Saturday, May 14, 2011

Stitching Together a Memory of Dalhousie

"Be my little friend
Through the mountain's end
We could write a book
Without thinking how we look"

Greendale is Where I Belong (2010)
by Ludwig Göransson

It's a beautiful song from, Community, my favourite TV show ever.

A few days ago, I tried something new which I have never attempted before: stitching photographs together into a panorama. I have not read any on-web or off-web instructional literature on how to do it, no one ever showed me the ropes, and I most certainly did not download any photo-stitching software to help me. I literally did not know the first thing about stitching pictures, but armed with nothing but Photoshop CS4, I achieved it after forty minutes of cropping, scaling, skewing, distorting, correcting the lens, and adjusting the exposure of the separate pieces. It was sweat, spunk, blood and gut - and it was worth it.

Here, dear readers, is the result,

You must click on it to see it in its full glory! C'mon, I worked hard on it!

So, what's your verdict?

I thought it's reasonably seamless, considering that I have never done this before. It is comprised of three separate photographs I took from the north-facing Thandi Sarak (the "Cold Road") at Dalhousie in the Chamba Valley. When I first feast my eyes on this scenic vista, I was gobstopped and awestruck by its grandeur. There were nothing but snow-capped mountains bordering the entire horizon from end to end like a titanic wall of ice and rock right out of the imagination of a fantasy novelist! Standing there on the viewing pavillion, I told myself that I couldn't just photograph a small disembodied segment of the scenery because that would do it no justice in the least.

Right. Now that I've started a post about Dalhousie, I might as well dump the rest of my photographs taken at that hill station here.

So, the story is this: by the time I arrived in Pathankot, it was already past six in the evening but rather than calling it a day, I bullishly pressed on anyway and boarded a bus to Banikhet which, I was told, is situated just seven kilometres away from Dalhousie. The man who sat beside me on the bus was carrying a labrador puppy in a box with him - which is a marvellous idea, if you ask me. I think everyone should carry a puppy everywhere they go.

Man with Labrador Puppy on Bus to Dalhousie
Look! It matches his beard!

After reaching Banikhet, I was fortunate enough to meet a local tourist who made it his personal responsibility to get me to Dalhousie, where he was heading to as well. We split the cost of a cab, and shared an excruciatingly painful conversation en route. He spoke almost no English but that did not deter him from wanting to make small talk anyway. So, we had to cooperatively make sense of every single word he cheerfully butchered with the aid of hand gestures and funny faces. There were times in our dialogue when I was simply nodding and agreeing to spirited gobbledygook.

When we finally landed and I said goodbye to my temporary friend ("bye bye" being one of the few English words he fortunately commands), I found myself crashing headlong into a glitch in my plan. I discovered that the boarding house I planned to stay at was undergoing renovation work. And no, I did not call ahead to make bookings. In fact, I did not make a single reservation in my entire month-long backpacking trip because I arbitrarily decided that that's just 'not my style, baby'. I am often deliberately stupid like that.

It must have been about midnight when I heard eerie high-pitched cries coming from the direction of Subhash Chandra Bose's statue at Subhash Chowk where I was hunting for board and room. Naturally, I went to investigate (because getting a place to stay that night so I don't freeze to death wasn't at all a pressing issue, silly). I was glad I did because under the monument, I discovered a litter of seven round, fluffy PUPPIES!

They made my three-day stay in Dalhousie so much more fulfilling that it otherwise would have.

Dalhousie Puppies Licking My Hand

Dalhousie Pups
"Is it can be hugs tiem now plees?"

Dalhousie Puppies on My Leg
"This leg is ours now. Say bye bye to it."

Dalhousie Pups on My Shoe

Dalhousie Black Puppy Shy
"Take me home please, mistah..."

