India Apr 2008 – Madivala Market Part#2 (Podcast 134)

India Apr 2008 – Madivala Market Part#2 (Podcast 134)

In the last episode, we started to look at some photos that I shot during another brief visit to the Madivala market in Bangalore, India last week, which for the sake of those listening to the archives in months or years to come was April, 2008. I’d also visited in September 2007 and was searching out the people that I’d shot that time to give them prints of their photos. If you didn’t listen to the last episode, number 133, then it might be better to go back and listen to that first, to get more of the background and see the first five shots of this series with my comments about the thoughts behind the images. If you’re already up to date though, let’s proceed with our brief trip through the market.

We finished last time with a photo with that wonderful gentleman with the red and white checked head dress, who had literally exploded with joy when I searched him out and handed him his photo from last year. This was actually as far through the market as I intended to go, as I this gentleman had been the last person I photographed previously, but there were three people sitting in a stall to our right that had been sharing our moment as I passed the other gentleman his photo. They been smiling and laughing, and as I turned to face them the lady in the middle beckoned me over, and asked to take their photos. Again, it was my pleasure, and I shot a number of frames of them all, and then also the man at the back. Let’s take a look at image number 1747, which is the first one in which we see all three of them.

Three Merchants

Three Merchants

I’d say I messed this up to a degree, because I included all three people, but didn’t close my aperture down enough to get all three of them inside my depth-of-field. I was still at F4, with the shutter speed set at 1/125th or a second, but F4 would not give me enough depth-of-field for all three of these people. I knew that, and I took a couple of shots with the focus on the ladies face, then a few more having focussed on the man to the right, but still was trying not to overwork the situation. I regret this to a degree, but still, I got that kind and sincere look on the ladies face nice and sharp, so I’m not overly concerned. Note that I’d crouched down to be almost at the same level as the people in the shot. It would be easy to just shoot everything from a standing position, but that would not make for very flattering or respectful images.

Man and Child

Man and Child

I then turned to the man on the left of the group as I look at it, and asked if I could take just his photo too. The result is image number 1748. There was a child in the background, looking on inquisitively, so I’d actually shot some further frames, where I’d moved around a little more to my right, to get the child out of the frame, but I ended up preferring this one, as it adds another dimension I think. This too was shot with an aperture of F4 for 1/125th of a second. As I said last week, I’d set my ISO to 200, as many of these people were shaded from the sun by the canopy of their market stalls. While I’m on the subject, I also shot all of these with my 85mm F1.2 lens. I’d left my 16-35mm and my 70-200mm F2.8 lenses in the car, so that I could move around with just my camera, and no camera bag. I also didn’t have my photographer’s vest with me, which I wear religiously at all other times, but remember I was here primarily on business, and so the vest was not really appropriate for this flying visit.

As I walked back through, I was ambushed again by the gang at the fish stall. These guys were just great, and I shot a number of other images. I won’t show you anymore this time, as we looked at a few in the last episode, but remember there is a link in the show-notes that will allow you to see all images in the series on my Web site. If you jump to any of these images using the number I call out, by entering the number into the field under the Podcasts menu at martinbaileyphotography.com then clicking enter, you will also be able to click the India_Apr_2008 link under the photo too, and that is basically the same link that I will provide in the show-notes.

Cool Fishmonger

Cool Fishmonger

So, this snowballing effect of the more I shot, the more buzz I created, and in turn the more people asked me to take their photos too, just kept going. I was having a kind of one man photo-festival. As I walked back towards the car, many people that I’d not shot previously continued to ask for their pictures to be taken and I of course obliged. One guy was actually combing his hair as I walked towards the front of his stall, and was getting into position behind some scales as I moved closer. He then put on a baseball cap, kind of making his hair combing a little redundant, but then hit some great poses for me. Some were very natural and some not so. Trying to keep the number of shots of any one individual to a minimum, I only uploaded one photo of this guy, which is image number 1749.

I started to shoot from the front of his stall, but there was room down the side, so I decided to try to get a different angle. Now, I mean absolutely no detriment to the wonderful, warm people that I was sharing time with, but the market is pretty dirty. There is lots of vegetation that is chopped off from the produce as they prepare it for sale, and this is just left to rot on the ground. Very ecological, but it makes for a fair amount of flies, as well as food for the cattle and chickens that roam free here. There is of course no refrigeration, so the fish stalls especially attract a lot of flies, which I hear is one of the original reasons why many dishes are curried here in India. That7s also why people in England used to salt everything, before the advent of refrigerators and deep freezers, but that’s another topic.

Anyway, as I was shooting this guy that had combed his hair, I really wanted to get him from a better angle, and so walked right into his stall, to get to his side. It was at this time that I realized there were literally thousands and thousands of flies in the area that I’d walked in to. I saw them as I walked in, and many took flight as I got closer, but I was totally unfazed by them. I have seen scenes in documentaries where there are many flies buzzing around, and it usually makes me cringe a little, although I usually say to my wife who hates to see things like this, that I’d be OK in that situation. Still, as I thought about this afterwards, I was amazed at just how unfazed I actually was. I was not concerned about them at all. I could see them in my peripheral vision as I shot, and a few settled on my head, so I brushed them off, but still kept shooting, as though they really weren’t there. Quite a strange experience in hind-sight, but I can only think that I was so deep into the zone that pretty much anything could have happened, and as long as it wasn’t life threatening, I would have remained calm.

One of the people I was with actually remarked later that he’d wished he had a photo of me pretty much engulfed in this swarm of flies. I don’t actually very much like having my own photograph taken myself, but that sure would have been one for the album. The other amusing thing that happened here was that the young man in the photo started asking for the photo as I was coming to the end of shooting him. He actually thought that I could give him the print right there and then and seemed a little disappointed when I explained that I would need to print it and bring it back with me next time. He’d obviously seen me handing out prints, and must have thought that I was shooting with a Polaroid or something. From the size of the 1Ds, that it is probably not that difficult to imagine that it could spit out a photo either. Still, when I promised to do take him a print back next time, he smiled and seemed to be OK with the deal. By the way, to minimize depth of field here, and because it was a little darker at the back of this stall, I opened the aperture up to F2, and the shutter speed was set to 1/200th of a second, still at ISO 200.

As I walked further along, I saw a young boy and I think his older brother at another stall, just a few stalls along from the last guy we looked at. We can see these brothers in image number 1751. I’d actually asked the older brother if I could shoot him, as he looked pretty cool sitting cross-legged on top of a wooden platform, but as I asked, the younger brother threw his arms around the older one, in the posture that we can see here. I have one shot with all of the older brother in, but decided to go with this head and shoulders shot of the two of them, to close in on their faint, but sincere smiles and facial expressions. I closed the aperture down a touch to F2.8 for this, and the shutter speed had to be 1/80th of a second as the light was pretty low. This meant that the boy in the blue shirt’s face is a tad soft, but not enough to ruin the shot, and the background was a little distracting too, so I didn’t want to go with too much depth-of-field either. Well, you’ll know if you’ve been listening for a while that I generally think is terms of how wide I can get away with, when it comes to aperture, and sometimes I push it too far, as I almost did here. Also, you’ll probably have heard me say that you should position yourself so that the background bokeh works for you, not just trying to through it out of focus, but here, as I mentioned last week, I really didn’t want to choreograph these people too much, so I was really just trying to shoot what I could, and take the results as they came.

Brothers

Brothers

As I walked further along, there were two men at a cart with lots of grapes on it who asked for their photos. I shot a few frames of them both together, then a few of them individually. I uploaded one of each, but we’ll just look at the one today, and that is image number 1754. This guy has a great face, and although was posing for me, with his hand holding the grapes over the scales, I think it turned out to be a relatively natural looking shot. I was using the same settings as the last image, so the background is very bright, but the guy himself is well exposed, so I left it at that. Note that I pretty much shoot in Manual all of the time. Had I been in Aperture Priority mode here, the background would have altered the exposure quite a lot, and the guys face would have been very dark, unless I started to use exposure compensation, which is an option of course.

Grape Seller

Grape Seller

As I shot the second of these two guys at his stall, images that I ended up not uploading, the guy that we just looked at, who was still standing at the grape barrow, put a small bunch of grapes into a bag and handed them to me. I thanked him, and asked how much they were, thinking that this only courteous, though I thought the gesture was in return for taking their photos. He told me they were 25 Rupees though, so pleased that I’d asked, I gave him the money. Then he gave me a huge bunch of grapes in another bag, so it seemed that the first bunch actually was a present, and I’d gone and bought another bag full. I actually wrote much of this transcript in the hotel in India on the evening of the day of the shoot, and I ate a few of these grapes as I typed. I can tell you, they were the best tasting grapes I’ve ever had.

Fruit Stall Man

Fruit Stall Man

In the next image, number 1755, we can see the gentleman that I photographed last year, and uploaded as image number 1542 if you are interested. This is actually the person that I mentioned in the last episode, who I approached first when I returned to the market on this visit. I didn’t photograph him early during the visit, but now on the way back to the car, I was more relaxed and the photo-festa whirlwind just kind of got me shooting him again at this point. There were two ladies at the back of this stall too, one I believe was his wife, and I asked them if I could take their photos too. One of them agreed, but unfortunately, although they’d had beautiful smiling faces until this point, I couldn’t get her to smile, and the photo didn’t really work with a straight, almost nervous looking expression. I was still at F2.8 for 1/200th of a second for this shot by the way.

Almost back at the car now, there was a young man sitting in what I think are banana leaves, which he was cutting away at, and he laughed as I drew closer, so I asked if I could shoot him too. I got a number of shots of him alone, but then he moved across to a second young man on the other side of the stall, and put his arm around him in a gesture of friendship. This seemed to make a better photo than the first, which is shot number 1756. Again shot at F2.8 for 1/200th of a second, I think this is a nice boyhood friendship sort of shot. I’d wish that the banana leaves weren’t in the way, but it couldn’t really be helped without dragging them away from their work. Great smiles again too, which I really like.

