Navansphotography

My never ending affair with food.

Image courtesy – thrillophilia.com

Last week I had an opportunity of travelling 600 Kms North of Chennai to Tuticorin and 600 Kms south of Chennai to Vijayawada. While returning from Tuticorin I was at home (Chennai) for some 8 hours, mostly sleeping.

In Tuticorin, we stayed at GRT and had breakfast there once. It was decent and rest of the times, we had food in the wedding resort itself.

The reason for this post is about a street food shop in Guntur. Yes, the Wedding was at Guntur and the reception was at Vijayawada. We stayed in a guest house in Guntur provided by the client. This time my friends with whom I was travelling, surprisingly had least interest towards food!

The shoot starts at afternoon, we reached Guntur previous day late night. Both of my friends were sleeping like a log when I woke up around 7 am. I brushed and freshen up, went out on the streets of Guntur, had tea and came back. Nothing changed, they remain logs.! Took my smartphone and spend some time in the whatsapp, Telegram, Mails.

After an hour, I went out for breakfast. The area we stayed is called Brindavan nagar and there was a HP fuel pump nearby. I walked past the fuel pump and saw a small street food vendor serving food. It was inviting. The size of the shop was not more than 6′ *6’!  But there were many dishes – Idli, Dosa items, Big poori, Tea etc.

I went in to have a look inside, felt good. I ordered a plate of Idli. They served 3 idlis on a dry leaf with a piece of newspaper beneath it. The idlis were so soft, tender, served hot with a semi solid peanut chutney. It was really yummy, tasty and I thought of getting more idlis, but I went in to the shop because of the big pooris. Now thought of asking poori, but the dosa they serving was much inviting. So I asked a masala dosa.

He spread the batter so nicely to get a perfect round shape, spreaded oil, waited for sometime, put some potato masala on it, spreaded some chutney over the masala, spreaded some red chilli powder on it and mixed all the three. It became kind of jelly like thing, now he rolled the dosa and placed it on my leaf. It was bit hot but bearable. The dosa colour was golden brown and was mouth watering. I started tasting it like, as if I was the king for that region. It was so nice but my intention is to try poori.

My stomach send me the warning signal, and I have no intention to override. I did not ordered poori but asked a cup of tea instead. Enjoyed the tea, paid the bill 45 rupees, went to the room and they were sleeping still.!

Affairs will be continued…;-)

Handicap is just a word.

Don’t do what you do not like – Period

Why one need to do what they cannot hold upon? In my case, it is photography. The answer is really simple. You don’t know what you are really capable of unless you try doing it. But your instincts or inner gut have somehow already know it.

Life Quote

Last week, I have attended one of my friend’s wedding. She is friendly, well matured and a good communicator. When I was working, we both were working together in a project where she would be able to make friends wherever she just walks in. But to me, it was her the only one friend. During that time, I was losing interest in the project and the work itself  for many reasons –  one reason was my immediate superior being a highly incompetent person. It was a sin to work under an incompetent person. Despite having many personal reasons to continue my work there, I started thinking about pursuing photography which I am doing it often then and now. And it was a call from my heart  – I should mention it here, some gut feeling, often my mind stays in photography.

 

I placed my resignation letter, the formalities were completed and I started pursuing photography as I wished. Similar to any startups or any creative person’s initial days, I have also faced turbulence in running it for living. Now have extended my photography to all commercial avenues, including candid Weddings, Industrial shoots, Facilities, Fashion, Fine art and I have also started conducting Photography workshops, Lightroom workshops etc. Now planning to open my own studio soon, waiting for the funds to flow in. More importantly, I can fix a routine to my work.

 

Now coming back to the friend’s wedding, I met another friend who was working on the other project then. She was interested in music & singing and had performed on stages at small level. Her mind was always in music, not in the excel sheets. In the wedding she came to me and said – “I also quit my job, got a scholarship in music course, going to full time music class to upgrade myself and you are the inspiration for me to quit my job”. I felt like I had no words to say anything to her. As it was a wedding hall, I kept myself quite with all my energies, and just said “All the very best for your future”. Though I had not achieved much except few wonderful photographs and really worth friends,  I am not doing what I do not like. I think not doing what you do not like is more important than doing what you like to do. Because you might not have come across the thing which might blow your head yet, so stop doing what you don’t like. Start exploring. After all, it’s your life. :-)

When I was driving back home, I told my wife “I have inspired one and I am proud of it”.

Black & White

B & W in Lightroom.

Many of my friends did not believe the below Black & white photograph is worked and out from Lightroom. So thought of sharing the entire workflow pertains to this photograph and how I made this final photograph. My friends thought I had used Silver Efex, as I use to do it for some of my Black & White photographs. But in this case, I have entirely worked and exported the file from Lightroom alone.

Black & White in Lr

This is the final processed version of the photograph.

Let’s look at the “As shot” version of this very photograph.

SOOC

The Original RAW file, as it appears, less contrast and colours are not so favourable. If we convert it into Black & White, we can straight away add value to the image as the colours are not adding any value to the image.

I remember reading as Scott kelby said “Black & white Photograph is desaturating all the colours and boosting the contrast” and exactly that is what I have did here. How simple is the explanation which speaks at the best level of communication as far as B&W photograph is concerned.

B & W As shot

Histogram – As shot Image.

The histogram of the original image is self-explaining, less contrast (bell curve), bit underexposed too as the histogram is aligned towards the left hand side.

The first step to convert an image to Black & White in Lightroom is; From the Basic panel next to treatment, click Black & white as this converts the image into Black & White. Alternatively you can press “V” from Develop module which results the same. Now let’s fix the Exposure; for this image I have boosted it to 9/10th of 1 EV, in other words 0.90 EV. I seriously do not like to confuse people by using the exposure jargons, but here excuse me. Next boost the contrast to 100%. To boost the contrast, I have brought back the Highlights and shadows towards the negative side. I have also brought down the clarity to give the mood.

