The dangerous beauty of the Himalayas
- 23 November 2014
- From the section In Pictures
Photographers in search of a dramatic landscape are often drawn to extreme regions of the planet. One of those is Neil White, whose latest project, When The Wave Comes From The Mountain, documents an area of the Himalayas in Nepal and across the border in India.
White's work focuses on three lakes, Imja Tsho, Spong Togpo and Tsho Rolpa, and the changing landscape that he believes is the result of a warming climate. The title is derived from an event known as a Glacier Lake Outburst Floods (GLOF), where the natural dam holding the water in is breached, with potentially disastrous consequences as a wave floods down the mountain.
"I first visited the Nepal region of the Himalayas in 1996 while travelling the world," says White. "The sheer beauty of the mountains towering majestically above me, with their snow-capped peaks and huge glaciers moulding around them, was simply breathtaking.
"Returning again after 15 years, I was no less overwhelmed, but it quickly became clear to me just how much the landscape had changed, and not for the better."
Scientists are continually monitoring the glacial lakes that are thought to pose the biggest threat to communities in the valleys below.
"Photographing the three glacial lakes was an intense and emotional experience for me," says White. "So many thoughts passed through my mind as I worked to capture the landscape. The only moment of real clarity and peace I found was under the dark cloth, looking through the viewfinder of my large format camera."
"Each lake has a different personality, which in turn created unique feelings and a distinct response from me," he adds.
"As I photographed the lakes, I was struck not only by their beauty, but also by the ugliness that had created them, and the utter devastation they could cause if they burst."
White cites the work of 19th Century Italian mountaineer and photographer, Vittorio Sella, who he says, "captured a moment in history when the landscape was virtually undisturbed".
Here is a selection of White's landscape photographs.
In the distance, Imja Tsho glacial lake can be seen surrounded by mountains which include, on the left Mja Tse (Island Peak), Num Ri and Baruntse.
Small glacial ponds are forming on the moraine dam of Imja Tsho glacial lake. Over time, these ponds will increase in size and could become part of the lake.
A small lake has formed close to the natural dam of Imja Tsho glacial lake.
Looking down the valley where the Spong Togpo river flows. In the event of Spong Togpo glacial lake breaking its moraine dam, the flood water would flow down this river.
Several water channels come down from the Spong Togpo glacial lake and glaciers, which make the Spong Togpo river.
Looking down the valley where water from the Spong Togpa glacial lake flows
The village of Chukhung, which is the closest settlement to Imja Tsho.
Tsho Rolpa Lake, in the distance Mountain Range and the Trakarding Glacier which feeds water to the lake.