In the pitch black, he reaches his destination. The sounds of a gushing stream and the nearby crash of a waterfall tells him he’s in the right place. Looking towards the mountains, he notices the clouds. A faint glow begins to build behind them. He has five minutes. Quickly, he extends the legs of his tripod and secures it in place. He attaches his camera and aims it at the gathering light. Knowing this was his only chance, he sets his camera to long exposure and hopes for the best.
For Dr Bhuminan Piyathasanan, the sunrise at the Salto Grande Waterfall did not disappoint. A rich combination of magenta, red, and pink flood through his lens, allowing him to capture a breathtaking landscape. And as soon as it appeared, it was gone. The incredible hues of the morning sky replaced by blue daylight. That didn’t matter — the stunning sunrise was captured forever.
Visiting the Salto Grande Waterfall was a dream that began years before. Dr Bhuminan first got the idea when flicking through a travel magazine. There was an article featuring the Patagonian mountains.
“My first impression of this place was the cold weather and the very strong wind and the beautiful lenticular clouds. The glacial mountains looked spectacular.”
It was love at first sight for Dr Bhuminan, but it wasn’t till much later that his dream came true.
In April 2015, Dr Bhuminan finally overcame his fear of flying and visited Chile for the first time. In unpredictable weather, while carrying a 20kg backpack, and with a history of back pain, Dr Bhuminan trekked several kilometres to his dream destination. Every step is agony, but a step closer to his dream nonetheless. Dr Bhuminan would eventually spend two weeks trekking around the surrounding area, capturing shots of the remarkable landscape.
According to him, the key to capturing outstanding landscapes is to ensure that all the interesting subjects are in focus. When taking long exposure, he stresses that a solid tripod and a Neutral Density (ND) filter are vital. Talking about white balance (WB), Dr Bhuminan believes auto WB isn’t always the best way; instead, try using a customised WB that will suit your situation. Finally, when shooting on location, it is essential to have warm clothes and good wet weather gear. To get those amazing shots, you must brave the elements, so always be prepared.
Dr Bhuminan prides himself on photographing landscapes. It’s his attention to detail that allows him to capture such jaw-dropping vistas, usually in hard to reach locations. When asked what inspires him, Dr Bhuminan cited three main influences.
Firstly, cinematography. A good movie with excellent locations and well composed shots has always been a source of inspiration for him. Secondly, new equipment. Having a new piece of kit will create a sense of excitement, which then leads to more shots. Lastly, other photographers. It’s always good to examine the work of others to see how you can learn and improve.
Dr Bhuminan believes a photographer never stops learning. Joining a photographic community has helped him learn and grow as a photographer. “I improve my photography skills by tracking social media, joining photographic communities, and taking part in Nikon School. Recently, social networks like Facebook and Instagram have become very popular among photographers, where they share spectacular and interesting photos every day. I like to keep in touch with other photographers and learn from their knowledge and skills.”
To achieve many of his shots, Dr Bhuminan uses long exposure. He also uses multiple exposure, wide-angle lenses, and focus-stack blending. He emphasises the importance of maintaining the texture of a landscape. Using interesting foregrounds helps him achieve this, whether it is a flower, water or stone.
When asked why he has used Nikon all these years, Dr Bhuminan replied, “I am confident (of the) Nikon technology and the glasses in each lens. When taking photos in harsh weather conditions, Nikon products never disappoint me.”
If Dr Bhuminan had one message for up and coming photographers, it would be to keep taking photos no matter what. “If you feel very happy when doing it, then do it every day of your life. Take photos of your family, friends, objects and pets. No matter what you use as a medium, keep going on creatively. Illustrate beauty in an interesting manner and capture our existence for others.”
When Dr Bhuminan was younger, he found calmness and serenity in looking up at the night sky, and yearned to frame the Milky Way in a box that he could gaze upon whenever he wanted. His passion for photography stemmed from his determination to capture such sights, including scenes of rolling mountains and vast seas. He endeavours to present the world's natural beauty to his audience with the hope that they too will be awed by its splendour, and will be spurred to preserve it for younger generations.