B & W Basic panel

The screenshot of the Lightroom Basic panel.

I have not made any manual corrections in the tone curve panel, except pushing the highlights and shadows towards its maximum range and selected strong contrast.

Tone curve panel

Screenshot of Tone curve panel.

Next in the B&W adjustment panel, to further boost the contrast, I have brought down the Green and red colour towards negative side by having a look at the Histogram. Just press “J” to enable the highlight and shadow clipping notification, so that the clipped portions (if) will be coloured in Blue and Red respectively. Kindly note that I did not clicked the Auto from the Black & White panel, it is fully manual process.

B & W

Screenshot of Black & White adjustment panel.

The next in Detail panel, I have made some little sharpening just to bring out the edges of the trees and noise correction been applied heavily to bring the mood as we did it in clarity slider. Detail slider purposely brought to the lowest as this photograph does not call for any details.

Balck & White in Lightroom.

Screenshot of Detail panel.

In the Lens correction panel, usual Lens profile corrections and chromatic aberration corrections are applied. Let’s look at the “After” Histogram.

Black & White in Lightroom

Screenshot of the Histogram “after” the conversion process.

As the Histogram shows, the tones are spread all over the range and a bit underexposed, the contrast is less too. It’s been kept particularly because “Expose to the Right” is not necessary for this photograph, as this nature of the photograph calls for a bit of underexpose and less contrast.

Trust this article helps you to make more beautiful Black & White photographs.

Angel

The power of Smart Previews in Lightroom.

When you create a smart preview in Lightroom while importing or after importing from menu, what exactly have been done by Lr?

Lightroom creates a lossy, small dng copy from the primary DNG or from the original RAW file. The size of the file could be in the range of 1-3 Megabytes and the longer side of the smart preview file is 2540 px. Imagine you have raw file ranging from 25 megabytes to 35 megabytes and it is duplicated smartly to a much smaller size. The smart preview file been saved inside the Lightroom catalog itself, along with the instructions you might apply while developing. As the name denotes, this is one of the smartest ways of working with Lr. Keep your primary/original raw files in external HDD and create smart previews while importing it into Lr.

What are the advantages in working with smart previews?

  • Your Lr suddenly starts working in blazing fast, since it needs to deal with a small file.
  • For developing and exporting, you don’t have to connect your external HDD/NAS drive for small-sized exports. All the exports can be  done from the dng file itself as long as the longer edge is kept not more than 2540 px. Or in other words, to print till 5” * 7” size.
  • A lot of HDD space savings in your computer, especially when you are working in a laptop with SSD.
  • You are always having a copy of all your photographs with you in the form of smart previews. When you meet a potential client, you are always ready for an instant slide show of your work (provided you have done some base work with the intention so, like keywords). Assuming you are using a laptop, if it is a Desktop/Mac the question does not arise at all.

Other things to note with regards to smart previews

For full-sized export or larger than 2540px, you need to connect your external drive / NAS.

  • All the metadata and develop settings are updated with your original file as soon as you connect your external drive.
  • The file details are displayed below Histogram, whether you are working with the Smart preview or with Original file or with both.
  • Smart preview-Lr
  • Purely Photography
  • If you do not need smart previews which you have created earlier, you can discard it. To do the same, just click the small rectangle symbol below Histogram. In the dialog box which pops out, click discard smart previews.
  • When you are working in Library module – Whether the file is an original or smart preview can be seen in the film strip or from the grid view, looking at the right top of the grid cell. A small filled rectangle with dotted line on its periphery will be displayed if it is a smart preview.
  • PurelyPhotography
  • If you wish to edit your images further in other apps like Photoshop, Silver Efex, or any other external apps, you need to connect your HDD as it is required to create a separate psd, tiff or jpeg file to work with.

 

My latest way of working in Lightroom:

  • Copy the RAW files from the camera’s memory card to Desktop. (Format the memory card in camera before the next shoot)
  • View the RAW files via Faststone viewer (free version) and delete the unwanted ones. Further discarding will be from Library module by simple flagging and unflagging method.
  • Make a copy of the folder to the external HDD’s Lightroom folder [this folder is a primary organised one and linked with Lightroom catalog. Lightroom → 2014 → November → (Shoot name)] and cut paste the folder from desktop to the backup drive.
  • Fire up Lightroom and start the import process [Just Add the folder to the catalog with 1:1 preview and smart preview creation].

Cheers & Happy Photographing.

Ansel Adams

The most favourite quotes of mine about Photography.

“…how you build a picture, what a picture consists of,

how shapes are related to each other, how spaces are

filled, how the whole thing must have a kind of unity.” – Paul strand.

“There are no rules for good photographs, there are only good photographs”. – Ansel Adams

“The pictures are there, and you just take them.” – Robert capa

Universal language

“It takes a lot of imagination to be a good photographer. You need less imagination to be a painter because you can invent things. But in photography everything is so ordinary; it takes a lot of looking before you learn to see the extraordinary.” – David Bailey

“Always seeing something, never seeing nothing, being photographer.” – Walter de mulder

“Light makes photography. Embrace light. Admire it. Love it. But above all, know light. Know it for all you are worth, and you will know the key to photography.” – George Eastman.

 

“Every viewer is going to get a different thing. That’s the thing about painting, photography, cinema.” – David Lynch.

