Congratulations to Charan Dhiman, the winner of BBC Travel’s monthly photo competition! This month we asked you to show us the road trip views that few ever see.
Every month, a new winner will be inducted into our Photo Nomad Hall of Fame. We recently caught up with Dhiman, 36, to get the story behind his dizzying shot.
To some people, taking a drive along a gravelly, mountainside route thousands of meters in the air might sound like the stuff of nightmares. But that’s exactly what we went looking for on our road trip.
I took this photo nearly 3,000m off the ground during a winter adventure in the Pangi Valley, a remote part of the Pir Panjal Range of the Indian Himalayas. I was travelling with two thrill-seeking friends and a hired driver who sometimes seemed to think we were a little crazy.
He may have been right: many have called these roads the most dangerous in the world. Indeed, some of them are several miles above ground and are only open to travellers between June and November because they get completely covered in snow. Our car was also rear-wheel-drive only; at one point, we had to help steady it by putting rocks in the boot.
I snapped this shot just as the sun was going down. We had to pull over because ahead of us was a beautiful – but possibly treacherous – waterfall, and our driver needed to assess the situation before driving through. After all, one wrong move and our car could have toppled over the side.
I was captivated by the way the sunlight interacted with the water droplets and cascaded down the side of the mountain. I used my trusty Nikon D300 and Tokina lens and was delighted with the result.
After this rest stop, strong winds started to batter the side of the car; we safely reached the end of the trail a few hours later. The next day, locals told us that the weather had gotten so bad that many of the roads would have to close for several months. We really did get lucky!
As told to Richard Conway, BBC Travel contributing editor
Richard Conway, BBC Travel contributing editor:
What I love about this image is the sense of space. For many photographers, it’s not easy to convey how awe-inspiring a scene might seem in real life. In fact, a lens can flatten what we see in front of us if used incorrectly. But with this shot, we truly get a sense of a road less travelled.
Jared Kohler, New York Times contributing photographer:
There is a wildness captured in this picture. Technically speaking, the contrast of light to dark in this location presented a huge challenge to Dhiman, but he handled it very well. There’s exquisite detail in the bright areas and just enough visible in the dark areas to convey the full drama of the scene. The choice of putting the backlit cascade of water almost dead centre also really works. It cuts the image into two halves and gives us a sense of a border that’s about to be crossed.
Erica Fahr Campbell, photo editor at Instagram:
This is an image that excites and terrifies in equal measure. I love how Dhiman gives us a sense of the beauty and precariousness of the situation. Here, the car seems fragile compared to the harsh mountains that surround it and yet the photographer has softened the scene by focusing on a waterfall in the evening light.
See last month’s finalists and the winner for images that illustrate the extreme the contrasts of hot and cold.