Banana Leave Workers

Banana Leave Workers

Happy Boy

Happy Boy

I was literally working away from the front of the stalls back towards the car, when the boy in the last photo of the series, number 1757, looked at me as if to say, “What, you aren’t going to photograph me?” and as cute as he was, I wasn’t going to leave without doing so. It was really quite funny actually, because the first two shots he was doing an army salute, which was nice in its self, but pretty unnatural. Then an older boy tried to jump in on the act, and this guy got really angry with him, until he left him alone, then his expression had changed to a very angry and serious one. Again, I dropped the camera and gave him a big smile, and was rewarded with his wonderful smile, as we can see in the photo. This little guy was actually not under his canopy, so I had to raise the shutter speed to 1/640th of a second for this exposure, with the aperture left at F2.8.

This was the last photo of the shoot, as I really had to go. If you check the EXIF data for any of these shots in my online gallery at martinbaileyphotography.com, note that all of the images’ capture time is thirty minutes later than it actually was. I didn’t change the time on my camera during my trip, and India is three and a half hours behind Japan. Lightroom has a feature to change the capture time, but does not have 30 minute increments, so I just moved them back by three hours. The shoot was actually basically from 3:30 to 4:00PM, but all the EXIF data has the images shot between 4PM and 4:30.

As we drove away from the market I was on a bit of a high. I didn’t really know what to expect when I started to give prints to the people that I’d photographed the previous year, and I wasn’t sure that I’d be able to photograph many people this time as well. From the expressions on everyone’s faces when I handed them the photo, to their kind and friendly smiles in the new photos, and just general happiness from both sides of the exchange, the whole thing was simply amazing. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to do this while on a business trip, without actually taking a few extra days, but I do regret to an extent that this had to be such a rushed visit. With the electric atmosphere that we seemed to generate though, I don’t know if it would be fair on the people trying to make a living here to take up much more of their time either. Apart from just taking the next batch of prints back when I visit again, I’ll have to think how I will expand on this project in the future.

Well, if you’ve enjoyed this virtual walk through the Madivala market even just a 100th as much as I did, you’ll have had a good time listening to these two episodes. Remember that I always welcome feedback on any aspect of the Podcast, or even just mail to let me know you’re out there. The easiest way to contact me if you do want to let me know anything is by the Contact Form that you can find in the Contact Us menu at martinbaileyphotography.com. If you are a member of the site, you can also send me a Private Message, using the PM button in the footer of any of my posts in the forum. Come to think of it, if you haven’t gotten involved in the forums yourself, please do stop by too. Even if I say so myself, it truly is the best photography forum on the Internet, because of how each and every one of our members interacts with each other. There’s no pretentiousness, and photographers of all levels interact in a very civil and professional way, without ridiculing the lesser skilled members when they ask more basic questions. Even for highly skilled amateurs and professionals, there’s always something to learn, and as I find by doing this Podcast, putting down what you know in a format that makes it easy for others to ingest is actually a great learning process in itself, so whatever stage your at in your photography learning process, I encourage you to drop by and join in the great community.

In the meantime though, let’s wrap it up for this week, and I’ll be back next week with more tips, techniques and the artistic process behind my Photography. For now, you just have a great week, whatever you do. Bye bye.


Show Notes

You can view all shots from the Madivala Market, including my previous visit with this link: https://martinbaileyphotography.com/thumbnails.php?album=search&search=Madivala_Market

The music in this episode is from the PodShow Podsafe Music Network at http://music.podshow.com/


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India Sept 2007 – Part#2 (Podcast 106)

India Sept 2007 – Part#2 (Podcast 106)

Today is the second part of a two part series in which we’ve discussed shots from a brief trip to India in September 2007. I was literally there for just three days, and didn’t expect to get much free time, but I was hoping to get some shots while there, so I took some minimal kit, comprised of a Canon EOS 5D and three lenses. Today we’re going to continue to look at some of the shots from the trip and I’ll explain my thinking behind the shots and how I worked the situation. The sounds we were played in with is the same as last week, which is a snippet of something I recorded with my smart-phone in the every busy streets of Bangalore, the city I was visiting.

So to briefly recap, that I had used a strategy that I explained last week to get people used to my being in the Madibala Market, which is where I was photographing some portraits. It’s not really important that you listen to last week’s episode before this, but if you’d prefer to listen in sequence, you might want to go back to episode 105 for full details. Anyway, what I’d done was basically walked through the market with my camera hanging around my neck on the strap, and just said hello and smiled at people as I walked through. This was really just to get them used to the idea that there was some foreign guy wandering around with a camera, and this would reduce the shock if I did speak to them later on. Despite the visit being literally just for 20 to 30 minutes, this strategy really paid off as I found it not only easier to talk to people on my way back through the same stretch of market, but I found people calling out to me, asking me my name and what I was doing there. I’d captured a couple of great portrait shots already by this point, and was kind of on a roll by the time we pick up the trail here.

Fishmonger's Son

Fishmonger’s Son

Let’s take a look at shot number 1538, which is the last shot from the family of fish mongers that we looked at some photos of at the end of last week’s episode. Here we see another kind of tough guy type shot, but this time the son was really almost breaking into laughter as his Dad, I think, was acting up behind him, as we can see in the bokeh in back here, with his hands up in sort of a pantomime ghost like gesture. This young man was very up for having his photograph taken and was kind of shoeing the rest of the family away as I continued to position him in such a way that would give the least distracting background. I was concerned about the poles and blue plastic sheets that were making patches of colour behind him, and had just about found a good spot, with just one pole visible, and the Dad came in and did this. Eventually though, on looking at the results, I find that I prefer this over the other shots, as the expression on the young man’s face really brings back to me the frivolity of the whole exchange with this fun loving family

I was shooting with my 85mm F1.2 lens at F1.8 with a shutter speed of 1/500 of a second at ISO 400. I could of course have gone much slower, but as we saw last week, some of the shots were actually under the cover of the market stalls and with much slower shutter speeds, and because I was working in such variable light, I just set the camera up in Aperture Priority, and ISO 400 so that I didn’t have to mess around with setting instead of concentrating on interacting with the subjects and actually getting the shots.

A moment or two later, confident that I’d got a few good images, and also not wanting to keep this family from their work much longer I thanked each of them and again shook their hands, and moved on. It was only later, on looking at the resulting images that I realised that the hands I was shaking had moments before been holding those big, not quite sweet smelling fish. Having grown up playing in pretty much ever muddy stream, woods and even coal hills near my home in England, I’m not particularly the most fastidious person in the world either, so it didn’t particularly bother me. It was much more important to me to show my gratitude for the photos and the human exchange that to worry about keeping my hands clean. Actually that reminds me of something else related to this. When I walked past this fish stall earlier, I noticed that there were a huge number of flies feasting and probably laying eggs in the fish laid out of the table. Bangalore is not particularly close to the coast, and with the transport infrastructure also being far from adequate, I’m sure it takes quite some time for the fish to even make it this far. Also there was of course no refrigeration in the market, so the flies were really just able to have a field day. A little off-putting when you think of this by Western standards, but I have never been one for judging other people and other cultures by my own standards. I had mentioned this in fun that night though over dinner in which one of the many curries we were eating happened to be a fish curry. An Indian friend told me though “Martin, we have the perfect cleansing procedure for all meat and fish”, and we looked directly at each other and at the same time said “curry”. Originally the reason why people in India curried things was to keep it edible during long periods of storage. In England, people like relatively salty food because we stored meat in large barrels of salt to stop it rotting. It’s the same thing. The necessities of the past have shaped our culinary cultures today.

Anyway, as I mentioned last week, the whole shoot was not plain sailing. Although most people were very open and obliging, and allowed me to take their photograph, I approached one man with a small child playing on top of a cart and asked if I could photograph the child. Although he looked as though he wanted to allow me to proceed, he refused almost immediately. I was a little puzzled by the conflicting expression and actual reply, but of course I just said OK and started to walk away. As I walked away, I could hear the man’s wife saying something to the man and turned and saw him kind of reluctantly refusing his wife too. Later I heard from Shashi, the guy from my Team in Bangalore with my day-job that was walking with me, that in India, some people believe that photographing children is bad luck. Basically it is customary to display a photograph of a person that has died and decorate it with garlands of flowers, and every time you photograph a child, you are making more images that can be used for that final post-death ceremony, and therefore shortening the life of that individual. Shashi says that this man definitely wanted me to photograph his child, as we could tell from his expression, but felt it necessary to refuse based on this custom or belief. With this information it all made perfect sense.

Let’s look at image number 1539, which I shot a few moments later a little further along the market. This is the first of two shots of the same father and son that I uploaded. I was still using an aperture of F1.8 with ISO 400 and this gave me a shutter speed of 1/640of a second this time. I had kept the aperture wide to through the background as far out of focus as possible. You can see that there are lots of patches of blue and other colours there, and I wanted to reduce their shape as much as possible. I’d seen this little boy also playing on top of a cart and asked the dad if I could photograph him. I was surprised how little I had worried about the rejection from the last person I approached, but I think this was partly because I was on a mini-high from the success I was having, and also because of the kind way in which the last person had refused. This guy was very accommodating though, and basically just picked up the little boy and posed him for me. I would probably have preferred just the boy playing on the cart, but I didn’t want to contrive things too much. The man obviously wanted to be involved and it’s his boy after all. Still quite a nice shot I think, with the boys big cute eyes in sharp focus, at least the right eye, which is closest to the camera. I had to rotate around the subjects a little to get the boy and his dad as parallel as possible to avoid the dad being too blurred. As it is, he’s a little soft, but is sharp enough to be able to appreciate seeing his features and the boy is perfectly focussed, as I say, on the nearest eye.

