Capture the Heart & Harmony of a Place in Only 9 Photos

“The cool thing about being famous is traveling. I have always wanted to travel across seas, like to Canada and stuff.” ~ Britney Spears

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FOR KICKS, LET’S JUST SAY YOU’RE A PROFESSIONAL PHOTOGRAPHER. You are flying home from a photo shoot in—okay, say—Burma where you photographed Angelina Jolie in a  wisp of see-through silk on the deck of a tramp steamer paddle wheeling its way down the Irrawaddy River. We’ll assume you are a little older (or a bit of a rogue) because you prefer to call it by its former, more exotic-sounding name, Burma, rather than its new name Myanmar, which, first of all is harder to say and second, not exotic. Let’s assume your Air India flight lands in Trivandrum, and you have a one-day layover. You have always wanted to visit the oceanside hamlet of Varkala. You hire a taxi to drive you up the Southeast coast of Kerala from the airport.

You have done a little research on Varkala. You know it has become Kerala’s most popular gathering place for the backpacker crowd; it has become the “Goa” of this part of India. There is no Starbucks or KFC, but you can get a damn good cappuccino (which will cost you more than breakfast) and great dinner at a fraction of what you pay at home. You know Varkala sits on a cliff top—with long crescents of golden sand below, surf waves, and dark blue and green waters of the Lakshadweep Sea—on the Southeast Coast of India somewhere between the Laccadive Islands and the Maldives.

Although touristy with a low-end vibe, Varkala is essentially a spiritual town: Temple Road is the main street into town; the main sight in town is the atavistic Janardhana Temple; the main site on the beach (until sunset) is the marvelous Papanasham Temple; the main bus stop is at Temple Junction. And Papanasham Beach is revered as a holy site.

Varkala is an ancient town. According to Hindu mythology, the sage Narada told pilgrims to go there to offer their prayers. Varkala is mentioned in a number of ancient Hindu texts, some dating before the first century, and is also mentioned in Ptolemy’s Periplus as an important trading center (circa 100 CE).

Because the roads are bad, and traffic dense and chaotic, it takes longer than expected for you to drive the 25 or so miles and arrive in Varkala: two hours instead of one. The taxi drops you at the helipad on the cliff above Papanasham Beach. Let’s also assume—if only to add a touch of dramatic effect here—that you have only nine shots left in your camera in which to capture the heart of this place. You must build your story, and create a sense of harmony and place in your photo essay, with only nine photographs.

You make a list of the nine basic types of shots (cliches by now to most photographers) that you will take when you try to capture the essence of a place like Varkala, then you go shoot them:

1   A Scene Setter: an “establishing shot” of the place showing an overview of where or what it is, perhaps a panorama, perhaps at sundown at the ocean with maybe some people under umbrellas.

2   An interesting object to look at:

3   An entertaining activity to do:

4   A beguiling eatery or watering hole:

5   A charming place to sleep:

6   A fascinating gizmo to purchase:

7   Intriguing local flora:

8   Something provocatively unique: you won’t find elsewhere

9   Captivating local People:

The following might have been your photographs before hopping back into that taxi and driving back down to Trivandrum International to continue your journey home:


1   A Scene Setter:

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Papanasham Beach looking south from the cliff toward Papanasham Temple at the far end


2   An interesting object to look at:

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Papanasham Temple on the holy Papanasham Beach at sunset


3   An entertaining activity to do:

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Paraglide along the cliffs and meander mid-air through the thermals


4   A beguiling eatery or watering hole:

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Take a break for lunch in Wait n Watch, a restaurant just off the beach: Asian, Indian, fusion fare–all at very reasonable prices (albeit, pink)


5   A charming place to sleep:

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Put your feet up on your veranda at Jicky’s Guesthouse (perhaps, you opt for the bungalow with a/c) in the palm groves and thicket away from the cliffs


6   A fascinating gizmo to purchase:

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Buy yourself a pair of bespoke leather sandals, made while you wait by Thakkur


7   Intriguing local flora:

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No need to post a “no climbing” sign on this bad-ass cousin to a silk floss tree, which you asked the name of and in Hindi it sounded like this to you: burgawallwallnonundowandodo.


