Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The Best Of Me

The hitcounter is ticking at a great pace of late and it's nearing 1.3 lakh.  A zillion thanks to all the blog visitors and subscribers, it's you who keep me inspired to write, travel & photograph.  Since there is much traffic now, I thought it's a good idea to list out some of my best articles / travelogues etc which would make it a lot easier for the readers than to find something in 300+ blogposts.  So here I go...

Humour: 
My very first humour write up:  Conference Room
Good old swimming pool in China: Zhangjiang Swimming Pool
Chinese English: Chinglish
A sad TV channel in China: CCTV9
The Man Who Knew Too Much: Interviewing experience
Customer interviews:  Complete idiot's guide to clear customer interviews
Marriages in IT industry: IT Matrimony
Photos & captions of Desi's in America: America America
Software engineer's onsite: Onsite life
How to drive in Bangalore: Tips for driving in Bangalore
An intro to my team: Office Space
Uncomprehending Inception: Movie at Mantri Mall

Adventures: 
My closest encounter with Death: A Matter of Life and Luck
One & only canyoneering I've done: Matacanes canyon
Hike in Cerro de las Mitras: Pico Perico
Long duration swimming: 12 Hours Swimming Marathon
Swimming marathon in Pacific ocean: Maraton Guadalupano
Along the river in the canyon: Team Building
100km Walk: Peregrenacion de San Juan de los Lagos
10k events: Soriana, Duendes, Sunfeast
12k event: Bengaluru Midnight Marathon
Kumraparavatha trek: Day1 and Day2


Roaming around in Mexico:
A photographer's paradise: Los Cabos
Lovely state of Michoacan: Lago de Patzcuaro, Monarch Butterflies, Vulcan de Paricutin,
The prettiest city: Guanajuato
Queretaro, a colonial town: Roadtrip to Queretaro
A lovely Mexican village: Real de Catorce
A mining town of Mexico: Zacatecas
A place I would love to go back and settle down, Oaxaca: Part I and Part II
Canyon bigger and deeper than Grand Canyon: Copper canyon, Chihuahua
Camping in the desert, Cuatro Cienegas: I visit and II visit
Back in time to civilization of Mayas: Chiapas I, Chiapas II and Guatemala
Chichen Itza, one of new seven wonders of the world: Of Pyramids and Pelicans
A very unique museum of masks: El Museo Rafael Coronel, Zacatecas
One of the best museums I've ever seen: Museo Nacional de Antropologia
My last and final escapade in Mexico: Nevado de Toluca


Exploring India: 
In search of wildlife: Weekend in woods
Birds sanctuary: Rangantittu
Lamayuru Monastery: Drive to Lamayuru
An Indo-Chinese lake:  Pang-gong-tso lake, Ladakh
Road less travelled: To Leh from Manali
Bijapur, the home of Adil Shahis: Gol Gumbaz, Ibrahim Rouza
Lovely stone sculpture & temple: Badami, Aihole and Pattadakal
An abode of Iyengars: Memorable Melkote
Heritage of Assam: Sibsagar
Back to our geography textbooks: Cheerapunji
A village in Arunachal: Likabali
A city of waning splendour: Shillong


Reportage/Journals:
How we got cheated: Laptop sales in China
Photography exhibition I participated: Bangalore Photography Festival
Festival Internacional de Cervantino: Cervantino, Guanjuato
A Mexican Carnival: Carnaval Autlan
Photo Marathon in Bangalore: Canon Photo Marathon
How I utilized my sick leave: Annular Solar Eclipse
Beautiful flowers of Lalbagh: International Flower Festival
Yakshagana, the Indian dance form: Yakshagana
Bihu dance coverage: Bihu, the breath of Assam
Jamming with band: A day with Nee


Weddings/Portraits:
Karla-Ernesto wedding
Shoba-Ashok wedding
Rajani-Mahesh Wedding
Anu-Arun wedding
Shirin portfolio
Renata portfolio
Pradhay portfolio