Father and Son #2

Father and Son #2

On turning around from shooting this, I saw a man sitting in his stall weighing something out, and have uploaded an image of him, but I’m not going to talk about it today. The next shot I want to look at is number 1541, in which we can see a great looking man with a wonderful red apple backdrop. The guy in the photo I just mentioned that was weighing stuff actually pointed down to this man who was sitting in front of the next stall, and shouted something out to him that I didn’t understand, but as the man kind of sat up straight, in preparation for a photograph, I assumed he was game and confirmed that it was OK. I first crouched down to his right, kind of instinctually as that was the direction I was coming from, but then I realised that this bank of stacked up apples would make a nice backdrop, and moved around to his left. I shot three frames, and in the first he was looking straight at me, and the second two he was looking straight ahead, kind of unaware of me. I chose to upload the first, as it maintained the brief human connection that I was enjoying. I used the same settings as the last image for this shot too, so the nice wide aperture had thrown the apples out of focus quite a lot, but we can still make them out for what they are, but keep the focus of the shot, pun intended, clearly on the gentlemen who is the main subject. Again, I showed him his portrait and got one of those Indian head shakes where they swing the head quickly sideways, while facing forward, which is a gesture of both affirmation and gratitude. And once again, I shook his hand, and said thank you, and moved on.

Apple Man

Apple Man

Literally again just moment later, I asked the lady at the next stall, who was also laughing as I moved closer, if I could shoot her portrait. She then gestured with her hand for me to wait and went inside the blue plastic sheet that was pulled down over the front of her stall, and came back with two incredibly small and incredibly cute children, that we can see in shot number1543. I shot about 8 frames to these wonderful kids, and chose this one to upload. The young girl had the sweetest eyes, as does her older brother, but in this shot, she looked away from the camera briefly, with a kind of cheeky grin, as her brother pushed something into his mouth also with a bit of a cheeky grin showing through. Still with a very shallow depth-of-field from the F1.8 aperture, I had to move around a little to keep the two subjects parallel to the film plane, and here as the girl swung around forward to face more towards her brother, I ended up only with her right eye, the furthest from the camera in focus, and the left eye and this side of her face is slightly soft, but I kind of like this too. When viewed large it is nice to work your way into the shot and find the in focus eye. After about eight shots I was thinking that I’d like to switch to portrait mode, and as I started to move and rotate the camera, the young girl got a bit upset with this big foreigner snapping away in front of her and turned away kind of half crying. I of course didn’t want to upset anyone so I said sorry and stuck my hand out. The older brother shook my hand with his tiny hand, and this calmed the sister, who also put her even tinier hand out, which I also shook while saying thank you, and decided it was time to move on.

Brother and Sister

Brother and Sister

That is the end of my brief shoot in the Madibali Market. My strategy of just walking through the market was also quite a success I’d say. By the time I made my way back through the market with everyone having seen me, and then also with the kind of snowball effect of the laughter from the next stall as I interacted with all the subject, it really turned out to be a magical time for me, that I won’t forget in a hurry. There are a few other shots online, and if you want to take a look I’ll put a link to list them all in the show-notes. One thing I have made up my mind to do is to go back to this market again on a future visit, and next time, I am going to go armed with a bunch of 5×7 prints of the images made here, in the hope that some of the subjects will be there again. I don’t know how regular the same people turn up, but I would just love to hand them photographs of themselves as another way to show my gratitude. Of course, it’s not just the photograph that would be the token of gratitude, but the fact that I will go to the trouble, although very minor, to create the photos and search out the subjects again. I hope that this will reinforce the notion that I have respect for the people that allowed me to photograph them, and value the exchange we had, however brief

Before we finish, I want to look at two of the six or so shots that I have uploaded that I shot from the plane both on my way out and back from India. The two we’ll look at now were from the last few minutes as we approached the Narita airport in the Chiba prefecture, with is across the Tokyo bay. The first one is actually shot south of Tokyo, and that is image number 1548. Here we can see Mount Fuji poking out of the clouds in the top right, with what is probably the mountain range in the Yamanashi prefecture behind it. The dark areas that we can just see poking out from under the clouds to the center left is the probably the Izu area, and in the foreground we can see the island of Ohshima, with its airport landing strip, about half way into the bottom left of the frame. I shot a few other images with the whole of the Oshima island in it, which I thought were pretty cool but I opted to this one, I guess just because of the feel of the clouds and Mount Fuji, and possible also because it felt better to leave out part of the island, leaving something to the imagination. Actually it is a bit strange saying Ohshima island, and shima just means island, and Oh means big, but it would seem even stranger just saying the Oh island, or totally translating it into big island, especially as this is the name, and so shouldn’t really be translated anyway. As for the settings for this shot, I was in Manual mode for control of the lighting, and was using my 70-200 F2.8 lens at 115mm here. The aperture was set to F9 to give me nice clear shot, sharp throughout the image at this distance, and I had a shutter of 1/250 of a second, with ISO 100. Had I used Aperture Priority here I’d probably have had to use around plus one stop of exposure compensation to stop the meter from making this scene too dark. It was very bright, and I wanted to represent the scene that way. I did have to play with the contrast a little though to bring Mount Fuji out a little as it was a little bit washed out.

Fuji with Ohshima Island

Fuji with Ohshima Island

River in Chiba Prefecture

River in Chiba Prefecture

I actually uploaded another shot with a small island called Toshima in the foreground, and in its entirety, which is pretty cool, but we won’t look at that today. If you are interested please do stop by martinbaileyphotography.com and take a look. The last shot I want to look at today though, is number 1549. This is literally just minutes before we touched down. The request to turn off all electronic devices had just been announced, and the landing gear had bumped and banged its way down, and I’d actually put my camera into my camera bag at my feet, when I saw this river coming towards us. I could not resist getting my camera back out in case this came to something, and indeed, the sun being just at the right place in the sky lit the river up in a beautiful golden orange colour, and this lined up perfectly with Mount Fuji in the background and the clouds and sun’s rays hitting the misty area below the clouds really work for me.

The thing that I am a little disappointed with was that the banking of the plane as we swang around to the left was making for a bit of a bumpy ride at this point, and I was finding it difficult to keep my horizon straight. I had framed this quite tightly at 100mm with both edges of the river in the frame, but I had to rotate the image slightly to get the horizon straight, which meant cropping the right to the right slightly. It’s not a huge issue, but a little annoying as I actually had it in the frame. As I was shooting this though, a member of the cabin crew came by and asked me to put my chair up straight, as I’d been so excited shooting that my seat was still slightly reclined, so I moved the camera away from my eye for a few seconds to straighten my chair. By the time I looked back, the moment was gone, but luckily I salvaged what is still a great shot in my humble opinion, by doing a little bit of rotation in post processing. I also played with the contrast on this some to reduce the slightly washed out feel of the image, but this was nowhere near as bad as with the previous image.

I guess I wanted to add on this that I’ve kind of proved here that you can get some great shots from the inside of a plane when conditions are right, or close to it. When I showed these to a friend here in Tokyo they said that whenever they take photographs from a plane they end up with a reflection in the window. I was lucky here in that the angle of the sun was acute enough for the light from the window to be hitting the arm of my chair and not the camera itself. Even if my camera had been directly catching the sun though, the same rule that I’ve mentioned before for shooting through glass applies. If you make sure you have a camera hood one, and put it right up against the glass, you will greatly reduce the possibility of anything reflecting back into the window. Without anything actually reflecting through the window you should be able to shoot away to your heart’s content without any issues. One thing that might work against you though, is that plane windows tend to have a second plastic window inside, and quite a large gap between it and the real external window. This introducing a problem in that you will be more likely to reflect in the real window because you can’t get right up to it. If that happens I guess you could try moving so far back that the light no longer hits you, but that will greatly reduce your field of view through the window, so you might just be out of luck. I was in luck on this day though, so came away with a few nice shots to round off my brief trip to India.

So I hope you enjoyed this two part series. I enjoyed putting it together. As I make these travelogue type Podcasts I realise that I’m also making a kind of audio diary of my photographic adventures, which is definitely very special for me too.

A quick apology for the Web site problems AGAIN, over the last weekend. I received a mail on Thursday asking me to move our sites again, only a month after I moved our second server to the same provider that I have our audio file server with. This kept me up until almost 3AM on Friday night and really ruined a large part of my weekend as it was totally unplanned. Needless to say I was a little peeved, especially as problems persisted until Monday, so sorry about all that. Hopefully its now all over, and hopefully won’t happen again for some time. Touch wood! The Documentary/Photojournalism Assignment is now closed for entries and voting is turned on until the end of Sunday October 14, just about anywhere in the world. At that point I’ll create that week’s podcast to announce the winners and to announce the theme for the next assignment, so stay tuned for that. Please do go over to www.mbpgalleries.com to vote as well. There are some great images in the assignment gallery which you can find just over half way down the top page. whatever you’re doing — Bye-bye.


Show Notes

The music in this episode is from the PodShow Podsafe Music Network at http://music.podshow.com/


Audio

Subscribe in iTunes for Enhanced Podcasts delivered automatically to your computer.

Download this Podcast in MP3 format (Audio Only).

Download this Podcast in Enhanced Podcast M4A format. This requires Apple iTunes or Quicktime to view/listen.



India, Sept 2007 – Part#1 (Podcast 105)

India, Sept 2007 – Part#1 (Podcast 105)

In September 2007 I was lucky enough to go for a brief business trip to Bangalore, India. I was literally going to be in there for just three full days, and didn’t expect to get much free time, but I was hoping to get some shots while there, so I took with me my Canon EOS 5D, and my 16-35mm F2.8, my new 85mm F1.2 and my trusty 70-200mm F2.8 lenses. Not exactly travelling light by some people’s standards, but for me, this is the bare minimum I can leave the house with if I’m thinking I might have a chance to shoot. Anyway, today and next week we’re going to look at some of the shots from the trip as I explain my thinking behind the shots and how I worked the situation. The sounds we were played in with by the way were recorded with my smart-phone in the every busy streets of Bangalore.

The main reason for my visit was to meet with a new team that I’m setting up in Bangalore with my day-job, and to meet a team in a separate company that we’ve been working with for some time for a lunch. Some of the people that I met have actually spent extensive time with us in Japan, to the point that I’d definitely call them friends, rather than business acquaintances. We’ll take a look at a portrait of him in a moment, but first, let’s look at a photograph of the hand of a friend of mine called Namdev. This is image number 1527. This painting or dying of the hand is called Mehandi, and what we see here is somewhat faded as it’s a few days after it was done. I hear that the hand is died using leaf sap on special occasions, and on this occasion it was to celebrate Namdev’s getting engaged, which I was really pleased to hear. Apparently this is not only decorative, but also because of the disinfecting properties of the leaf sap it is also done to cleanse the hands for the ceremony too.