 

“Once photography enters your bloodstream, it is like a disease.” – Anonymous

When I photograph, what I’m really doing is seeking answers to things.” – Wynn Bullock

photoquote

“I went into photography because it seemed like the perfect vehicle for commenting on the madness of today’s existence.” – Robert Mapplethorpe

 

“Great photography is about depth of feeling, not depth of field.” – Peter Adams

 

“My life is shaped by the urgent need to wander and observe, and my camera is my passport.” – Steve McCurry

“When I say I want to photograph someone, what it really means is that I’d like to know them. Anyone I know I photograph.” – Annie Leibovitz

 

“I never have taken a picture I’ve intended. They’re always better or worse.” – Diane Arbus

 

“The whole point of taking pictures is so that you don’t have to explain things with words.” – Elliott Erwitt

 

“Essentially what photography is is life lit up.”- Sam Abell

Quotes about Photography

“In photography there is a reality so subtle that it becomes more real than reality.” - Alfred Stieglitz

 

“Photography is the story I fail to put into words.”- Destin Sparks

 

“To consult the rules of composition before making a picture is a little like consulting the law of gravitation before going for a walk.” – Edward Weston

 

“The painter constructs, the photographer discloses.” - Susan Sontag

 

“In the context of photography , there was a luck.But the luck will come, when the photographer is ready.” - Adithya Zen

 

“Would you hang it on your wall? Then it’s a good photograph.” ― Leslie Dean Brown

 

What’s your favourite quote? Post it as comments.

Flight, Greens,

Histogram is Nothing

There are many articles out in the web which explains Histogram in detail and technically as well. But this article is intended to demonstrate histogram in a simple way without going into in-depth technical details.

I have chosen a simple Black & White image to demonstrate it, because that is what the Histogram is fundamentally. Yes – “the graphical representation of luminescence level of each pixel in an any given image”.

Mountain and a waterfalls engulfed by mist.

Mountain and a waterfalls engulfed by mist.

Have a detailed look at the image, the top right portion of the image is covered by fog and it is bright. The bottom left of the image is covered by rocks and it is dark. Draw an imaginary diagonal line across the image from top left to bottom right. Now look again, it would be easy now to understand. The fog portion comes under whites and the rock portion comes under Blacks. Look at the respective Histogram below.

Histogram

Histogram of the above photograph.

If you look at the photograph – almost the dark & light pixels are equal(quantity wise). Isn’t it.? Now look at the Histogram, isn’t the same data displayed here in the histogram clearly? The light pixels are on the right side of the histogram and the dark pixels are on the left side. That’s it. In between, the connecting pixels are mid tones, which you can again see it on the image as well. Across the diagonal line, the tones on both sides of the line will fall on mid tones except the top left of the image, where it will fall under blacks.

HistogramOne more thing we have to understand is, any white area on the image will fall on the right side of the histogram, whereas blacks will always fall on the left side. For example, turn the image 180° horizontally. Now the fog will appear on your left side and rock on the right side but the histogram would remain the same.

The same photograph but flipped.

The same photograph but flipped.

Hope this article clear your initial blocks towards understanding the histogram. For a detailed understanding of Histogram and why should one push the histogram towards right, I would recommend reading this article in dPS. In another article will discuss about types of Histogram.

Cheers and Happy photographing. :-)

The mad riders

A ride through the Himalayan Clouds

This trip is dedicated to Priya.

It was all started on the earlier SUV trip to Meghamalai during mid of May, when we all walked some 16 Kms from Highwavis (in Tamilnadu) to the last accessible point in Meghamalai. We were all sitting and chatting like anything and about anything. There a girl named Priya asked me, “Navanee, shall we go to North East like Uttarakhand?” My mad intention to travel is less known to anyone or more precisely I less share.! The moment she asked, my inner traveller was on and my mind incessantly started thinking of travelling to North East. I started talking with potential like-minded people and posted a status in FB in order to make a team to go to North East of India. In the meantime, Priya also sent me some vague plans to Uttarakhand and nearby states, but nothing close to execution level.

After Meghamalai, there was an another SUV trip to Western Ghats during mid of August, where we friends in 5 cars drove 2500 Kms and we enjoyed some virgin waterfalls in deep forest. There I met Mr.Ram, became good friend of mine. When we were chatting about the upcoming trips, he asked “Shall we go to Bhutan next month?” I must say it was a perfect time. The immediate question I asked was “when to when?” He immediately sent me the itinerary mail and rest of the plans made. The plan was to start from Chennai on 20th of September and to reach back Chennai on 7th of October. Since the plan is to explore Sikkim & Bhutan by Motorbikes, the motorbikes were parcelled from Chennai to New Jalpaguri by train, before couple of days from the event date.

Window seat.

Window seat. ;-)

On Day 0, not all the participants have met at Chennai Domestic airport; few were to take another flight after couple of hours from our departure. We all, including Mr. & Mrs. Ram, Mr. & Mrs. Chandru, Mr. Balu, met at airport with all our bike gears, winter gears and other luggage. As usual, in any flights, the talks end up with baggage. While few of us standing in the boarding queue for screening, as expected we were informed that helmets were not allowed to carry either in hand luggage or in usual baggage. After all the explanations to the ground staff about our travel plan, finally they agreed to put all the helmets together into one single baggage. Suddenly, someone gave me a big plastic bag to put all the helmets. We put all the helmets inside that plastic bag, which got screened for safety and successfully sent off in the belt. Thanks to the ground personnel.

After successfully located our seats and further took off, it’s breakfast time – I have ordered veg sandwich & Aam ras by Paperboat. The sandwich was brilliantly packed in a triangle shape with two different types of bread sandwiched with boiled corn, tomato, cucumber, and pudina paste. I enjoyed both the sandwich and mango juice and we end up fighting with Chandru for the last drop of the Mango juice from the packet. Still the taste of that Aamras is in the tongue. Nowadays, scouting in the supermarkets for the paperboat aamras, if anyone has idea do let me know.

