Special Feature — The Devil’s Staircase: Travels on the Kalupahana-Ohiya Road

To call the route connecting Kalupahana to Ohiya a road is quite generous. What it is, is an adventure. Whether you are tough enough to walk its length or mad enough to drive it, this is a journey every adventurer should take.”

Sometimes the Devil’s Staircase feels like the edge of Heaven.
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Temple of the Water God

I believe that water is the closest thing to a god we have here on Earth.”

— Alex Z Moores Living in Water

The Randenigala Reservoir, surrounded by the jungles of the Rantembe Reserve. December 2018. If water is the one true god of our planet, then the reservoirs we’ve built over millennia must be its greatest temples.

• 24mm • f/8 • 1/1600 • ISO800 • 5DMkIII & EF24-105/4L •

Restoring the Balance #2

A cleared hillside close to Haputale, in the Central Highlands of Sri Lanka. September 2017. The island has lost huge areas of jungle and forest to the plantation and timber industries over the last two centuries. Many areas in the Central Highlands are now being removed of environmentally harmful pine trees that were introduced by paper manufacturers in the 1970s; replacing them with endemic trees in a government-initiated reforestation programme which will encourage the return of undergrowth.

• 110mm • f/8 • 1/200 • ISO400 • 600D & EF-S18-200/3.5-5.6 • circular polariser •

Tropical sub-montane forest in the mountains above Belihul Oya. Shot on assignment for Serendib, the inflight magazine of Sri Lankan Airlines, in September 2017.

• 40mm • f/4.5 • 1/60 • ISO400 • 600D & EF-S18-200/3.5-5.6 • circular polariser •

Racing the Gold Home

A brace of tourist boats race home through the evening golden hour cloaking Lake Gregory and the Nuwara Eliya Valley. This is a recent reprocessing of one of a lengthy set of photos I took of the lake, through the evening and into the night, in February 2017, for Serendib, the inflight magazine of Sri Lankan Airlines. My photo story, The Nuwara Eliya Season in Spring, ran in the April issue.

• 18mm • f/8 • 1/160 • ISO400 • 600D & EF-S18-200/3.5-5.6

In the Light of Rama

Looking east from the top of 600m high Dolukanda, in the Kurunegala District; believed to be linked to the Ramayana epic, the rocky outcrop is thought to be one of the herbal mountains dropped by the monkey god, Hanuman. In the distance is the Kimbulawana Lake. Sri Lanka, May 2022.

• 18mm • f/3.5 • 1/500 • ISO100 •

A Sunny Morning on the Daha Ata Wanguwa

The series of spectacular hairpin bends and loops known as the Daha Ata Wanguwa, or ‘Eighteen Bends’, drops the A26 highway 400m down the eastern side of the Sri Lankan Central Highlands, to the Hasalaka River. The drive from Digana to Mahiyanganaya is superb and, if coupled with a return trip up the B492, offers one of the best driving experiences in the country. Shot on assignment for Explore Sri Lanka. My road trip story, The Temple of War, ran in the April 2016 issue.

Unnatural Beauty

The mountains above Ella, in the Central Highlands of Sri Lanka, cloaked with tea and evergreens. Before the 19th century, these landscapes would have looked very different; covered with montane rain forest, and teeming with leopard, elephant, and sambar. The jungle was cut down or burned, and the animals shot. British planters wanted the land for coffee, tea, and rubber plantations. A large part of what was left was cleared away by the Sri Lankan government in the 1970s, so that pine trees could be planted for the paper industry. Shot on assignment for The New York Times in December 2018.

To the Land of Tea

In the second half of the 19th century, after the fall of the Kandyan Kingdom, the huge swathes of montane rain forest that covered the Central Highlands of Sri Lanka were completely destroyed by British colonisers. The red earth of the mountains was swept clean of everything natural, flora and fauna; then replanted with the carpets of green bushes that even today fill the teabags and bank accounts of the world’s most famous brands. Bagawantalawa, February 2014.

Morning Commute

As the morning sun begins to cut through the mist and jungle, a pair of tea pluckers walk along a mountain track to work on a tea plantation in Bagawantalawa, in the Central Highlands of Sri Lanka. February 2014.