Wise Photographics: Blog https://www.wisephotographics.com/blog en-us (C) Clare Wise de Wet | Wise Photographics (Wise Photographics) Thu, 18 Apr 2024 20:53:00 GMT Thu, 18 Apr 2024 20:53:00 GMT https://www.wisephotographics.com/img/s/v-12/u897127954-o576020113-50.jpg Wise Photographics: Blog https://www.wisephotographics.com/blog 80 120 Navigating Death, Anxiety, and Hindu Cremation Rituals https://www.wisephotographics.com/blog/2024/4/navigating-death-anxiety-and-hindu-cremation-rituals

Ghats along the Bagmati River, Pashupatinath Temple, Kathmandu, Nepal


I'm fascinated with death and what happens afterwards, but not in the way you may think. There's no macabre fascination with death; instead, there's a deep desire to understand and come to terms with it and the hope that there is more once we pass from one realm to the next. What happens when we die? Do we return in another form, shaped by past lives?


As for my death, for as long as I can remember, all the way back to a very young age, the thought of dying has frightened the absolute shit out of me, and I would have terrible anxiety attacks if I allowed myself to think about it too deeply. I would have a rising sense of fear and panic in my chest – an empty, hollow feeling rising from the depths of my chest into my throat. A feeling that is almost impossible to explain, but it's terrifying when it happens. I would cry hysterically, and my parents would try to console me. When I was about six or seven years old, visiting my father (my parents separated when I was six), I remember asking my father about dying. I'll never forget his reply:



"What happens when we die?"

"Kiki." (my nickname)

"It's like a bird in a cage. The cage door opens, and the bird flies out. The bird is like your soul. So, when you die, your soul leaves your body like a bird flying out of a cage."


I'm not sure how much sense it made to me then, and to be honest, it didn't help the anxiety attacks, which continued for many years.


Daddy had a veritable library of books on dying, death and the afterlife.


My father died in 2004 of renal cell carcinoma (kidney cancer). I cared for him for a short while before his death. It was cruel, and he suffered, but he refused palliative care. My brother and I were with him when he died. I'm not sure whether all those books helped him.


My mother has no fear of death. Nothing. I admire this. I wish I could feel the same way.


I first experienced funeral pyre cremations in Kampala, Uganda, at the Hindu cremation site when attending the funerals of friends who had chosen to be cremated in this way. I did not find the cremations frightening, alarming or confronting. I felt a great sense of peace and an overwhelming feeling of liberation when watching my friends' bodies burn on the funeral pyre. What did happen was the realisation that this is what I want to happen to my body when I die.


My visit to Pashupatinath Temple in Kathmandu, Nepal, was my first experience seeing the Hindu death rituals close up. It was almost like a conveyor belt of bodies. One body would be moved from the slab at the bank of the Bagmati River, and another would be put in place. I didn't find the scenes distressing or disturbing; however, being an empath, I felt deep sorrow for the people who had lost their loved ones.  There is a practicality about the Hindu cremations that one has to admire.


As believers in reincarnation, Hindus believe that only their body dies. The soul is reborn in a different form after death. They believe in Karma, the idea that past actions determine future outcomes, and to escape the cycle of reincarnation, one must attain Moksha, a state of ultimate freedom where a person experiences oneness with Brahman, the Supreme Self or God. Moksha is a state of knowledge, peace, and bliss—something we all wish to attain (well, I do).


I've had the privilege to care for people as they pass from this life, yet I've also encountered the distress of witnessing the slow deaths of people whom I felt utterly powerless to assist.


I plan on visiting Varanasi, one of the world's oldest and holiest cities in India, where pilgrims come to Maa Ganga (Ganges) for rituals and cremations, to immerse myself in these traditions, which I hope will enhance my understanding and to help me make peace with the inevitable cycle of life and death. I can either continue having anxiety attacks or embrace the fact that mortality is an inescapable part of life.


**Respect and love to those I photographed, and may their loved ones rest in eternal peace.

Pashupatinath Temple, Kathmandu, Nepal


(Wise Photographics) Philosophy of death Acceptance of mortality Coping with death Cremation rituals Death acceptance Death exploration Death rituals Embracing mortality Exploring life after death Understanding death https://www.wisephotographics.com/blog/2024/4/navigating-death-anxiety-and-hindu-cremation-rituals Mon, 15 Apr 2024 21:58:37 GMT
'Capturing the Chaos at Indian Weddings' https://www.wisephotographics.com/blog/2024/3/capturing-the-chaos-at-indian-weddings

Indian weddings are unlike anything else — a riot of colours, emotions, and traditions, each moment bursting with life and energy. As someone who captures these celebrations through candid photography, let me tell you, it's a rollercoaster ride of emotions and challenges. Being of an older age adds another layer of complexity.

Imagine being surrounded by crowds of excited guests, all clamouring to catch a glimpse of the happy couple. Amid all this excitement, finding that perfect shot becomes a mission requiring focus and physical stamina, especially when you're nursing a serious back issue. However, needs must (and taking a lot of painkillers helps)!

From the wild dancing in the streets ahead of the Baraat procession (the groom moving through the streets on horseback to ultimately reach the wedding venue to meet his new wife), dodging eager guests and not being trampled by them (🤣) searching for that perfect shot to capture the essence of every passing moment required a dance of its own.