8   Something provocatively unique: you won’t find elsewhere

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Good for what ails you:  an ayurvedic hospital with no place to park, except the shoulder of the road, which is fine if you’re on a motorcycle like most people here


9   Captivating local People:

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A fine skein of young ladies cool themselves off with a bit of sea breeze and ice cream bars


10  Expect the unexpected—you discover you have 10 shots, shoot something you did not expect to find

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While riding your motorbike, you might run across almost anything you least expect alongside the road in Varkala: Kingfisher Beer fences, egrets, cows, vipers


You can find other entries to the DP Photo Challenge here: Harmony











120 thoughts on “Capture the Heart & Harmony of a Place in Only 9 Photos

  1. Beautiful beach, great Britney quote! Since you’ve come up with another post within the week, I’ve got the best organic cleaner direct from Bali and I’m starting work on your windows. I’ll start at the top of the blog and work down to the basement, okay? 🙂


  2. My it does sound like you’re a very goal oriented traveller/photographer. Is that countdown correct – 19 days to a great sounding trip? Britney Spears…Sad thing is that was probable one of her brighter quotes😟

    Liked by 2 people

    • HA! I guess I made it “appear” that way. But NO! I am about as far away as you can get from a goal-oriented traveler or anything else! I’m not good with goals!
      And yes, you’re the first person to comment on that new sign: big trip coming up.


  3. Hey blog friend – this post actually fits quite well with one my recent Blog Propellant prompts, “Set the Scene.” If you want, pingback this post to that prompt: . That way you’ll also introduce your badfish self to that little troupe of intrepid bloggers.
    I have to say, I really love the way you set this up. You could have made some short statement about harmony and posted a gallery, but what you’ve done here is imaginative/creative and definitely engaging. Kudos!


  4. What a fabulous challenge! Of course a seasoned veteran with a camera, like you, would be able to put together an exceptional post like this. My biggest problem, having a ton of photos from years gone by, would be how to get them onto the computer… I was still using 35mm and our 3 in 1 scanner thingy doesn’t like our new machines, and who can remember where in this house the software for it might actually be?

    Anyway, I remember well your post about Verkala, and appreciated the revisit, with new perspectives through the lens, as well as your wonderfully descriptive travelogue. It really does look like the perfect spot for hanging out, soaking up the sun (which I could absolutely use right about now), and tending to my inner life.

    So, I’ve searched the 10th picture for the viper… It’s not close enough a shot for me to find it. Where is it? Inquiring minds and eyes want to know.

    And YAY, you’re beginning to post more often, again!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Please do not get too comforatble with my posting more often. I am about to set off on another journey (did you notice the billboard on the side of my page? Only one person has commented on it.
      AND…I just bought a scanner that will scan 35mm slides, so I can do that myself from now on!! Last time the quality was horrid. And through the iPhone…simply unacceptable (for a more than one-time post).
      The viper in the shot is inside the cow, she just finished eating it when I snapped the shot!!! Would you like to buy a bridge?


  5. Lovely post & collection of photos…definitely set the scene and a taste of the experience. And I like how you just kinda made it link to “harmony”. I got stumped this week (not unusual) when considering how to post to harmony – spent most of the time staring into space with Elton John stuck in my head….Now the earworm has returned…
    Always a pleasure to read, Badfish~

    Liked by 1 person

  6. As usual, a great story woven with beautiful photos. The 1st one – setting the scene – just makes me sigh in appreciation.
    … and the Hindu name for the tree …. I might sprain my tongue trying that mouthful. I think I’ll just refer to it as the Spiky Tree 🙂


  7. That Britney sure does have a way with words.

    What a great collection of photos and an excellent “must capture” list. I will try to remember your list when next I travel. I went back to try and choose a favourite but it’s impossible. I like them all. And I can’t see a viper either.


  8. Did you do something to get those vibrant colors in the sky? Like filters and stuff? Is it real? I have a certain someone looking over my shoulder saying it’s photo shopped.


  9. Well THAT was absolutely educational! Going to have to copy it down in the notebook I carry in my bag for when we go to the British Isles next year. Great pictures, btw.


      • Yep! Seeing Stonehenge. I may pass right out on the site. Need to be barefoot there. Booked our cruise for September 2017. 12 days. England, Ireland, Scotland, Paris (and Normandy). This was the last thing on my bucket list. I was serious about that list, btw.


        • I was there years (decades) ago when you could actually walk right up to them, touch them. Now it’s fenced off, you see them from a distance. Close enough…just not right on. Still a wicked good site and vibe!!

          Liked by 1 person

          • What’s a ley line. Whatever it is. You are going to feel it. That place is magic. There are a number of other stone circle places you might want to put on your itinerary, like Avebury…different, bigger, wider and awesome. You going on a tour, or self-guided?

