The Unknown Georgia in a Wandering Photographer’s Focus
11 December, 2014
The Unknown Georgia in a Wandering Photographer’s Focus
Photography is a business that does not acknowledge good or bad weather, night or day, light or darkness, risks or threats. Weathering these conditions is the only way to introduce and interest society at large in something they have no idea about. Even in a small country like Georgia, there still exist places of which neither natural science organizations nor locals know anything about. This includes both underground and aboveground parts of the country. Wandering photographer Roman Tolordava tells us
about the former.


– Why did you decide to become a wandering photographer and for how long have you been one?

– I’ve been fond of mountains and sea since childhood. There was no limit to my happiness whenever summer holidays began because this meant that together with my grandfather I would become a volunteer shepherd, setting off on a journey to alpine pastures of Egrisi Ridge along with seasoned shepherds. Even now I still see these magical waterfalls, glades full of flowers, peaks jutting into the sky, silver-colored lakes and, of course, the inhabitants of these amazing lands. My childhood has long passed, but from these journeys I inherited a very valuable thing – a special relationship with nature, expressed in love and desire to protect it. geotv.ge
I have always desired to share what I’ve seen and experienced. This desire has made me a wandering photographer, and I am all the happier for it. The feeling of developing a film containing photographs of a new, previously unexplored place is indescribable. For this, anything is worth enduring, be it hunger, cold, fatigue or insomnia. In general, the golden rule of photography is, “30 minutes before sunrise and 30 minutes after it.” Same goes for evenings, “30 minutes before sunset and 30 minutes after it.” This is especially true when you have mountains, seas and rivers in one still. This is why I carry a tent. This is the best way to catch nature’s beauty on camera.

– Can you tell us about previously unknown places in Georgia that you have visited, explored and photographed?

– The problem is that not even one percent of Georgian people know about Lakumura Lake (Lakumurash Toba), for example, which is located in Egrisi mountain ridge. And not just people – not even the Institute of Geography could provide me with coherent information about it. There were no expeditions made to explore it, probably because this grand and breathtaking location is very hard to access. It serves as one of the sources of Tkheishi River’s waters, which then flow into the Enguri River. When I went up there and saw the lake for the first time, I just stood there for some time, dumbfounded by its beauty, before starting to take photos.

– You have traveled to a lot of places on foot, and you are bound to have encountered some difficulties along the way. Could you tell us about them?

– Once, when exploring a small cave in Shurubumi canyon, a sudden rockslide completely blocked the entrance and I was trapped. Friends who stayed outside couldn’t push the boulders away to release me because some of them weighed over a ton. To tell you the truth, in that moment I forgot everything about both photography and speleology. After four hours of work, we managed to dig a small trench under the rockslide, through which I managed to squeeze. It was already dark by the time I was released.
There are still many amazingly beautiful but unexplored locations in Georgia, among them Migari Massif, which contains 36 caves and chasms. When I say, “unexplored,” I really mean it - only 4.5 kilometers of the aforementioned cave in Shurubumi have been explored, thanks to a joint Georgian-French expedition organized by the EU. Our divers and their colleagues from Baltic countries studied the underground lakes. They dived to a depth of 40 meters and traveled the length of the lakes, revealing that many concealed dry passages, unseen behind rock walls and were only accessible through water. However, there is still a lot of exploration waiting to be done.

“Cavern waterfalls have a peculiar, completely different sound – they buzz instead of roar and can be heard from far away. This underground world is quite mystical”

– Is working in caves particularly hard?

– Yes. You need a different approach to everything. Climatic conditions are unpleasant and omnipresent dampness plays nasty tricks on electric equipment, forcing you to choose the tech you take with you very carefully. But it is definitely worth it because any part of the cave is spectacular and interesting. Swirling colors, rock formations, naturally occurring tiers, lakes, rivers and waterfalls – I could go on and on. Cavern waterfalls have a peculiar, completely different sound – they buzz instead of roar and can be heard from far away. This underground world is quite mystical.


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