There was great sadness in the eyes of the bride because she was leaving her family.

The marriage ceremony took place in India’s hot, dry season, but the area surrounding the Hill Stations of the North offered some respite from that. This region is where the British Raj had set up summer vacation spots long ago to escape the intense heat of Delhi.

Here, wind rustled the deodars, sacred Himalayan Cedars, and stirred up dust around the cooking pots while men from the bride’s village seasoned and stirred the food.

Every moment was worthy of a picture: a ceremonial tikka applied to the forehead with a single upward stroke, young men — already drunk — dancing in the distance, a Brahmin chanting, a holy fire, thrones for the bride and groom.

The American photographer and her friend, both of whom Baba had brought with him to the village from Ranikhet, watched with fascination. It’s always a question of balance for photographers. How much of what is going on around you at any given moment do you experience through the lens?

And what was going on all around photojournalist Yve Assad and her travel companion, Nicole, was a dizzying mix of scent and color, sound and emotion.

“I’ve been to Eastern and Western Europe,” she says of the experience. “But traveling to India makes those places feel like your own backyard.”

Their place at the wedding ceremony was a blissful mix of accident and design. They hired Baba, a friendly local, to be their guide with the express purpose of seeing more of India than is encountered in the tourist areas. Baba was happy to work with them, but advised them that, as his sister was getting married during that time, there would be at least one day that had to be spent with his family. Would they care to attend the wedding?

“We jumped at the chance,” says Assad. “The whole experience was really, really powerful. I won’t ever forget it.”

Assad brought more than 2,000 images home from India, the best of which she plans to organize into an exhibit. “Pictures make a bigger impact when they’re presented in a gallery format,” she says. In the meantime, she shared several of them at a recent Second Monday lecture, “From Charleston to India with Yve Assad,” for the Charleston Center for Photography.

“Her pictures give the viewer a look at India from a ‘locals’ point-of-view,” says Stacy Pearsall, Center for Photography director. “The colors, people, and landscapes are like none I have ever seen.”

For Assad, a photographer and graphic designer who studied photojournalism at the University of Georgia, it was an opportunity to dig deeper into the stories of people and places that are less frequently told.

“One of the main reasons I went into photography was to shed light on social and environmental issues,” she says. “It made me want to travel to places with issues that could be helped by public awareness.

“Photos can make the public aware of problems that exist,” she says. “That inspires me.”

To familiarize herself with the vast country, she ventured into the labyrinthine spice markets, wandered through a festival of lights in Varanasi, a holy city on the Ganges River, took a train to Delhi, and traveled to Himalayan towns such as Nainital, Almora, and Kausani. It was by no means an exhaustive trip. She hopes to revisit the country again, in different seasons, and continue to explore its culture through photography.

Getting to know the locals was instrumental to Assad capturing the images that would tell the story she needed to tell. Hiking through the mountains with a guide to a three-room house made of rock with no electricity or running water — only a generator brought in to power a single light bulb for the bridal preparation and the music outside — revealed a glimpse into a way of life far removed from the daily reality of most Americans.

In particular, the emotional intensity of the Indian wedding ceremony made a distinct impression on the photographer and her companion.

“It was surreal to see the bride going through those last few moments with her family,” she says. “She went around to several of the guests, touching their feet out of respect, crying hysterically, and saying goodbye. This was everything she knew and loved and now she had to start a new life with a strange man in a village far away. When she came around to give us a hug, we both lost it.

“Whenever I travel, it’s really about the experience of having my eyes opened to how other people live,” she says. “You really have no idea what you’re going to find until you’re there.”