Photographing the Sunrise at Darjeeling

I was on holiday with my family in Darjeeling a few years ago and one of the many popular spots there was known as Tiger Hill, a beautiful spot on the top of a hill to watch the sunrise from. It seemed the view was worth waking up at 3am in the morning for a lot of people because, having reached the spot, what welcomed us was quite a crowd standing shoulder to shoulder, wrapped up in jackets and shawls, eagerly awaiting the sunrise. Nonetheless, it was dark but, to the east, we could see a faint glow of light gently making its way above the horizon. The sunrise was imminent.

As the first hint of the sun slowly made itself visible, silhouetted figures of jittering teeth moved ever so slightly in its direction seeking warmth, perhaps, from the warm glow of this ball of fire. As did we until I noticed, somewhere to the north, the tiny outline of the world’s third tallest mountain, Kanchenjunga, being lit up by the rising sun. I immediately made my way through the crowd and set up the camera. No sun in the frame, just the mountain and the view. I was tempted to go back and try to photograph the sun rising above the horizon but I knew it’d be worth it, waiting for the sun to work its magic on these mountains; and how magical it was!

Little by little, the amber glow on the mountain grew increasingly vibrant… subtly contouring it’s every crevice. In the background, I could hear the ‘oooh!’s and ‘aah!’s as heads began to turn towards the mountains gracefully bathing in the glory of a new day. And that was that, Holi’day’ made!

This experience was a major turning point in terms of how I looked at sunrises and sunsets. While I had spent most of them staring in awe at the sun in the sky, I’ve made it a point since to take a look around and see how the rising/ the setting sun tells us a story on the canvas that is this beautiful earth!

So the next time you find yourself all settled in, with the frame set and awaiting the sunrise, try and see how your surroundings can tell you a story of the dawn of a new day… not just the dear sun!

(Put up pictures from your next sunrise/ sunset shoot and tag #LLAOnline! Time to get creative with LLAOnline!)

Shawn Stephen

I’ve spent nearly all of my life in the Nilgiris, a beautiful hill station in the South of India. With an inherent appreciation for landscapes owing to where I’ve grown up, I found myself best able to express this appreciation through photography. Which essentially is where my journey began.

A significant milestone in this photographic journey has been spending a year studying photography and eventually graduating from Light & Life Academy at Ooty. A place that has helped evolve my application of photography as a communicative medium.

This is where I currently am, at home in the Nilgiri mountains.