Mehandi (Hand Painting)

Mehandi (Hand Painting)

I tried a few different shots, and to be honest don’t know if this really works either, but I did find a nice natural colored lace curtain by a window and asked Nam to put his hand up there, and shot it with my 85mm F1.2 lens with the aperture at F2 so that we could see some of the detail of the pattern in the curtain as the light shined through it. I selected an ISO of 200 because it was quite dark in the room, and was in Manual mode, to give me full control over the exposure, because the scene was back lit. Well, actually not just because it was back lit, as I tend to shoot in Manual mode a lot, but I would definitely switch to Manual mode or use exposure compensation in situations like this anyway.

A Happy Man

A Happy Man

I selected a shutter speed of 1/80 of a second, because I was hand holding, and keeping the old rule of using the focal length as the minimum shutter speed for a non-Image Stabilized lens in mind. You know, 85mm lens, 1/80 of a second is just about as slow as you want to go without risking some camera shake. Most of us could go slower, and indeed I do in some of the shots we’re going to take a look at today, but this is a good rule of thumb to keep in mind.

In the next image (left) we can see Namdev all happy and content now that he’s engaged to be married, and that he has a nice manly 300dpi 7 o’clock shadow there. I’m happy with the overall yellow feel to the shot, with his shirt almost matching the lace curtains here, and the nice shallow depth of field from the F2 aperture throwing everything from the back of the subject to the curtains out of focus. I did actually lengthen the shutter speed to 1/50 of a second here, kind of contradicting what I just said about the focal length as the shutter speed rule. I wanted to keep his face relatively well lit as we were further into the room now, so the light from another window was not really falling on his face so much. I just kind of tightened up, and still the shot is very sharp, so I’m happy enough with this.

After meeting with the larger team, I was heading back to our offices, and a few of the elements outside of the car kind of came together a little, so I quickly snapped image number 1530, in which we can see a small figurine of the Hindu God Ganesha.

Dashboard Ganesha

Dashboard Ganesha

Every car that I’ve ridden in, in India to date, has one of these or a variation of it. Very often too the driver will buy a string of flowers like this and hang it from the rear-view mirror and encompass the figurine with it. It seems that these flowers are changed like once a week or so, and are a very nice natural air freshener, giving the car a beautiful fragrance for a while. Here I just opened the aperture right up to F1.2 with an ISO of 100 and shot this for 1000th of a second. I had now changed to Aperture Priority mode actually, in preparation to shoot in various levels of light shortly after this, in the Madibala Market. To set the stage for the next few photos, let’s look at image number 1531, that I really shot more to give you an idea of the scene that we’re about to walk through.

Madibala Market

Madibala Market

What we can see here is a small portion of the Madibala Market, which is pretty much dedicated to fruit and vegetables, but also has a few other stalls intermingled. I’ve passed through this market many times during previous visits but never been able to stop the car and get out. This time, towards the end of a pretty busy day, I was just heading back to my office and stopping here for 20 or 30 minutes would just mean that I had to stay another 20 or 30 minutes to clear up my remaining tasks for the day, so I decided now was the time. I’d actually had this market in mind from the start, and I have to admit, this possibility was even a part of my decision to buy the 85mm F1.2 lens recently. I left the car with just the 85mm fitted to my camera and no other lens.

In addition to this first shot, I shot one other of a young man handling the flowers that we saw around the Ganesha figurine earlier, but then I move to my plan, which is what I wanted to talk about a little here. Most of you that have been listening for a while know that I’m not a big portrait shooter. Part of this is because portraiture has not really interested me much in Japan, though I’ll shoot the odd portrait when possible. The other part, and the main part for me, is that I am uncomfortable with approaching people to ask if I can photograph them. This is a fear that most of us have, or have already overcome. It’s not that I’m shy to the point that I won’t speak to people. I generally tend to smile and interact with people relatively easily, but I guess it’s that ever possible fear of rejection, being told “no”, that I’m anxious about. I also think of other people’s feelings, possible excessively, and I don’t like to patronise people. It’s probably unavoidable to an extent, but I’d hate for the people that we’ll look at in the next few photos to think that I’m a cold person, only wanting to steal their likeness and move on.

During my first few visits to India I shot many images from a moving car, including some of my portrait work, but the more I think about this, the more I hate this way of shooting. It’s cold, and uncaring and to be honest, I’m thinking now that it’s probably just downright rude. The more I come to terms with my own anxiety, about asking, the less I’m prepared to just snap off shots from a distance like a heartless sniper. My plan for this mini-shoot was to get as close to the subjects as time would allow, and my tactic was to add a buffer. After the first two shots, I decided to simply walk through a section of the market, and let the people around see me, with my camera, to get them used to the idea that there was a foreigner photographing in the market. I was with a guy from my team in India called Shashi, and we basically did just that — took a steady walk through the market. I made a point of doing what I’m comfortable with, which is smiling and saying hello, but made a stronger point of not asking to shoot any photos at this stage. As I passed and said hello to a few of the subjects that we’ll see in a few moments I was incredibly excited at the prospect of photographing them, but I kept my camera firmly in front of me, hanging from its strap around my neck, idle, but there for all to see.

Clothes Merchant

Clothes Merchant

We got to the end of the street in a steady ten minutes, and that marked the end of this portion of the market. I’d not shared my strategy with Shashi, as this would have put pressure on me to come up with the goods, and I didn’t want to add any more pressure to my already pretty anxious frame of mind, but the lack of being in on the plan led him to ask if I wanted to cross the street and look at the market on the other side of the road. I said no of course, continuing that I wanted to walk back through the same stretch of market, which is what we did. The first image from that short walk back is probably the best portrait shot that I’ve made to date, and that is image number 1532.

I’d had a brief exchange with a man who told me his name was Ata Ula, and I’d told him my name and asked if I could photograph him. He obliged, but unfortunately it wasn’t sharp. I don’t know if I’d moved or he had, but the focus was off, by enough to render the shot useless. This is a great shame because it looks like a good portrait shot until you look at it closely. I remember feeling that I wanted to shoot a few more images, but I have to admit, the main thing on my mind was photographing the man sitting next to him on their clothes stall, who turned out to be Ata Ula’s father, and that is who we can see in this photograph.

I’d raised the ISO to 400, as most of the subjects were under the cover of their stalls and it was not a bright day. It was pretty overcast in fact, and had been raining on and off. Because of the varying levels of opacity in the plastic covers on the market stalls too, I’d decided to use Aperture Priority for speed as I also didn’t anticipate any troublesome high contrast conditions. I opened the aperture up to F1.6 for a nice shallow depth-of-field, and this gave me a shutter speed of 1/125th of a second, which was just right. I got the focus spot on this time, with this amazing mans eyes perfectly sharp, along with the majority of his face. The tip of his nose and eyebrows start to get a little soft, but that’s fine. It’s the eyes and that wonderfully aged complexion that I wanted to capture, and I did that how I wanted to. No disrespect to this gentlemen’s son, but had I messed this shot up, I would have been incredibly disappointed. It went well though, and I feel very lucky to have had the chance to photograph this incredibly handsome man.

One of the wonders of digital of course is being able to check what you’ve shot immediately, but this also allows us to show the subject immediately too, which is what I did at this point. As I showed the men their photographs they smiled and did one of those Indian head-shakes that is a cross between nodding and shaking one’s head. It took some getting used to, but this is done as a sign of agreement and appreciation, and this made me profoundly happy. I’d not only been able to make a few incredible photographs, I’d made a connection, and made someone else happy too. I shook the hands of both men, and thanked them for allowing me to photograph them, and moved on.

Anyway, it seemed like my strategy was working! I had smiled and said hello to these two gentlemen on my way past the first time, and it was actually the son that started talking to me on our way back. I’m sure this is because they felt able to do so having seen me pass shortly before. After all, if they were open to just talking straight away, they’d have called out to me on my first pass, right?

A few paces further along and I was called out to again, by a group of people at a fish stall that I’d also seen on the first run. In fact, these people, I think all members of the same family, had tried to sell me some fish on our way out. I had smiled and politely refused. This time, they’d realized that I was not interested in buying fish, and they’d probably seen me photographing the gentlemen that we just looked at, so they just went straight to the “hey photograph us with our fish” mode. Of course, being asked to photograph them was something I had not expected but was more than happy to go along with. The first image of this family that I want to share is number 1534. Here we see the young man with a large fish, with the Dad to the right of the photo with another large fish, showing me the cross section of the fish, probably appealing to me how fresh the fish is. Now he has a nice photo expression, but we can see that the young man is kind of protesting about being pulled around by the man behind him, probably big brother. The neat thing about this photograph in my mind though is expression on the guys face as he makes a kind of cut-throat gesture. With the line of their sight we have a connection with me, the photographer, but they also opened up and had a bit of a mess around with each other as well, making for a nice interactive exchange.

Fishmonger Family - Cut Throat

Fishmonger Family – Cut Throat

As there were a few people in the shot, I had deepened the depth-of-field slightly by changing the aperture to F2.8. I was further away from the subjects this time, so I didn’t really need to go any smaller than this. The shutter speed at this aperture with ISO 400 was 1/200 of a second. In the next shot, number 1535, made a few moments later with exactly the same settings was also nice and interactive as the guy in the back placed his hand over the Dad’s head, making fun of him this time. The young man’s face was now in a serious, kind of tough-guy face, probably what he wanted to do from the start, and the Dad’s expression was totally unchanged. We also now have another older gentlemen coming into the frame in the far right, which adds another element of interest.

Fishmonger Family - Having Fun

Fishmonger Family – Having Fun

Another Tough Guy!

Another Tough Guy!

At this point, another brother, came close enough to join in the fun, and I shot image number 1536. With a nice sort of half-smile, this young guy is a great looking subject too, and you can tell by his pose and his closes and chains etc. that he’s kind of playing the tough guy too, with the youngest brother. This shot in my mind has a nice gritty yet pure feel to it, but I kind of regret chopping of the hands in this and another shot of the younger brother that we’ll look at next week. I’m not too worried about this, but having framed it this wide I probably should at least tried going the whole way out and include the hands. Still, I’m happy enough with the shot. For this by the way I opened the aperture up a little again to F1.8, which gave me a shutter speed of 1/500 of a second, still at ISO 400.