            Liked by 1 person

          • “Ley lines are alignments of places of significance in the geography or culture of an area, often including man-made structures. They are in the older sense, ancient, straight trackways in the British landscape, or in the newer sense, spiritual and mystical alignments of land forms.” I swear I was a druid in a previous life (a bar maid/pirate captain in another, and a crow in another! LOL). I just want to see if you can really sense them. Unfortunately it’s a guided tour on the way to our ship. But I figure I’ll know if there’s a connection. What did you feel? I’m so interested in what you said!

            Liked by 1 person

          • I don’t remember what time of year it is, but at one point, the sun shines through the stones, and has for like 5000 years. That would be cool to see. I’m sure you will feel something.

            Liked by 1 person

  10. Britney Spears, oh my! That caption certainly made me want to read more, not that I needed any encouraging when it comes to BF posts. But hey, best of luck to your next trip! Cant wait to read about it. Maybe more Angelina Jolie? 😉


    • Well, OK. And who doesn’t love a quote from Britney Spears? Glad to have you along for the ride!! I may need luck on the trip…I’ve not planned on what I’m doing once there.


  11. I’m impressed, no random digital snapping here but a precise and organised plan of action and what a harmonious selection. What a great name for the lunch place, it says it all…
    I think I’ll pack my virtual back pack and jump aboard the cyber journey. I’m looking forward to your take on Bhutan were happiness is measured as the GNH (I think I have that right!!!)


  12. Hey BF,
    These are great pictures. Very colorful and engaging. I especially liked the cow and egrets, but wouldn’t have a context for it without the other 9. Your whole post tells a great story.


  13. First – I too prefer the name Burma – much more romantic and exotic.
    Second – where are the vipers?!
    Third – that is one wonderful collection on photos. The scene-setter is my fave.
    Fourth – I still wish I could write as well as you do. The opening paragraph is wonderful. You had me at Burma.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Badfish in Burma! Definitely gives me goosebumps 🙂
    Did you hang around in that tree for long waiting for the paraglider? And I’m still wondering what that girl in the first photo needed to run back up the beach for. Nobody else seems to be wearing a swimsuit either. Yes, I’m getting the vibe. 🙂 Harmoniously.


  15. Hello Badfish, you’re creating fancy new widgets on your right sidebar, and that’s cool. That made me think of a new theme for your blog, called Passenger. It is for travel blogs. I was searching for a new theme for my blog and stumbled upon that one, although it isn’t fit for mine.
    Man, I have missed your blog! It’s so good to read your narrative and appreciate the photostorytelling.
    You make me feel like being there, so I don’t need to travel anymore…ok, maybe the latter is not a good outcome.
    Anyways, you manage to make even Britney Spears look clever and deserving of a place in your blog wall of fame! How could I have missed all of that for so long?


    • Lucile, welcome back to the Badfish and Chips Cafe! your presence here has been sorely missed. Great to have you back on deck and I’m secondering the proprietors free supply of drinks ( tea, coffee, alcholic beverages of your choice, juices.. smoothies even ) (his menu’s improved) to offer you to celebrate. I
      m sure the proprietor won’t mind – esp now that all his windows are cleaned. 🙂
      Welcome back anyhow…. BFCC isnt the same without you! 🙂


    • I know…a fancy new widget counting down the days till departure to Burma and beyond!!
      Passenger…I thiink I’ve seen that one, but don’t remember it. I’ve actually been looking for a new theme. I found one and almost bought it (it’s not free). I just checked Passenger. Yeah, I like it. I like that it has a sort of grid design where you can see various posts rather than scroll down through large posts. But it’s not exactly what I want, I want more of a grid design, even smaller photos for each post.
      You were missed…here by the CHIPS and on your own blog. It is very nice to have you back on both.
      But…isn’t Britney Spears already clever?


      • Have you placed the widget all by yourself? I’m impressed.?
        There are many options for new Themes, so many that I don’t make up my mind. Lol
        Thanks for the warm welcome.
        No, she isn’t clever! 😭


        • Yes, widget magic, eh!! I wonder what happens on the day I leave…will it count the days I’m gone?
          I know…so MANY themes, but none exactly what I want. Some are close.


          • That’s not a good idea. There should be a way to just wipe it out. It’s very sad to get automatic notifications from pages of deceased people. Yesterday I hit a birthday notification from Facebook from someone who died last year. The things is that no one can delete her page….


  16. Brittany Spears, a beautiful beach scene, colorful clothes on young ladies, feet, and a cow and a bird. What more can you ask for in one post. 😛


  17. Cliched types or not, I thought your nine shots did a fine job of giving the essence of the place. Your bonus shot was my favorite, though, since it was so unexpected.


