
Looking north
The main entrance
The main entrance
Looking in through the side door
Looking in through the side door (see two pictures below)

It was luncheon hour and I hated to take anymore than half-an-hour but I found it quite easy to lose track of time once I was inside. And I hate to go on with words when I have a select few photographs I made there.

A catchy embossed modern artwork fits snugly into an old home; I have no further details about this, though
A catchy embossed modern artwork fits snugly into an old home; I have no further details about this, though
Side door inside
A side door
An elaborately styled rocking chair; my second favourite after the La-Z-Boy Rosita
An elaborately styled rocking chair; my second favourite after the La-Z-Boy Rosita

My work

My intention was to portray the house as it was: practically, not idealistically. That meant I had to suppress the artist in me to climb, crouch, lay prone and shoot from awkward angles and instead shoot more descriptive pictures. Again, more practical and less artsy ones.

Alright, one aesthetically incline photograph: excusable. High roof, three ventilators, one fan, all white, little black, nothing else. Oh, and the light.
Alright, one aesthetically inclined photograph: excusable. High roof, three ventilators, one fan, all white, little black, nothing else. Oh, and the light.

I could have turned the photographs inside out in post processing, but restricted myself there too. I hope I have done a better job of representing the near-century-old house than of digitally painting it.

The dining; with a cook book, I presume
The dining; with a cook book, I presume

Further, none of the rooms were set-up; I believe the house gets more life this way, if things are as they usually are in the middle of the day rather than being straightened out as if specially for a photo shoot. In any case, that is the way I prefer it.

Jog falls, by a famous painter whose name I (unfortunately) forgot
Jog falls, by a famous painter whose name I (unfortunately) forgot
Mt Nilkant and Bhadrinath in an old photograph of the famous Himalayan town
Mt Nilkant and Bhadrinath in an old photograph of the famous Himalayan town
An old chair that caught my eye. I wonder if it is as old as the house.
An old chair that caught my eye. I wonder if it is as old as the house.
And the living room again
And the living room again

The R.K. Narayan connection

Apart from the numerous old photographs, invaluable paintings, and nostalgic dolls pleasantly overwhelming anybody who walks into the living room was a little factoid that held my awe for long: this house was, apparently, where R.K. Narayan wrote one of his famous novels, The Guide. His room is pictured below:

Let us call this the R.K. Narayan room.
Let us call this the “R.K. Narayan room. “
From one of the doors
From one of the doors
RK Narayan - bed
More photographs and artwork above the bed
I like to think Narayan used to look out this window, thoughtfully, as he wrote his books
I like to think R.K. Narayan used to look out this window, thoughtfully, as he wrote his books

The time I spent here was memorable (I rarely make photographs otherwise!) and I hope the beautiful place stands tall ad infinitum.

Wishlist: Seven places I intend to visit

I have often come across lists of ‘Ten places to see before you die!’ (Not to mention the elephantine NYTimes bestseller, 1000 places to see before you die.) The pessimism in these titles hardly appeals to me, I have, since long ago, decided that the number ten is some sort of sleight-of-the-mind rounding-off habit that most humans had acquired, which trained their minds to look at a list of ten things as complete (for reasons beyond me.)

I decided to go in for a more practical approach and settle for as many as I actually mean to put on this list rather than want to. The result is this wishlist article. I stumbled upon these places in books (most notably the RD classic, Strange Worlds, Amazing Places,) magazines and elsewhere.

 7.  Tuscany, Italy

Having been fascinated by Tuscany ever since I first saw a photograph of the Tuscan sunset, I have found an increasing number of reasons why it should be on the list. Presently, I have it at number 7!

Tuscany
San Quirico d’Orcia, Tuscany, photograph by Matthias Rhomberg

Six Tuscan localities have been designated World Heritage Sites: the historic centre of Florence (1982), the historical centre of Siena (1995), the square of the Cathedral of Pisa (1987), the historical centre of San Gimignano (1990), the historical centre of Pienza (1996) and the Val d’Orcia (2004). Furthermore, Tuscany has over 120 protected nature reserves.

And then there is always nature which is worth an entire visit by itself!

 6.  Vienna, Austria

Mozart’s statue, Vienna, photograph by Nico Paix

Vienna, also described as Europe’s cultural capital, is a metropolis with unique charm, vibrancy and flair. It boasts outstanding infrastructure, is clean and safe, and has all the inspiration that you could wish for in order to discover this wonderful part of Europe. In a recent survey, the city was declared the place with the highest quality of life all over the world!

And the one reason? It is the centre of medieval Western music, from Mozart to Beethoven to Joseph Haydn to Franz Schubert. Statistically speaking, no other city on Earth have so many musicians ever made their home!

 5.  Monuriki, Japan

Monuriki is the underrated island in which the famous film, Cast Away, was shot. It is, perhaps, as isolated from civilisation as Miranda was from men. And, arguably, this is one of the best escapes that actually stay true to the actual sense of the word!

Monuriki island, Japan, photograph by Heinz Albers

 4.  Sweethaven Village, Malta

Popeye Village, also known as Sweethaven Village, is a group of rustic and ramshackle wooden buildings located at Anchor Bay in the north-west corner of the Mediterranean island of Malta, two miles from the village of Melliea.

It was built as a film set for the production of the 1980 live-action musical feature film Popeye, produced by Paramount Pictures and Walt Disney Productions and starring Robin Williams. Today it is open to the public as an open-air museumand family entertainment complex.