We reached Bagdogra around noon, we took a car to reach New Jalpaiguri Railway station, so that we can take our Motorbikes. We all collected our bikes from the station and fixed few accessories and other minor fixes, those were purposely removed while sending it off from Chennai. The moment bikes were ready, it started raining. We reached Siliguri and found an accommodation for the night stay.

Rumtek Monastery

Knowledge transfer!

The roads were all wet, slippery, mud filled, landslides all the way till Gangtok from Siliguri. Enroute we visited Rumtek Monastery and stayed that night in Gangtok. Next day morning, it’s Monday, all the government offices were open and we went to the Home ministry office to get the permits to visit North & East Sikkim. The whole day spent in the office to do the formalities, the formalities are to submit our identities, bike documents, personal photographs and to fill the form. After the signatures from the officials the letter needs to be sent out to all the border officials. We received the permission letter by 3:00 PM, after that the letter needs to be submitted to the police department, where they will issue the actual permit document. Coincidentally they closed the counter exactly at 3:00 PM and now, we all were forced to stay again at Gangtok.

Oblivious

Oblivious

Day – 3 September 23

Early Morning it was very cold outside, me and Suresh went to police department and successfully got the permit without much hassle. But they have given permit only to North Sikkim and told us to come back to get the permit for East Sikkim. The police personnel have full right to deny or issue the permits even if the home department has issued the recommendation. After having the basics fixed, we were ready to hit the road.

Gangtok stadium.

It was a good shot – Gangtok stadium

Our plan is to reach Lachung for night stay, so the next day morning, we shall be able to reach zero point from Lachung. As planned, we were able to reach Lachung by late evening, despite the landslides and bad roads! Fine roads are not there at all, some formations were there though. We found a small lodging on the en route to zero point and fortunately the managing people were able to provide food to all of us. The temperature was around 4℃, in the room needless to say all of us folded ourselves inside the mattresses, blankets, and bed sheets, literally whatever available there appearing as bed material. Some went to look at the village at that time, unable to roam and they came back immediately. We took small break and went for dinner, filled our stomach and hit the bed, because early morning we have to head to zero point. Only if we start in the early morning, we will be able to reach the zero point and come back safely.

The next day morning we woke up, had tea, snacks and started our bikes. I must say, the roads are interesting one, curvy; laid alongside the Teesta river, often streams were crossing most of the times. The forest was appearing like Avatar forests, clouds are coming out like smoke between the pine trees and I really have no idea how to capture that magnanimous forest and the beauty of that place into a frame (May be only video, if you have an opinion do let me know). We reached Yumthang, had tea & snacks and further proceeded. We reached Zero point around 11:30 AM. Due to the altitude it was difficult to stay even for some time. I had to lay down for some time to bring back my body to normal. There was not much to see at the destination zero point but the journey was stunningly wonderful. I must say worth going again. All the way Indian army’s bunkers helped couple of team-mates to regain normalcy. We took the same route (no other route anyway) on return, stopped at Yumthang, refuelled ourselves with hot noodles, woi-woi, tea and reached back to our stay at Lachung around 4:00 PM. Our plan is to reach Lachen from Lachung and stay over there for the night.

Landscape aka Portrait.

Landscape? Portrait? well who bothers.?

But once we reach the stay at Lachung from Zero point, we all were exhausted and unknowingly everyone was on the bed. Then what, we ordered snacks and ordered dinner as well. Next day early morning, we started from Lachung and headed towards Lachen. Since the distance needs to be covered for the day was less (due to the bunk previous day), we thought of reaching Thangu for the stay, a small village before one heads to Gurudongmar lake, in the idea that there will be some lodging.

On the way, the only vehicles crossing us were army’s. All the jaw dropping bridges have constructed by Border Roads Organization. All the roadways are fully covered by mist and the visibility dropped to 2-3 meters. On the way one army officer’s vehicle had overtook us and stopped few meters ahead of us. An officer got down from the gypsy and asked us the details of the trip and all. We introduced ourselves and had explained all the trip details. He stated that he is also heading to Thangu. After he started, all the way there were heavy downpour and we reached Thangu around 5:00 PM. There were very few people around, including an Indian army’s transit camp. We scouted for a stay and found only one room. We were informed that all the available hotels (only two were there anyway) were occupied by the road contractor’s staff, who were laying road from Thangu to Gurudongmar it seems. We were left to occupy in that one room. It was fun and difficult together, few of us stayed in a classified place.! :-)

Bhutan bike trip

That’s Mohan & Suresh.

Thangu was badly cold around 1℃. We had tough time staying there. Next day morning we started to Gurudongmar lake, few stayed back at Thangu itself. The whole way towards Gurudongmar is cold desert and we have seen only some Military camps and vehicles there. We felt the pinch of cold even after we wore Inners, Thermals, Jeans & Multiple Tees, Jerkins, Rain coats, Gloves and woollen socks. Both sides of the road were full of snow topped mountains. We were informed by the militants that due to altitude, we all should be careful about our physical activities. A clear “no” for any physical activity as our body may have not acclimatized properly. After showing our permits at the army control points we were allowed to proceed further.  We reached the lake at an altitude of 17,100 feet, one of the highest lakes in the world. The lake was stunningly beautiful, worth all the pain we faced throughout the way. We took some photographs and we left the lake as soon as possible as we were warned that after 12 noon there will be sudden climatic changes.

The team who reached

The team who reached Gurudongmar.