  18. Love the post itself, but I was distracted by the few weeks to go before you are on spring break (I assume) and going somewhere AMAZING. Fun has not been in my vocabulary lately, and I am insanely jealous of you. My spring break was supposed to be Cuba, but I’ll be spending it buying crap for my new apartment, which I finally arrived at. Maybe I’ll furnish it in Cuban style to feel better. Actually, I brought some stuff from Nepal, so I’ll pretend I’m there for part of your trip! (Nice disjointed comment …) Have fun!


    • So my new widget fussed with your brain. I imagine seeing that right foot of yours begin to twitch, begin to shuffle toward the door, itching to get out. Am I right? Cuba…yeah, I’d like to go there before we Californicate it to smithereens. Were you going to apply for a visa, is that hard to do? Can we get in as travel bloggers?

      Liked by 1 person

  19. Such great images. they make me itch to get out into the world again and explore a bit more. Luckily, you don’t have to be famous to travel, whether it is across oceans or across the border… 🙂 Have an amazing time in Asia in a couple of weeks!!!


    • Liesbet…thanks so much. Right…you don’t have to be famous, maybe it’s even better if you don’t because someone might quote something you say on their blog. I need to do a bit of planning for my upcoming trip. I’m not good at that.


  20. Ummmm, that Britney quote.

    For women’s day
    “As a mom, you have all these situations you go through, and you’re like, ‘What is going on? Is this normal? Is this a phase? Or what is this?’ and then you feel silly for asking questions because you think, ‘I’m a mom – I’m supposed to know these things,’ ~but you don’t.~” Britney Spears.

    Sometimes admitting what you don’t know is the most intelligent decision.

    Right away, amazing photos.


    • RIGHT! Admitting what you don’t know. HARD, sometimes. I know some folks who should read your comment! And sometimes, you might not even know what you don’t know! I hate when THAT happens…which these days, seems more often than not!

      Liked by 1 person

    • I DO feel blessed. In so many ways. I, too, really like the photo of Thakkur. I like that he’s not just staring blankly at me like so many people there. You mentioned you hadn’t gone to India. It may be best to think of it in smaller junks, rather than doing it all. I’ve been to various parts at differeent times, different trips. It would take a year (years) to see it all in a way that made sense. If that makes sense.


  21. I really enjoyed this post as I have been to Varkala and so its interesting to see how you experienced it. We were there “out of season” which meant that there were more locals on the sacred beach and very few travelers, which was great from our point of view. Mmm the vegetarian food in that town is great.

    We were just in Burma/Myanmar at the end of 2015. Incredible country and people. We opted to call it Myanmar in our blog as everyone we met whom and asked what their preference for which name to use, answered “Myanmar.” But agree that Burma has a much more exotic ring to it.


    • Out of season might be the best time to visit, I’d think. I’d rather see locals than others! Did you write a post on Myanmar? I’ll go check your site!


  22. For a shining brief moment at the beginning, I thought you were about to go into a Tomb Raiders sequel. Oh well, for now it’s back to the VCR.


  23. As always, terrific read! I hope you have a great time on your next adventure. I have a niece, who along with her husband, is on some sort of mission in Nepal right now and my sister and husband will be visiting her soon. That’s one way to travel, I guess….They are in very remote village and write amazing Facebook posts. (Emily Jenkins)
    I can’t wait to hear (and see) about your travels. I hope you have time along the way.
    I’m still working on my next Dear Badfish letter for my still new-ish blog.


    • yeah…doing some sort of mission work is a cool way to see Nepal, or any country that needs that help.
      Time…but no…I won’t have time along the way (for anything but moving, I think!)
      I haven’t spent much time on other blogs lately (all this preparation), but I’ll get over to yours soon!


  24. Best photography advice ever! Did you know Papanasham means eradication of sins? So now you are technically pure as snow. I was looking for the viper too. And what is it with us and the colour pink??

    Liked by 1 person

  25. Hmmmm, ever since setting aside ONE photo for Versailles and ONE photo for Fontainebleau after 14 days of France and three rolls of film in ’91, I’ve been hailing the ascent of digital photography. In which cave have you been sleeping? Angelina Jolie is not THAT old!


  26. Well, I am in love with that beach and sun shot, because of all the high-key colors.

    And, of course, I am still rolling Britney’s idea around like a piece of fine modeling clay between the digits and thinking, like, yeah, like I have always wanted to travel over mountains and stuff, like to Las Vegas and other countries. But, I’m not famous, so I guess I will have to stay put.


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