Reviews:
Canon EF 100mm f2.8 macro lens (Buy it here: Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro USM Lens for Canon SLR Cameras)
Apple Mac OS X - Leopard (Buy it here: Mac OS X Leopard, Version 10.5 - Single License (Retail Box))
Aperture 3 (Buy it here:  Aperture 3 Upgrade)
Vivaaerobus - Mexican local airline
Continental Airlines
Kingfisher Airlines


For all those metal heads:
Iron Maiden - A Matter of Life and Death tour, Bangalore
Black Sabbath - Heaven and Hell tour, Monterrey
Iced Earth - Framing Armageddon album review
Iron Maiden - Somewhere back in time tour - I leg, Monterrey
Iron Maiden - Somewhere back in time tour - II leg, Monterrey
Dark Tranquility - In concert, Monterrey
Opeth - Watershed album review
Opeth - In concert, Monterrey

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Ürümqi, The Capital

If you want to let Chinese figure out that you're referring to the city of Ürümqi, you've to say Wu-Lu-Mu-Chi.  It's the capital of Xinjiang autonomous region, a bustling city with the pleasant smell of Muslim spices and sundries.  Most boards and hoardings were bilingual with Pinyin and Urdu scripts, the look and feel of the city is pretty much like any other medium sized city without too many skyscrapers like Shanghai.  Since we reached the city by dinner time, we checked in a hotel and head straight to Yahao nan lu for dinner, it's something like our VV Puram food street with a different cuisine altogether.  The street emanated pleasant aroma of lamb and rice cooked with rich spice of the silk route.
 
Non-availability of tickets to Buerjin on the next day morning, compelled us to plan for Tian lake (Tianchi) a.k.a heaven lake. About three hours journey across Jungarpendi led us to this spell binding lake which defined the color blue. The lake acted as a mirror to the sky, reflecting the entire blue color. Surrounded all sides by mountains with one snow capped mountain in the center, the gorgeous splendour of the lake mesmerized me. Spent a couple of hours straying around the lake and showing it to my camera and returned to Ürümqi.  That very night we head to Buerqin (Bu-er-chin)...more about the trip coming soon.  
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Saturday, August 21, 2010

From the fuselage

Since am not planning any big travel this year and my blog was never graced with any photographs from China, I decided to dig into my archives and to write a series of photoblogs about my Chinese travels.  Obviously most of them are gonna be less wordy since I don't have much information about the travels, but I shall jot down whatever I find in my memory.

This very first blog post is a series of photographs that I took from the flight window during my trip from Shanghai to Xinjiang with a stopover at Jinan.  Stay tuned for some of the most exotic photographs from Xinjiang wilderness.











Thursday, August 19, 2010

HAPPY WORLD PHOTOGRAPHER'S DAY


This is a very special photo for me. It was one of my first decent shots which I feel proud about. It was shot using my simple Konica Minolta DImage Z1 point-&-shoot camera, the one with which I started my photography. As I finished my swimming workout and was finding something to shoot in the SAI (Sports Authority of India) campus, I found this praying mantis posing for me and I was lucky to get this. It's an SOOC shot.

With ratings: Aesthetics: 5.57/7 Originality: 5.71/7, this photograph still remains my highest rated photograph on my photo.net portfolio.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Of visions and perceptions

If you're neither a photographer nor have any inclination towards photography then this article would bore you to death, browse something else on my blog, coz this one's serious write up on photography, without any exotic photographs in it.

As a photographer the way you look at things, subjects as referred to in photography jargon, undergoes a paradigm shift. Many a times it may so happen that you're on the bank of a stunning lake where people are going mad by the sheer beauty of the scenery and you're absolutely clueless of how to compose a good shot; or the other way round where in you're completely engrossed in shooting a subject and others find nothing there.  I'm sure most of us who are into some form of photography would have experienced such a thing.  So what is it that we photographers see or want to see that others don't care to?  Let's see that in this article and along with that I'm also gonna answer few a question or two which I'm asked by people concerning my photography.

Photographs are formed at various junctures - many a times it's formed in the brain when I see the subject, at times it's formed only when I see the subject through the viewfinder (especially macro shots), sometimes, sad but true, they are made only after tweaking around adjustment knobs and controls Aperture (Aperture 3 Upgrade) or Photoshop (Adobe Photoshop CS5).  Obviously the most important of the three is when the photograph is formed in the mind, that's when I actually SEE the subject and click.  The word SEE here needs elaboration here.

