11th July 2014
Clichéd it may sound, but a visit to Fort Kochi in Cochin, Kerala is incomplete without clicking a picture of Sunset behind the Chinese Fishing nets. For us visitors ( tourists, travelers take your pick), it is a photo opportunity but for the fishermen of Kerala it is a lot of hard work. I am not sure exactly when the Chinese fishing nets came to India and when they became ubiquitous on the Cochin Skyline. Today they are kind of symbol of your visit to Fort Kochi in Kerala and every photographer worth his DSLR, Point and Shoot and cellphone camera wants to click sunset behind the Chinese fishing nets in Fort Kochi. Kerala is particularly suited to click sunset pictures as it is on the west coast of India and as we all know from our geography lessons that Sun sets in the west. So you have sun lazily dipping in the waters of Arabian Sea as you click the Sun. But the best sunset in Kerala to in my opinion are in Fort Kochi behind the Chinese Fishing nets
As I was walking along the bank in Fort Kochi area looking for some things to shop, a collective song rose over the cacophony of honking vehicles, and sales pitch of street vendors, engulfing me it its ” Hiya, Ho, Hiya Ho “. I could not understand a word of the song but it was almost like a war cry from men with calloused hands, sweaty shirts and chest and arms chiseled by working on the nets every single day. These fishermen had never seen the inside of a gym but could easily pose for Michael Angelo for one of his masterpiece, showcasing masterpieces of human masculinity.
The Haunting song made me stop and look at what the fishermen were doing. A couple of guys will climb the slender logs used to lower the nets in water using their body weight. Then they will climb back and join their colleagues singing ” Hiya Ho, Hiya ho“, as they pulled the nets out of water. Not an easy task looking at the pearls of sweat formed on their forehead.
I saw the exercise 5 times and twice the net yielded almost nothing. So they did everything again hoping that this time the bountiful Arabian Sea will fill their nets. They did not catch fish every time but they did catch attention of onlookers every time they broke into a chorus. The poles that hold the nets and life of the fishermen climbing them will never win any prize for beauty or structural engineering, and look scary with multiple poles joined together using some strings and wire, a typical desi Jugaad kind of job. But the fishermen were climbing them like you and I will climb stairs, may be better than me as I prefer to take elevator when available.
The chinese fishing nets look pretty mundane and oversized laundry hanging on the poles in the day. The harsh tropical light makes it tough to click them and I converted some of the day pictures of the fishing nets to Black and White. You see the challenge is when they were invented the idea was to catch fish and not the golden orb before it takes a dip in to the Ocean in evening. But as the Sun starts to get ready for his evening plunge, the sky changes color faster than a chameleon, the Chinese fishing nets show their true color for which the photographers like me consider Fort Kochi an ideal place to click a sunset (and hereby I declare myself A Photographer, Narcissus would be so proud of me! ). A lot of things happen in the golden hour as you prepare for clicking the pictures of sunset behind the Chinese Fishing nets. As the fishermen get ready to go home, the birds start coming to spend a night on the nets. The nets that were squeezing life out of sea during the day become home of another life for the night.
The other challenge is everybody else around you is also a photographer and some of them damn good at their job. So everybody is looking for the best angle to click Sunset over Chinese fishing nets. Now here is a little secret that I learned only after visiting Fort Kochi, the tourist side where all the shops and few fishing nets and market is situated is not the best place to click sunset as your view is hindered by people, lights coming from shops and the very fact that you are on the land and very close to the nets with wires, poles etc. obstructing your view.
So the best vantage point to take pictures of Sunset over chinese fishing nets in Fort Kochi is to take a boat and visit the other side of the harbor and click to your hearts desire or the capacity of your memory card.
Again you will be competing with tens of boats and some will have engines bigger than yours, so be early and enjoy as the horizon changes color and sun melts and vanishes into the sea. A few points to remember are: Carry a wide angle or kit lens, protect your gear from sea water as water splashes around you. Also remember to be careful with framing and composition as the boat rises and falls with the waves your composition will change every second even if you have not moved so be agile and keep an eye on your viewfinder. In the end everybody seems to be happy the fishermen caught some fish, the photographers caught some Sun in the net .