The pleasure of controlling a tool that allows us to bring something creative to the world, even if it’s an imitation of the world itself, is something deeply personal and universal at the same time.
When Ms Kochhar bought her first camera, a Canon 1100D, she was making images mainly in auto mode, whenever she was going on long drives for day trails with friends. A deep desire for learning more and using all the features of her camera was only growing stronger, and as if on cue, someone mentioned Toehold to her while she was on a trip to Goa.
Ms Kochhar always knew that the best way to learn the technicalities of an art was to practice in the field until the acquaintance with the intricate details became a habit, almost instinctive, by and by. And that is precisely why she chose to go on Toehold Photo Tours.
She declares that she doesn’t consider herself a professional photographer, humility which helps her learn something new with a child-like, untainted curiosity on every Tour.
Ms Kochhar states that the untiring passion and patience of the Toehold Skippers encourage the Tour participants who are eager about learning new things. In her own words: “It’s not only during the Photo Tours that the Toehold Skippers pay attention to your needs and queries. Even days after a Tour, if you come across a new question or a doubt, they answer and clear it with the same zeal.
“To me, what is important about learning this way is that there is no pressure to learn anything fast. The Skippers guide you through a gradual understanding of the camera and the subjects with a constant and unrelenting interest. Also, Toehold Tours are perfect for solo female travellers as they feel completely safe. There is so much to learn and the process is made so easy, that it’s comforting to know that it’s no rocket science. It is also a fun-filled process because of the great sense of humour and the spontaneity the Skippers show.”
Ms Kochhar recalls how she had a hard time believing pictures in which one or more tigers were captured drinking water from ponds and lakes, or cubs playing around the mother, until she herself went to Ranthambhore and saw tigers in action and being flamboyant in their natural habitat.
She exclaims, “It is intriguing how the entire group is witnessing the same scene in a forest, but every person gets a unique shot at the end of the day, because each one assimilates the guidelines given by a Skipper in his/her own way. Everyone has a mind of their own and that is why each piece of art is unique, although the subject is pretty much the same.
“When Toehold Skippers share their points of view, it doesn’t really feel like they are critiquing our work, but in their endless patience and with their validating examples, their perspectives come across as alluring and educative suggestions. This is how the aesthetics of images keep getting better with every Photo Tour for a participant.”
Ms Kochhar used to think that she loved all genres of photography without bias, until she went on the Ladakh Photo Tour that gave her complete creative freedom. Unlike wildlife tours, on which one has to sit in a safari vehicle throughout and photograph animals, Ladakh gave her an opportunity to seize the beauty of the mountains, rivers, lakes, villages and everything else while on foot.
She liked how she could walk, squat, and even lie down on the ground to make pictures, and that she could move physically farther from or closer to the subjects to try different angles and perspectives.
She also mentions that she wouldn’t mind going to Ladakh again because she would have learned more about different places there and can make better images without being driven by anxiety, but only by impulse and love for the exotic landscape. She particularly cherishes photographing the star trails and other phenomena of the night sky.
Another place Ms Kochhar talks excitedly about is Jim Corbett National Park. She explains poetically how the place unfolds itself in unexpected ways – a mountain that appears suddenly, a flat land that begins abruptly, and paths lined by trees under whose tangled branches one gets to continue the journey in a spectacular land.
In conclusion, Ms Kochhar shares her thoughts about the pristine places on Earth we barge into, the territories of all living beings in the wild. She stresses on the importance of exploring such places quietly, without leaving any sort of litter behind, and even during photographing, how important it is not to forget forest etiquette and ethics.
She says that one must accept an unexpected lack of sightings on a wildlife tour, because the animals can’t be expected to put up a grand show all the time. And to her, just being in the jungle, being fully present with keen senses, away from the usual cacophony of places inhabited mainly by humans, is itself utter bliss.