When I say SEE, that's when I mean I analyse the subject for highlights and shadows, for repetitive patterns and textures, for colour contrast, for reflections, for uniform background, for the right moment, for the right expression, for lines, curves and angles and what not.  Probably this is where the perception as a photographer differs from what others see.  It's not just the analysis that goes in but also many rules of photography like - rule of thirds (off-centering the subject to either of the thirds), arrangement of subjects to avoid unnecessary mergers, symmetry and balancing, framing the subject with a natural frame if available and elimination of unnecessary things.  Not just all this, the photographer has to worry about the technicalities of the photograph too - shutter speed, aperture, ISO, flash, white balance etc.

The more you get into photography the more your mind tries to SEE things in everything.  Recently I was telling a friend of mine that earlier I used to see mountain as a mountain and river as a river, but of late, a mountain would mean its colour, its texture, its elements, the sky in the background and a river would mean a reflection or the meandering curves or the smooth texture.  This way your brain gets seasoned to analyse whatever it sees.  The flip side of this is it's hard to see things the way they are. I tend to find the aforementioned patterns or colours or whatever in every damn thing I see and this way I feel helpless and handicapped without a camera slung around my neck.

And most people ask me if I edit my photographs?  What is the extent of changes that a photograph undergoes before it gets published?  The first question has a definite answer: Yes every single photograph that gets published undergoes editing, while the answer to the second question is not a precise one.  The extent of editing largely depends on each photograph, some end up with few crop and contrast changes, while other would need filtered B-and-W, curve variation, white balance correction,  spot-and-patch, dodging and burning, saturation and vignetting et al.  To distribute the formation of a photograph, I can say 80% of the image is formed in my mind, 20% after post processing.

The extent of editing may greatly vary from one photographer to another.  The ones into typical Indian wedding photography do lot of creation in Photoshop, they'll take you to the snow capped mountains of Switzerland to lush green pastures of Scottish highlands to Italian cafe alleys in a flip of a page.  Also the ad-agency guys do whole lotta creation with the photographs.  So if you ask me questions like if I place the butterfly on the flower or a camel in the desert when it comes to my photographs, my answer is a capitalized, bold NO.  I just adjust whatever is there in the image, I seldom bring in (create) new objects in the frame, though I may eliminate certain things by cropping them.  I must confess I suck at creation.

With all the ability to adjust the settings in a jiffy & being able to see the various aspects of the subject in terms of light & angles a bit of photographer's luck is most needed, especially if for street, bird or children photography, where things are not under our control and very elusive. So if the photographer has got one drop-dead-gorgeous photograph of fish in the kingfisher's beak, lets attribute 99% of the credits to his ability but it would be highly unkind of him if he doesn't feel 1% lucky in getting that shot...atleast for being in the right place at the right time.

And for those few who are interested what equipment/software do I own/use, it's this:
Canon 20D
17-40/4L
70-200/4L
50/1.8
100/2.8 Macro
MacBook Pro
Aperture 3.0
Adobe Photoshop CS5
Photomatix Pro for HDRs

After being so wordy, it would be very unethical of me not to demonstrate my  boring discourse with a couple of photographs:


Before editing
After editing





==================>







Lines and Angles
Colours and Patterns

Expressions

Rule of thirds


Colours and Patterns

Texture and reflection

Uniform background and Textures

After editing

Before editing




     ================>

63 years of Independence

So what are we to celebrate today eh?  The snail pace of Common Wealth Games preparation & the corruption involved in it or the slaying of the CRPF men or Lalit Modi's betting & laundering or the corrupt jokers in Bellary tonsuring their heads trying to cover their illegal mining deals or skyrocketing price of petrol?  I'm really confused if we've got anything to celebrate at all.

