Ian Lockwood


Posts Tagged ‘Douglas Hamilton

Palani Hills: Then and Now

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Looking east to Mount Perumal and Shembaganur from Eagle Cliffs. A DR image composed of five single images exposed at different exposures. September 2013.

On the Palani Hills southern escarpment, looking east to Mount Perumal and Shembaganur from Eagle Cliffs. An HDR image composed of five single images taken at different exposures. September 2013.

Douglas Hamilton's sketch of the same area. Done in the mid 19th Century and published in his posthumous 1892 book A Record of Sport in Southern India.

Douglas Hamilton’s sketch of the same area, made in the mid 19th Century and published in his posthumous 1892 book A Record of Sport in Southern India. His view emphasizes the Pambar Valley (to the left) and the ridge leading to Coaker’s Walk (center). I was likely standing on the upper spur (seen in the far left) to get the above image. Hamilton has included himself in the image, seemingly stalking a Nilgiri tahr on the cliffs.

One of the developments in digital photography that has helped photographers create amazing images from otherwise ordinary scenes is High Dynamic Range (HDR) photography. Thanks to developments in digital photo editing it is now a process that takes little effort other than some careful planning, the use of a tripod and some editing on Adobe Photoshop. My interest in the process is based on an ongoing fascination with light, the photographic process and working the visual present what the eye sees. Ansel Adams’ writing on the Zone System served as key background reading to understanding light, tonal range and exposure. Thus, before I started these digital experiments I had made efforts to capture and present a broad tonal range with photographic film and paper. In recent months I have been experimenting with multi-spectral satellite data that often extends beyond what the human eye can perceive. Issues of tonal quality and range are just as relevant here as in with a analog or digital photograph. I’ve taken a while to come around to HDR but recently had a chance to experiment with it in the Palani Hills.

The pictures in this post were taken on a recent sojourn in Kodai where I was participating in KIS council meetings. It is a privilege and an enormous responsibility to be a part of the governance of a school deeply involved with innovative international education. Nevertheless, I am always more effective in meetings if have had a chance to get outside and commune with the landscape! On both mornings that I was there I had a chance to take short walks before our sessions started up. It’s my habitat to walk up through Bombay Shola to Coaker’s Walk and check the air clarity. In the morning the birds are active and there are always White-bellied Shortwings  (Brachypteryx major major) and Grey-breasted Laughing Thrushes (Garrulax jerdoni farbanki) to listen to and glimpse. This time there was a Malabar Whistling Thrush (Myophonus horsfieldii) lurking and calling near one of the streams that has sprung up from the recent rains. Unlike last year, I did not see any gaur or hear their rutting. The views at Coaker’s were good and I extended my walk up by St. Mary’s and then down through Pambar Shola to the cliffs that overlook the southern plains. After a prolonged drought the hills and plains have had rain and the views were excellent. There is no better way to start a day in Kodai…

Some of these areas are the same places that Douglas Hamilton had visited, hunted in and sketched in the late 19th Century. Marcus Sherman has led a quiet but determined effort to put information and links about Hamilton on Wikipedia, which I have linked here. I even had a chance to squeeze in a quick motorcycle visit to Pillar Rocks before the tourists came out. Hamilton made some of the earliest sketches of this  natural granite edifice that all good tourists in Kodai visit. It still has some of the finest views of a classic Western Ghats escarpment.

Looking south over the edge of Eagle Cliffs to the Vaigai Dam.

Looking south over the edge of Eagle Cliffs to the Vaigai Dam and Periyakulam. The Highwavy Mountains are on the far side with monsoon clouds blowing over from Kerala. This was once a favorite haunt of Nilgiri tahr and other large mammals.

Pillar Rocks, Palani HIlls (September 2013)

Pillar Rocks, Palani Hills (September 2013)

Pillar Rocks by Douglas Hamilton (mid 19th Century). The angle to get this view is now wooded with non native plantation trees. Sambar deer, meanwhile, are making a comdback int he Palanis after years of poaching decimated their populations.

Pillar Rocks by Douglas Hamilton (mid 19th Century). The angle to get this view is now wooded with non-native plantation trees. Sambar deer, meanwhile, are making a comeback in the Palanis -after years of poaching decimated their populations.

View of the lake and Perumal (September 2013). Hamilton also sketched this in the mid-19th Century (before the lake was made by Henry Levign) but a good digital copy is not yet available as far as know.

View of Mount Perumal and the lake (September 2013). Hamilton also sketched this in the mid-19th Century (before the lake was made by Sir Vere Henry Levinge) but a good digital copy is not yet available, as far as I know.

Lower Palani HIlls, after recent rains, looking south. September 2013

Lower Palani Hills, after recent rains, looking south. Taken on the way down the Ghat as I journeyed back to Colombo,September 2013.