The day after (and being on my feet for six hours straight the night before), every muscle screamed in protest, making me feel like I'd run a marathon. Despite the fatigue and discomfort, I had an undeniable sense of fulfilment. Within the 1,000-odd images I captured lay a treasure trove of memories, each frame a testament to the love, laughter, and sheer exuberance that defines Indian weddings.

The weddings I have attended so far have been conducted in the evening, so I have had to push my Fujifilm X-T5 camera to its limits (I don't use external lighting as I find it intrusive, especially for candid work), setting the ISO to 12,800 in the dimly lit venues. Ultimately, the noise at ISO 12,800 may have slightly degraded the details, but it's a compromise worth making.  What matters most is not the technical perfection of each shot but the stories they tell and the moments they preserve for generations to come.

So yes, shooting candid photography at Indian weddings may be physically and mentally exhausting, but still, as I look back on those whirlwind hours, I wouldn't trade the experience for anything else. After all, amidst the chaos, beauty is waiting to be immortalised. I, for one, am honoured to be its humble chronicler.

Me in the thick of it at a wedding in Delhi.  Photo courtesy © Keshav Sharma


(Wise Photographics) 800 Baraat procession Candid photography Candid shots Dimly lit venues Fujifilm X-T5 Indian weddings ISO 12 Rollercoaster ride of emotions Wedding celebrations Wedding photography https://www.wisephotographics.com/blog/2024/3/capturing-the-chaos-at-indian-weddings Sat, 09 Mar 2024 17:23:51 GMT
'Rediscovering Life: A Journey Beyond 58' https://www.wisephotographics.com/blog/2024/2/-rediscovering-life-a-journey-beyond-58

Photographing the incredible scenery from Muktinath Temple, Lower Mustang, Nepal © Hari Dhakal

Hello, I'm Clare – a born and bred Aussie passionate about exploring the world. Throughout my life, I've been fortunate to travel extensively, living and working in various countries such as Uganda, the UK, Malta, the United Arab Emirates, and South Africa. As a tourist, I've ventured to India (several times), Nepal, the USA, China, Canada, Yemen, and many other countries.

In December 1999, my husband and I embarked on an overland journey from London to Uganda in our trusty Mitsubishi 4x4, travelling through Europe, Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Sudan, Ethiopia and Kenya and ultimately arriving in Uganda in August 2000, where we settled.

Now, at age 58, I find myself on a journey of self-discovery, embracing a new phase in my life. Join me as I break away from societal norms and embark on an exhilarating adventure of rediscovery, embracing the unknown with open arms.

Each moment adds colour to my story, from thrilling experiences like paragliding over stunning landscapes in Himachal Pradesh and Nepal to etching tales of resilience through vibrant tattoos.

Beyond being an adventurer, I'm also an avid documentary and travel photographer, capturing the essence of diverse cultures and documenting the remarkable stories of the people I meet. Whether in India's lively markets or Uganda's sweeping landscapes, my camera serves as a bridge, connecting hearts and fostering unity through shared experiences.

But this journey isn't just about travel—it's a testament to life's endless possibilities beyond a certain age. It's about reinventing oneself, chasing dreams, and embracing the richness of life at every turn. Life after 58 isn't a decline; it's an exhilarating ascent to new heights, with a few hiccups along the way, filled with extraordinary moments waiting to be embraced.

Join me as I explore the world, liberated and unafraid (okay, maybe a little bit afraid), celebrating the magic of waking up each morning to live another day. Together, let's cherish the wonders of our world and seize every opportunity it presents. Because beyond the milestone of 58 lies a realm of boundless potential, and I'm here to show just how remarkable it can be. Live your life the best way you possibly can. We don't know what tomorrow will bring.

The above photo was taken as I had just finished a studio shoot of my beautiful full-back fairy tattoo created by my friend and tattoo artist, Travel-Man Tattoos, based in Rishikesh, Uttarakhand, India. My arm filigree tattoo, seen in the photo, was also created by him. You can glimpse the Fairy Queen in the top left of this photo. © Manish Sehrawat/Gulshan Hansdah

Paragliding QueenParagliding in the Pokhara region, Nepal, Jan24 Paragliding and taking in the breathtaking views near Pokhara, Nepal. © Flying Bishnu

Photographing a Sadhu at Pashupatinath Temple, Kathmandu, Nepal.  You can see his portrait in the top left of this photo. He is a very colourful guy! © Keshav Sharma

 I am having a tender and loving moment with a cow in Dhampus, with the backdrop of the Annapurna Himalaya Ranges, Nepal. © Sandeep Timilsina

(Wise Photographics) Embracing life Malta Mitsubishi 4x4 Nepal Overland journey Paragliding Rediscovery South Africa Uganda UK USA World traveller Yemen Adventure Aussie Boundless potential Canada China Clare Culture Diversity Documentary photography Dreams Embrace opportunities Himachal Pradesh India Life beyond 58 Magic of waking up Reinvention Remarkable experiences Seize the day Self-discovery Travel Travel photography United Arab Emirates https://www.wisephotographics.com/blog/2024/2/-rediscovering-life-a-journey-beyond-58 Sun, 25 Feb 2024 20:47:22 GMT