So at this point, I’m going to cut this episode off, as I have too many shots left to talk about for one episode, and we’ll pick up the story again next week.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this first part of a two part series. I learned a lot from my experiment and gained so much from a human interaction perspective. It didn’t all go my way, but that is fine, and the last thing I want to do is upset someone. I’ll go into more details about that though, in next week’s episode.

Remember that the Documentary/Photojournalism Assignment is still on, with just a few more days left to get your entries in. You’ll be able to upload your entries until the end of this coming Sunday which is September the 30th and at that point I’ll lock the gallery to uploads and start the voting for a further two weeks. So far there aren’t so many entries uploaded, but I’m hoping this is because everyone else, like me, is holding off uploading their images because they’re undecided in which one to upload, or maybe hoping to shoot something better before the deadline. I also think that this assignment has been much more difficult to shoot for, so I kind of expected a drop in participation. It would be great to be surprised here though, so please do get your entries in if you are sitting on the fence on something.

And that’s about it for today. The music we were played in and out with a track called Creation by a band called Shams. And with that, all that remains to be said is thanks for listening, and you have a great week, whatever you’re doing — Bye-bye.


Show Notes

The music in this episode is from the PodShow Podsafe Music Network at http://music.podshow.com/


Audio

Subscribe in iTunes for Enhanced Podcasts delivered automatically to your computer.

Download this Podcast in MP3 format (Audio Only).

Download this Podcast in Enhanced Podcast M4A format. This requires Apple iTunes or Quicktime to view/listen.



India, Dec 2006 – Part #3 (Podcast 68)

India, Dec 2006 – Part #3 (Podcast 68)

Today we conclude this three part travelogue of a brief trip to India, looking at some environmental portraits and architectural silhouettes. Before we get started, if you are listening to this soon after it’s release, it may well be Christmas Day, so Happy Christmas! If you’re catching up later, I hope you had, a very Happy Christmas, and wish you a wonderful New Year.

So, we left off last week having looked at the pictures of the Taj Mahal. I spoke about some history of the place as well as some technical mistakes I’d made during my shooting due to lack of sleep, which might also lead me to believe that I don’t yet know that particular piece of equipment like the back of my hand. If I did, I would still have been able to use it while effectively on auto-pilot. During the last 45 minutes or so in the Taj complex the guide went back to the gate where I’d got my first glimpse of the mausoleum made of white marble that is the symbolic centre of the complex and what most people think of as the Taj Mahal. I should just mention that having a guide was great to get some history of the place while wandering around, but I’d say it’s not 100% necessary if you are only going to be visiting the Taj Mahal.

I’d requested a guide because my original plan was to arrive at the Taj before dawn and shoot for a few hours, then leave the complex, to go back to the hotel and get breakfast, then check out and do some street photography in the area during the day, then come back to the Taj as the sun dropped in the sky leading up to sunset, and shoot a little more during this warm light and as the sun went down. Well, as I said before, the travel time over here was not two hours as I had heard, but 5 hours, so I was incredibly tired having had just 90 minutes disturbed sleep, and I also now had to leave the area much earlier in the day to have time to get back to Delhi airport for the evening flight out of India. So the guide was not as useful as I’d original expected. Having said that, I’ll give a few details of how this guide thing works, for the sake of those of you that may have a chance to make it over here some day. Firstly, note that the car I was riding in was booked in advance and has a driver. If you want to travel by car in India, I do not recommend getting a renta-car and driving yourself. Driving in India is a skill that although not impossible to master, which is pretty obvious because millions of Indian people are doing it every day, but it is very different to any other country that I’ve visited. The lane markings carry very little importance apparently. A two lane road will frequently be used by three or four cars side by side, depending on the size of the lanes, and when travelling at any speed outside of the cities, many of the drivers just meander between the lanes as they feel fit. The odd cow walking towards you in the opposite direction is a strange site at first, and trucks and cars tend to use the opposite side of the road to get to their destination sometimes as well. So basically if you’re in thick traffic, it’s incredibly thick, and carries the risk of being bumped or bumping into someone else with every manoeuvre, and when you are travelling at a decent speed, there’s the risk of being knocked off the road by someone changing lane without any thought of anyone else on the road, or being hit head on by a large truck or cattle coming in the opposite direction on your side of the road. This is really not doing this experience justice though. I actually really enjoy it in a strange kind of way, so I don’t want to put you off at all. But I just want to say, get a driver with your renta-car. Without trying to put anyone down in any way, it is just a hundred dollars or so a day for a car with a driver, and they are professionals, and more importantly they’re Indian, which means they’re used to it. One thing to note and this information is from Indian friends, so you can trust me, a generous tip for a driver that has stayed with you for a day or so would be around 500 rupees, which is about $15. Some Indian people have told me this is too much. They say that it will spoil the driver and make them expect more in future, so you could go with around 300 or 400 rupees, but I myself think that 500 is although a touch on the generous side, a nice thank you.

Now, the important thing though, and I must say I’ve not overcome this issue myself yet, is to try and get a driver that speaks good English. I did not book this driver directly myself, and I don’t know if this was requested, but the driver on my trip this time did not speak very good English. Another thing that I will bear in mind for future trips as well, and again, I’m not confident that this will be possible, but if you are not going to have a separate guide, it would be great if there was some way to find people that understand the needs of a photographer shooting in India. Later in the day on my way back to Delhi, I asked the driver if we could stop in some crowded market areas to take some photos, and he basically said it was not a good idea. Now because of his bad English, I don’t know if he’d understood my question, and seriously thought it was not a good idea, or if he had simply not understood my question. I was far too tired to argue though, and spend most of the five hour drive back gaping out of the window in a haze, or totally asleep. But getting someone with good English and that can stop in areas of interest and then maybe get out of the car and walk with you, will be a big help.

Moving on to the guide, the guides for the Taj Mahal do not get a wage. They used to be paid by the renta-car company, but booking and payment problems caused them to decide as a group that they would no longer be booked or paid by the renta-car company. Now, the driver calls a guide from a list of numbers he has, usually on the day, so our guy got a call at 4:30AM, and then the guides come out to work with you. They don’t get paid, but I went to great length to find out from the guide what a fair amount to pay him would be. Now, this guy is only human and is possibly, actually probably inflating the amount to an extent. He told me that people who do not enjoy the tour will pay just $15 dollars or so, which as I said earlier is 500 rupees. But people who really found the tour and the history etc. interesting, would give him $25, $30 or $40 dollars, which is between 850 and 1,400 rupees. The latter seems excessive by India standards, and I doubt that this is what you should pay, but if you are really happy with the service and information you receive, when you consider how much you are probably earning in your own country, and how much you spent getting out here, it might be a good guideline. This is for each member of the party by the way. So if you are in a group, each member would pay what they feel comfortable with and not just chip in a few rupees each to make a thousand say. The more of you in the group, the harder the guide has to work, so I think this is only fair.

Look at my Finger!

Look at my Finger!

Anyway, let’s move on to what happened after I’d returned to the hotel for breakfast before parting with the guide, and then I’ll tell you how much I gave him. So once I’d eaten and checked out of the hotel, the guide asked if I’d like to see some traditional marble craftsmen, inlaying semi-precious stones into the marble, in the same way as some that can be seen in the 1185 of the archway on the front of the mausoleum at the Taj. This sounded like a great opportunity to get some environmental portraits, so I jumped at the chance. He also said we could look at some sapphire cutting and carpet weaving workshops. All trade and products that the area of Agra is famous for. First, we arrived at the marble inlaying workshop and this is where I shot the first three images we’ll look at today. The first of which is number 1193. This is not a favourite shot of mine from the trip. I’ve really included it so that we can see the round plate like marble in to which the craftsman is carving hollows into which the stones will be inlaid. This guy proudly showed me how resting his finger on the marble as a fulcrum for the carving movement is gradually wearing his finger and fingernail away. The problem with this image and the BKSecret, long term member and contributor at the Web site points out in his comment, the guy is looking into thin air. I shot around 8 frames of this guy, some showing his finger and most just working, and in all of them, he’s looking into thin air. This was actually to the point that I wondered if perhaps he had an eyesight problem, but had he not been able to see, I’m sure they would have made a point of how miraculous it was that he could do this job without his eyesight. I had been shooting him at F4, again with the 50mm F1.4 lens, but I closed the aperture down a little to F5.6 for this shot as I was going to focus on his finger, and wanted to get his face more in focus than F4 would have allowed. I’d raised the ISO to 400, as I was indoors but shooting with available light. This gave me a shutter speed of 1/25th of a second.

Pensive

Pensive

To his right was another craftsman, grinding the semi-precious stones that would be inlaid into the marble that the first guy was carving notches into. We can get an idea of the sort of thing they are making if we look at the octagonal table top leaning against the wall behind the subject in image number 1194. This time I went back to F4 and focused on the subjects eyes, because I wanted to capture that pensive look on his face as he ground this tiny piece of stone. I didn’t think we need to see the hand clearly in focus for this shot, as we get enough information without it being, and I didn’t want to get the background any more in focus than this either. It was pretty much a coincidence that the table behind the subject was creating kind of a halo around his head. This was not intentional, but I thought it was kind of cool when I looked at the shot later. Note again that as with the first two portrait shots we looked at in part one of this series, I dropped the saturation back down to normal for these portrait shots so as not to overdo the skin tones and this guys yellow sweater also was way too loud with my normal Velvia type settings. The extra stop of aperture had slightly more than doubled the shutter speed for this image to 1/60th of a second, again at ISO 400.

