Ice to water

Snow leopard researcher turns to photographic art to visualise the climate crisis in the Himalaya


Photographer Tashi R Ghale is known for his work in protecting snow leopards through which he won the Disney Conservation Hero Award in 2018.

During his research he saw the impact of climate breakdown in the Himalaya with receding glaciers and melting ice that was affecting the traditional habitat of the snow leopard.  

“I notice that global warming is bringing other species to snow leopard territory. Common leopards move up, and Himalayan grey wolves come down,” says Ghale, known for his exquisite photographic documentation of the rare snow leopards in Manang.

Lowland leopards are now overlapping with snow leopards and competing for prey. But for his new photo exhibition ‘Shifting Perspectives’, Ghale has shifted gears — changing his focus from snow leopards to the impact of climate change.

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Tashi R Ghale (right) with artist Tsherin Sherpa of Takpa gallery at the inauguration of the exhibition on 11 May. Photo: @tsedorje

But he uses his photographic skills, this time with more of an artistic eye than just for documentation purposes. He has captured some striking images of Gangapurna Lake in Manang to convey the impact of the rising temperatures on the Himalayan ecology.

The images in Shifting Perspectives which are on exhibit at Takpa Gallery are close-ups of ice on the shores of Gangapurna Lake, which itself is expanding as the glacier recedes rapidly up the mountain. 

Ghale has captured ephemeral bubbles, ripples, currents, shapes and textures of ice on the lake, and are separated into three categories: Illusion, Composition, and Frozen. 

Ghale used powerful telephoto lenses to zoom in on snow leopards, but here he uses macro lenses for extreme closeups.

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One of his pictures, ‘Illusion VI,’ shows clusters of bubbles of various sizes entombed in ice just below the surface, casting small shadows on the lake floor. 

‘Illusion III,’ has the dark blue, green and purple lake as the background while frozen ripples have formed in the ice that look like contour lines on a map. 

Some of the most striking images in the exhibition feature a contrast between warm and cool colours. ‘Frozen I’ shows ice-bound waves that catch the golden rays of the sunrise sending streaks of light in the direction the water was moving before it froze.

‘Composition I’ shows sunrise on the north face of Gangapurna reflected in the icy surface of the lake, the roughness of the ice giving the photograph an impressionist touch. 

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Other photos show mountains reflected partly on the water and the frozen surface of the lake. The contrast between the hard ice and the flowing water underneath is visual poetry — making us notice the turbulence of the water flowing beneath the smooth and unmoving ice. 

One element present in most of the photographs is that of ice next to mud on the shore with jagged textures. “During the night, the ice freezes hard into the ground, and in the morning it melts away but the patterns formed in the mud stay,” explains Ghale.

‘Composition IV,’ looks like a drone photograph of a big river flowing through jagged hills, but a leaf in the bottom right corner gives away the scale.

The exhibition truly presents shifting perspectives using closeups of the ice and water as a metaphor for the larger scale impact of global warming

Composition VII
Composition VII
Ice to Water
Ice to water

 Shifting Perspectives

11AM-6PM Tuesday-Thursday

11AM-7PM Friday-Sunday

Until 26 May

Takpa Gallery, Lazimpat

Vishad Onta