Post Trip Mail – Heritage Photography Trip – ECR – 12th & 13th October, 2013

Writeup by Rangarathnam

Exciting or peaceful? How would you like a trip to be?! Our two-day trip to Tranquebar and a few other places en route was excitingly peaceful! We could peacefully click away at all the opportunities that offered a fodder for our lenses.The trip started off as scheduled on 12th morning in the wee hours. An enthusiastic welcome awaited me as I boarded the van from very friendly strangers. 

A comfortable journey to our first (breakfast) stop, a pretty decent breakfast at Pondicherry and then yet another comfortable drive to Pichavaram watching the dozen or so kingfishers that dotted the power lines on the way.Reaching Pichavaram, we swung into

action, hiring two boats for an hour’s ride. 
The mangrove forest presented a lush-green environment and our oarsmen obliged us by taking us through the intricate maze of thickets that constitute the forest. Enjoying the ride, we spotted people catching fish in the fully manual mode as well as using boats. 
Cameras at ready ensured prompt recording of available action and some were even fortunate to capture a fishing net being cast! After this controlled excitement of maze tracing, we had a session with the telescope fitted in the observation tower.It was noon by then, and a drive to Chidambaram saw us keeping up our appointment with the lunch-house.
 The organizers very thoughtfully sought to accommodate a few vegetarians in a separate eatery, but the offer was politely declined. We are pure vegetarians, not puritanical vegetarians and we lunched as a group.A bit of disappointment was in store for us, as we trooped to the Nataraja temple; the portals would not open for us as the latest security policy demanded a clampdown on visitors between 1PM and 4PM. 
So we happily acceded when a community member, also happened to be an alumnus, suggested we take shelter and shade at the grounds of Annamalai University. We spent the next couple of hours getting to know 

