Photography

HDR Photography

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The first thing that comes to your mind when you hear the word HDR is “that cool option we find in most smartphones which captures great colors”. That is exactly what HDR is.  It’s a technique in photography which enables you to capture a greater range of colors. To start off, HDR simply means High Dynamic Range. You must have been in a beautiful location, clicked a picture and then realized that the picture was flat and disappointing. With HDR processing, your picture will look as enthralling as it was when you were at the beautiful spot. Here are few examples of HDR photos.

Manneporte at Etretat, France

Manneporte, Etretat -2

Eiffel tower

Chateau de Chillon

Why HDR ?

The human eye has the capacity to see a greater range of colors than a camera sensor. A typical camera sensor can capture about 3 stops of light. But a human eye can capture upto 11 stops of light. Using a combination of your camera and software, you can make your photos look the way your eyes see things.

How is it done ?

A typical HDR image is created by combining more than 1 photograph taken at varying exposures. In simple words, you use an underexposed, overexposed and a normal photograph taken of the same scene and combine it using software.

What do you need ?

  1. Any camera with a manual mode
  2. A computer
  3. An HDR processing software like Photomatix Pro
  4. Adobe Photoshop
  5. A little patience

My next post would contain a step by step tutorial to create HDR photographs. In the meantime, here are a few more HDR photos.

Check out my Flickr Profile at http://www.flickr.com/photos/siddharth_reddy/

chateau de Chenonceau

french countryside

temple of love @ versailles

Versailles Garden

Jan Lokpal Revolution at Freedom Park

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Today on 21st of August 2011 I went to Freedom Park along with my friends Nikhil Ramaswamy and Ishaan Biswas to be the part of arguably the biggest revolution in India’s history since Independence Day in 1947. After decades India is at crucial crossroads where the path chosen by its people will help to cure the greatest panacea of corruption it faces today.

It was  heart warming to see so many people from all walks of life peacefully protesting for their cause. Gandhiji’s ideal still live in us, we just need to be reminded of them. This time Anna Hazare is up for the task. I tried to capture what little I could of this historic moment through my camera.

You can see more of my work at http://www.anupammaurya.com

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Jodhpur

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The first important destination on our itinerary was Jodhpur. The absolute first was Nagaur, to which I will give a huge miss including the sleepless and restless night despite tiredness from travel spend over a dhaba bed under the open sky , with a blaring TV airing a third grade daily soap to make me twisting in a super uncomfortable rag bed.

Aargh! Wish I can forget that night! While I wished the night would end soon,  it did with huge difficulty only to lead to a disappointing day with an unforgiving sun sapping the energy out of us. The supposed fair of Nagaur, second largest animal festival of the country had no events on the  day we reached there so we left for Jodhpur and there the adventure began.

On approaching the city by road you see the long and bright fort over a small range which makes you wonder what sort of fort is this only to to be told later that is the Army base. Beautiful houses of sandstones ,with even more beautiful cupolas like crowns, line the wide streets. As we went further into the city two massive forts towered us from two sides on two different hills. We chose one to the right and reached a massive fort after several twirls around the hill. As we all marveled at its grandeur and behemoth size craning our necks to have full view ended with strained necks.

As we took the tour of the fort we got to a know a riveting history of the fort which I like to share with you. This fort has the glory of being one of the largest fort in the country. It was built by Rao Jodha starting 9 May, 1949.

The hill, a hundred and twenty meters high, was known as Bhakurcheeria, the Mountain of Birds, or Cheeriatunk, the Bird’s Beak. Its lone human occupant at the time was an old hermit called Cheeria Nathji, the Lord of the Birds.( Even today the fort is home to thousands of birds, particularly the Cheel or Kite, the sacred bird of the Rathores.)

Auspicious though the day, it was not a smooth beginning for Jodha because the disturbed hermit left his cave cursing the invaders of his solitary world. His curse, impossible to forget even today, “Jodha! May your citadel ever suffer a scarcity of water!” A terrible curse anywhere, in Marwar heralding doom itself. Undeterred Jodha continued with his construction but he did take some measures to appease the gods. Besides building a house for Cheeria Nathji in his new city he also constructed a temple in the fort very near the cave the hermit used for meditation. The cave and temple together with a pond in front form an enchanting spot today. And over five hundred years later fresh flowers are still placed every morning in the temple to placate the irate hermit…

Jodha then took the extreme step to ensure the new site proved propitious; he buried a man alive in the foundations. The man was Rajiya Bambi (Meghwal) and he was promised that in return his family would forever more be looked after by the Rathores. It was a promise that has been honored and Rajiya’s descendants continue to enjoy a special relationship with the Maharaja. A proud family they still live in Raj Bagh, Rajiya’s Garden, the estate bequeathed by Jodha.

