Tuesday, December 07, 2010

In Search of Love

In Search of Love
Originally uploaded by Shubh M Singh
This is a short short story. And it is in first person. I am this middle-aged woman, and I love blue. In fact, I love blue so much that I became blue. And I mean that psychologically. And before I knew it, I was all alone and blue. So I went out looking for love. I searched high and low, under the ground and in the sky, in dry places and wet, in green places and gray. Some people I met, I liked, some said they loved me. I did not believe any of it, I did not know what it meant. Then one day, I was told of love that was waiting for me at the end of a long, steep stairway, in a stony, hard fort next to a beautiful forest with a few tigers. So I made it there, and saw one tiger. And I looked for love, and when I found it, I must admit, it was not quite what I expected.
I am still blue.

Monday, December 06, 2010

Simple Guidelines to possibly Better Pictures

At the very outset, I would like to state my case. I believe that a beautiful picture is one that appeals to the viewer. And I believe that the most important viewer is the creator of that picture. If you as the creator, the author of the image are satisfied, that is most of the battle won. But as you walk further down the path with the camera around your neck, the weight starts to tell and your eye becomes more critical. Soon enough, the opinions of others start to matter more than before and then it is time to take the next leap of faith.

When I was asked to write this piece, I initially could not think of what I could say that would be useful. So I started looking at my online photostream and tried to figure out what I have tried to do consciously and unconsciously. I discovered that over time, among other things, most of my pictures have in one way or the other fulfilled these guidelines. However, as I stated above, these guidelines are not exhaustive, nor are they inviolate. In fact, some of my most satisfying pictures have come about as a result of not following these guidelines. But, as a rule of thumb these tend to work.

  1. Use Layers: Once in a while you stumble upon a scene where there is a lot happening and it is often tough deciding what to include and what not to. Sometimes it is prudent to include all that you find interesting, especially if these elements tend to occur in layers. It is great if you can find a single point of focus around which all the action occurs, but that is definitely not a necessity. In this photo that I made with a medium telephoto lens, I had this clothesline in the foreground followed by the river Yamuna, followed by a temple and finally the ghats on the other bank of the river. I could have tried to isolate some of the elements (which I later did), but I found this shot particularly satisfying because for me it was the closest that came to my experience that evening. http://www.flickr.com/photos/shubh/5178310676/in/set-72157624623469888/

  1. Draw them in: If your point of interest is further up the frame, it is often a good idea to use some of the elements around to let the eye of the viewer be guided up to it. This shot for instance was taken from a moving car as I crossed a railway crossing, the three boys moving on the railway tracks looked interesting enough, and the rails curving away to meet them completed the picture for me. http://www.flickr.com/photos/shubh/4406005930/ http://www.flickr.com/photos/shubh/5228388795/

  1. Off-centre composition: Sometimes you have to decide what to do with your subject and where exactly you want him to be in your frame. You do not have anything that you can use as a prop or to make the scene more interesting. At those times, an off-centre composition is a safe choice. This priest sitting on the stairs would probably not look as poised if I placed him bang in the centre. http://www.flickr.com/photos/shubh/4529703093/ Sometimes though, it is a good idea to break the rule. This shot is one of my favorite tiger images, and I would not have it any other way. http://www.flickr.com/photos/shubh/4746327110/in/set-72157624260314889/

  1. Use of negative space advantageously: Negative space or space where there is no action can often be used advantageously. It can be used to give a sense of scale, a sense of movement or a sense of loneliness. This boat in the Chilika Lake in Orissa looked frail and lonely in the vast expanse of the lagoon. I tried to use the space around to emphasize this feeling. http://www.flickr.com/photos/shubh/4507034113/

  1. Get close and intimate if you can: Zoom lenses sometimes make you lazy. Often you want to get to the essence of your subject. Really feel the texture and the toughness of the skin, smell the sweat so to speak. That is when you need to get in close if you can and really isolate your subject and fill up your frame with your subject. I met this man who was selling Toddy (a local alcohol made of fermented juice) in a small village in Orissa. His face spoke of a life of hardships and bad weather. The only way I could do justice to his experiences and mine was to go in close enough to get the texture of his skin in my RAW file. I could not have done justice to his kind consent to be photographed if the composition was loose. http://www.flickr.com/photos/shubh/5206554900/