We reached back Thangu afternoon and started heading towards Lachen and the idea is to reach Mangan for stay. Once we reach Lachen, North Sikkim got completed. But there was some surprise to us when we reach Lachen, yes two bikes were down. Another two bikes were ahead of us and it reached Mangan – the planned destination!. All the way it was raining and it was difficult to find a mechanic to fix the punctured tyres at the time of 8:00 PM. Suresh went to find a mechanic in a nearby construction site where he told to wait for some time. The other punctured vehicle was 5kms away from us and one bike went with air pump to bring the handicapped bike for the night stay. The plan has to be modified as we 5 bikes have stayed at Lachen in an under construction Gurudwara. All the shops in that small village were closed by 8:00 PM and I was sitting at a shop at Lachen with one broke down bike till 10:00 PM. I was given a small space to sit by a Tibetan grandmother in that shop cum house (She came to Sikkim when she was a kid with her parents and settled with the shop. Her sons are working as engineers in that nearby construction site). So kind of her, served me a hot tea as well. While I was sitting alone on the street; one man came to me, introduced himself as Upadhyay (working as a teacher in the school in Lachen) and asked me about our whereabouts, tour plan and all.

Upadhyay asked me about the stay for tonight. I said I really have less idea about that. And he continued, “Here is a Gurudwara where you can find a place to stay, there are no other hotel options as this is a small village”. He took me to the Gurudwara, introduced me to a Sikh man as “Ye lokh poora Chennai se aaya uva he bike pe, gumnekiliye. Inlogh ka dho kaadi karaab huah hei, abi raath ke liye reheneka thoda mushkil padra he. Aap kuch kar sakthe he tho acha hei”. The Sikh man’s face was calm, peaceful, with a mild smile one can easily understand that something he will do for us. He said back to Upadhyay “teeke”, and Upadhyay left. I asked him any possibility for something to eat for 9 of us, the time was 10:30 PM. He did not utter a word. He took me to the verandah where we were supposed to stay, the kitchen and explained me about the food. Enough rotis, vegetable sabji were there, he gave me the kitchen key and shown me where the plates, glasses, drinking water everything a stranger might be looking for. He told I need the key at morning 4:00 AM, coincidentally myself and Suresh need to leave early to Gangtok to avail the east Sikkim permission. All of our friends came after a very tiring day; we had all the rotis there, filled our stomach and hit the floor. Next day is Saturday, if by any chance we miss to take the permission, than we would be forced to stay at Gangtok and a day would be waste.

Bhutan bike trip-157-4

Day 7 – September 27th – Saturday

Me and Suresh woke up at 3:45 AM, despite the body asking rest, gave the kitchen key to the Paaji and offered a big thanks to him. That time also his face was calm, mild smile in between the beard and mustache, strong. We met our remaining friends at Mangan, informed them that we will be availing permits and asked to fix the bikes and come soon. We had shown ourselves at the police department office in Gangtok at 8:00 AM. I must say here, Suresh is an excellent rider – One needs to sit calmly and enjoy the curvy roads, ascent, descent, rain, mist the beautiful views, whatever mother nature offered us and I did it well. ;-) Without much hassle we got the East Sikkim permit, since we met that very police officer earlier for our North Sikkim permit. In Gangtok, we freshen up at the very same hotel and had our breakfast, reached the entry point where the road needs to be taken for Nathula pass, Zaluk and out of Sikkim by Silk route!

The police officer at the entry point informed us that we won’t be allowed since the time is up, as the tourists are allowed to Nathula pass only till 2:00 PM. We explained them that we are not going till Nathula, we are passing by Nathula, proceed further and won’t be coming back on this route. Upon hearing this, they let us allow, once again all our 7 bikes were together at this juncture. After riding the ascent, rains and landslides, we all met at a small village before Gnathang valley and the plan is to reach Zaluk. At Nathula, we were blocked again for the same reason which got cleared after explanations. It is around 5 Kms ride inside the sensitive area. All the way there was military vehicles movement, their camps everywhere. Since we informed everyone to reach Zaluk, three bikes were ahead and we four bikes are behind. It was after 5:00 PM, suddenly mist surrounded everywhere, the visibility was less than 2 mts, the temperature is fastly decreasing, another 50+ kilometres and some 96 hairpin bends to reach Zaluk seems highly not advisable. When we had tea, one man from Gnathang valley told us that he having some stay arrangements in Gnathang valley where we may stay.  At this juncture we are forced to stay at Gnathang valley and there was nothing more to do. The three vehicles went ahead of us around 10 kms and they did the same, they found a small stay, where they spent that night.

Milky way

Milky way

We seven people have stayed; they made chapati and vegetable curry for our dinner. The sky was brilliantly clear where one can see our galaxy with naked eye with some effort. Thanks to Chandru for waking me up to look at the sky. The above is the photograph I manage to take without even tripod in the numbing cold. Next day morning, our plan is to reach phuentsholing, the Bhutanese town which separating Bhutan and India. Myself, Suresh & Mohan in two bikes started backwards to Nathula. (We three are the only bachelors in the team, so we were able to start quickly. Not that we are unmarried, we are married but we were permitted to roam around alone ;-)) Since we came this long we thought we are not afford to go without visiting Nathula. Nathula pass is a very sensitive and highly restricted place, no cameras, mobile phones and electronic gadgets allowed to be in possession. After the formalities and permit verification, we were allowed to visit the border place. We have seen the chinese military there on the other side watching on us and vice versa. It was a really long ride from Nathula/Gnathang, given the road conditions and the weather. But nevertheless all the brave souls started, catches up the other 3 bikes which were ahead of us the previous day, beautiful hair pin bends, waterfalls mist infested roads, negotiating every bends and the descent from some 15000 feet to somewhere close to 650 feet in one day is an awesomeness. The whole ride was decent with jaw dropping views all the way down to Rishi. We had Lunch at Rishi in a small Grocery shop, Chips, Noodles, woi-woi, egg omelets etc, etc.

