With an experience spanning more than 30 years and having been featured in prestigious magazines including Washington Post, Alpinist and The Outdoor Journal to name a few – Sujoy Das is no stranger to photography or navigating his way through the mighty Himalayas. The self-taught photographer and founder of South Col Expeditions speaks to us about photography among other things. By Amitha Ameen

1. Tell us about your association with Mountain Echoes?

I was invited by Mountain Echoes to speak at the 10th edition of their festival in Bhutan that took place between August 22-25, 2019.  Our new book co-authored with Lisa Choegyal was showcased at the festival.

2. How important do you think platforms like these are for today’s youth?

I think they are very important as they give an opportunity to the youth to interact with different personalities from different professions from all over the world.

3. Photography has taken you around the world. What is your favourite place to shoot?

It would be in the mountains of Nepal, Himalaya. I have spent around two decades shooting in Nepal and the opportunities it has offered me have been incredible. I have done three books on Nepal.

4. Do you remember the first photograph you took? Where was it?

It was on a trek to Sandakphu near Darjeeling, I think in 1976 when I had just finished school from the bungalow of Tonglu looking at the Kanchenjunga range floating above the clouds. This, in fact, fired my interest in photography.

5. Tell us one crazy experience you have had while shooting.

I was trying to reach the Sikkim-Tibet border in North Sikkim at an altitude of 5,000 metres riding a yak; unfortunately, the yak had other ideas and as I was about to shoot some photos it started racing up the valley and threw me off! Luckily, the camera did not suffer any lasting damage!

6. In today’s digital age, everybody owns a high-quality camera. How does one stand out?

You are right. All cameras can take great photos, but it’s the eye behind the lens that’s important; you need to see things in a different way, in a different light, at different times of the day, and to create something different from the run-of-the-mill photo.

7. What kind of traveller are you?

I like to travel light, usually carrying my own backpack.

8. Do you prefer solo or group travel?

I usually travel in small groups, maybe with a few like-minded photographers.

9. What are the three things you must have while travelling?

Well, since most of my work is in the mountains, I would never leave home without a sleeping bag and a warm jacket —  both are essential for survival.

10. What is your most favourite destination in India?

It would be Sikkim, a state where I have spent many months photographing, especially the unspoilt Zemu Valley of North Sikkim in the shadow of Mount Kangchenjunga.

11. What does it take to be a successful travel photographer?

You must be prepared to spend time in the field often in very difficult and arduous conditions. You must also focus on weaving a story around your photos, just isolated images are not good enough and they won’t find a market; most editors will reject them.

During all my time spent in the Himalayas, it’s always been a search for the right light, the right time of the day, the right perspective and the right second, which transforms an ordinary or mundane view. In many of my photographs, there is a story waiting to be told. I hope I have been able to tell it well.

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