Elements of nature are so deeply rooted in our psyche, they even pervade the perceptions we form of what we see around us. Fire is associated with passion, vibrancy and force: the fire in their bellies to achieve something, the fire in his eyes to prove everyone wrong. Air makes me think of freedom. Also, something unreliable, something close enough but just out of my grasp, or something that makes up the ‘feel’ of a place: the air in the room shifted perceptibly. Water is ever on the move: fluid, supple, mischievously gurgling out of sight. And earth, good ol’ Mother Earth, is rock steady, solid, unmoving, and dependable.
When Divya in her recent post (a feast for the eyes!) nominated me to take part in Thomas Cook’s ‘Explore the Elements’ travel photoblogging challenge (“a competition about capturing and expressing the four elements through travel photography”), I got thinking of pictures I’ve taken over the years that might capture the spirit of these elements. I realized that my literal and metaphorical interpretation of these elements was starkly different, and it was tough to go with only one of them, so I’m putting up both. It would be interesting to see which one strikes you as a better representation.
First, the four official entries for the challenge:
What: “An earth painting”
Where: Spiti, India
Why: The landscape is rock solid, yet undulating. Mountains emerge from the plains, standing as still as they have for ages. I like that the picture presents different forms (and colours) of earth – the dry and barren mountains in the backdrop, the almost-dried river bed snaking its way across, and fertile plots of land in the foreground.
What: “Still waters”
Where: Periyar, India
Why: The water is calm, still, without a ripple, very unlike the image that ‘water’ conjures up in my mind (furiously streaming past, or cheerfully gurgling in a brook). The unusually clear mirror-like water, coupled with the dried stem vegetation rising from the surface, makes for a strangely eerie effect, and the morning mist adds to it.
What: “Flames of sky”
Where: From Adam’s Peak, Sri Lanka
Why: This is one of my favourite pictures, even though calling it “sky on fire” would be terribly cliched (of that, I’m guilty, yes). A midnight trek up to the peak of Sri Pada montain in Sri Lanka brought me face to face with a sunrise I can never forget.
What: “Air of mystery”
Where: Nandi Hills, India
Why: The representation of air here is more atmospheric than literal. I love the spooky feel of this picture. It was a beautifully mist-laden morning when I made my way up to Nandi Hills from Bangalore, and something about this particular part of the woods, with its lone bench, called out to me.
Now, I come to the second part of this post. Below are some pictures that capture the elements for me in a more metaphorical way – they’re stories more than pictures, and interpretations more than meaning.
Earth: Steadfast, dependable, resilient, nurturing. I met this lady in Dhankar village in Himachal. Bent low with age and lower still with the load of fuel-wood and grass on her back, she was nevertheless strong and persevering.
Fire: Impassioned, burning (desire), spark. I met this young boy in Spiti and was surprised to hear that he had come all the way from Bihar, alone, to find some work, his lips cracking in the dry cold his land never experiences. Everything about this place was alien to him, from its climes to its tongue. But he was determined to stay on, work hard, learn the language, and earn enough to keep sending home money.
Air: Independent, light-hearted, mischievous, unattainable. This girl was the leader of her pack, and her sharp tongue (licking into shape the younger kids of the group) was matched only by her razor sharp wit (she induced me to part with the two pens and a notebook I was carrying).
I’d love to hear your interpretation of the elements, and better still – your photographic representations. :-)
Thank you, Divya, for nominating me for this challenge. For my part, I would love to see these five fellow bloggers take up the challenge (if they would like to, and haven’t already!):
- Svetlana of maverickbird
- Ian of ianscyberspace
- Sree of Sreeistravelling
- Maniparna of Scattered Thoughts
- Alison and Don of Adventures in Wonderland