The ride started again from Rishi – Lava – Nagarkatte. Once we reached Nagarkatte around 8:00 PM, it was plains thereafter, but we have to go through some elephant infested forests now. After we filled our stomachs and fuelled the bikes, the mad ride started again. All of us were cruising like anything, since for the past 8 days we rarely shifted to the top gear and this time we seen a wonderful highway, it was really wonderful, everyone was trying to close the throttle. We reached Jaigaon at 10:30 PM, the border town of India, where we found a hotel and hit the bed.

The Team and me-6th from left in blue and red. ;-)

The Team and me-6th from left in blue and red. ;-)

Day – 9, September 29th, Monday.

Everyone was badly tired. Since I have the habit of waking up at around 6:00AM, regardless of what time I hit the bed the previous night or how exhausted I was on the earlier day, I took the bike and went to the tourist enquiry centre in Phuentsholing. (Jaigaon and Phuentsholing is only separated by a gate, an Indian national no need of any permits to visit Phuentsholing) Had the information collected I came back and freshen up, our friends all woke up and few of the bikes needs to be fixed for minor things. Myself and Suresh went to the Immigration centre of Bhutan to avail the permits, after availing the permits we had to get permits separately for our vehicles in a nearby transport office. All the process have completed and we were ready to hit the road by 4:00 PM. Our original plan is to reach Paro, but again as the time passed by, we were unable to ride due to the quick drop in temperature and we were forced to find a stay at Tsimasham, a medium sized village on the way to Paro city.

Unable to find a big accommodation for entire group, to get accommodated in one place, we took rooms in different hotels but they are nearby only. We spend some time with the hotel owner’s son talking about their lifestyle, their culture bla, bla, with the help of beer(s) obviously.! Next day morning we had good breakfast and headed to Paro. We reached Paro around noon itself, few started a photo walk and few started for looking a nice restaurant. Since our plan is to visit Taktsang monastery aka Tiger’s nest the next day, we had enough time to roam around Paro town. Suresh and Mohan went to look at the routes to reach the monastery in advance. After lunch, we came to know that they have lodging also; we spoke with them and decided to stay there. The hotel was right on the main street itself. The next day morning we have started to the Monastery after having breakfast. We kept our helmets, Jerkins at the small shops at the foothills.

Tiger's Nest

Taktsang Monastery

There are horses which can take us to the monastery which we felt inappropriate, what is the point in not trekking and visiting a place by sophisticated means? We started our trek, it is a good hike and the trek lasts for 5-6 hours to reach the monastery. By the time you start hiking and up, you might start to sweat (It may not happen in Jan – April, Bhutan would be covered by snow by that time). We would have reached early if we planned in advance for breakfast or at least if we made our mind that there is no breakfast. But since we had all our time to have breakfast and started, we reached the monastery around 1:15 PM and we had to wait till 2:00 PM. Once the lunch break is over we visited the place, it is one of the must visit place in Bhutan, brilliantly constructed at that height and interesting wall paintings. On the way there is a restaurant, somewhere halfway between the land and monastery, where we had coffee and snacks. It was a wonderful spent day. We head back to the hotel and started to Thimphu for the night.

We reached Thimphu around 9:00 PM, despite everyone informed us that finding a room for stay would be difficult, since some festival is under-way-we were able to find a hotel for our stay. The next day we saw a South Indian restaurant and we all were mad about our food and rushed in, filled our stomach with our native land foods, after all who won’t love their native land foods? We have to extend our permits for east Bhutan, which have been done at the Immigration office there. We roamed on the Thimphu streets, especially on the temporary streets made with shops due to the celebrations. Ram bought a painting. I tried buying some handicrafts, but my wallet doesn’t allow me to do. ;-)

Monastery

Monastery

We started from Thimphu and headed to Bumthang, thinking of reaching it for stay. The ride was good on the curvy roads, ascent as well. But by the evening closes we had to give up due to the temperature drastically comes down and makes us to halt. At around 8:00 PM we were standing at a village(Wangdue) with very few houses and a shop. We forced to stop there, because in another 15-20 Kms there is a pass named Korila pass, which we were sure we won’t make it. We asked tea from the shop, which they served. They were also strangely looking at us, where are these mad people going by bikes at this time and where they are going to stay? With all these questions in their mind they asked one by one. We told them in Black and White, we need some place to stay tonight. They also tried calling the school principal thinking that we can be accommodated there in the school. The school principal pitched in to the shop and explained that there is nothing to cover us as it is a plain hall. The situation there is like; none of us could go outside of the shop. We were thinking what to do? In the meantime, the guy living dead opposite to the shop asked us “I have two small rooms as my family went to their parent’s house – will you be able to make it in that room?”. Without even a second thought we went and had a look, stayed there for that night. He gave us enough blankets, his kitchen to cook and helped making food for us. I was not in a position to had food as I was badly affected by the chillness. I just laid down in one of the room with the one of the blanket he gave to us.

Religious signs

Day – 13, October 3rd – Friday

Next day morning we started heading to Bumthang, and we reached there around noon, after scouting for long time we found a decent and economical hotel for our stay. The town was neat and surrounded by monasteries. Since we have to leave and cover a long distance, we left from there. From the shop, I have bought two handmade wwoollencaps for two kids at home. Before we start from Bumthang, we have fixed our bikes, which need some maintenance for obvious reasons. Our plan is to reach Trashigang via Mongkar for stay. As planned we reached Mongkar around 7:00 PM, must say it was a mad ride between the pine forests, rain, sunshine, numbing cold. But we can’t stay there in Mongkar, as our plan is to reach Trashigang around 90 Kms from Mongkar. We already rode around 200 Kms for the day. We did not give up; started riding and reached Trashigang. Enroute we met a Bhutanese Forest ranger who offered help to find a place to stay at Trashigang. It was worth noting here, because we reached Trashigang around 10:30 PM, the whole town was sleeping by that time. But one man was waiting to receive us, supply food and to show our stay. Aren’t we the lucky people? Thanks to that Gentleman.