For more information on HDR look up Cambridge in Colours’s site, Adobe’s page and the Luminous Landscape (2012). There are also several Photoshop Plugins that help you with your HDR work flow. I have used Nik Software’s HDR Efex Pro for most of the images here.


Hamilton, Douglas. “Drawings by Douglas Hamilton.” Wikipedia. Web.

Lockwood, Ian. “On the Danger List.” Frontline. August 2-15, 2003. Print.

Mitchell, Nora. The Indian Hill Station: Kodaikanal. Chicago: University of Chicago, 1972. Print.

Wyckoff, Charlotte Chandler. Kodaikanal 1845-1945. London: London Mission Press, 1945. Print.

Written by ianlockwood

2013-09-25 at 5:05 pm

Into the Anamalais

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Windmills with the Anaimalais and monsoon activity in the background. This is the eastern part of the range near Udumalpet. It was taken in 2006 but also during the South West Monsoon.


To those familiar with the Western Ghats the Anamalais (sometimes spelt “Anaimalais”) conjures visions of vast wilderness areas with varied landscapes and myriad life forms. From the northern plains near Udumalpet and Pollachi a wall of rugged mountains runs east on the same latitude from the Palanis into the Anamalais.  On a clear day, it is a breathtaking view. Douglas Hamilton, the 19th Century British surveyor, artist and adventurer who was one of the first Europeans to describe and sketch the Palani Hills, visited the Anamalais for indulgent bouts of “sport.”

Douglas Hamilton’s sketch co of the “Ibex Hills, Ananmullies.” My guess is that this was based on a view looking east over Karian Shola where there are still Nilgiri tahr to this day. I climbed the peak in 1998 but do not have a comparative view to share. The sketch appears in his classic book on the area A Record of Sport in Southern India…, published posthumously in 1892. It is now available online via Wikipedia, though I have an original obtained from Bangalore’s Select bookstore in the 1990s.

Further west from Udumalpet, a panoramic view of the Anamalais on the Pollachi to Aliyar approach. Combined from six separate images but reduced in size for the web. (July 2006).

Today the area around Udumalpet is a magnet for enormous wind farms generating significant amounts of electricity from wind flowing through the Palghat gap. The ‘elephant hills’ are indeed remarkable for their diversity and large protected areas. But there is also a good deal of modern human-influenced landscapes in the form of expansive tea estates, gigantic hydroelectric reservoirs and forests of teak and eucalyptus. The area has enjoyed protection over many years and today the Anamalais is one of the 2nd largest (the largest in the Nilgiri Biosphere reserve) protected areas in the Western Ghats combing sanctuaries from Tamil Nadu as well as Kerala. In 2009 the large Indira Gandhi Wildlife Sanctuary was upgraded to the Anamalais Tiger Reserve (ATR), giving its protection a higher level of importance. Some of the hiking that we traditionally do out of Kodai is in the ATR and favorite hiking places such as Manjampatti and (parts of) Kukkal are actually in its jurisdiction.

Map showing significant points from the 2010 Anamalais monsoon visit with Lenny. The area included the Anamalais, Palani Hills, High Range and Cardamom Hills. While I work on honing my Arc skills I have stitched together pieces from Google Maps/iPhoto. The insert is derived from a 30 meter Digital Elevation Model (DEM) of the same area as rendered on Global Mapper. Click on the image for the full 20” view.

I have had the good fortune to visit the Anamalais on several occasions over the last 20 or so years. Most of the visits were on trips between Kodai and Munnar, as I passed through Chinnar and the dry thorn forests in the Marayoor valley. In 1993 my cousin Anna and I visited Ragupathy Kannan at his field station in Top Slip where he was conducting a landmark study on the Great Pied Hornbill (Buceros bicornis). A few years later I returned to Top Slip and Valparai to photograph Lion Tailed Macaques (Macaca silenus). I had several rewarding LTM encounters in Anaigudi and then the reliable Puthuthottam estate near Valparai. But that was in an era of film before digital equipment was available. Places like Valparai (and even Munnar) were sleepy and neglected by roving tourists. Today, Valparai is changing and is being touted as the next great hill station in Tamil Nadu. This trip, at the end of our summer holidays, was designed to fill in some gaps in my fauna imagery to accompany the Western Ghats landscapes. I was also eager to explore the back road to Chalikudi and make contact with the Nature Conservation Foundation. Lenny came along too and it was a treat to share the places and adventure with him.

Anamalais as seen from near the Udumalpet-Munnar road turnoff. (July 2006).

The original blog post was revised in October 2021to change Anaimalais to Anamalais which is the commonly used spelling.

Written by ianlockwood

2010-08-08 at 11:08 am

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