Exploring India and Sri Lanka with Niklas Siemens

Niklas Siemens is a 20-year-old outdoor photographer and filmmaker. Though based in Austria, Niklas is constantly on the road exploring foreign countries and cultures while telling visual stories along the way.

Intrigued by his latest international endeavors, we caught up with Niklas to learn more about what makes him tick.

Why did you choose to visit India and Sri Lanka?

The trip was a collaboration with a tour operator that sent a small group of photographers and bloggers to each place. For five weeks, we experienced most of the trips the company offers, such as jungle safaris and elephant sanctuaries. In India, we spent time in the mountainous Himachal Pradesh region to the north, Goa,which is on the west coast and home to beautiful beaches, and an area in the country’s interior called Coorg. In Sri Lanka, we arrived in Colombo, and then headed to the south coast for a few days before exploring an area called Ella.

What was the biggest difference between the two countries?

Geographically speaking, Sri Lanka is much smaller. You can go from the beaches in the south and travel inland to the green hills in just a few hours. In India, we had to take domestic flights and several overnight bus rides (up to 18 hours long!) to reach most of the places we visited.

How did these places differ from your home country?

There is much more poverty in these countries than where I live, in Austria. But owning less doesn’t seem to stop these people from enjoying what they have. This made me appreciate the smaller things in life, such as warm meals and a roof over my head. A lot of stuff won’t make you happy. Good friends and experiences will.

How was the idea for this video conceptualized?

Luckily, I had a lot of creative freedom. We had an itinerary consisting of the places we were going to visit, and we planned around that. From there,  we figured out which places were better for sunset, which beach would yield the best views at good sunrise — particulars like that.

I  wanted to create a video that expressed my experience in these countries, using authentic visuals of each place we visited. To create a deeper experience for the viewer, I recording ambient sounds and added them to the video in post-production.  

What kind of camera equipment did you pack for this trip?

I captured drone shots with my DJI Phantom 4. For the rest, I shot handheld, using my Sony A7R II with Sigma and Sony lenses. Filming handheld gave me more flexibility, as opposed to having to set up a gimbal all of the time. It also allowed me to focus more on what I was experiencing and capturing.

Did you run into any issues flying your drone?

I wouldn’t recommend bringing your drone to India since it’s illegal, but I didn’t have any problems flying my drone in Sri Lanka. Just fly responsibly and you won’t have any issues. 

What do you hope your viewers take away from this video?

I hope people become more open-minded when it comes to countries like India and Sri Lanka. They tend to get painted negatively by events from their pasts, but I can tell you that you’re missing out if you don’t go. Hopefully, my video will make people realize the natural and cultural beauty each country offers and force people to overlook the bad things they might have heard.

What was your favorite part of the trip?

I really enjoyed the Himalayan section of India — seeing the most impressive mountain range in the world and exploring the remote areas of this region was something special.


Also, while there were many local experiences during the trip, one I’ll always remember was when we were invited to a mountain village by a Hindu priest. While there, we filmed people transporting goods up to their village with self-built cable cars. We had to cross a river with one of those cars in order to reach the village, and then we spent the afternoon drinking chai and sharing walnuts until the sun went down.

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Brad Donaldson is a writer and editor proudly based out of Halifax, Nova Scotia. Although his roots are in Canada, his desire to see more of the world frequently takes him away from home. His work, both as an editor and writer, has appeared in local newspapers and publications.