My Trip to Spiti Valley, Himachal Pradesh – Part 1

Category: Tips & Tricks | 10 July 2019

It was a long journey from a small town in Himachal Pradesh, Narkanda to Spiti Valley. During winters there is only one road accessible. All the way to Spiti, we were surrounded by mountains and as my destination was approaching, anxiety was building up. It was already night by the time I reached my first stop at Kalpa Valley, a small village in Himachal Pradesh. Being a travel photographer, I have been to many places with varied climatic conditions but this was my first experience in such extreme conditions where it was freezing accompanied by cold winds. I decided to call it a day and wake up early to shoot the sunrise. However, the excitement of capturing the beautiful sunrise kept me awake. Early morning, I was all geared up to shoot the magnificent sunrise.

EOS 5D Mark IV, f/22, 1/200sec, ISO 100

Day 1: Kinnaur

I saw the first ray of Sun right behind the huge Kinnaur Kailash range. The sight was breathtaking. Although it was freezing, but the peaceful and serene valley motivated me to keep shooting. Shooting landscapes in such an extreme climate is challenging.

Focusing is a very common problem in this cold weather and that is where my Canon EOS 5D Mark IV came in handy. The cross type AF system of the EOS 5D Mark IV helped me focus with speed and accuracy. I did not miss even a single chance to capture the shot I wanted to take. Later during post production, I could see the ease of retrieving details and sharpness in my images.

EOS 5D Mark IV, f/8, 15 sec, ISO 1600

Day 2: Pin Valley

My second stop was Pin Valley, a small village in Spiti. It is one of the coldest places in India. In winters, the temperature at night can go as low -29 degrees and during day it can get as warm as -9 degrees. It is because of such extreme temperatures, the locals move to a warmer place during winters. When I reached Pin Valley, I was disappointed to find the monastery I visited was deserted and the monks living there had moved. But that offered a very different perspective to shoot the monastery. Since snowfall was not in the weather forecast, the clouds were building up nicely for a beautiful sunset and that day, the sunset was way beyond my imagination. I planned to use HDR) and the dynamic range of the camera simply worked wonders.

EOS 5D Mark IV, f/16, 1/250 sec, ISO 100

Day 3: Pin Valley

I started my third day with a 20 minutes trek to reach Pin Valley National Park. At this time of the year, the place was completely deserted and seeing a Himalayan brown bear’s pugmark was sheer luck. The panoramic view of the national park is something to experience, be it summers or winters.

The most difficult shot during my entire trip was to capture star trails. As a part of my equipment kit, I carry a gimbal which miserably failed at -5 degrees, but the camera was sturdy even at -29 degrees. Shooting long exposures has never been easier. Usually, DSLR cameras have an issue with battery in cold climates. All in all, I was carrying 6 batteries and throughout the journey not even one battery gave up while I was shooting. The one thing that was spot on during my entire trip, was my Canon camera kit (camera & lenses)

EOS 5D Mark IV, f/16, 1/10 sec, ISO 100

My Day 3 of the 6 days Spiti Valley trip ended with capturing the mesmerizing star trails at the Pin Valley National Park. To continue reading about the final 3 days of my Spiti trip, click here.


Dharma Chandru

Dharma Chandru, with over 20 years in photography, has an expertise in multiple genres. He firmly believes photography as an art form that should be explored to its fullest. From travel, landscape, food, sports, wildlife, architecture, weddings, photo journalism and infant photography, he has explored it all. Working with editors of many news media in his early days made him choose this path but when asked where his heart lies, the answer will be landscape and sports.