After this, I was lead through a door at the back of the workshop, and this is where they try to sell you their wares. This is also where I warn you about this kind of establishment. The first thing I heard on going through to the showroom is that there is no obligation to buy anything. Then I got a nice display of how Coca Cola will not damage the marble tables even if left on for 24 hours, and then watched it quickly wiped off in about 24 seconds. It’s also where I was told that the table tops could be shipped to anywhere in the world. This is where I made my first stance in saying that I didn’t want a table top, and was rebuffed another explanation that there is no obligation and that I was to just enjoy looking at their goods. As we went through the showing, saying no to everything, the size of the wares got smaller and smaller, and the price got lower and lower. They start off trying to sell you something that you would need a second mortgage for, and they finish up with a grumpy look on their face as they show you $200 ring case. They also apparently have a magic ball or some kind of divining system that will accurately tell you the taste of every man in the worlds wife.

Now, I’m being a little sarcastic here, but I’m English, which means sarcism is in my blood, so please forgive me, but I want to impress on you, that they will give you a very, very hard sell. I was getting pretty frustrated, and told the owner of the establishment that he had no way of knowing that my wife was going to love the ring box that he held in his hand, swearing that she would. He moved on to show me another ring box and said, this one is even cheaper. It was at this point where I was very close to snapping and said that it was not the price. I simply could not see anything that my wife would like. I asked for him to shut up while I looked to see if there actually was something that I wanted to buy for her, because I know her, and he doesn’t. As I looked around further, I actually did find a small box that was not overly ornamental, and figured that it would make a nice gift, and that there was a good chance my wife would like it. Because I was now pretty annoyed with the shop owner, I told him I’d buy it for a price much lower than the one on the piece, and he went for it without hesitation. Now frustrated for not saying an even lower price, I paid the money and left the showroom.

Young Craftsman

Young Craftsman

As I came out, the guy in the yellow shirt from the last shot had been replaced by another guy in a yellow shirt, who we can see in image number 1195. This time, rather than looking extremely pensively at his work, the young man stared right at the camera for a number of seconds. This allowed me to get a relatively nice portrait with his big eyes staring right back at me. There was now another guy sitting behind him to the right, so I had to come around to the front more, but I kind of like this angle too, and it accentuates the grinding wheel and the stick used to drive it as they are closer to the camera and therefore more out of focus at F4, which is the aperture I was still shooting at. I gave each of these guys 20 rupees each at this point for posing for me. Note that in the street, I would probably not do this. I find it can be insulting to offer small payments for shots, and prefer to buy something from the person I’m shooting if they are selling something. For example the last time I visited India and shot some young boys with who was probably their Dad at a banana stall, and I bought a few bananas from them. This sort of thing is much better I think, and keeps their pride intact.

Thinking about it, I was reminded of this during the walk out from the Taj earlier in the day. A small boy selling post-cards was dogging me all the way out of the complex. He was asking for 100 rupees for his post cards. Now, I never buy post cards. Most of the time, I’ve just shot a bunch of images that I will use to remember the experience, so I simply don’t need them. So I made the mistake of saying, “Look, I don’t want your post cards, but here’s 20 rupees”. The point I was making was get out of my hair. With this though, the young boy pulled a face, looking as though he’d been insulted and shook his head. I realized that I had indeed insulted him. I’d made a mistake that I try very hard not to do in life, and that is to make a decision to do something based on my own set of values and cultural background. This was not some whippersnapper from England or Japan, who would have been selling these for some pocket money to buy some sweets or a toy. This was a young businessman, with pride in his wares, and probably with a responsibility to take home a certain amount of money to help his family eat. I’d hurt his feelings and insulted him by offering him money, and I felt bad, and regretted doing so. Following a profound moment of realization though, I still didn’t need his post cards, so told him again told him “no” and continued to walk back to the electric car to take us back to the car.

After the inlaid marble workshop and shop, the guide took us to a jewel shop. Then he asked if we wanted to go to a carpet shop. I was now fed-up with people trying to sell me stuff, and I knew for a fact that I did not want a carpet, so I refused. One more piece of advice based on this is that these guides seem to be tied up with a number of shops and will try to take you around a number of them. If you don’t want to buy anything, or don’t want to spend the time looking, just refuse from the start. I didn’t realise what was going on at first, as I’d heard that we were going to visit a craftsman’s workshop. I was excited about this from a photography perspective, but I don’t like the pressure to buy stuff that I don’t want. I’m sure it would have been put me in an uncomfortable situation to get out of there without buying something had I not found something I thought my wife would appreciate, so unless you are prepared to put your foot down and get past the hard sell, I suggest you just don’t visit.

So, as I said, the original plan was to do some street photography here, but it turns out that Agra doesn’t really have a market area like most towns. At least that’s what the guide told me and a drive around in the car seemed to reinforce this. As it was going to take five hours to get back to Delhi and it was almost lunch time, I decided to let the guide go and head back. I paid him 1,000 rupees for his services. I know from what he’d told me earlier that he probably expected more. I based this price on a number of things. Firstly, he’d gotten up really early to get to the hotel at 5:40AM, and he’d been very patient and helpful as I was shooting in the Taj Mahal complex. I was grateful for both of these things. However, he didn’t help to find any good areas that I might be able to do some street photography, and actually just seemed to be leading me away from this as a possible way to spend some time. I was also not happy at the way he wanted to take me to all of the shops to buy things. Although I was relatively happy at the two place I did visit, and I got some nice portraits from one of them, I felt as though I was being railroaded a little here, and this made me feel uncomfortable, so I thought I’d pay him a good price, but not overly generous.

So we started the drive back to Delhi, and as we made progress, I was having difficulty keeping my eyes open. I decided to head back early so that we could stop off at a few places of interest on the way, and I also wanted to stop the car and shoot in some market places at some point. The fatigue from lack of sleep was really getting to me though, and I remember seeing a few places that would have been interesting to shoot had I been fresh and awake, but I really just couldn’t get serious about doing this in my current state. A few hours into the drive, and I noticed the driver was definitely getting tired and feared he would fall asleep at the wheel. I told him we could stop for a break at any time, and he seemed to understand and agree, but he pushed on for another hour or so, then he stopped at a road side eatery for lunch at around 2:30PM. It is customary for the driver to eat alone at these sort of places, but I asked him if he’d like to eat with me, and he accepted. I ordered some chicken curry and nan, with some rice, and he ordered some dahl. It was nice just to sit in the warm afternoon and look around at the people passing by. About the time I’d stopped eating and was thinking of going back to the car, a camel train trundled past, so I grabbed my camera and got a few shots.

One of them that I’d like to look at here is image number 1197. Here we can see the camel pulling a large cart with a white canvas covering the load. I don’t know what is under the canvas, but I figured it was some kind of crop or maybe wool or something. In this shot I was lucky to get the camel framed in its entirety and the man sitting driving the cart is in very typical dress, the white robes that you see a lot in India. I zoomed in to 120mm with my 70-200, as I was not so interested in getting the load in. I was more interested in portraying the man large enough to almost be an environmental portrait, but also include the camel totally. This seemed to be about the best composition to achieve this. As they were walking past though, I had to be pretty quick in my thinking. One regret is that I wished I’d opened up the aperture a stop to F4, instead of the F5.6 that I did shoot this at. I was shooting at ISO 400 and getting a shutter speed of 1/500th of a second, so I didn’t need the extra stop for a faster shutter speed, but F4 would have helped to take the background a little further out of focus to allow us to concentrate more on the camel and the driver. Still, I quite like this shot though. The man is large enough in the frame to be able to make out his expression as he looks back at me photographing him. For added interest, I was lucky to actually have the camel turn its head and send a glance my way too.

Camel Train

Camel Train

After this we continued the drive towards Delhi. Having gotten a few hours of broken sleep to this point, I’d asked the driver at lunch if we could stop at some market that we might drive through. Now, I still don’t know if he fully understood me, which is one of the reasons that I say you should try to find a driver that speaks good English, but he didn’t look very happy at this question. I asked if he thought this was a bad idea, and he said yes. The guide had also told me if I go shooting in a market place, I should be careful of my camera equipment and keep my wallet safe. I decided to take the drivers advice for now, but intended to ask him to stop anyway if I saw something I really wanted to shoot. The reality is that once I got back in the car, I really couldn’t stay awake long enough to keep my eyes open for a market place or anything else of interest. I regret this the most from the trip. If I’d known it was going to take 5 hours to drive out to Agra, I think I would have extended the trip by a day, and stayed in Delhi on Friday night, then set off on Saturday morning to arrive early in the afternoon and shot the Taj Mahal on Saturday afternoon until the sun set. Then I would have gone back to the hotel, probably nice and tired from the travelling and shooting, and got a great nights sleep on Saturday. Then I could have gotten up all fresh early on Sunday morning, and shot the dawn shots that I did get, and make my way back to Delhi with enough energy to keep my eyes open to find places to do some street photography. This coupled with spending the necessary amount of time to at least try and get a driver that speaks good English and understands the desire of a photographer to stop in various places would have made for a much more satisfactory excursion.

Ruins at Qutub complex

Ruins at Qutub complex

As it was, I visited one more place just outside of Delhi, in a town called Mehrauli. We’ll take a look at two more images from this trip before closing. Both of which were shot at the Qutub complex, and the first is image number 1198. When I arrived here at just before 5PM the sky was starting to warm up as the sun went down, and it was around this time that I shot this domed roof through the ruins. It’s a relatively simple shot, but quite effective I think. I was lucky to have a couple of birds sitting on top of the ruins for added interest, but the dome and the orange sky are the key elements. To the left of this the ruins actually fall off abruptly, so framing here was important. I didn’t want light to appear along the left side, keeping the only light in the bottom of the frame coming through the archway. I compensated the exposure to the tune of minus one stop to make sure the sky stayed warm and the ruins almost a silhouette. The aperture was F11 so that the dome would be almost in focus and this gave me a shutter speed of 1/250th of a second at ISO 400.