Layers

The never ending ranges.

We had our breakfast at Trashigang and started immediately towards Samdrup Jongkhar. I remember it was around 150 Kms. The road were not good for half way, after that it was really nice and well laid roads and that too in descent, where we enjoyed the ride. Actually the road starting from Trashigang was being laid and the second half till Samdrup had been laid well. When we 3 bikes reached Samdrup around 6:00 PM, we had informed that one bike is down with puncture. From the Samdrup check post we sent the air pump by a ongoing truck, thinking that the bike can be brought down on its wheels. We were warned not to go from Samdrup to Guwahati (We have booked air ticket from Guwahati on 7th October) we found a stay at Samdrup. The broke down bike came by another transport, since it was getting dark and in that region there were no civilization at all. Surprisingly our friends have collected the air pump from that truck driver while coming. Finally we all reached Samdrup had food and rest.

The next day morning we started to Guwahati. On the way, one of my friend, Mohan bought an Assamese Knife, I have no idea why he bought that Knife!. When I asked he simply said as souvenir! We reached Guwahati a day in advance, now time to parcel our bikes back to home. We went to GATI and parcelled the bikes, will be home delivered they said and they did. We reached back hotel around 8:00 PM, now no bikes. We called a taxi and that gentleman took all 7 of us in his Wagon R and dropped us at the hotel.

Buddhism

Religious signs!

Day 17 – Oct 7th – Tuesday

With all our machines been packed, it was an ordinary day. We woke up in relax and the only job left for us is to reach the airport and catch the flight. We had breakfast and went to ATM to withdraw money for the hotel settlements and all. We were staying 2 kms from the airport, so we asked manual rickshaws to pick us from the hotel. When we reached airport by manual rickshaws with all dirty clothes, dirty shoes, Gumboots tied to our luggage, everyone was looking at us strangely. It was quite a sight, I should say.  :-P In flight I have ordered two paperboat this time. :-D

We covered some 2500 Kms in 15 days. All over the trip, there were few fall, few injuries, few tiffs, few managements, few plan changes, few wonderful relationships, few beers, few tough times, few U turns, few stretches, few shrinks, few speed breakers, few pains, few breakages from the bikes, but aren’t this trip worth all this?

Abbas Attar

 
 

“Abbas Attar” a Magnum Photographer born in Iran and migrated to France, a serious photojournalist who covered many wars and revolutions in many countries. You can find more information about him here in a Wikipedia entry and the magnum entry here.  The below photograph by him made me write this article.

\Belfast Fire - Meaning of life - Abbas

G.B. NORTHERN IRELAND. Belfast. A wall crumbles down after having been set on fire, presumably by the IRA.

This photograph was shot at Belfast by Abbas while the building was on fire, purposely been set on due to some enmities. Look at the action been captured in the frame. His many of the photographs are mostly plenty of action packed in it. This photograph is so famous due to the amount of action happening in the frame. No idea how many clicks Abbas made to get this perfect shot or this could also be the one and only shot! However, look at the actions happening in the frame; building wall is being collapsed and falling down towards the firefighter who was trying to douse the fire. The water from the hose reel is in harmony with the hose reel lying in the bottom right side of the frame, curvy! Abbas definitely lied down in order to include the hose reel in such a way, it adds value to the photograph overall. The lampposts are showing us a hint that this event is happening in a narrow street and additionally the eaves of the opposite building – top right side of the frame. The photograph is not perfectly vertical but that has overcome by the amount of action captured.

It is not what you know about photography, it is about being able to show off in a place at the right time with what you know already. No Questions, carry your camera with you all the time for maximum opportunities – you never know, where, what will happen. Regret is not an option, encountering an outstanding moment and unable to capture because you did not bring your camera with you is sad.

This photograph is a part of “The Meaning of life” a book compiled by the editors of the Life Magazine.

 

Ebook review – Essential guide to B & W Photography

If you are a person who wants to make wonderful Black and White Photographs and many of your attempts proved to be futile, this book is a must for you. Of course – who does not wish to make great Black and white photographs? This book starts with a clear understanding about Black and White images.

As Scott Kelby once said – “The simplest black and white conversion is to remove saturation and boost contrast”. Yes, he said it is the simplest way. However, not all the conversion is going to be good at its first attempt. You may not aware what is happening to the colours. Possibilities are there you will end up making a dull, normal black and white photograph!

The book’s author David J. Nightingale, an experienced photographer, nailed down all the fundamentals of photography from Tonal ranges to Contrast, RAW files to ETTR, EV to Metering.

After the fundamental sections namely – The Aesthetics of Black & White photography, Equipment and shooting Black & White, David states about the conversion methods, why you should not use the default conversion method given in the software and what it does exactly to your image while converting. The software just takes the brightness level of a given pixel and converts it to a gray scale equivalent. In the next chapter, David explains about few other ways of making black and white photographs in Photoshop Channel mixing, Calculation method and Blending methods. In the end of this section, he talks about different plugins available for Black and white conversion from Silver Efex pro, Topaz and DxO lab in detail from its interface and what one offers. Also the author mentioned his personal favourite methods as well.

In the next section – Adjusting tonal range, Balance and Contrast, he explains about the single most powerful tool in Photoshop “Curves”. Adjusting the tonal range means shifting the original tonal range to what you desire via the curve tool. With the curves tool in place, you can adjust all the tonal ranges to its extreme without losing detail aka clipping. He further explains about the Basic S-curves, the baseline, altering the mid tones and how to do selective adjustments to a particular portion of the image using “Selective adjustments using Curves and Masks”.

