Explore the Elements

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.

Earth 2

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.

Fire 2

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). Air 2

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!):

  1. Svetlana of maverickbird
  2. Ian of ianscyberspace
  3. Sree of Sreeistravelling
  4. Maniparna of Scattered Thoughts
  5. Alison and Don of Adventures in Wonderland


The copyright to all the above pictures lies with me. Any subsequent use made by Thomas Cook of these photographs will not infringe the rights of any other party.

44 thoughts on “Explore the Elements

  1. Thank you so much for nominating me! I am so honoured. Especially since you are the third person to nominate me in the past 2 days. But it is too short notice for me. The deadline is tomorrow, and we’re travelling at the moment – out exploring most days. I did try, and spent a little time choosing photos but found I didn’t have the energy to continue. I don’t want to throw something together. If I were to do it I’d like to be able to do a beautiful heartfelt thoughtful post like yours and I could sense that’s not where my energy wanted to go.
    I love this post. I love the depth of it, and the caring behind it. I also love your *stunning* photos, especially the first three. Thank you.


    • I’d have loved to see your pics, but I understand. Maybe you’d like to take this up for the fun of it, when you have some time to spare. :) Thank you SO much for your kind words, Alison. Coming from someone like you, whose thoughtful, deep and reflective posts I admire, your words make me really happy. Thank you!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you, Ami. For me, more than anything else, it was an excuse to pull out some pictures from different trips and put them together.
    This post of yours is a visual treat. I love the landscapes and the portraits and the profound words that go with the images.
    Awesome job, Ami.


    • Thank you, Divya, for nominating me for this! Like you, I too loved the thought of pulling out old pictures and revisiting some old travels. :) I really enjoyed putting this post together, and I’m so happy you liked it. :) Hugs!


  3. Pingback: Exploring The Elements | Scattered Thoughts

  4. Wow! I did not know you participated in the contest…How could I miss such wonderful entries? All of them are fantastic. Also love the way you connected the struggle and emotions of human life with the elements. Superb!


  5. I have been going through your blog since morning (although couldn’t read too many posts because of poor connectivity) and all i can say is your blog rocks. Love the thought behind each post, the photographs, and the brilliant narration.

    I wanted to leave a comment on your new year post but then thought what’s the point. It’s an old post and you probably wouldn’t even realize that someone has left a comment there. I was just glad that I read such a lovely post. Btw, why would someone in his/her right mind go skydiving and jump from the sky for no apparent reason? The mere thought of it sends chills down my spine.


    • Thank you SO much for dropping by, and the very kind words! :) Wouldn’t have missed your comment on the New Year post since I get a notification for each comment, and believe me – the notification for yours made me very happy :D I’m sure one has to be at least a little nuts to want to jump out of a plane, lol. But sky diving was on my wishlist for a looong time, and I enjoyed every bit of it, even the first few moments of the dive when my brain went, “daaaaamn, goodbye world!” Haha, anyway.. thank you so much for reading all the posts you did. :) See you around soon!


  6. Hey Amy I have this feeling that I have commented here as I have been through this s post earlier !! Strange !
    Any ways… I lived it .Beautiful shots and description of the elements …. Periyar hmmm. Can plan a visit there :)


  7. Such lovely pictures, the “still water” picture is awesome…there is something mystical about the scene and the composition of the photograph. The reflection and the solitary bird on an desolate branch…it keeps you hooked.


  8. Wow… so deep… its like life. The selection of the photos for the categories of each element – I am no judge but its beautiful, the reason you selected the photos add to the beauty giving it meaning. Now in Sri Lanka that fire sky photo, did you see sun rise at mid night or after your trekked at mid night you reached the peak at down or something, just enquiring. Nice… very creative and interesting posts!!!


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