The construction of the film set started in June 1979. A construction crew of 165 working over seven months was needed to build the village, which consists of nineteen authentic wooden buildings. Hundreds of logs and several thousand wooden planks were imported from Holland, while wood shingles used in the construction of the roof tops were imported from Canada. Eight tons of nails and two thousand gallons of paint were also used in construction.

Sweethaven/Popeye village, Malta, photograph from Wikimedia Commons

In addition, a 200-250 foot breakwater was built around Anchor Bay’s mouth to protect the set from high seas during the shooting.

The set was completed in seven months, and filming commenced on January 23, 1980. The film, based on the comic strips by E.C. Segar, is set around the fictional village of Sweethaven where the sailor Popeye arrives in an attempt to find his long lost father.

Although the film was initially perceived to be a failure (but not in my eyes,) Popeye (or, rather, Sweethaven) Village remains a popular tourist attraction.

 3.  Neuschwanstein castle, Bavaria

Neuschwanstein castle, photograph by Alaskan Dude

Built in the 19th century by the mad king, Ludwig II of Bavaria as a homage to Richard Wagner, this tourist hotspot in Germany has well got to be my top favourite building on Earth. And for somebody with such tastes, I doubt ol’ Ludwig was all that mad.

Built on the ruins of the earlier Hohenschwangau castle where Ludwig spent his childhood, this dreamy place has rooms inspired in arcane fashions by the many compositions of Wagner.

In turn, the castle inspired Walt Disney to create the famous Sleeping Beauty castle seen in the equally famous film by the same name.

 2.  Paris, France

Little, if anything, need be said about this city.

An important settlement for more than two millennia, Paris is today one of the world’s leading business and cultural centres, and its influences in politicseducationentertainmentmedia,fashionscience, and the arts all contribute to its status as one of the world’s major global cities. In 2009 and 2010 Paris was ranked among the three most important and influential cities in the world, among the first three “European cities of the future” – according to research published by the Financial Times and among the top ten most liveable cities in the world according to the British review Monocle. Paris also ranked among the ten greenest European cities in 2010. Paris hosts the headquarters of many international organizations such as UNESCO, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) and the informal Paris Club.

Paris, photograph by zoetnet

Paris and the Paris Region, with €552.1 billion in 2009, produces more than a quarter of the gross domestic product of France. According to 2008 estimates, the Paris agglomeration is, scantily after London, Europe’s second biggest city economy and the sixth largest in the world. The Paris Region hosts 37 of the Fortune Global 500 companies in several business districts, notably La Défense, the largest dedicated business district in Europe. According to the latest survey from Economist Intelligence Unit in 2010, Paris is the world’s most expensive city in which to live. With about 42 million tourists per year (28 in city proper of which 17 million are foreign visitors), Paris is the most visited city in the world. The city and its region contain 3,800 historical monuments and four UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

 1.  Metéora, Greece

Right on top of my list is the Grecian monastry town of Metéora (meaning suspended rocks (in the sky) and giving origin to the word meteorite.) At an extreme level, it would perhaps be the only place I would truly describe as one nobody has words to describe.

One of the largest and most important complexes of Eastern Orthodox monasteries in Greece, second only to Mount Athos. The six monasteries are built on natural sandstone rock pillars, at the northwestern edge of thePlain of Thessaly near the Pineios river and Pindus Mountains, in central Greece. The nearest town is Kalambaka. The Metéora is included on the UNESCO World Heritage List.

Meteora, Greece, photography by alaskapine

Access to the monasteries was originally (and deliberately) difficult, requiring either long ladders lashed together or large nets used to haul up both goods and people. This required quite a leap of faith – the ropes were replaced, so the story goes, only “when the Lord let them break”. In the 1920s there was an improvement in the arrangements. Steps were cut into the rock, making the complex accessible via a bridge from the nearby plateau. During World War II the site was bombed and many art treasures were stolen.

Only six of the monasteries remain today. Of these six, five are inhabited by men, one by women. Each monastery has fewer than 10 inhabitants.

Had enough?

As a bonus, I also would not pass a chance to visit Roswell.

Yes, I want to believe. [vhb]  Cover image: Flickr/katerha 

Village roads

This is box title
Update: July 08, 2012

As promised I took another trip down the same road (and then some) and I’ve now got over 25 photographs that I think paint a great picture of this short route. It’s in the same album (follow the link at the bottom of the page) so enjoy! And, yes, I used a camera this time!

A DOZEN KILOMETRES SOUTHEAST of my city lie several under-explored villages, so I decided to take a quick ride around a few days ago and capture the sights of the land. While I have not really done justice to those places considering I had very little time (the rain was not helping in the least) and since I was basically just exploring it myself, I ran down (and up) numerous empty lands with hardly any well defined subjects.

Nonetheless I kept my spirits high, vowing to use Google Maps next time — and charge up my camera battery; I took all these photo with my phone because I had not really planned well ahead.

The villages that I went past were not what one would term nucleated; there was no signs of active life which would encourage street photography and/or documentation, but there were several smaller, harder to notice subjects I did like, which I photographed.

Another interesting thing were the few people who were present. They intimidated me and wrecked most of my photographs with their understandable, but hardly tolerable, inquisitiveness.

Below I have about seven photographs that I clicked en route that I think will vaguely give you an idea of the place. I have more on the way because I am planning a second trip down the same roads and will hopefully be able to take more of to shoot things and better represent that countryside.

View the full album