I actually at this point didn’t think the sky was going to get any more colourful, so stopped shooting and took a minute to call home and tell my missus that I was almost back to Delhi and everything was fine, apart from the fact that I was just really tired. As I spoke for a few minutes, the sky did start to become an even richer orange, and the cloud formation was pretty nice too, so I cut the call short to shoot image number 1199. For this I used the 24mm TS-E lens, this time using it correctly, as I’d had my moment of embarrassed realization in the car already, and I was able to correct the perspective for the large tower known as Qutub Minar that we can see almost in the centre of the frame here. Apart from correcting the perspective some, there’s not really a lot to say about this image other than that I paid attention to the where the dome and ruins came in the frame in relation to the foreground trees, all of which are silhouetted against this really nice sky. I didn’t need any exposure compensation here, but this is probably more coincidence than anything else. TS-E lenses often make us have to compensate exposure without challenging lighting as the camera has a hard time metering through the TS-E lenses once you start to tilt or shift them. I shot this at F8 for 1/100th of a second, again at ISO 400 as I was still hand holding. I actually carted my tripod half way around the world for the Taj shots and ended up not being able to use it there because of the restrictions, and now, I was still just too tired to take my time shooting these scenes.

Qutub Minar

Qutub Minar

I headed to the Delhi airport after this and a few hours later I was on a plane heading for Bangkok. I was on the cancellation list for a morning flight back from Bangkok to Tokyo, with a firm booking for 11PM the following night if there were no cancellations. When I left Tokyo a few days earlier for my business trip that preceded the Taj trip, I was thinking that it would be great if there were no cancellations so that I can spend some time in Bangkok too on my way home. When I got to Delhi airport, I have to admit I was no longer interested in going. I approached the check in desk hoping to find there’d been a cancellation and there hadn’t. I was to fly for five hours or so through the night, and again have time to see a part of another country. I had a choice of spending the whole day from morning to late in the night in the lounge at the airport, catching up on some sleep and email etc. or leaving the airport and taking a look at Bangkok. I had to decide now, as I would check my luggage all the way through to Tokyo if I didn’t intend to leave the airport. I was tired and really just worn out, but I figured it would be better to leave the airport and regret it, rather than staying in the airport and regretting it even more. I find the regret following not doing something much harder to get over than the regret for doing something that didn’t go as well as we’d hoped.

So, once again, after just 4 hours disturbed sleep on a 5 hour flight to Bangkok, I was launched into the city for around 7 hours shooting. I may talk more about this once I’ve gone through my photos more, but I didn’t get many good shots at all. Two images from a quick scan through the shots that stand out are both of Buddhist statues. I don’t think I’ll have enough shots to do a Podcast on the trip though, so I’ll just tell you briefly that, I once again hired a guide to show me around. I visited a number of temples, and had a ride on a boat for an hour or so and then went for lunch. After lunch I was once again taken to a few shops by the guide, reaffirming my thoughts that these guys will always try to get you to part with your money in some way. This supports the country though so I definitely don’t want to say this is a bad thing, but something to be careful of. I had one meal in Bangkok which was this lunch, and a few hours later I started feeling pretty ill. I ended up parting with part of the lunch at the airport, and the rest of it on the flight home that night. I ended up not be able to eat anything else on the flight or on the rest of the journey home and arrived back at my Tokyo apartment at 10AM on Monday morning hardly able to carry my luggage and camera bag. I slept for 8 hours straight until 6PM, then got up for four hours before sleeping for another 8 hours. I felt a bit off all day Tuesday as well, but then I was fine. I don’t know if it was the lunch that made me ill, or some water that I might have swallowed when splashed by some catfish while on the boat. Either way it was probably caused more by the fact that I was just way too tired to stay fit. Not a great experience, but as they say, what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger.

So that concludes the three part travelogue of my brief trip to India in December 2006. I love India and I can’t wait to go back at some point. I’ll definitely try to make time to do more planning myself next time to avoid getting into the same state as this time but still, I came out of the experience with some great memories and a fair amount of nice shots. I hope you’ve enjoyed me sharing them with you.

So that not only conclude the travelogue, but also concludes the Martin Bailey Photography Podcast for 2006. It’s Christmas day today, so a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all of you. Thanks for listening throughout this year and I hope you’ll continue to listen through 2007. Thanks too for all of your contributions in the Forum and the member’s gallery. You guys make the site a great place to hang out, and I look forward to spending the next year and hopefully many more with you too. So once again, Merry Christmas, and I’ll speak to you again next year. Bye bye.


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India, Dec 2006 – Part #1 (Podcast 66)

India, Dec 2006 – Part #1 (Podcast 66)

Thanks very much Robert for that message. I’m so pleased that you like your prints. Unfortunately it’s taken me around two weeks to release a Podcast after receiving this message, so we’re pretty close to Christmas now. If anyone else does decide to order a print or two as belated Xmas presents I will get them out as soon as possible, so they would be with you shortly after the day.

As I say, this is going to be slightly belated episode. Today is going to be the first of a two, possibly three part travelogue about a recent, very brief, trip to India. I was in India on a business trip with my day-job, and decided that it was about time I took an extra day and visit the Taj Mahal. We’ll look at some of the portraits that I shot while there, plus some shots of the Taj itself. I also have a few pieces of advice if you ever decide to visit yourself. I also have a little bit of housekeeping to do, but we’ll save that for the end of the show, so let’s get straight down to it, and talk about my trip.

Hotel Doorman

Hotel Doorman

So, as I said, I spend a few days in India recently. Basically just two days in the IT center of India, Bangalore, for meetings related to my day job. Then I took an extra day before heading back to Japan to visit the Taj Mahal, which I something that I’ve been dying to do for a few years now since my first visit to India. First let’s touch on one of my weaker areas of photography, portraiture. On the second morning while waiting for someone to come to the hotel to pick me up, I did something which is becoming a bit of a habit now, which is to ask the doorman of the hotel if it would be OK to take his picture. The result was image number 1174 in which we can see the doorman of the hotel I stayed in for two nights. I chose the 50mm F1.4 lens for this shot, as it is nice and bright and a good focal length for portraits, and because it’s quite a small lens, it’s not intimidating, which I think is important when shooting portraits.To fill the frame like the 50mm you have to get quite close to the subject, and as I’d taken my gear in a bag that allows me to top load the camera still attached to the 70-200mm F2.8, I was tempted to just shoot at 70mm, but I decided to switch to the 50mm before shooting for this very reason. Also, because it’s a F1.4, stopping down a couple of stops to sharpen up the image still gives you an aperture of F2.8, which is the starting point for the 70-200mm, although that lens is still pretty sharp wide open. The other thing of course is that 50mm is considered about the same perspective as the human eye, so the results should be just about the most natural for us to look at.

In this shot, because of the shallow depth of field obtained by shooting at F2.8, you can see that the outline of the red turban and the gentlemen’s ears are already going out of focus. Although I chose a position that gave me a blank piece of hotel wall for the background, it also is way out of focus, which is of course what I wanted to achieve. In post-processing I removed the usual boost to the Red channel that I usually apply to give my images a nice Velvia look, just really from stopping the red in that vibrant turban from blowing out. Also the skin tones were a little over done at my usual settings too. The location of the shot helped me to get some nice lighting effects without having to think about lighting too much. It was under the eaves in front of the hotel lobby where cars stop to drop off and pick up passengers. This means there was no light falling directly on the subject, but plenty coming from the side. And also there was another wall-less section behind me to allow some light to fall upon the subject from the front and create some nice big catch-lights in the subjects eyes. Really just a coincidence but with it allowed me to quickly see that I was going to be fine shooting right there without repositioning the gentlemen. The only regret for this shot is that pale stripe on the hotel wall that runs across the image at the height of the doorman’s neck, but the wide aperture stops this from being overly distracting.

Detho

Detho

When I went back inside, right after I put the 70-200mm lens back on the camera and put it back into my bag, the subject of the next image, number 1175, started scraping the candle wax that had dripped onto the base of a large candelabra in the hotel lobby. He’s a great looking guy who smiled broadly as I asked what he was doing, and I couldn’t help but as him if it was OK to photograph him too. He agreed and as he did, my ride turned up, but this was too good to miss, so I took a minute to think about what I was doing. I didn’t want to waist this excellent chance. I tried first composing the shot with the candelabra, showing the young man about his task, but it was too distracting. Also because the subject had his back to the window, and I wanted to shoot with natural light, there was a lot contrast between the subject and the bright window. So I came around and crouched next to him. I later learned by the way that this guy is called Detho. Again, because I had switched back to the 50mm F1.4 lens, so I had to get pretty close to the subject, which I felt was unnerving him a little, but because of the slightly challenging lighting here, it took me a few shots to get the exposure right. With the light coming in from my left and all of the dark areas in the shot fooling the camera to over expose, I made a few jokes as I checked the histogram and corrected the exposure, which seemed to relax Detho a little too. This is the second to last of about 8 frames I shot in the space of about 40 seconds or so. I ended up shooting at minus one stop exposure compensation because of all the black in the shot. From both a lighting and an expression point of view, I feel in this shot to be the best of small the batch. Also, as you can see if you are looking at the image, I managed to include the candelabra that he was cleaning in the reflection of the black marble on the wall in the back there, so you can still get an idea of the surroundings.

I actually thought that this young gentlemen was perhaps not Indian, but when I asked the person that had come to pick me up later, he said that he was probably from the North of India, where some of the population have more oriental features than what we might think, as they are closer to Nepal. This had never really occurred to me until now, but I suppose is kind of obvious when you consider just how vast India is. By the way, in return for these photos, I agreed to mail a print of the photograph to both the doorman and Detho, which I intend to follow through on during this week. It’s the least I can do for them allowing me to shoot two great portraits. As most of you know, I’m not a big portrait photographer, and although I do shoot enough portraits to be getting gradually better, it’s still one of the weaker areas of my photography. I didn’t have many other opportunities to do any street photography, for reasons which I’ll get into later, probably in the next episode, and we will look at a couple of other environmental portraits then too, but for now, let’s just say I’m relatively pleased with the results of this first few attempts.

So, I went off to complete my day’s work, and then headed off to the airport at Bangalore to switch back from businessman to photographer, and flew to Delhi to make my way over to Agra, and the Taj Mahal. Now, I usually try to do lots of planning before any kind of photography trip to give myself the best chances possible to get some great shots once there. However, with the preparation for the trip from a business side, and other responsibilities really overwhelming me lately, I didn’t have a lot of time to do any real planning as such. I had investigated the possible weather conditions and the time that the sun would come up, and I had actually relied on an acquaintance to tell me how long it was going to take for a driver to get me from Delhi airport to Agra. I’d been told 90 minutes to two hours, so my plan was to arrive in Delhi at 9:20PM, take a few minutes to find the driver and get rolling, then arrive at the hotel in Agra no before midnight. That would allow me to get around four hours sleep before getting up at around 4:30 to be ready to leave the hotel at 5:30, in plenty of time to be standing at the gates of the Taj Mahal when they open at 6:00AM. This was always going to be tough, because I’d had a series of nights to this point where I’d not slept well through travelling, but if I could get four hours of quality sleep, I figures I’d be OK.