each other. Everybody had a try in presenting a picture of themselves, which effort was punctuated by punchy witticisms of Muthukumar. Back again knocking at the doors of the temple at 4PM, this time we gained easy access and had a wonderful session along the outer courtyard with our cameras. Two curiosities that deserve mention are 1) a sculpted figure with a distinctly Mongolian features and 2) a pillar that looked close to a Mayan totem-pole rather than a South Indian
structure. We also visited the inner sanctum, but then no cameras allowed there of course. At dusk we drove to Thirukadayur, had an excellent dinner there and also found our lodgings for the night.A sequence of alarms starting to go off from 3AM onwards ensured that all of us were up, ready and raring to go by 5AM. A pleasant drive took us to Tranquebar as the first lights of the dawn rolled up the canopy of the night-sky.
 Elated by the magical light of the early morning and bracing sea-wind, we had good pictures of the Danish Fort. Exactly at 5.59AM, we were treated to a glorious sunrise, with a clear horizon, pushing us to the pinnacle of photographic promise.
 As a bonus, a kite made itself available and patiently waited till we were able to get our heart’s content of its pictures. A friendly staff from the Fort’s curator obliged us by giving access to Fort, earlier than expected and an enjoyable session amidst the ramparts followed. 
Some hot tea and onward to Poompuhar. Poompuhar offered us anticlimax by the way of breakfast fare and we visited the Art Museum. The Museum is impressively visualized and constructed but lack of illumination either natural or artificial was a bit of a dampener. A comfortable drive, with a pretty decent lunch in between at Cuddalore, and Pondicherry roads and parks and beach were available for us to go around scouting for photo opportunities. We wound up at 5PM, had a sedate drive, nice dinner and were back at Adyar just short of 10PM, 13th night. Assiduous organization, pleasant weather, pretty decent fare for food, perfectly sane driving all went together to make this an exhilarating and rejuvenating trip; and we did not even indulge in the national pastime of running up a fiscal or a current account deficit.
Writeup by Rajesh Ramanathan
It was an awakening of sorts, I should admit. My first ever outing with CTC – the Heritage Photography trip of 12th awakening came in at 3 am. The mind was raring to go, the body was struggling to keep pace, yet I had managed to reach Tidel Park, the starting venue, bang on time – at 4 am. After managing to locate the organizers who were already waiting – Nivya and Navanee – within minutes, the quick intro and chat spilled over to the other tour participants who started streaming in. And by the time the group of 20 was good to go, some of us had already found common ground and topics of interest to discuss all the way.Breakfast stop was at Aboorva, and after a short drive we reached Pichavaram. 
The first group picture happened with all of us decked in brightly colored life-vests. All of us then eagerly climbed on to the waiting boats for a nice trip into the mangroves. I vaguely recollect reading about the ecological importance of mangrove forests and their role in serving as a buffer zone between the sea and the shore. This peculiar bit of topography does more than preventing land erosion due to the wave effect.
 They serve as a calm and safe breeding ground for several small fishes and some invertebrates. And well, like in any other case, we also saw the humans improvising their survival by crouching in waist-deep waters to catch fish and crabs with bare hands! It was also a nice experience to go through the labyrinth of mangrove trees with the roots conducting a dual life – below and above the water – and see the little life forms they support. Ok where was the shutter moment in all these? There was this fisherman on a boat who carefully lined up his net and flipped it in the air with such flair, that it set the army of 20 cameras into burst mode! Our journey continued and we reached Chidambaram and settled for lunch by mid-day. 
Ravenous is the adjective that would suit the state of hunger for most of us as the tables of Moorthy Café resembled a battle zone. After a spirited discussion about the optimal spiciness one should expect in food, some of us seamlessly slipped into a serious talk on optics, pros and cons of zoom vs prime lens, sensors, pixel sizes etc. Food for the tummy, food for thought as well, what say! With a little bit of an unexpected breather in the schedule, we all nicely settled under a tree shade for a round of self-introductions among us. 
This was clearly the most defining part with respect to ice-breaking within the group. We not only got an insight into the immense biodiversity (sorry for the reckless use of such a sensitive term, but man, you should’ve heard it to believe it!) in this motley group – with people from engineering, HR, research, software, banking, consultancy – you name it! And there were this beacons who have so decisively given up mortal pursuits to take up something sublime and something what their hearts told them to do – photography of course! There was a complete palette of aspiration, ambition and passion. These were, I assure you, some really inspiring and interesting individuals.By 4.30 pm, were at the Nataraja temple.
 From the word go, the cameras sizzled at each piece of wonder – the ornate gates, the imposing gopuram, the pillared hall and the action all around. We left only by dusk, after clicking as much as day light allowed us to click! One of the last images was that of the wonderful streak of colours painted out in the evening sky. A couple of hours drive later we reached Tirukadaiyur and had dinner at Mani Iyer’s. A long day had come to an end when we hit the sack, with the alarm set in our minds to get up at 4 am and leave by 4.45 am to see the sunrise at Tarangambadi a.k.a. Tranquebar. What we witnessed there and 13th October was truly a memorable one – this is no cliché. The literal could easily be the highpoint of the tour – amidst announcement by miraculous hues of the sky and feisty applause by the waves, the rich red sphere emerged out of the azure ocean in a dazzling display of might and majesty! 
The group was busy creating a portfolio for this celebrity in all possible styles – wide angles, tele zooms, half immersed, full blown, silhouettes, long shadows and subjects illuminated with soft light. This also invited a couple of Brahminy Kites to join the fun, while a few black eagles didn’t quite approve and was intent on arguing it out with the innocent Kites.
We then moved on to the Danish fort and took in its beauty and symmetry.
 One more group photograph came out on the ramparts of this brilliant fort. 
This was followed by a drive to Poompuhar, the place with such a lot of historical, cultural and mythological significance – not to mention the booming trade center and famous port town that it was. We visited the “mani mandapam” which carried an impressive tableau of the story of Kannagi and Kovalan, so beautifully 
crafted in stone. By now the sun was not quite as merciful as it was in the wee hours, but we did find the usual shaded and tree-cooled area for a little chat, before proceeding on the drive to Pondicherry. At Pondy, the group branched out to go and click subjects of their interest, including the pleasing “White Town” area with its brightly coloured buildings bringing back the memory of French presence during the colonial times, the rocky beach promenade and the cobble-stoned streets. 
Dinner at A2B, Mahabs was a quiet affair. It was not due to the exhaustion, but rather due to the reflection that each one of us was going through, on the experiences and opportunities over the last couple of days. The learning, the camaraderie and pure fun that we had were fantastic and memorable. We bid adieu – but only after promising each other that we’ll all get together again shortly for a post-trek meet-up.
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