Manish Mamtani: The Starry Sky Chaser
Manish Mamtani journeys across the landscapes of USA, in search of sparkling skies. Natasha Desai quizzes the photographer about these celestial bodies.
Our childhood experiences are often our companions through adulthood. I find that these experiences manifest themselves in ways we would never really think of. Growing up in Nagpur, Manish Mamtani could be found atop his house on most nights. On the terrace, the skies revealed their stunning beauty to him. He would look out for constellations and formations as he fell asleep in their glow.
This fascination with the night sky still finds a way into Manish’s photographs, as he sets out on frequent trips to capture the night skies of America. “To me, the stars are not just sparkling dots in the sky… they are prized jewels visible to those who seek them.”
Wanderlust Takes Over
Manish began photographing the different landscapes he encountered on his travels for work, several times a month. He grew so fond of exploring the outdoors that he continued shooting through the weekend, instead of making his way back home.
These wanderings led to several experiences that have seared themselves in his memory. “I will never forget the first time I saw the Aurora Borealis in Glacier National Park, or the first time I saw a meteor shower in Arches National Park, or even the time I saw a bear in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park!”
In Solidarity With Nature
A visit to the Yosemite National Park in 2010 found Manish falling hopelessly in love with the place. In what can only be described as a serendipitous moment, Manish soon discovered Ansel Adams, and his odes to the Yosemite National Park, in the form of iconic images.
Photographing the majestic sights of nature carries its own set of challenges. With a tenacity to find the best possible settings and conditions for his frames, Manish revisits places for as long as it takes to get the best possible result.
“Weather in the USA can be very unpredictable, especially when it comes to night skies. The change in season also makes a lot of difference. If I visit a place in spring with lush greens, I come back in a few months to find the same place covered with vivid fall colors or even snow.”
Manish usually goes out to shoot alone, although his wife occasionally accompanies him. “Even though I shoot by myself, I never feel any kind of loneliness. I feel almost complete whenever I am close to nature. It is what drives me to show everyone the real beauty of the landscapes around us. Being one with nature can put many things into perspective, like nothing else!”
The Whole Spectrum of Colour
A friend’s influence soon led Manish to explore infrared photography. He modified his Canon EOS 6D so that he could make infrared photographs. “This allowed me to paint the world with the hues of my imagination.”
Much like mankind’s desire to go where no man has gone before, Manish’s next frontier is to explore deep sky photography. “You never know… I may even spot a UFO some day,” he says with a chuckle.
I see a sense of wonder in Manish, probably brought on by his peering into the skies. “There is so much out there that we are unaware of. I appreciate our existence, which is frankly, nothing more than a tiny dot amongst billions of galaxies.”
“I don’t think the night skies will ever cease to amaze me. With each trip, I discover something new.”
Gadgets & Gear
- Manish uses a Canon EOS 5D Mark III and a Canon EOS 7D for landscapes and wildlife.
- His lenses include a Canon EF 8-15mm f/4L Fisheye USM, EF 16-35mm f/2.8L II USM, EF 24-70mm f/4L IS USM and a 70-200 f/2.8L with an extender.
Tips by Manish
- Nature and wildlife sanctuaries are open only during certain periods. Make sure you research the best times to visit.
- Being creative is as important as technical knowledge. Reinvent your photos every time you find yourself shooting a similar subject.
This interview originally appeared in the July 2015 issue of Better Photography.
About Manish Mamtani
He is a self-taught, avid photographer whose work has been published in various periodicals like National Geographic, Vanity Fair and Nature’s Best Photography. Manish went to the USA as an IT consultant, but now plans to take up photography as a full-time career. His favourite pastimes are mimicking Bollywood actors and listening to ghazals. You can view more of Manish ’s photographs on his website.