Sadiq Mansor traveled to Ladakh, a region in Northern India, for the first bouldering Summit in Suru Valley. Here, he speaks with us about his love for the region, how he used past connections in the local community to plan his trip, and the special moments he caught on film.
Where are you from?
I come from a little bustling island called Singapore. It’s clean. And safe!
What do you shoot and how long have you been shooting for?
I picked up photography nine years ago, when I was 17. My mom allowed me to get an ATM card, and my first purchase was an Olympus E-500 that I bought from eBay. Now, I mainly work on travel documentaries.
What inspires you about shooting video?
Movement is what inspires me to shoot video. Either the movements of humans or inanimate objects that move with nature. Like how a petal dances with the wind or how a driftwood floats down a river.
What is your favorite part about traveling and experiencing new cultures?
Interacting with other human beings and learning how different landscapes affect their lives is my favorite part of experiencing new cultures.
What do you do you find to be the most effective way to acclimate to a different culture or location?
Prior research has to be done before going to a new country. Research prepares you mentally and also equips you with more relatable talking points with locals once you arrive, e.g political affairs, history, culture or architecture. The main bit of research that helped me was reading other travelers’ experience that traveling to Leh by road makes you acclimate better than flying straight from Delhi or Mumbai. Most of the travelers I met there who flew to Leh ended up having to be ‘bedridden’ for close to a week due to altitude sickness, but going slowly by road helps you acclimate better to the elevated mountain range.
How long were you in Ladakh for and what was your itinerary?
Two months. My itinerary was mainly trekking and rock climbing. I also attended the first ever Bouldering Festival in Suru Valley, which was a real eye opener for me!
What was your main reason for going to Ladakh? What makes this location interesting or special?
Three years ago I did the journey from South India to the North by buses and trains. When I arrived in Leh, the capital of Ladakh, I fell in love immediately. I was drawn to the abundant nature and how untouched it was. Simply refreshing. I knew that I had to go back there. I made lots of contacts when I first got there, and having local connections to people and knowledge of the place helped me a lot in planning for my recent trip.
What about this destination inspired you to make this video?
The warmth of the Ladakhis and their surreal landscapes.
During the trip, did you have an inspirational moment you captured in this film? (timestamp and story behind it?)
The ending bit, which is 2:17 onwards. I believe it was the first time the boy has ever been filmed. He acted so naturally trying to impress me with his whistling abilities and capped it off with a round of applause for his own efforts. I thought it was simply amazing. Like he already knew that a camera being pointed at him meant he should perform to his best abilities. (Time stamp: 2:20)
What were some of your favorite locations you got to travel to while you were there?
All of it was incredible. One location that did stand out for me was Hunder. There were mountain ridges everywhere but in the midst of it all, a desert. There were even wild camels roaming across the soft sand.
Describe one of your most awe-inspiring and memorable experiences you had there.
Seeing the kids having lots of play time after school in Suru Valley. They would come together to an apricot tree and team up to get as many apricots as possible. The braver ones would climb the tree and vigorously shake its branches while the younger ones gathered the fallen apricots. The kids also taught us how to eat the apricot seeds by breaking the hard shell to reveal a tasty nutty treat. (Time stamp: 1:48)
What was it like interacting and working with locals while you were there?
People respond to other people well when your approach is respectful and sincere. A little smile or a vibrant “Julley!” (Ladakhi for Hello) would go a long way to making interactions feel much natural despite the language barrier.
What was the one of the most surprising things you learned about the country while you were there?
That signal lights never work and you have to beep in order to change lanes. It can get really intense when you’re stuck in a cross junction with defunct traffic lights!
How did this specific trip differ from your other travels?
Since it is a high region (3,500m in Leh, and 4000-5500m when you trek), acclimatization is key. Coming from a country that is no more than 15m above sea level, breathing in Ladakh can become a conscious action at times.
What type of gear did you use to capture the video (video, audio, stills etc)?
I went super light on this one. I brought along a Panasonic G7 + kit lens, which easily fits in my small sling bag. I didn’t wanna pressure the locals with a bigger setup like a FS7 or with a huge lens. I used a rode mic to record background noises.
Do you have any tips for getting the type of footage you got shooting locals, landscapes, time lapses?
Watch a lot of films. Let the visuals embed in your mind. So when presented with a beautiful landscape or a local person, you will feel that you’re recording it naturally like how it was already playing through in your head.
When on location and shooting, do you have a specific narrative in mind you want to capture or do you just go with the flow and shoot as much as possible?
For travel videos, nope. I don’t normally construct a certain narrative or storyboard. I don’t want to be restricted to a certain style. I shoot anything that amazes me at that point of time and piece it all out together in post.
What makes a good travel video in your opinion?
A great local soundtrack that encapsulates the whole feeling of being in another country. And also smiling kids!
After coming back from a trip with tons of footage, what is your process with piecing it all together and telling a story?
You can say that I’m quite nocturnal when getting things done. In the afternoons, I would review all the footages in one go. While everything is still fresh in my mind, I go about piecing everything together so it flows, all throughout the night.
What were you hoping to capture after editing your final cut of this video?
For this piece, I didn’t want to tell a story. I wanted the audience to feel Ladakh like how I did; as a tourist. That is why I injected a lot of small clips of the locals smiling towards the camera.