Photographer's Note

The Chir Pine (Pinus Roxburghii) covers most of the lower stretches of the Himalayas ranging from 500m to 2000m in elevation.

A fast growing pine, the chir grows wild on slopes from Kashmir to Bhutan - carpeting the landscape with the slippery brown needles. While the trees offer little shade, they are crucial to the livelihoods of most of Uttarakhand. The chir sap that oozes from gashes in the bark is 22% turpentine - a chemical used throughout the industry. Moreover, although the wood is particularly flimsy, the volatile sap makes the wood ideal for fires. As a result, not only are the trees a nearly renewable source of firewood for the villagers, they are also vulnerable to forest fires. Nearly one in 10 large pine trees show significant damage from fires - often started by lightening during thunderstorms.

Even though the chir pine is particularly drought and heat resistant, the specimen I grew from seed in Bangalore is still 3 feet high - after about 6 years. It turned out that even the resilient chir tree can be vanquished by the particularly determined termites of Bangalore. Of course, after copious quantities of neem oil, the tree is on it's way to a tall life.

In my photo here, this old chir trunk fell over about a week before I went up there; the villagers had noted a particularly strong thunderstorm - with hailstones the size of potatoes. This is about 2000m in elevation - taken in the morning. The chir pines are only in the immediate foreground: the more ornamental dark green cedars behind are Deodars - but a description of those is a post for another day.

On the technical side, I took two vertical images with my 10mp D80, and stitched the two together. I will say that it is difficult to compose without the final image in your viewfinder, but the method results in a very detailed image with a pleasing aspect ratio. Of course, stitching has been used to create those massive gigapixel panoramas that are entirely devoid of composition, but 21mp is generally sufficient for 20x30" prints.

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Additional Photos by Biswaroop Mukherjee (bmukherjee) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 218 W: 72 N: 211] (1516)
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