Table of contents for Photography Insight
Till now, we have been discussing technical aspects of photography. While first post discussed camera controls, 2nd and 3rd posts were about lighting. But, photography is said to be a mix of 50% science and 50% art. The science part is over and we can now move on to the art.
A local photographer, having sensed my great love for photography had once gifted me a book some 20 years ago. The book showcased photographic portfolios of 4 top photographers of Germany. The publisher of the book had assigned those photographers to go, shoot Berlin and come up with their best work. Each of them submitted around 72 photographs and not a single photograph taken by any one of them was found to be even remotely similar to anyone taken by any other. In fact, each of them had his own inimitable style of looking at their subject and recording the same on photographic film. All the four were great photo-artists but they differed from each other entirely. They chose different places, different locations, different subjects, different angles, different lighting effects to produce their pictures. While one decided to cover old monuments, another one went to shoot modern high-rise buildings and stadia, third one decided to record life style of people living in Berlin whereas the last one produced an assortment of everything.
This is true of every ghumakkar. If Vishal Rathore, DL, Amitava, Ritesh, Manu, Abhee, Jat Devta, SS, Praveen Wadhwa, Nirdesh, Vipin, Mala, Devasmitha and Sushant (or any of the rest of authors here) were wandering together in a city or village with our cameras on our shoulders, each of us would aim at different objects and would shoot from different angles and for different reasons. It hardly matters whether we own a DSLR or a mobile phone as far as selection of our subjects is concerned. Well, here are a few things which I have learnt in photography in all these years. May be you would find them interesting and useful.
- Getting up early i.e. before others, has often been very advantageous to me. Here I remember my Udaipur wanderings in early morning when my wife was either sleeping or simply disinterested in going out of hotel room at those hours. This way, I get entirely different kind of lighting, different aspect of city life which results in different pictures. Buildings, specially ancient monuments (forts and temples etc.) look great in early morning Sun. Moreover, instead of running here and there, I was wandering leisurely – having ample time to concentrate on photography.
- When we are at a new place, everything appears worth photographing. If there is ample space in your memory card and the battery of your camera also is fully charged, there is no harm in taking lots and lots of pictures of everything that appeals to us. However, I have found it a great exercise if I check all of my photographs back in hotel on my laptop before going to sleep. I retain only those pics on my laptop’s hard disc which could be of some use and delete rest of the pics. I also empty my memory card every night and charge my camera’s battery also. Thus, I get an opportunity to critically examine my photographs. Recently, when I went to Dhanolti (Near Mussoorie but in Tehri Garhwal instead of Distt. Dehradun), I reached there at 1.00 p.m. Most of my pics of that evening were disappointing when I saw them at hotel before going to sleep. Next day, I woke up at 5 a.m. the next day in that cold weather and came out on the road with my camera. I took nearly 300 more pics in the morning but this time, the success rate was much higher.
- While photographing human beings, I use either telephoto or extreme wide angle. This I do for different reasons:
- If I am trying to isolate a person from the crowd, I zoom in as far as possible. When we zoom in, we are using telephoto settings of our zoom lens. This throws background out of focus and only the main person whom we want in our photo comes out sharp and well defined.
- Even if I want close up of a person, I stand at least 7 feet away from my subject. Taking a closeup shot from this distance improves the facial features of almost every person. If I would take photograph of the same face from 1 or 2 feet distance, the face would appear distorted. If I wish to annoy a person with my picture of him/her, I would go still closer and would use wide angle lens to take the picture. He/she would surely love to kill me after seeing the photograph.
- While taking photos of stage performers (singers, dancers, actors) a telephoto lens is indispensible. I often take photographs of stage artists performing on stage while sitting in my seat in the auditorium because my camera allows 10X zoom.
- When I use extreme wide angle lens, it is for the purpose to make an environmental picture of a person to show where he/she was, what he/she was doing and who were there with him. Wide angle lens allows a lot of area to be covered in the picture and it is excellent to make large groups in a confined space. For example, I use it to include the entire temple in the background while taking photograph of my wife and children standing in front of it.
- While taking ‘stolen pictures’ using a telephoto or an extreme wide angle lens is extremely useful. A telephoto lens would give us a close up photo of someone from great distance without making my subject aware of being photographed. For example, if I wish to take a picture of a small child without distracting him/her, I would stay at some distance and would pretend that I am least interested in him/her. On the other hand, if I am sitting very close, wide angle gives me excellent coverage and depth of field.
- Photographs of market scenes, streets, buildings, sports, crowds need either good distance or close involvement. If you are part of a crowd or standing in a shop, you obviously need a wide angle lens to show enough activity. But I would not suggest such close-range shooting to record a bull-fight or car rally. Many photographers have lost their life and also their cameraL by daring to come too close to a dangerous activity. Also, perspective becomes extremely important from close range photography while using wide angle lens. Using extreme low angle or high angle can be fun or can be used to make fun of someone. Often it is very useful to place the camera high above your head so that you overcome the obstacle in front of you. If you have swivelling LCD monitor on your camera, it is a great help in such situations. On the very contrary, a worm eyeview also gives us very interesting photographs. (a worm eyeview is obtained by putting the camera on the floor. A swivelling LCD monitor comes to your rescue here also.)
- Taking photographs of buildings and monuments : While starting this series, I had shared a story of a photographer of Mumbai and his students. The story emphasises the point that a building looks entirely different in morning, day, in the evening or when moonlit. Also, there can be limitless angles from which the building can be seen in different lighting conditions. You can take picture of Gateway of India from 10 feet, from 100 feet or from 2000 feet and the monument would give entirely different look and feel each time. Usually, a building would look interesting if its picture is taken from unusual angle, at an unusual time of the day, in an unusual lighting. If everyone sees Gateway of India standing on the road at 100 feet distance, people would find it interesting if you go on the top floor of Hotel Taj (Don’t worry, Kasab is dead now! ) and take pics of Gateway of India from there. While taking pictures of buildings, I don’t forget to take some close up shots of inscriptions, carvings, fretwork, texture found on it. For example, while visiting chhataris (cenotephs) in Indore, I took some close ups of engravings, mural paintings, figures etched out on the walls. They help me in understanding a monument better.
- I also frequently use my camera as my notebook and pen. If I find a notice board, phone numbers, names etc., which I hope to need later and I don’t have a pen and paper in my pocket, I take a quick photo of the notice board. Later, I note down the text from the picture when at my home.
- Night photography : We cover those photographs under the label – NIGHT PHOTOGRAPHS for which we didn’t use any extra light from the flash. Our aim is to record the scene as it is presented to us by available lighting.
The most important tool for night photography is a steady support because we have to use long exposures. We can’t hope to keep our camera steady in our hand for a few seconds, leave alone minutes. The most frequent subjects for a ghumakkar during nights are colourful fountains, market scenes, cityscapes, traffic lights etc. Modern digital cameras with their very high ISO speed allow us to take photographs of bright scenes even without proper support to our camera i.e. hand-held. While I do most of my shooting between 100 ISO – 400 ISO, during nights, I may go as high as 6400 ISO with my Nikon D5100 DSLR camera which is particularly good for low light photography. I also own a 50 mm. f 1.8 prime lens which allows faster shutter speeds and is a definite asset in less than ideal lighting conditions.
(If you are worrying what is telephoto lens or wide angle lens; what is ISO setting, what signifies 50 mm. 1.8 lens, I would suggest you to go back to 1st post in this series.)
With this, my Lord, I rest my case. There is no limit to how much can be written on this topic but I am following the dictum – “Samajhdaar ko ishaara kaafi !”