This is where the plan started to fall apart. The first piece of advice if you ever intend to travel from Delhi to Agra by car – give yourself plenty of time. We travelled at night, so apart from the odd truck heading full speed our way on our side of the road and the dangers of a half-asleep driver keeping me from getting the ‘quality sleep’ I was after, it took a full five hours. I arrived at the hotel at 3:00AM. After knocking the hotel staff up to tell me where my room is, and actually getting in there and getting to sleep, it was around 3:20. So I ended up having a few hours of very disturbed sleep in the car, and 90 minutes of very weird sleep indeed in the hotel. If you think of the time I spent in the hotel, including 30 minutes to have breakfast and check out later, I’d say I was here for about two hours, or 120 minutes. When you consider that the hotel cost me $120 for the night, that’s exactly $1 a minute. Not quite what I’d hoped for, but there you have it.

So moving on, I had booked a guide for what I had hoped was going to be a full day, but it was now obvious that we needed to head back to Delhi early in the afternoon to make the flight home. The guide arrived at the hotel as request at 5:40AM, and we started our one mile drive to the Taj. Tourists have to park up a little way from the area and travel the last half a mile or so by electric car. This is to keep car exhaust fumes to a minimum, as they yellow the marble of the Taj Mahal itself. It was on the drive over there that I heard about warning number two. For your reference in case you ever make it out here yourself, you are not allowed to take a tripod inside the grounds of the Taj Mahal. This is kind of understandable because some people might go and stand a tripod on the marble around the building itself, but I would have liked to have seen specific areas where it is not possible to use a tripod, rather than the entire compound, as most of it is just tarmac paths and garden. I guess also though on busy days, if everyone had tripods stood everywhere they’d get in the way somewhat. What this means though, is that all of my shots, including those during twilight as the haze cleared, had to be shot hand held. Apparently it is possible to get permission to take a tripod in, but it requires prior application to some place in Delhi, and because I hadn’t planned the trip properly, I hadn’t done this. I did check that photography was OK, but I hadn’t noticed anything about tripod.

Again for your reference, in addition to tripods, the security check at the entrance relieved me of my portable storage, because it contains a hard drive, which are not allowed, so take plenty of memory. I was not allowed to take my cable release, because it has a remote control function. I wasn’t too cut up about this though because I didn’t have my tripod. You can’t take mobile phones inside either, which I thought a little bizarre, and you cannot take any kind of food inside. I was pretty cut-up about the fact that I could also not take in the snicker bar that I’d taken brought all the way from Tokyo to eat if I started to flag during my few pre-breakfast hours, but I didn’t really miss it. My equilibrium was already shot from lack of sleep.

I should say that the items that you are not allowed to take inside with you are placed in a locker, not confiscated for good. My tripod didn’t fit into the locker, so I now have a nice number 10, my locker number, written on the top of one of the legs in permanent white pen. A reminder of my trip I guess. I also was told by the locker room attended that I was to pay him a nice tip when I got back for looking after my tripod for me while I was inside. When I came back from the locker room, an American guy was having two hand-knitted teddy bears taken from his back. The security guard was giving a great story of how the teddy bears could be used to photograph the Taj Mahal in a derogatory manner, and the American guy having his teddies confiscated was not a happy teddy himself. My guide tried to explain better than the soldier doing the checks was, but gave in when the teddy-bear-less American started getting frustrated with him too. The guide left him to it saying “I don’t work here, I’m just helping out with the language problems. Don’t moan at me.”

First Glimpse

First Glimpse

Anyway, we walked for a minute or so from the gate to another tall building with a gateway, and it was as I turned and looked through this gateway that I got my first glimpse of the Taj Mahal. Let’s take a look at image number 1176. We can see here the interior of the building, which is lit by artificial light making it look very orange, with the Taj in the distance, looking decidedly blue in the twilight. I quickly cranked by 5D’s ISO up to 1600 and hand-held this for 1/2 a second at F4. I was shooting at 80mm so this I was surprised when apart from a fair amount of grain from the high ISO and longish exposure, the shot showed very little camera shake. A testament to the Image Stabilizer on my 70-200mm F2.8 I guess. I was relying on IS totally, as I could not lean against anything for additional stability without losing the position of the Taj through this arch. It was 6:22 when I shot this, and you can see that there were already a number of tourists standing on the steps waiting for it to get a little lighter. Of course, the Taj itself is a little soft as I was shooting at F4, but I’m quite pleased with this shot as a personal record of my first sight of this marvellous piece of architecture

First Glimpse

First Glimpse

I shot a few frames from these steps myself, wanting some views of the Taj in the pre-dawn light, but I chose to upload one from a little later, which we’ll look at a little later. For now, I wandered around to the side of this gatehouse and shot image number 1177, against looking through an archway. Still looking very blue before dawn, this time I switched to my 16-35mm F2.8 lens to frame the scene with the arch. I used minus two stops of exposure compensation in Aperture Priority mode, to keep the shot dark. If you don’t have your monitor calibrated, you may well not see much detail in this shot at all, but this is really very much how I saw the scene. Leaving the camera to its own devices of course would have meant the shot would have been rendered much more brightly, and the mood would have been lost. The shutter speed for this shot was 1/8th of a second, again hand-held, and the aperture was also wide open at F2.8. This again means that the Taj was going to be a little soft, but as this lens is pretty wide, shooting at 33mm, I was going to get much more depth of field than when shooting with a telephoto at the same aperture.

I made my way back around to the front of the gatehouse, and as I waited for more light to fall across the Taj, shooting it every so often, I shot image number 1179. Again shot at F4 with the 70-200mm F2.8 lens, I isolated two domes, which are the roof of the guest house to the right of the Taj Mahal, but from this perspective only visible poking up from a line of trees that form a base for another pretty dark, moody shot. A pair of birds flew through the scene as I made about three or four exposures, and I chose this one to upload. I now had the ISO down to ISO 400 in this as well as the last shot, as the sky got a little brighter, though it’s not really noticeable in the photographs yet.

Distant Domes

Distant Domes

I shot image number 1180 at 6:41AM, and now we can see the warmth of the sunlight hitting the structure of the Taj Mahal. I was only exposure compensating to the tune of minus one stop now, which was again to really just record on film what I saw with my eye, and not falsely brighten it up. My aperture still F4, I was now getting a shutter speed of 1/25th of a second. The sun actually should have been on or above the horizon at this point, but was not cutting through the morning haze enough to really light the structure. It was around this time that I realized there was some scaffolding around the front left tower my perspective that is, which was a little disappointing, but can’t really be helped I guess. We can also see from this shot that the four towers that surround the Taj Mahal are actually leaning outwards slightly. The architects designed it this way, so that if the towers should fall down in an earthquake, they would fall outwards, away from the main structure so as not to harm it. Confident that I’d gotten the shot I wanted in this light as things just started to warm up, I set off on a walk through the grounds towards the foot of the Taj Mahal itself, but for now, we’ll finish on today and then pick up the trail in the next episode.

 

From Twilight

From Twilight

So that’s about it for this week. As I say, we’ll pick up the trail in the next episode, hopefully released later this week if I can make the time. I’ve not yet prepared for the rest of this travelogue, so I’m not sure right now if it will be a two part or a three part series. We’ll have to wait and see.

Just a little bit of housekeeping before we finish. Firstly, thanks to all of you that uploaded your images to the Assignment that has just finished, which was on “Sound!”, and note that voting has now started and will run until the end of December the 31st. You need to register on the member’s gallery site at mbpgalleries.com to vote, but once logged in, you will be able to see a small black vote button above the images when viewed full size. When you click on the button your vote will be added, but remember each member only has one vote. You can change your mind anytime though until voting stops. Just hit the button again and the system will ask if you want to reassign your vote before going ahead and doing so. Again the quality of the images entered has been incredibly high. The number of entries dropped considerably for this assignment though, due I’d imagine to the difficulty of the theme. I myself didn’t even manage to post an entry. I had a few ideas for a shot but just couldn’t find the time to execute on my ideas. Let’s try and get participation up a little again for the next assignment, which I’ll be announcing the details of at the same time as announcing the winner for this assignment in the first episode of the New Year.

Also, I’d like to quickly apologise for the irregularity of the Podcast releases of late. I’ve been incredibly busy with both my day job and my photography, and just catching up in what little spare time I can make has been very difficult. To compound that I’ve had a number of computer related issues that seem to be dogging me a little hindering my progress. I’m not quite out of the woods yet, with some serious photography planned in the coming weeks, that will also of course mean a lot of images to process. I also have a trip to the UK planned for a family wedding in the New Year, so I anticipate that I will still be keeping you waiting the odd week for a while, but hopefully I’ll be able to catch up and release multiple episodes in the same week when coming up for air, so on average we should still see one episode a week. Anyway, please bear with me. My commitment to produce one show per week is unchanged, although the release schedule might continue to be a little bumpy for a while longer.

Finally, I wanted to say a huge thank you to those of you that have written Reviews for the Martin Bailey Photography Podcast in iTunes. This Podcast has been in the top 25 of the Visual Arts section for a long time now, but thanks to a recent spurt of Reviews, the show icon is actually in the top half of the featured section at the moment. This will help to generate more interest in the Podcast which in turn will help us to continue to grow, so again, a huge thank you to all of you that have been kind enough to write a review. If you haven’t done so yet, please do go over to iTunes and navigate to this Podcast and click the “Write a Review” button under the show details.

And that really is about it for this week. Tune into the next episode of the Martin Bailey Photography Podcast to hear about the rest of my mini-trip to India. Until then, have a great week, whatever you do. Bye bye.


Show Notes
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