It'll be a day of parades and speeches and patriotic songs and "Happy Independence Day" SMSes and people claiming "We're yet to get the real freedom from poverty, corruption, pseudo-democracy et al."  And everything will fade into oblivion by tomorrow morning and mundane Monday activities will be resumed.  Ministers who shamelessly promise of progress today will get back to their corruption and opposition-party-bad-mouthing mode from tomorrow.   

I don't understand why people get paranoid about Independence day celebrations, hoisting the flag, reciting national anthem, distributing the sweets, boring harangues about progress of the nation while we're not really progressing.  Yeah maybe it's a day to think back about the hardships the country and her people have undergone for getting the freedom from Bristish  Raj, but then that's just not enough.  What about the present?  What about the future?  63 years is too long a period for a country which boasts of 2000 years of civilization and culture, to be in such state of affairs.  It's a lot easier said than done, I agree with it, but are we doing anything at all?
 
Freedom from fear is the freedom
I claim for you my motherland!
Freedom from the burden of the ages, bending your head,
breaking your back, blinding your eyes to the beckoning
call of the future;
Freedom from the shackles of slumber wherewith
you fasten yourself in night's stillness,
mistrusting the star that speaks of truth's adventurous paths;
freedom from the anarchy of destiny
whole sails are weakly yielded to the blind uncertain winds,
and the helm to a hand ever rigid and cold as death.
Freedom from the insult of dwelling in a puppet's world,
where movements are started through brainless wires,
repeated through mindless habits,
where figures wait with patience and obedience for the
master of show,
to be stirred into a mimicry of life.
                                                                                              -Rabindranath Tagore

Monday, August 09, 2010

Shivanasamudra

Sathiya and Sarvavanan awaited me right in front of Bangalore university on Mysore road at 6, by 6:05 we were driving towards Mysore.  The morning chill and serenity made the journey very pleasing,  we crossed Kengeri, Bidadi, Ramnagara, Channapatna before we stopped for "Breakfast at (Maddur) Tiffanys" at 7, the choice of most people heading to Mysore.  From there we had to deviate towards KoLLegala road which was wrongly shown on the sign-board and we did an extra loop of Maddur town before we hit the KoLLegala road.  I noticed that the some of the yellow Karnataka tourism boards indicating the places of interest were also pointing wrong directions. 

Art work on bullock cart

The scenery on KoLLegala road is beautifully rustic with farmers ploughing their lands, shepherds ushering their herd, bullock-carts painted with rich colours, women with hay-stock or fire-sticks on their head, colourful fields, small idyllic hamlets.  Our initial plan was to start from Somnathpur and end at Shivanasamudra, but it worked just the opposite.  We first reached Shimsha power station and being a son of an ex-KPCL employee and having some acquaintance there, we got an entry to the Shimsha power station.  We were served tea at the inspection bungalow (IB) which overlooks the beautiful Kaveri river valley.  The IB is well maintained with lush green garden housing few langurs; with a permission letter from KPCL one can even stay overnight in the IB, they charge `250 per bed in an air-conditioned room.  After tea we took trolley to descend the steep leading to the power house which is operating since 1939.  We were given a tour of the power house and were taken to the wire bridge near the power house. 

Leaves against the blue background

We then took the reservoir road, which is restricted for public, to head to Gaganachukki falls a.k.a Bluff.  It's a very picturesque narrow road which passes right along the reservoir and it's meant only for KPCL vehicles.  We had to make an entry at the check-post and pass through Shivanasamudra colony to head to the falls, we were amazed to see two churches of similar architecture in that small a town.  We paid `20 as an entry fee to the waterfall, the area around the view point is greatly commercialized with few restaurants and hotels.  The area was crowded with tourists mostly from Bangalore and everybody was busy taking photographs as though they had come there not to see waterfall but to put it in the background.  The waterfall was flowing profusely with multiple branches separated by vegetation and rocks.  The blue sky with fleecy clouds complemented the entire scenery  very well.  It was a very picturesque place but I just hoped lesser crowd and lesser peddlers in the area.

