Saturday, 30 January 2016

Working in India (Part 2)

I regret now that I didn't do much travelling within the country during my two years in India. For the most part, my travel was limited to the trip back and forth to Delhi every 5 months or so for my time off, which I spent outside of the country. That said, I did make three trips further up the Satluj River during my time there. The first was necessary, to have my residency paperwork updated, while the second and third were purely sightseeing with some of the other ex-pats on the project. There was actually a fourth "sight-seeing" visit that I took, but I will cover that one separately for reasons that will become obvious. In addition, there were a number of work-related scouting expeditions during which I managed to take some photos of the landscape.

The regional administrative centre was in a town called Reckong Peo / Kalpa, which is less than 50km up the Satluj River from where our offices were in Sholding, but it probably took at least 2 hours of driving to get there. The condition of "National Highway" #22 left something to be desired for most of its length - it was subject to frequent landslides and washouts. 

The road near Wangtu - actually a fairly good bit, all things considered.
How would you like to trust your life to the masonry "guards" on the site of the road?
Still, before NH 22 was built, I believe the main route was the narrow path showing as a line half-way up the mountain in this view looking west from our camp at Ponda. So I shouldn't complain too much.
Reckong Peo / Kalpa are situated on the west bank of the Satluj River, and look east towards the 6050m high peak of Kinner Kailash. The settlement is quite high up the mountain, although I suspect it plateaus a bit, as there is a fair amount of fairly level areas around the town.

It was kind of hard on the nerves to be so high up that you could look down on other high up settlements, without having a rail between your vehicle and the drop.
The "parade" ground outside the government building where we got out papers.
View from a schoolyard looking east towards Kinner Kailash.
This rock wall and fence is on the edge of a school yard, a fair ways up the slope of the mountain on the north bank of the Satluj. The cloud at the top of the photo is obscuring the peak of Kinner Kailash.

The schoolyard itself. Classes were held outside that day.
My next post will cover some other travels up the Satluj River.

Tuesday, 19 January 2016

Morning Harbour Traffic

When I arrived at the ferry this morning, there were two ships at anchor hiding in the snow squall that enveloped the harbour. One was HMCS ATHABASKAN, after arriving earlier in the morning, with a geared bulker in the foreground (whose name I did not record):

Geared bulker with HMCS ATHABASKAN hiding in the background.
The snow squall eased a bit shortly after I took this photo, enough that I could see out into the harbour approaches as CCGS Sir William Alexander approached George's Island. 

CCGS Sir William Alexander with the George's Island lighthouse.
When conditions are right, you can see the ship's wake stretching out to either side for quite a distance.

Monday, 18 January 2016

Working in India (Part 1)

Fifteen years ago, in January 2001, I was leaving Northern India where I had spend the better part of two years living, and working on the Nathpa Jhakri Hydroelectric Project. Working for a Canadian construction company that was in a Joint Venture with an Indian firm, I had arrived in India in February 1999, less than a year after graduation from university. It was a bit of an eye opening experience to say the least. 

About five years ago, I posted many of my photos (scanned film and digital both) to my Smugmug site, but for this anniversary I thought I would post some of my favourite images here over the next few weeks. I will start with some of the general scenery that I captured on my trips to and from site.

Traffic in New Delhi, with what I believe is an abandoned mosque in the background. Check out the advert sign in the top right.
I didn't spend much time in New Delhi, as it was only a stopping point on the way back and forth to the project site. I would fly into Delhi, usually from Frankfurt, and stay a day or two at the company's accommodation house. Depending on the time of year that I was there, it was either comfortable (January/February) or inhumanly hot and humid (July/August). From Delhi, I was usually driven (always with a driver, I only drove there once myself) north to either Chandigarh or Shimla to spend the night (though once took the train to Chandigarh). The dual carriageway highway from Delhi to Chandigarh took 6 hours and was not for the faint of heart

Not a great photo, but check out the approaching headlights: a car going the wrong way on the divided highway.
Although to me just another stopping point on my journey, Chandigarh is a "planned city" which Wikipedia indicates was "completed" in 1960. The master plan was prepared by Le Corbusier and others. From Chandigarh, I would head up to Shimla on National Highway 22, a climb of 4 hours.

Approaching Shimla.
As I can attest, the climate in Delhi is not terribly comfortable for northerners, and the British apparently agreed with my assessment - they moved their capital in summer to Shimla, up in the mountains. I'm not sure Shimla was my idea of comfortable in the height of summer either, but at least it was less stifling than Delhi.

From Shimla, the trip to the project site continued on NH 22, and took either 6 hours (if a certain mountain pass wasn't closed by snow) or up to 12 hours if the road conditions dictated. NH 22 starts to behave somewhat like a snake on acid between Narkand and Bithal, and I suspect it was this section of highway that we avoided by heading up into the mountains. I had to take the lower road, and longer journey, at least once that I remember.