  1. Explore a different point of view: There are clichés and there are clichéd pictures. Sometimes the way to rise above the humdrum is to try and see it from a new point of view. Often that is what sets your image apart. I have seen a lot of fisherman photos, and I had a chance to look down from a bridge on to the river below. Down below, I could see a fisherman trying to catch some fish and the next day I came back with a camera to explore this possibility of a different point view. I think I succeeded in doing something different even though the result could possibly have been better. http://www.flickr.com/photos/shubh/5203562511/

  1. Explore lines and shapes: In an urban world, the landscape is increasingly changing from free flowing forms to straight lines and geometric shapes. In Delhi and other metros, all I see is straight lines and angles. And these can often be explored to give an occasional interesting result. I made this image while I was waiting at a traffic light, waiting for it to change from red to green. I had a camera with me and just to while away those 120 seconds, I looked around and made this picture. http://www.flickr.com/photos/shubh/5200456531/

  1. Try to capture a fleeting moment: Famous photographers such as Cartier-Bresson took this art of capturing the decisive moment to dizzy heights. It is tougher than it looks seeing the deceptively simple photos of these giants. However, at the outset, it is often useful to capture a movement at just the right time to give an otherwise humdrum image an added point of interest. I was exploring a 300mm lens in sector 17, Chandigarh when I saw these pigeons fluttering around the plaza. I tried to get the pigeon at exactly this point in its flight. http://www.flickr.com/photos/shubh/5192716632/

  1. Two is better than one: As the name suggests, when there is a possibility to go double, why be satisfied with a single. When there is some action going on around you, it is often possible to duplicate it and give it a new meaning and added interest. Reflections are only one way as I have explored in this photo. It is fun and interesting to use shadows, or other moving elements to create sympathetic elements to your main subject. http://www.flickr.com/photos/shubh/5181721597/

In the end, I would like to emphasize that most important thing is to have fun. And if in the process it is possible to quench a creative urge or even earn a livelihood, all the better.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

I Missed You All My Life

I finally took the plunge and got a Nikkor 300mm F4 AF-S. And I discovered what fun it is. In all ways and in all circumstances. Wide open, stopped down, eminently hand-holdable. Fantastic glass. And just when I got it, I discovered that Nikon India has reduced even the regular prices to those pretty close to the grey market ones.
Now all I need to do is to get a tiger to pose and see how good this baby really is with warm colors.
All pictures shot with a Nikon D200.

A Meeting

Something vibrated in my pocket, and it was the phone which meant that it could not signify anything good. And it was not. Talk about not being pleasantly surprised. It was the summons to another meeting. A meeting that meant just that, a meeting. No beginning, no middle and quite definitely no end.
So swallowing my annoyance, and quelling a pang of anxiety that I have been fraught with lately, I went in. And there they were. Sitting around a table, knowing all along that there was nothing to be done and nothing to be had.
I was asked if I had anything to say, and I asked if there was anything that i was meant to say and anything that all this was about. As it turned out and as usual, there was not. And there was no Devil's Advocate around. And democratically, the inquisition was completed. I had been sentenced.

