ELEMENTAL: EARTH, FIRE, WATER, AIR, STEEL
The ancients conceptualized our world as built on elemental primitives - Earth, Fire, Water and Air. This series adapts these primitives for our present age, and adds to them Steel, an artificial Element forged from Earth using Fire, Water and Air, and a metaphor for humankind's mastery over, and subjugation of, the ancient Elements. The images here strive to distill the essence of these five Elements into something that is both visually arresting and subtly tangible, by evoking a specific primary Element with undertones of multiple secondary Elements.
One of the best experiences while on safari in Kenya is an early morning hot air balloon ride over the Masai Mara. You wake up early, well before the sun rises with the wind still cold enough to freeze your ears, and drive out an hour or more to the middle of an open grassland. And then you see them. Magnificent, towering envelopes of nylon being blast filled with warm air. You load into the sturdy basket attached to one of these colorful balloons and it starts climbing. Higher and higher you soar as the sun starts rising over the mara, warming everything its rays touch. Quieter and quieter it gets, till its just you and the landscape.
There is something humbling in welcoming a new day amidst majestic creatures that roamed this Earth millions of years before our feeble bipedal species climbed down from the tress to walk upright on the grasslands. A shared experience of oneness with our evolutionary cousins that whispers to us of our place under the sun, and our insignificance in time. A gentle reminder of the simple truth that we are but one tiny branch, a twig, on the tree of life. The passage of time may well be the hand that wipes the slate clean. Till one day, we too are numbered in the thousands, as another claims dominance over this planet.
The water is dead calm. I wonder for the umpteenth time if it’s worth waking up so early - while it’s still cold outside, and dark - pitch dark. Slowly it begins. First, a chill wind, gentle enough to not disturb the surface of the lake, yet firm enough to nudge the clouds across the sky. And then, the horizon to the east lights up, brushing blue-gold streaks above and around me, painting in a scene that will be as fleeting as it is beautiful. That’s when I remind myself. It is worth it. Always worth it.
There are four dawns to a day. The first is barely noticeable, giving itself away only as it lightens a black night sky. The second solidifies structure and form, as darkness is peeled away to reveal horizons and shapes. The third breathes color, not the vibrant kind, but shy, quiet hues; playful, like a tease. The fourth is bold, decisive, and sudden; it paints with broad strokes, of light and heat.
And a new day is born.
When that season rolls around, as the sunlight falls just right, and the crowds are thinning - they leave you alone, where the crevices begin to get tight. That is a sight that must be seen, to understand what it's like. Like seeing your world dipped in melted golden caramel.
Her legs ached after the three day journey, her parched throat felt like coarse sandstone. Their muffled sneers still rang in her ears, and she could vividly recall the looks of disdain on their faces, as her family cast her out. But now, she was here. Kneeling beside the shimmering cascade, she wept, and her tears became one with the flow. As the glen quieted down, heralding evening's arrival, she dipped the tip of her finger into that sacred pool and anointed herself. Now she could rest. Now there was peace. The wolves would come out at twilight for the hunt, but she did not care. The water had given her peace. She could feel that peace.
This land has seen untold ages pass. This land has consumed the fore-fathers of our ancestors, embracing the shell that once was, rejuvenating decay to life that will, one day, be. This land - solid, unyielding, stoic; a calm facade that belies roiling chaos churning beneath the surface. A violent anger eager to tear through rock like delicate lace, bringing forth fertility, virility, and newness. We are, but wanderers on scar tissue.
The light was fading fast that day. To the west, a rapidly setting sun painted the sky yellow-orange, a fiery hue that faded to a deep purple tone as the eye tracked east. The firmament above lent its brilliant gradation to the surface of the lake as the water below reflected this gorgeous coloring.
Sometimes, it is the simplicity of a scene that captivates.
Many ancient cultures embrace the practice of embarking on a journey of self-discovery, seeking out meaning and purpose in life to attain a state of enlightenment. A journey that brings with it the ravages of loneliness and hardship - crucibles that forge and temper the traveler's will and self-awareness. A journey that, like any other, begins with a first step.
There's something magical about blue hour, that span straddling the cusp between daytime and nighttime, as twilight's fingers brush away the harshness of day, and the city lets down its hair in a thousand sparkling pinpoints of light. The sun may have set, but we have the night!
Gusting winds, crashing waves, and clouds that look pregnant with the possibility of rain. But the calm one experiences when taking in this view is worth the sore
feet from scrambling over the uneven, misshapen rocks that lead out here.
They say it's the journey and not the destination that matters. "They", haven't been to this place.