Later, he explained about Creative vignettes aka Selective Vignettes – Vignettes been explained in detail here, starting from how it affects the viewer’s perception and the way it leads the eye and ends with how to make specific vignettes according to your photograph.

David made a separate section to cover Black and White Portraiture – Whoa; it is an interesting decision to add one dedicated section for portraiture alone. A section you would most probably love very much, since who does not want to make a striking portrait! David starts with the difference and importance between colour and B & W portraits, what kind of portraits would work with B & W and what won’t?

He clearly classifies the difference between different methods of converting one image into B & W and its drawbacks. For instance, why applying of red filter generically to all images will not work, or with Channel mixer or with Black and White conversion tool for that matter. He also clearly mentioned on how to bring out the details of the face and to brighten the eyes in the portrait. Why eyes are important in a portrait? He mentioned “Not only are the eyes the window to the soul, they can also be key to a successful portrait, but unless they are well lit they can often detract from an otherwise successful image – normally because they appear too dark in relation to the rest of the person’s features.”

The final section – “Monochromatic toning techniques” where David explains about the different methods of adding tone to your B & W images. He starts from the Black and White tool, Hue/Saturation tool, using Photo filters; using Selective colour tool, using Curves tool, and using Gradient Map tool. All of them explained in detail so that you can precisely tone your image as you might have envisaged to either your Whites alone or Blacks alone or to the mid tones alone or to the whole of your image. The important question is why you want to apply a tone to your beautiful striking B & W photograph. It is only to further enhance your image, as the sepia can bring a nostalgic feel about that image, a light blue tone will bring out a warm and industrial feel and so on.

The conclusion part is so striking and interesting that David made all the facts clear, I agree with all of his words. Hope you too will find this e-book helpful, in not only making striking Black and White Photographs, a better photographer as too.

This e-book is filled up all the way with necessary screenshots, interesting tips and tricks in a toned box, which will save you many time and energy. And more importantly this e-book comes with a separate recipe book which explains 10 different type of photographs and how exactly David converted it into a powerful Black and white photograph with all necessary illustrations and screenshots. He added both the original image and the final image after all the processing steps executed.

A word of caution – If you are using Photoshop as your primary editing software, you would love this book, but if you have recently switched to Lightroom as your primary editing software, this book helps you a little. Just thought of reminding you, but nevertheless there are some fundamentals about the filters, plugins, curves which I found very worthy. I hope that you might also feel the same, who knows. Grab one here and don’t forget to comment below how did you feel after reading the book.

Cheers and Happy Photographing.

Steve

Steve – A living legend.

People who know about Steve McCurry, please do not read further as you might have read this earlier. What you are going to read further is an attempt of myself to understand few of his works, as I highly admire his work. Though there are/were many legends in this world, I admire him because of the following reasons. The first being that he has visited India 82 times so far in his life which eventually made him know about India better than any average Indian.  The second being the no. of photographs he included human elements in his photographs, the percentage is more or almost all of them. After all we are humans, we better perceive things if it is related to any human form.

Most of his photographs are highly evocative, in general his processing is a bit of boosting saturation, tonal curve adjustment to give the slight faded look and careful usage of vignette and most importantly his photographs are around half stop underexposed which are his trademarks. Another important thing is he doesn’t convert his photographs in to Monochromes often, very few images have had this transition. Many of his popular photographs have been discussed in many places and umpteen times, I have selected few of his less discussed photographs, at least relatively. His other interesting work is here in his blog.

Look at the harmony and the perfect balance in this photograph, two humans & two ships, two poles near by the persons & two poles where the net tied, everything is two except the umbrella and the net. Importantly the horizon is not at the dead center and his view point is bit off center, may be in order to not interfering the ships by the poles.. Could have been a late evening and drizzling too, careful selection of high f no, he must have boosted ISO for obvious reasons and the grains too are obvious to support in this photograph. Even if these two persons were motionless this photograph could have been a very good one, but he let some action happening between the persons, so that the viewer expands his thoughts. And most importantly Steve chose not to convert it in to a Monochrome which we often choose to do and give a lot of explanation to that. If you look at it in a layer based visualisation, firstly two persons – the distance between them is little. Second the poles, in relation with the persons it is wider. Next in relation with the poles the ships are slightly wider. Who knows? Steve might have different idea altogether and that is what is all about photography or for that matter any form of art. Isn’t it.?
The Tailor
You might have seen this photograph earlier, but let me tell you why this photograph is important. After this photograph published in National Geographic magazine, the sewing machine company found this old man in India all the way from USA and gave him a new sewing machine.! Have a look at this man, he is under crisis, his home must have been devastated by the floods. But he holds a smile with his toothless mouth (may be Steve cracked a joke!). No wonder Steve categorised this photograph under Universal language.
The boy and the foot ball
Sheer power of simple composition – If the kid stands upright, this photograph would be a normal one. The staircase balustrade line, the staircase slab line and the human body inclined with somewhat parallel to the above two lines makes this photograph an interesting one. The ball above his head is adding value and makes sense to his inclination.
Soldiers
Correlation – The soldiers on the wall painting, people inside the bus. Soldiers have gun in their hand, all those people’s hands are either supporting or holding, in other words all the hands are visible to the viewer. And the two ladies on the wall and the two persons outside the bus. The red colour patch on the wall and the red colour band on the bus.
Few of his other works, which I find difficult to write an insight kind of.
Prayer
Hunger

 

All of the above photographs has been taken from his website. If you have an opinion/insight about his above works do share in the comments section. I have made an earlier attempt here. An interesting article here about how digital photographers have fetishized sharpness and detail.
Cheers.