Sunday, September 05, 2010

Case Vignette

Well, where should I start? And the less generous ones would say, why start at all?
But start I must because I have been still too long. And I have moved a lot, in different worlds and places. More good and bad. I have seen my son growing up every week and I feel sorry that it is not every day.
It all restarted one morning in a bus. And that was after a few tiring days of walking about in the hills. And lack of sleep and lack of peace. I got up very early in the morning and after the usual half-hearted efforts got out of home and made my way to the bus stop. It was till dark, and there was a bit of a nip in the air.
As the bus moved, I remembered the previous night when I had felt some of the same anxiety and worry. I had brushed it aside knowing or maybe not knowing better.
And all of a sudden it came on to me. Kind of met me rushing up the road as I moved south to Delhi. It was physical, visceral, terrifying and kind of so terrifying that I did not initially know what it was. It was just there. Anxiety. Here I am in this bus, hurtling along not fast enough. My mouth is dry, and my heart feels like it will pop out of my chest, beating away faster than the bus does. If it chewed up the kilometers on the road, I would be in Delhi in no time. A few thoughts crossed my mind, should I get off or continue, and as stingy as I am, I decided to stay on and take my chances with death. I have been conditioned to worry, knowing that people in my family die early in the morning with symptoms just like mine. And they think that they are not going to die until they are already dead. Leaving behind everyone more surprised than shocked and in sorrow. And it continued longer than it should. It was very bad. What can I say, dear reader. It was very bad. I think of my son, and if maybe he will grow up without me or worse still, grow up even without a memory of me. And now I am thinking of options, that happens all the time. I wonder what I can do, and tick off each as I consider it inappropriate or inopportune. I have already decided against getting down. So, I try to palpate my pulse, and through the racket the engine is making, I detect a certain Mr Tachycardia. He feels and looks like my boss. The good thing however is that I don't seem to be getting worse (what happens if I do). Strangely enough, I seem to feel sleepy. And that even to me, is strange. I wonder is that feeling faint or am I slipping into unconsciousness? And again i do some attention and concentration tests to myself, and decide that I am pretty fine as far as that goes. And finally after a few agonizing minutes, I decide that it is better to go to sleep and take my chances than to live through this terror. So i sleep for some comforting minutes.

Friday, April 02, 2010

Course Correction

Tiger in the Meadow
Originally uploaded by Shubh M Singh
My laptop is now missing an occasional 'I' so if there is some word sans i, please fill it up yourself.
After much running around, and some initiative, I finally made it back to Bandhavgarh (BG) and am now convinced that there are somoe handsome tigers there. I was lucky enough to see five of them on different occasions.
Lessons learnt are much the same as the last blog post on the same subject. However, one thing that I would advice all wannabe tiger watchers is to not make the tiger the sole purpose. If you are there for photography for instance, and all you see are deer, then aim to get the best deer picture you can ever make.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Egyptian Vulture: Back from the dead

Egyptian Vulture
Originally uploaded by Shubh M Singh
I saw this guy today from top of the Dera Bassi overbridge.
Hadn't seen an Egyptian vulture in years and this one pops out all of a sudden. Made my day.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

A Not So Fine Balance

I was reading this book, A fine balance by Rohinton Mistry. Its good, its great. ANd was compelled to write a short note about it.
What I could not fathom is how every, and I mean every character is screwed up in life in the book.
I mean, the only somewhat cheerful person was a man who made a living by going around with a couple of performing monkeys and a dog. It so happens that the dog kills and eats up the two monkeys, the man kills the dog in grief and finally ends up with neither the dog nor the monkeys.
Kind of hitting below the belt.... But Such is life.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Chandigarh Administration 2010 Calendar- No Credits.

Ferris Wheel-2
Originally uploaded by Shubh M Singh
I went to a Chandigarh Admn office today for some work and I was pretty surprised to see this picture among others on the calendar.
Well, I had given this picture as a JPEG file in the Rose Festival photography competition (where it did not win anything!!) and the terms and conditions specified that the picture could be used by the Chandigarh Admn. What I did not know is that they would not have the decency to inform me of the fact that this was being used, have the decency to offer me a copy of that calendar and most of all not have the decency of attributing or giving credit to the photographer on the calendar!! And I am not even talking money here.

Engineering skills

Well, I AI-ed a non-AI 300mm 4.5 manual nikkor lens to go with my Nikon D200. Well, not completely succesful but it works and nothing got broken.

Saturday, January 02, 2010

A Happy New Ear

A new pair of ears actually. Along with hands, legs, and the rest of the body. I dont know if my brand new son is happy or not but I am. So that was my happy new ear.
As usual as the clock struck midnight and fireworks went off in the distance, I was tucked into a quilt, trying to make some sense of the corrections asked for my some moronic idiot of a reviewer for some paper had almost forgotten about. So I stopped, poured myself a large measure of Jack Daniel's whiskey in a large steel tumbler, broke of some ice from the fridge and made myself a nice stiff drink. I went back into the warmth of bed, saw my wife and son sleeping, and thought well, its just another day. Nursed my drink for a few minutes. Then finished it in a gulp.
Soon I was warm, and a little later fast asleep.
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