The Tibetan Spirit Guide™ told me that I wouldn't find much to do in Dalhousie (and she was right), but I personally thought it's a perfect place for bookish travellers such as myself to read and write. In fact, I spent entirety of a whole day there just sitting in a café reading Aravind Adiga's The White Tiger from cover to cover. The Tibetan Spirit Guide™ recommended it to me as brutally honest portrait of the Indian working class, and after stumbling across a paperback of it in the guesthouse I lodged in, I simply couldn't pass it up. I had a mind to simply nick it and I must admit the temptation was almost overpowering, but being an atheist, I believe I should be beholden to a higher standard of conduct - so I didn't.

Gandhi Chowk at Dalhousie Crop
Gandhi Chowk.

Sepia Tea for Two
A grandmother having tea with her grandchild at Café Dalhousie.

Along the pedestrian-only Garam Sarak (the "Hot Road") in the south, you'll find a series of Tibetan rock paintings presumably created and maintained by a small group of Tibetan refugees who had chosen to make a home out of Dalhousie.

Tibetan Rock Painting
The stone says, 'Oṃ maṇipadme hūṃ.'

When I was in primary school, my school decided to hold religious classes for non-Muslim students to keep us occupied every Friday when the Muslim boys go for their prayers. All of the Buddhist kids were lumped and dumped together into the school hall with no regards to the various different sects within Buddhism, and the Taoists were thrown into the mix as an afterthought even though Taoism is an entirely different religion (apparently, everything the Muslim school administrators learned about Buddhism and Taoism came from the popular Hong Kong TV series, Journey to the West).

Then, we were all made to chant the mantra  "Oṃ maṇipadme hūṃ" along with a cassette player for a whole hour. That was it. There were no stories about Buddha, no discussion of morality or Buddhist philosophy; not even an explanation of what that six banal syllables meant. We were expected to simply drone mindlessly on without any understanding at all. Meanwhile, the Hindu kids had epic fantasy story-time with tales from the Ramayana and Mahabharata. So unfair.

Tibetan Rock Painting Triad
The topless one on the left is White Tara. The middle one looks like Buddha. No clue about the blue one.

Tibetan Rock Painting at Sunset
Okay, I know I have at least one Tibetan reader. Who is this deity?

The St. Francis Catholic Church at Subhash Chowk had a private menagerie which is open to visitors free of charge, and the most exotic creature featured there is a huge tom turkey donated from an American benefactor.

Turkey Drumming in Dalhousie
After learning about clades, I find that every time I look at a bird, my mind goes, "Holy crap, it's a dinosaur!"

It appears to be moulting. I also think it was 'strutting' to attract mates, plucked breast notwithstanding. It was pacing about, dragging its wings on the ground while periodically letting out a deep alpha rumble - which according to what I read is called 'drumming' (this should give you an idea of how much thought and effort goes into every post here). The red, fleshy snood and dewlap were engorged, as they usually do when tom turkeys strut.

Duck in Swan Pose
The duck held that swan pose for 15 minutes, and was still holding it when I left.

Little Doggie at Dalhousie
Yet another stray pup. I found this one at the Tibetan market.

I left Dalhousie on the third morning and caught a bus to Khajjiar, with the plan of dallying a few hours there before making my way to the once-kingly city of Chamba. The reason why I kept changing the subject is because there really isn't much to be said about Dalhousie. It's a nice town on a mountain with a view to kill for, and I liked it enough to stay for three days.

Don't forget to let me know what you think of the stitched photograph! That's the whole point of this post right there. And now, I'll stop writing and end this with a picture of a small yappy-type dog with a tilaka mark on its forehead.

Small Yappy Type Dog in Dalhousie
Thank you, Eddie Izzard, for putting that phrase into my vocabulary.

You are welcome.

Will not make puns about being in da house,
k0k s3n w4i


i am missmobilicious said...

In Photoshop
File - automate - photomerge
sometimes it makes life easier there :)
But most of the time, circumstances had me stitching the panorama manually too.

tendol said...