The Kaveri river valley

From Gaganachukki, we head to Bharachukki the other waterfall in the region for which we had to retrace our path a bit and take the link road which joins to KoLLegala road.  This road again is along a reservoir but it's not asphalted yet scenic.  It took about half hour for us to reach the Bharachukki falls, the roads were quite bad after deviating towards the waterfall from KoLLegala main road.  We skipped Darga point (2km before Bharachukki falls) where in one could reach the apex point of Gaganachukki falls and head straight to the fall.  There is a breathtaking panoramic view of the fall from the parking, we took photographs and descended the stairs to reach the bottom of the fall. 

The cable holder

Bharachukki fall has many cascades and branches spread across a wide span, definitely it's more beautiful than Gaganachukki fall.  The bottom of the fall is heavily crowded by bustling peddlers selling fish fry and other sundry edibles and desperate tourists wanting to wade in the waters.  The view from the below is not as great as the the one from the top, but coracles floating on the water make a good subject for photography.  We took a coracle ride and the experience was wonderful - the boatsman took us all the way to the waterfall and we were wetted by the spray of fall and he also spun the coracle speedily which was a heavenly experience.  We then wound up and came back to Shivanasamudra IB where lunch was arranged for us, after which we were shown few view points which is usually forbidden for other visitors.

The patterns on the wall of Shimsha powerhouse

Our next destination was Talakad, known for it's pacific Kaveri basin and many temples.  We stopped about 3km before the town of Talakad, near Jaladhama resort and I couldn't resist the temptation of diving into the river and I didn't.  In no time I stripped down to my swimming vest and off I was in the water, I swam for about 20min.  The ambience was perfect for a romantic hand-in-hand promenade - mild evening sunshine glittering the limpid water surface, unclouded auriferous skies, cool breeze caressing the body, silhouettes of the coconut groove at the horizon, the seclusion from the noisy crowd.  For the first time, I saw  from the eyes of a seer and not photographer, it reminds me of Neruda's lines:


In my sky at twilight you are like a cloud
and your form and colour are the way I love them.
You are mine, mine, woman with sweet lips
and in your life my infinite dreams live.

The lamp of my soul dyes your feet,
the sour wine is sweeter on your lips,
oh reaper of my evening song,
how solitary dreams believe you to be mine!


We decided not to enter Talakad town since we would have miss out Somnathpura, it was already 5 in the evening.  It took us 45 minutes to drive to Somnathpura via T. Narasipura and to our bad luck, the temple complex which falls under Archeological Survey of India (ASI) was closed.  Remember this: SOMNATHPURA TEMPLE CLOSES AT 5:30PM.  Three of us were involved in three different tasks - Saravanan tried his luck with the curators to let us inside, Sathiya enjoyed her tea and Rilke, I busied myself doing some street photography in the village.  We started our return journey towards Bangalore via Malavalli, Saravanvan and myself swilled our beers while Sathiya was kind enough to drive us and put up with loads of drunken-men crap.  One serious advice for people who booze, carry your booze from Bangalore; you don't find any bars around except in Malvalli, there is one on the way to Talakad but there's no refrigerator there, so you end up drinking warm beer. With a stop here and a tea there, we reached Bangalore at 9:30 in the night.  Thanks Sathiya and Saravanan for accompanying me for such a wonderful trip and Mr. P.J. Lakshman for being a great host.

Lines and angles

About photography, I've tried to shoot more of art photographs this time.  Everything was shot on 20D with either of 17-40/4L, 70-200/4L or 100mm/2.8 macro lenses.  Post processing was done on a MacBookPro using Aperture and I've used the toy camera preset (greater saturation, contrast and vignetting) extensively on many photographs and filtered B&W effects. Pano was stitched using PS CS 5, HDRs were done using Photomatix.


A worker at the powerhouse

Rails on water

Shadow of a farmer

The wire bridge near the powerhouse

Locked

Life and Death

Gaganachukki fall (HDR)

Dilapidation

Life among the lifeless

Behind the scene

Hot peppers

Wider view of Gaganachukki (HDR)

Coracles at Bharachukki fall

Bharachukki broader view (HDR)

Langur 

Forsaken

3 shots panorama of Bharachukki falls


A kid busy with her toys at Somnathpur

Centipede

Farm lit by the evening light

Sheshadri Iyer Powerstation

Empty coracles on the river

Scratch