The Dancing Rivulet


Fading light can offer great pictures, as I discovered when I shot these sublime refl ections on the river Beas. Photograph/Rahul Sud

Rahul Sud has always been fascinated by the streams and rivers found in the Himalayas. This Kullu resident speaks about the art and craft of photographing waterscapes.

My Assignment

  • Description
    To blur the movement of water and achieve a soft, surreal, painting-like effect.
  • Duration
    Since 2002, the Himalayan brooks have been my favourite hunting grounds.
  • Notes
    Choose a section of the stream that is closer to its origin. This is because the waters in these areas are clear and the surrounding vista is rich in flora.

Around a decade ago, my photographic journey began when I started exploring the mountains in my hometown of Kullu in Himachal Pradesh. The stream flowing merrily against the backdrop of the mountains was enough to take my breath away. After the first few hikes, I started visualising and exploring the various possibilities of capturing photographs of these waterscapes.
For this, I had to do a bit of preparation. I planned each and every shot well in advance by doing research on the expected weather patterns and how that would affect the place. Then, I set out, exploring the abundance of natural beauty all around.

My Perspective
After observing a few streams, I realised that each one of them had a character of their own. While some could be defined by pristine waters, others had a bed of coloured rocks with foliage. With mist floating over, the brook would automatically get an ethereal effect. The moss and autumn leaves over the surrounding rocks added more colour to the scene.
I wanted the final image to reflect the essence of the area that I was going to photograph. So, though water was going to be an important element of the photograph, I needed to combine it with other elements to breathe life into the composition.

The Process
I often speak to the local guides to find out the types of trees, leaves and rocks that I would find. Depending on the effect I needed, I choose my equipment. For instance, to bring various elements together, a wide angle lens is ideal. But, at times, when I came across a striking cascade in a particular part of a brook, it made sense to switch to a telephoto lens.
Compositions that worked best were those in which there was a well-defined inlet and exit of water with the flow going diagonally across the frame. Depending on how smooth I wanted the waterscapes to look, I used shutterspeeds between 1/8sec and at times even as slow as 15sec and 4sec.
I love using film. Not only does slide film help me get great colours without any postprocessing, film cameras are also a lot more solid. Considering that I was almost always shooting around water, I was more confident about using my sturdy film SLR, as compared to a complex digital cameras that tend to be rather delicate.
Of course, since I am around water constantly, carrying protective gear is a must. I use simple objects like a raincoat, umbrella and plastic sheets to protect the camera. The terrain is very difficult. There were a few times that I slipped, getting quite a few nicks and cuts. I recommend that anyone who wishes to trudge up the stream should take extra precautions.
Many great shots that I managed to achieve were during monsoon and autumn. The soft diffused light in these seasons works best for woodland streams.
I have realised that it is not just about photography. Even today, the sights around the rivulets in the Himalayas enchant me. I can sit by the stream for hours and soak myself in its beauty, if not shoot them.

My Equipment
My equipment bag consists of a Nikon F80 and three lenses—a Nikkor 24–120mm VR lens, an 18–35mm and a Tamron 200–400mm lens. I love using Fuji Velvia 100F film. A cable release and a sturdy tripod are a must too.

Tips on Shooting Stunning Waterscapes

  • Get drenched: Wade into the waters if it helps you achieve your shot.
  • Wear waterproof boots: This is essential to avoid slipping down the rocks.
  • Carry a sturdy tripod: Handheld shots at slow shutterspeeds will result in blurry pictures.
  • Get close to the subject: Use low vantage angles to strategically place all the elements in the frame. A diagonal composition helps.




To see more of Rahul’s stunning landscapes, visit

Tags: On Assignment, surreal, waterscapes, rahul sud, jun 2011, river beds, water photography, slow shutter, mystical rivers