In One Of Earth’s Wettest Spots, Footbridges Grow From Trees

A photographer visits ‘the abode of the clouds,’ an Indian state where bridges woven from living tree roots look like props from Lord of the Rings.

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In the Indian state of Meghalaya, one of the wettest places on Earth, villagers weave the roots of living rubber trees into sturdy pedestrian bridges. On a quest to document the tradition, Prasenjeet Yadav photographed around 30 root bridges over the course of a year.

The state of Meghalaya is known as the “abode of the clouds.”
NGM MAPS

A few months out

How to get the shot: Yadav had never visited a living root bridge before embarking on this project, but he knew of this particular bridge near the village of Nohwet. With so many tourists shooting photographs, Yadav wanted his image to stand out. “It’s difficult to make a plant look charismatic,” he says. To prepare, he consulted other photographers and studied landscape paintings. He decided to take the shot after dark. It was risky: Unexpected cloudbursts can spawn flash floods, which can be especially dangerous at night.

Two weeks out

Essential packing list: As this was Yadav’s fourth trip to the region, he knew what to pack. Paring supplies to the basics, he brought little rainwear for himself and prioritised keeping his camera dry.

  • Umbrellas to cover the camera gear
  • Granola bars
  • Flashlights and an LED light panel
  • A strong headlamp
  • Rubber housing to protect the camera
  • A tripod
  • A sheet of black Cinefoil to shield the lens
  • Light modifiers

Launch

‘Painting’ with light: From his home base of Bangalore, Yadav flew to Guwahati and took a cab to Nohwet. From there, he walked 30 minutes to the bridge. During a three-week stay, Yadav experimented with using lights to “paint” parts of the bridge and surroundings during a long exposure. In the 438 seconds it took to expose this image, Yadav moved between locations to aim his lights. Shrouded in darkness, he’s not visible in the final photograph.

I wanted it to look like these bridges are something right out of Lord of the Rings, and then say, ‘No, they’re not fiction, they exist.’

PRASENJEET YADAV

By the numbers

200 years
Estimated age of this bridge

5,181 centimetres
State’s total rainfall in 2016

6,460
Approximate number of villages in the state

 

LEAD PHOTOGRAPH BY PRASENJEET YADAV

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