And so it begins…

This is my first week of being a student – again! I enrolled myself with The New York Institute of Photography for their complete course in Digital Photography.  As one of their catch phrases go – I’ve taken my first step towards an exciting career. It is a career change from marketing to photography, but a decision to do this came out of one simple thought – even if I don’t make a million out of this and I just about make a living for a decent life, I will be fine. Simply because the joy I reap will be infinitesimal. I don’t have to spend another day in front of a computer making out another power point presentation filled with numbers! Instead I am the person who will supply those gorgeous pictures that go in the background as graphic work! I don’t have to go shopping for that power suit, rather for lenses and filters! Its a good change , a fun change and one I dearly recommend to anyone who is frustrated – no, no, I don’t mean change your career to photography(I prefer lesser competition!) ; I just mean change your career to something you love.

One of the first things I am doing is revisiting my photographic past. I am not going too much into the past, just as far back as the first few pictures with my digital SLR. I am going to examine the bad pictures .No the light wasn’t as bad as it seems, it was definitely winter and cloudy – but not dark! How on earth did I do that? I was being brave and brazen – I had not got adept at using the camera, I had no idea what aperture or shutter speed to set in or for that matter of fact know exactly what F20 meant or what 1/200 meant, and I had no idea what manual mode meant. I turned the knob to manual mode, fiddled around with the dials that changed those numbers on the display and shot this. End result – well, you are free to insert your own scathing comment!

As you can see the light was just fine. When I finally figured I would shoot in auto mode, this was one of the first shots. What is wrong with this picture you ask me? For starters, where does your eye go and settle in this picture? The red square in the middle or the two ‘dead end’ sign boards? Or the large one way sign? I assure you , these are not things I even saw as a mistake while I was there shooting!

Can you point out a lucid perspective on this photograph? Do you even know what I am trying to show you here? Do you see the blinding white on the right of the photograph?

I rest my case – we all take bad pictures with good intentions. These are the pictures that say to me – You NEED help! NYIP is my third step in seeking that help. The first step was to recognize the problem and acknowledge it, and my second was to decide if I was serious about correcting it.  Do I want to be taking pictures professionally or am I just an enthusiast? Enrolling is my third.

Why not join School of Visual Art or Brooks Institute of Photography or Rhode Island School of Design , if I am that serious? I am serious, but at the same time there is such a thing as exploring your own talent? Paying close to 30000$ a year is too large for the experiment called, “Can I really hone my interest”. Also, is it just me – when you are applying to these universities, you require a portfolio of your work. Excuse me, but isn’t that why I am trying to join your course? To figure out how to build a portfolio and how to take great pictures? Fortunately NYIP had a course for someone like me, at an affordable price point and one that can be done from any corner of the world!

All these explanations and justifications are here on my blog, because whoever is reading this, you are on this journey with me. You will watch me fall on my face, pick up, learn, do well and hopefully graduate on the other side – a WINNER!

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And so it begins…

“You don’t take a photograph, you make it” – Ansel Adams

What a wonderful thought to begin a post about staging a photograph! I am compelled to remind myself and everyone following this blog that posing is not my cup of tea, unless the situation warrants it. Food photography is an exception to that rule in a lot of ways, staging is highly essential to add interest. Very rarely can you make plain mac and cheese look good in a picture, its the accouterments that usually make for a good prop to the mac and cheese, like the bowl its served in, or the half grated block of cheese on a wooden board with a few grated pieces and the box of pasta in the background. And then sometimes it is about presenting it as plain as can be without averting focus off the subject. I have a few examples of staged shots and a few that didn’t require any staging , whatsoever.

This is the simplest of all those ideas, one subject, no clutter and going in for a tight shot. The background is all white and there are no other elements to distract focus from the subject. Obviously, these are for times when you want nothing but full attention on the subject and the subject itself has an element of simplicity to it.

With this shot, the mini baklava bite has little nooks and crannies through which you can see the filling, its these shapes and the size of it that make for a slightly complicated composition. Given the equipment in hand, and after experimenting with white backgrounds, a simple wooden cutting board with a few of the ingredients carelessly strewn about(a.k.a staged) it made for an interesting picture that tells you what is in it, while not distracting from the subject itself. The wooden board is craggy and mirrors the lines of the mini baklava and the walnuts are just as oddly shaped as you can get. I kept the colors of all things in the picture in the same family and allowed light to play with the shapes giving it a more darker or lighter shade as required. This was photographed near a window so there are absolutely no artificial lights used.

