In northern India lies Ladakh, a territory full of high-altitude plateaus, lakes, and mountain ranges. Within the oft-contested Kashmir region, it is one of the few places in the country where a photographer might encounter frozen lakes and extreme winter weather. IT professional and landscape photographer Venkitesh Ramachandran has made it his goal to photograph India's hidden gems—among them Ladakh in winter. His incredible images of the region depict an unforgiving yet beautiful landscape that is simultaneously lonely and awe-inspiring.
Ramachandran first picked up photography in 2015 while on a trip to Thailand. Since then, he has made a serious study of travel and landscape photography using his Nikon D750. He snaps portraits of India, his home country, while on trips with his family and has also trekked solo in the Himalayas on his quest for the best shots. This experience in an extreme environment prepared him for Ladakh in winter where the low temperatures and wind chill can be dangerous for those without the proper experience and equipment.
“I have not seen many photos of Ladakh, especially winter shots,” Ramachandran said. “I really wasn’t expecting glorious sunrise or sunset. I know the clouds are going to be gloomy with a few optimistic colors here and there. So, I was more focused on mood expressions and the loneliness type of shot.” These images—shot at up to 18,000 feet in altitude—capture a remote world including scattered human subjects framed by imposing mountains.
The natural elements made photographing Ladakh a challenge. Some shots were hard to focus because Ramachandran's eyes watered from the wind or the tripod swayed under the camera. Other times, the temperatures were so cold he could not remove his gloves to depress the shutter. The wind and altitude also made breathing more difficult, but it was worth it. Ramachandran says of Ladakh, “I really want people to explore India as there are so many hidden gems. My advice: go well prepared as it is a very high altitude and oxygen levels are low. You need to be in good shape and wear at least four layers of clothes to keep yourself warm.”
While a level of expertise is necessary to remain safe on winter expeditions in Ladakh, everyone can enjoy Ramachandran's stunning shots of the region's beautiful landscapes. You can follow his work on his website and Instagram.