Ok, I feel pressured now to talk about those deities. Just kidding.. I couldn't name them off the top of my head, but a couple of looks at those written mantras and letters on the side and I think I got it. The blue one is Avolokiteswara (the deity with 1000 hands and eyes), the one Dalai Lama is said to embody; the deity of compassion.
The one below by its own is Guru Padmasambava, a sage guru who had an interesting and important influence over Tibetan Buddhism.

Beautiful panoramic picture of Dalhousie there. Looks a bit like Mcleod except that there is the flat Kangra Valley stretching down south in the latter.

That dog in the last picture is very common in Mcleod. I don't know what they are called. I used to own one before.

mg said...

great work! and cute puppies

Anonymous said...

Dunno much about stitched photographs but that one looks great. ;) The puppies are super cute! I wanna take one homeee! Plus, I love the photo of the grandmother & little boy having tea.

c3rs3i said...

Well done with the panoramic pic - it's seamless as far as I can tell. Stitching scenery is a tricky business imo. My cam has panoramic mode and comes with a photo-stitching software but even when taking photos of objects with well defined structures, I don't always get a seamless photo so I can appreciate some of your effort here.
As for the scenery itself, I particularly like the gradient effect where both the top and bottom of the pic start dark and somewhat converge into the whiteness of the clouds. I can't quite decide if I like the trees being there - on one hand they frame the picture, on the other, it would open it up to a sideways vastness without.

"I think everyone should carry a puppy everywhere they go." - the blondest sentence I've read you write, but I concur. =)

Love the smouldering-puppy pic you captured, and at high-angle too. This one has the making of a model.

I feel that having been called some permutation of a bird in the past lends weight to my opinion that that is one seriously unattractive male. Even for a turkey. It looks quite diseased x.X

For (my) commenting convenience, please consider ascribing some sort of indicator to each photo - numerical ones are popular with other bloggers. I would understand if you like reading the descriptions your readers come up with.

k0k s3n w4i said...

i am missmobilicious: i did not know that such a function existed in photoshop! thanks for the heads up! i'll see how it works the next time i got some photos to stitch together :)

tendol: hey, i learned about padmasambhava at the losel doll museum at the norbulingka institute! he supposedly brought buddhism to tibet, right? he's to vajrayana buddhism in tibet what bodhidharma is to zen buddhism in china. anyway, i think dalhousie stands apart from the highest peaks, so one could get a good view of the mountain ranges from there. have you been there before?

mg: thanks :)

lovealynna: ah puppies; the kryptonite of girls everywhere. i wish i managed to get a proper side profile of the boy's face though.

c3rs3i: are you talking about the black pup? it wasn't taken from a very high angle at all. i was just lucky that i snapped the picture just when it was being coy. and you're right about it having the makings of model - i have another solo shot of it which i did not post up (i had to toss a coin to decide which one to publish). as for the turkey; i was on a turkey-owner forum where they were discussing about moulting. apparently they sometimes lose their breast feathers and then grow them back good as new. i suppose i just caught it at a bad time. also, you suggestion about numbering my pictures is noted. my next post (about the kangra railway) was already written, but i'll see if i can do it in my subsequent picture heavy posts :)

tendol said...

No, I haven't and I don't plan to, but maybe just as a stopping place on my way to Chamba and Bharmour, if that ever happens. We will see...

Yes, he did indeed bring buddhism to Tibet from India. He is also associated with the formidable yet impressive Tiger Nest's monastery in Bhutan. And I have this huge suspicion that you missed out on visiting his place. It is called Tso Pema or Rewalsar, about halfway on the way to Manali from Mcleod Ganj. I am only telling you this because the place is quite scenic, especially if you go further up the lake into the mountains.

k0k s3n w4i said...

tendol: you are right. i haven't been to most of mandi (i only got as far as joginder nagar to take the kangra rail). still, i think it's premature for you to say that i have missed out on going to rewalsar. i do plan to visit the indian north at least one more time in the future, with a tentatively sketched route starting from mcleod ganj and ending in leh.