Another example of a staged shot. When choosing a backdrop that has lines, it has to be staged in a way that all roads lead to Rome. Somewhere, in my mind, I am pretty happy with this picture. The colors on the place mat just add a very light warm pop to the otherwise cool color palette of the picture. This thought just struck me as I type this – styling a photograph is a bit like interior design, you want to work with that color wheel!

With this subject you don’t need staging, its colorful and has different interesting points on its own. Its got a certain symmetry from the panettone and the color of the berries breathe life into it. Another example of something that doesn’t require staging because of the complexity in the dish itself.

As a thumb rule for me, I find that shooting on a white bowl/plate always keeps the focus on the food and pretty much everything stands out on white. There are exceptions to this rule, try taking a picture of a rose’ sparkling wine against white, its just not the same as photographing it against a darker background with back lights.

And this is how you screw up the whole white background prop….take a neatly ironed napkin and place it under everything and shoot with all those distracting lines! Yes I do screwup and pretty often at that ….my experiments have been my greatest asset and learning tool. Ansel Adams also said , “There is nothing worse than a brilliant image of a fuzzy concept”. One thing I learned from John Greengo – always shoot a wider shot first and then start going in tighter and cropping is a good tool!

“Twelve significant photographs in any one year is a good crop” – Ansel Adams. I’ve quoted him a lot today but it just seems so appropriate and who are we really to argue with ANSEL ADAMS???

“You don’t take a photograph, you make it” – Ansel Adams

Of people and pictures

I’ve always photographed people…..that’s how we all start isn’t it?Trying to capture memories of vacations and occasions, filled with an effort to capture moments of joy, pleasure and indulgence. What a photo enthusiast quickly learns is how bad those pictures are and just how much it lets you down on your expectations. Yes, we all have those pictures where it was dark and the flash went off and all we have is some people with their eyes closed, some with “vampirish” red eyes. Then there are those pictures taken with the sun behind us giving the silhouette a ghostly glow while completely darkening the person. But, we never stop photographing people. Even if you are photographing one of the seven wonders, you have got to put a person in the picture. I hate to make people pose, i truly do. I prefer to capture them while they are almost unaware. If you must pose let it be for a group photo or portrait or some experiment, it is far more fun this way! I had enough fodder for the last two weeks on this topic……here are some of my ….errr….experiments!

Click on the picture to view an enlarged version.  Please DO NOT reproduce any of the pictures without my permission.

Of people and pictures

Back to my passion

The last couple of weeks have been a wonderful hiatus, filled with family, friends and frenzy. All good things in the right combination. In between all this, I even managed to quietly turn 31! So, it was a pretty good July, more than I could hope for.

In the two weeks of a blistering summer, there have been plenty of ice cream breaks, botanical garden visits, loads of shopping and basically a large honking heap of indulgence. As I sat down to review the pictures that I was to post, I saw a pattern of flowers and Zen gardens appearing a lot in my photographs. Why do I bring that up? Well, in my “About” page, I mention that I love photographing people, landscapes, travel, music and wine….and my flower pictures border on macro photography. I said this before and I am saying it again – I am NOT a macro photographer, though it is a highly interesting field I only accidentally dabble in it. It is rather hard to walk through the Brooklyn Botanical gardens and not take a few close up shots of roses in bloom.

They say that a bee on a flower or a water droplet adds that ooomph factor to a picture of a flower, but having tried to patiently wait for that moment is rather trying! The shots of bees and butterflies on flowers aren’t my best shots in this series simply because they were happy accidents. Try photographing a butterfly who has a “kid in the candy store” moment when he flies into a botanical garden filled with flowers in bloom! I dare you, I double dare you! There isn’t time to adjust the ISO or your aperture or shutter speeds when he simply can’t decide which flower would be the best.  Or imagine this, bright westerly sunshine, combined with moving sprinklers that create a moving rainbow which isn’t created at the same spot twice…..these are just moments, you either capture them with what you got or you don’t. Fortunately for me, I am never unhappy with such shots, they could be better but I am not unhappy. I know I did what I could.

So here is what I have to say about the pictures I will be posting for the next couple of days – there will be flowers and gardens today. People and moments tomorrow and so on…Enjoy!

Please click on the image to see a larger version.

Back to my passion