Rajiya’s fate is an established fact of history but there are sources, albeit less reliable, which record three other human sacrifices in the foundations of Jodha’s fort. Four in all, one for each corner if these sources are to be believed. Of the three one is held to be Rajiya’s son and another a Brahmin named Mehran, both improbable choices. It seems unlikely that Jodha would pick two men from the same family and a Hindu king sacrificing a Brahmin or priest does not ring quite true.

The controversy remains alive because these sources claim that Jodha named his new fort after Mehran. Today the fort is indeed called Mehrangarh, Mehran’s Fort, and it has been for some time, but the origin of this name remains a mystery. Did Mehran really exist and was he offered to the gods? For the present these are secrets trapped in the depths of Bhakurcheeria. On the other hand the answer may, in fact, be quite simple; Mehr is a Rajasthani word for the Sun and it is not at all unlikely that the Rathores, who claim descent from the Sun, would name their first citadel in His honor.


Whatever Jodha named his fort, a citadel on which he spent all of rupees nine hundred thousand, it was very different from what the present Maharaja of Jodhpur, Gaj Singh II, inherited four hundred and ninety three years later. To begin with, it was much, much smaller; the extremities of the original fortress fall within the second gate today. As the Rathores grew more powerful Mehrangarh, at once a symbol of their glory and the basis of their strength, expanded. Every ruler left his mark and therein lies Mehrangarh’s beauty, for it is today a magnificent blend of different reigns and ages, styles and influences, compulsions and dreams…

Its towering battlements, a hundred and twenty feet high, and stern walls, in places six meters thick, testify to the strength of Rao Maldev (1532-1562) in whose reign the Rathores reached the zenith of their power. The palaces, extravagant and exquisite edifices of peace and prosperity, whisper a thousand secrets; of machiavellian intrigues, dazzling riches and decadent pleasures under the imperial Mughal umbrella (1582-1739). The main gates, Fateh Pol and Jai Pol, sing of great victories, against the Mughals in 1707 and the Jaipur forces a hundred years later; while the lofty ramparts, fiercely brandishing Maharaja Abhaya Singh’s (1724-1749) war trophies, proclaim them to the world…

Mehrangarh has never, not even once, been taken in a siege. Invincible and mighty, inspiring awe, admiration, envy and fear in friend and foe alike, Mehrangarh is the very spirit of the Rathores. Indeed, no historian, no white-whiskered royal retainer, no chronicle, no ballad, no poem can rival the Citadel of the Sun in bringing alive the story of the Rathores of Jodhpur. Every mile-stone in their adventure, every triumph, every act of courage is immortalized here in stone and mortar, marble and metal. The palaces, lavished with delicate friezes, record successful campaigns; cart-loads of war booty and caravans laden with imperial favor. The cenotaphs recount stirring tales of valor and sacrifice; cannon-ball marks on the walls speak of repulsed enemies; the hand-prints, tiny and graceful on the portals, weep in remembrance of faithful queens lost to the flames of Sati…

Mehrangarh is superior in other respects and houses some of the dark secrets  through ages. Unbiased, delighting in wickedness, relishing scandal, sharing secrets…Did not the prince Jaswant Singh (1873-1895) throw his mistress out of this very window because she was really his father’s and the latter had just entered the room? Was it not from these ramparts that Maharaja Maan Singh (1803-1843) had his Prime Minister dashed to the ground four hundred feet below? Is this not the foul chamber where Maharaja Ajit Singh (1678-1724) was murdered by his son? Was it not from this balcony that Rao Ganga (1515-1532), reveling in an opium heightened cool breeze, fell to his death? Or was he pushed by his son, the great Maldev (1532-1562).

The fort has excellent architecture, paintings and houses priceless artifacts and antiquities. The Fort gives people the opportunity to visit it during night dressed in delighting lights  glimmering and shimmering under blue, green , red and yellow whenever the curator is present at Fort. I wonder why doesn’t curator stay all the time.

An evening at Bandra

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The single most landmark which has become the face of Mumbai in recent times  unanimously  is the Bandra Worli Sea Link unlike the CST or the Marine Drive of the yesteryear. But where my friends were full of praises for the    technological feat I didn’t have the opportunity to visit it. So I took time off from my busy schedule to visit it with Abhinav.