The workers camp at Jhakri, not far from the powerhouse (which was built under a separate contract by an Italian firm).
In contrast to the divided highway between Delhi and Chandigarh, NH 22 is a two lane (sometimes single lane) road that snakes its way along the Satluj River on its way to the project site and beyond. This road, too, is not for the faint of heart. Somewhere between Chandigarh and Shimla I would take off my seatbelt, on the theory that it became more important to exit the vehicle quickly if things went wrong than to be restrained from injury in an accident. Case in point:

View from NH 22 looking down at the Satluj River, with another road on the other side.
Thankfully, I never had to test that theory. In some places, the engineering that went into constructing this road was obvious and impressive.

NH 22 approaching Sholding. The office location is in the distance.
The rock in the Himalayas tends to be of fairly poor quality (e.g. soft), as the mountains are relatively new and time and nature haven't had as much time to wear them down (as they have with the Rockies). Travelling through these partial tunnels could be a bit nerve-racking.

After many sights such as the above, which apparently featured in a season of "Ice Road Truckers" (which I haven't seen), NH 22 arrives in Sholding (where the office was) and continues up to Nathpa (where the dam is) and beyond. 

Sholding (bottom left) and Ponda (upper right).
From Sholding, a small road switchbacks up the mountain to the expat camp at Ponda. Every work day during my two years there, I would make the trip down from Ponda in the morning to Sholding, and back in the evening. After that arduous first trip to Ponda, though, I was greated with a beautiful view from what would be my home for the next two years.

The view from my room (summer edition).
The view from my room (winter edition).
It may be these views that I miss the most from my time there.

Looking south.
Looking north.
It was always hard for me to understand that these were just the foothills of the Himalayas. 

Friday, 8 January 2016

(Sea) Smoke on the Water

While I dread the cold temperatures every winter, I do look forward to the opportunity to photograph Halifax Harbour covered in sea smoke - all the better if ships are present. I got that opportunity this week, and lucked out in that it wasn't actually all that cold - we got sea smoke at a relatively balmy -12 degrees C when I expect to see it at -17 or below. On a side note, this probably means that the water in the harbour was warmer than normal for this time of year.

A photo that I have always been fond of is one of the old Foundation Maritime steam tug Banscot. Probably taken in the 1940s, Banscot is just appearing out of a fog of sea smoke on a cold day in Halifax. 

Banscot. Wetmore Photo, BFC Civil collection.
The sea smoke nicely isolates the tug from the Dartmouth shore in the background, and gives a ghostly feel to the image. I always want to capture some of this image's magic when I see appropriate conditions on the harbour.

As luck would have it, CCGS Cape Roger was on her way in during my trip to work this week, and I was able to get photos from the Halifax waterfront. It is one of my more successful series of sea smoke images.

CCGS Cape Roger passing the George's Island lighthouse in sea smoke.
CCGS Cape Roger.
CCGS Cape Roger.
The first two images were fairly monochromatic out of the camera, being shot into the sun, so I converted them to black & white. The last image showed enough red of the hull that I left it in colour.

HMCS FREDERICTON was departing that same day for deployment on Op Reassurance, but unfortunately not until 1300, so I wasn't able to combine a frigate and sea smoke - not this week, at least. I have managed it in years past, however, like with this shot last year of HMCS HALIFAX:

Ten years previous, I caught HMCS CHARLOTTETOWN as she returned to Halifax, caked in frozen sea spray.

A month later in February 2005, I was similarly lucky to catch Eide Transporter as she delivered the fire-damaged HMCS CHICOUTIMI to Halifax. At the time, I lived in an apartment building and had a balcony that overlooked the harbour narrows. The sea smoke was particularly heavy (and high off the water) that morning, and Eide Transporter and her cargo appeared out of the mist north of the Macdonald Bridge and disappeared once again into a thick bank of sea smoke as she passed under the McKay Bridge on her way into Bedford Basin. I was lucky to have seen her at all.

Eide Transporter and HMCS CHICOUTIMI.
Many years previous to this, somewhere in the 1970s, my grandfather captured this image of a ST. LAURENT class destroyer heading out of the harbour.

ST. LAURENT class destroyer in sea smoke. Sandy Mowat photo.
The powerplant in the background is now, after many renovations, the new Nova Scotia Power headquarters on the Halifax waterfront.

Over the years, I have managed to catch a variety of ships in a variety of sea smoke conditions:

IT Intrepid in January 2008.

Georgia S.


Chebucto Pilot.
Sea smoke also enlivens conventional landscape (or seascape) photography as well.

George's Island.
Macdonald Bridge, January 2007.
A couple of ships did manage to sneak their way into the final above image. The former HMC Ships TERRA NOVA and GATINEAU appear at left at the old gun wharf. They, along with the hammerhead crane beside them, have since been cut up and dismantled. While again shot into the sun, this image was converted to black & white for a different reason than the images commented on above - in this case, shooting into the sun resulted in some lens flare in the top left of the image that I found distracting. It was going to be too difficult to edit out the flare, so I converted to black & white in order to be able to hide the colours of the flare. Overall, I think I like the image better in black & white anyway, so it all worked out in the end.