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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.”
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
‘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.’
By the numbers
Estimated age of this bridge
State’s total rainfall in 2016
Approximate number of villages in the state
LEAD PHOTOGRAPH BY PRASENJEET YADAV