We went to Bandra Reclamation where couples lined up the sea shore fondling each other. I could see them getting uncomfortable with the camera in my hand. But I was in no mood to encroach on their privacy. We didn’t have much time as we were losing out the sun so we ran to the point we got a clear shot of the whole Bandra – Worli Sea link with sun setting behind it. The Sun was casting beautiful reflection in water, just mesmerizing.

When we descended on the rocks we saw rocks protruding quiet a distant in the water which gave us hope that we can prod further in the sea. But on a closer look it appeared as solidified dung. On an even closer look it was clear it wasn’t dung cakes but the rocks have deposited an ugly layer of sewage slurry making them look like dung.

The sun was setting on the horizon and Abhinav was just at the right spot between the sun’s reflection giving him a divine aura.

Luckily we met 4 boys by the rocks who lived at the slums close by. All 4 of them were very enthusiastic kids with typical Mawali accent. They wanted us to take their photographs. Two of them said they can get into the water and pose for us. They without a second’s hesitation took off their clothes and jumped into the water and started posing. Sameer this boy has featured in Slumdog millionaire and some others like Chance pe Dance. Quite Possible since he lives so close to the place where these were shot. He is an awesome swimmer and could jump from the bridge over the gutter going to sea and does awesome stunts. He was eager to show me but it was getting dark so I asked him to do it next time I go to visit him. The other boy Mustaq is no less marvellous than Sameer, in fact more gutsy.

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I saw some boats in the sea and wished I could be on that. So the next account will be of that.

A lone ride to Kharghar Hills

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I thought I would get back to clicking and serial blogging once I get back to my home, sweet home. But as history has been witness to I never blog when I have free time. Its been days and I have  gathered more than enough exciting experiences and they are just about to burst out. Its time for their release.

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For years I have heard about Kharghar Hills from people and read in newspaper as a rich biological reserve at nice bike ride distance from my home. The stories had been more of youngsters drowning or falling off the cliff after getting stoned than the scenic beauty it offers and the rich biodiversity it houses. So it had become a taboo to talk about going there at my home. And  till the day it has remained the same. But this time I was too curious and too jobless to resist the temptation of exploring the place. So I took my jacket, camera, my swiss knife and bike keys stealthily and left a note that I was going to my friends house and wroom wroom went zooming on the Palm Beach Road at 90 Kmph. Finally after few directions from locals I reached the entrance to Kharghar Hills.

The way up to hill was pleasant ride with nice road though full of gravels which makes it very slippery. I could see the whole cityscape of CBD Belapur and Kharghar two sprawling suburbs of Navi Mumbai beneath me covered with hazy smog, still beautiful. The hill was larger than my expectation and was thickly forested and with amazing points offering beautiful sights of the city beneath. When I reached the zenith I could see it was linked with other hills and was infact a small range. By the time I took some photographs and visited a village it was time for sunset. I went to the only point which offered the sunset. I could see the cityscape by the sea and sun going to dip into to the sea. I saw big rocks at a better altitude. I thought I might get an even better view from there so I  started for those two rocks. But there was no way and a densely forested patch lay before us two. I took my swiss knife and began for that directions where the 2 stones lay. My heart was racing and pulse abnormally high. I could feel the sweat and adrenaline rush. I was frightened since I was all alone and the place is known to be niche for various snakes vipers etc. though most are harmless I am not very fond of snakes. I continued deeper and deeper and finally reached there. I got a bit better view but to camera it was all the same. Stupid decision with all the risk and my mobile battery threatening to die anytime. Whatever It was a good rush.

On my way back there a couple of freaky bike riders speeding on the steep slopes. I wished they meet an accident pretty soon to bring their senses to them. There was a couple on the bike the boy speeding trying to overtake me on the turn took a turn close to the outer periphery of the road full of gravel and skidded!!! What a sight! Bhai Maja aa gayaa. The bandi some large bruises but overall they both were not hurt badly. But I plodded vroom vroom on my bike. Set for a movie was all set up waiting for their actors for the action by the roads with floodlights every now and then with no sight of the actors. I stopped by to ask which movie was shot but the crew was clueless about the name. So I moved on.

Portraits

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All of us keep watching portraits almost everywhere whether it be newspaper, magazines or advertisement hoardings. These simple photographs are very powerful in conveying emotions and grab attention almost instantaneously. The ability to speak more than what meets the eye is what makes portraits so special. When you click portraits you just don’t capture the expression of the person but you comment on it by your sensitivity and creativity.

