On the Edge of Extreme

On the Edge of Extreme

By Dhritiman Mukherjee

Life freezes during the winter in this highlandacross the north-western frontier of India. Temperatures drop down to –25 degree Celsius in the lower altitudes. As we approached this barren Tibetan plateau, it was veiled in a thick layer of powdery snow, while the rugged grey mountain slopes were embellished in bridal white. Thick layers of hard ice covered the surface of the rivers and the lakes. Cloaked in an eerie silence, our occasional company were the resident wildlife endemic to this part of the Himalayas—Tibetan wild asses, Tibetan wolves and a host of others that can survive this extreme weather condition. What follows are visuals from an extraordinary journey through challenging routes and harsh weather, accompanied by the Sony ALPHA range of professional DSLT cameras and plenty of survival gear. And finally, being able to capture some rare glimpses of the elusive ‘Grey Ghost’ it its magnificent natural habitat ensured that this would remain a trulyincredible expedition. Within my first couple of days in the highlands, I’d managed a few glimpses of the elusive Snow leopard. However, these were all shots taken from a distance, Finally, there was fresh snowfall one evening, and we could track the leopard movements more clearly. Trekking up a precarious ridge almost 600-700 ft high was followed by over 10 hours of wait on a cold, windy ledge. I was armed with a tripod, but it was no match to the fierce winds of the altitude, and it was difficult to keep the frame steady. At this point, Sony A99’s Steady Shot mode really helped in reducing vibrations and giving me a rare image of a Snow leopard mother-and-cub interaction. Cubs are known to stay with their mothers for around 2 to 2.5 years beforethey become independent. The idea was to document the extreme nature of Himalayan winters in these unearthly landscapes. While placid ice covers most visible surfaces, I used a very basic plastic housing for the A77 camera to record life beneath the solid snow. The camera worked excellently, despite the indigenous cover. Temperatures were extremely low, there was ice everywhere, but beneath the surface, life was thriving as usual, even in these harsh, seemingly unliveable conditions.

  • A Snow leopard walks across the landscape in the d...

  • Indus basin in Changthang is home to large herbivo...

  • In the Himalayas as we climb up, the plant life is...

  • Apart from the Snow leopard, the Tibetan wolf (Can...

  • With ambient temperatures below the freezing point...

  • Abutting the Tibetan plateau lies the Greater Himl...

  • Sheer hard work, perseverance, focus and a steely ...

  • A Snow leopard mother and cub walk across a frozen...

  • A lone Chukar (Alectoris chukar) gazes out from th...

  • The Changthang plateau with its harsh living condi...

  • Secretive and sulking, this Pika (Ochotona sp.) ca...

  • As temperatures rise in the Zanskar valley, the ha...

About Dhritiman Mukherjee

Dhritiman Mukherjee, arguably the most respected Nature photographer in India today. He has been working mostly on rare, endangered and challenging subjects, especially in India. He has travelled and photographed most of the national parks and bio-zones in India. He has also covered some of the major international wildlife destinations. He is a field guy and stays more than 280 days, a year, in the field.Dhritiman is married to his art, and lives in Kolkata those few days when he is not out in the wilderness, where he truly belongs. As a professional photographer his work is being published in all kind of print and digital media in numbers and with brands like BBC, National Geographic, New York Times, Lonely Planet, London Geographic, WWF, UNESCO, Birdlife International etc to name a few. He has got many national and international awards and accolades for his images. Recently he has been awarded with Carl Zeiss Conservation Award 2013 for his contribution towards conservation of wildlife in India. He is one of the founders of “Saevus”, one of the leading nature and wildlife magazines in India.