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Portraits should be simple and  not very bright and colourful to become distracting. One portrait should depict a particular mood and the ambience of the photograph should augment the austerity of the portrait. Portraits need not to be of the face. It can use hands and eyes to convey emotions. For example hand of a person being in focus while the person being blurred using depth of field. Instead of just taking head on face in the frame you can try with the side profile. They give very powerful images which bring out the character of the person. Speaking frankly most people look better in their side profile than head on.

Before taking a portrait of a person it is better to interact with the person to know what is her true nature. Capturing people in their own skin gives more natural and impactful images. For instance I wouldn’ t like to capture  a closed, introvert person doing something outrageous because that would look fake and you don’t need me to tell you that world appreciates originality however painted and decorated the fake be. Know one would like Bandit queen in an evening gown!

The most important thing in a portrait is that the eyes should be razor sharp and crystal clear. Its the first thing that grabs the attention and lends depth to the photograph. Focus on the eye first  and then look for framing. One simple rule is to place the eye at one third from the top in the frame. Portraits should be sharp  and that is why professionals use tripod even in bright light in studios. A person maynot be very photogenic but it is the responsibility of photograph to find beauty in dearth.   That is the real challenge of Photography and that is what defines a Photographer.

Black and White for Portraits work wonders with Portraits. Black and white brings out and stresses on the features of the person often lending it a surreal feel. While taking Black n White photos look for contrast and play with dark and bright shades. Though contrasts can be added later by post processing but looking ahead for contrast improves the workflow. While photographing a model show the photograph to them so that they know how are they coming so that both of you can work towards making the photograph look better. Most might not admit but becomes a lot easier if the model is cooperating and lively.

If you are a beginner the best way to get good photographs is to go out and play. Nothing can beat the wide range of amazing photographs that one gets on the photographs. The testimony to this fact is almost every photograph in any competition is unanimously clicked on the streets. Taking candid shots often gives interesting photographs which you can’t think of yourself. I got this shot while the lead singer of Israeli band was signalling at me candidly.

While taking portraits use a shallow depth of field using low aperture values which helps to specifically focus on the eyes and give a soft feelings to the portraits. This works well while shooting outdoors which helps to remove the clutter in the background by blurring it and highlighting the subject. In studio you can use shallow depth of field specially when the person is not very photogenic. But in most other cases high depth of field should be preferred so that photographs are sharp.

Halo created the hairline should always be tried when taking photographs in a studio which can be achieved by a snoot from the background. Using lens flare creatively in your shots to lend it a surreal effect, gives stunning effects. Just have a look at the first photograph to have an idea.

Traditionally overexposure is avoided but if done tastefully it gives a classy look to the photograph. This works especially when the person is dressed in white or /and background is white. White is not metered properly by camera meter and is underexposed if we rely on camera meter there overexposing the shot by one to 3 stops gives the true colour , often giving the fashion photography look.

Photographed by Deepak Maloo
by deepak Maloo

Portraits aren’t that difficult to take if you just remember all that is said above. So, next time, when you go out on streets be ready with your camera to capture that special face which gives you the satisfaction of taking a nice portrait. I hope I was helpful here…

Photography – as I feel

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” Were you artistic right from the school days? “, my friend shot at me while I was enjoying my dosa in ANC.

I replied, ” Hmm, Ya sort of. I wasn’t downright artistic but I would like to believe that I was creative. Wasn’t a Picasso but my school projects were always better than the rest, even girls.”

” Cool! “, said my friend.

” But it was more of hard work than sheer brilliance”, I added.

By this time I had understood the true implication of his question. He meant photography. He was looking for a comforting answer as to whether he could do it too. We always like to believe that we are brilliant if we are good at something. But the real question was  –  Is photography an Art or Science? Am I really artistic or is it a science that I have mastered. I just present here what I feel from my personal experience. I am still too naive to be called a good photographer but undoutebly better than many amateurs.

my very first shot

Surely it is an art. But unlike other true forms viz painting etc. it can be cultivated. To me it is more than a hobby, a passion that keeps me going when I want a break from the usual to  get adventurous. It gives an outlet to flush out  my frustration when I feel down.  It brings out the sensitive part of me and helps me to understand the true nature of things. By relating to unrelated people, their emotions and understanding how life works for them makes me all the more human.

Photography happened by chance. I never expected to pick it up though being constantly  fascinated by compelling photographs, never bothering to look past it. Quite ordianary Huh? I know. I joined the Photography Club at my college BITS Pilani because of all the clubs it came out with recruitments at  just the right  moment when I decided to join a club. I wasn’t there for just the namesake and the social well being of being acceptable into a community as it is considered a hep thing, if you belong to any department or club, in my college. Like many who find security in a herd too satisfied with being cared and nurtured and blinded to see past their hedge while  living in a utopia only to be shattered by a little soul searching, I am more of  a free bird to belong to any and that is why I think Photography just works fine for me.

On given a camera for the first time all by myself happened when I went to Manali to Directorate of Mountaineering and Allied Sports for Trekking . I just went bezerk with splendor of nature that lay before my eyes. Click click I would go without giving a second thought to how it might come out. I just wanted to capture all that was so beautiful. It was a magical experience and that is where I developed a keen interest in taking photographs.

At the club I met 3 people who had impact on me. One was the Living god Abhinav Toshniwal  aka Tullu, preached by all, count me out. He is an amazing photographer. checkout his photostream – http://www.flickr.com/photos/abhinavt. Although I never learned anything directly from him, his work has been a constant source of  motivation for me.  Second comes Amar Jain who has been a constant support when ever  I needed any guidance. Third  and the most prominent is Deepak Maloo. He taught to me not to take things seriously and let them go when you can’t help it. WE have worked together on numerous occasions. Other people who have been soul mates on the journey are Soumit and Harmohit. Despite Soumit’s errant behavior  we gel up like oil and water. Harry is just a darling, the boy next door. Lazy, lethargic and a passionate photographer. Apart from all this I am a self learned photographer. I read ebooks, better photography and google a lot. Looking at others photograph I try to emulate them. In nutshell this is what I did.

So in essence I wasn’t really artistic but I have trained my self to see creativity. When you spend sufficient time with your camera it becomes a third eye through which you see a different world as seen never before. This third eye come with patience and self training. No one can train you to be a good photographer but guide, they can. The best way to learn photography is to go out on the street and play with your camera. Try a perspective as tried never before and it won’t be long you will start getting good photographs.

Foremost thing to learn is about your gear. You should be thorough with every functionality of your gear. What ever it may be. You tryout innovative measures when the resources are scarce. Battery should be always completely charged and memory card in camera. These things might seem trivial but are not. Trust me I have been there, done it and it is out of experience. Always keep things like a torch, muslin cloth, lenses, shutter releaser and a tripod. Keep extra batteries when planning for a long trip or else you will miss on the coveted moment.

Once you are thorough with your gear you need to enhance your creativity and power of observation to see the world in a different perspective than the rest. You should be accustomed to get a idea of the shot without even looking through your lenses. Frames should form in your mind as you observe your surroundings. Ever wondered why your companion got amazing shots clicking a nicely textured autumn leaf just by your side while you were dirt searching thinking what to click. World is full of beauty, its all around you and all you have to do is see. Developing this third eye is the most challenging part of photography.

To get the perfect photograph, your dream composition you often need to go an extra mile, push your limits and do all what it demands. I have waited days for the right moment to click the compostion in my mind. Its not just how you capture but how well you understand your surroundings and try to control variables as much as you can. You need to things which would be considered insane by most. I once tried took a shot of a marriage procession only to be held by the collar minutes later by a big burly man. I don’t mind lying on the ground in front of thousand people, asking strangers to move in or move out, waking early into the morning and going for photography session, I don’t fear anything that might come in between my subject and camera. Once there was a very intriguing sadhu baba but very scary perfect for an eye grabbing portrait but all the fellow photographers in my club were scared to appraoch him. Later they got to shoot him only because had the guts to ask him. I once went inside the auditorium of IIT Mumbai with my camera to capture ADA the fashion show that too by dodging security  and changing shirt my my friends and hiding into the toilet so that the police doesn’t recognize us. These incidents if not fruitment certainly were thrilling. I always end up near the stage photographing performances in my college which is a restricted area. But making excuses and fooling people I got to photograph the Shankar Mahadevan Show!. Guess people are so used to see me around the stage that they don’t mind me anymore. As I photographer you need to camouflage in your environment so that you capture moments in their natural flavour. But I am not insolent, most of my clicked photographs are used for fest publicity. Guess some one needs to do serious job when responsible people are inefficient.

More to follow. Just getting warmed up. juggling time between exams. So sorry for incomplete post…