A birthday, a road trip, friends and fun = great long weekend

Sometimes to celebrate a birthday, it is important to get away from everything and everyone that is familiar. No offense to anyone, but I guess my husband and I just needed a break. To sort of indulge in a little – dolce far niente! We are also creatures that seek comfort and city settings more often than take off into the wilderness. I think it calms us to see everyone else work, while we sit back and enjoy the show. Which is exactly what we did this thanksgiving weekend. I know , I know, we don’t celebrate that in India – but we took time off and gave thanks for a good break! Took off to Bangalore, which is a short drive away and where the climate was excellent and some of our closest friends live.

Of good food and good times :

We had a great time with our friends, whom I cannot thank enough. They have a gorgeous store called Chilli Billi in Indira Nagar in Bangalore that sells women’s clothing and accessories and are slowly beginning to include some gorgeous home decor pieces. They also own a studio called Avant Garage where they sell photographs and prints of artwork.One can check them out on Facebook. Here is the pretty studio, wish I had taken pictures of the Clothes store as well.

As usual, please do NOT reproduce any of the pictures or words without the authors permission. Click on the pictures to view an enlarged version – trust me, its the best way to see pictures.


A birthday, a road trip, friends and fun = great long weekend

Karthikai Deepam also known as “My brother owes me money!”

The festivities continue, as I had mentioned in an earlier post. There are very few months when  there is absolutely nothing on the festival calendar in India. Personally, I have always loved it, and its that much more sweeter if it falls on a thursday/friday -leading into a weekend. Karthikai, celebrates the birth of Lord Muruga(one of the sons of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati) and it falls on the full moon day succeeding Diwali. It is a much larger festival in the South of India than the North, and I am no expert in explaining why that is(considering, he is mentioned in the Gita and the Skanda Purana is dedicated to him). As much fun as it would be to explain how a festival came to be, wiki does a better job of that than I can hope to, I have a bigger reason to celebrate. On the day of Karthikai Deepam, it is customary for brothers to give money to their sisters….if my brother is reading this….you owe me, Dude! Somewhere, he is smirking as he reads this and is probably saying “You wish” or “Kiss my A**”!

So much for frivolity, the festival also calls for lighting lamps throughout the house – like we do for diwali. It is almost similar to Diwali in the way it is celebrated. All I can say is, if you missed out on certain photo opportunities during Diwali, this is the time to catch up, redo, or carry out fresh experiments. All of which I did. Hey, I don’t call myself – Photopportunist – for nothing!

I wanted to see if I could capture the swirls and circles that a sparkler makes when you move it around quickly. An added bonus were all the lit oil lamps dotting our balconies in the house. I obviously chose a slow shutter speed of 3 secs for the sparklers, kept my camera on a tripod and used a remote release on this occasion, because I did not want any shake. Of course, I completely forgot that the person wielding the firecracker will be moving at break neck speed. Even if I got that wrong, one pretty cool after effect (which I had not intended to capture) was captured – that of smoke trails from a burnt out sparkler! Sometimes, these little surprises are rather fun! The next time, I photograph sparklers, I will keep an eye out for those beauties. See! Each time I look through my lens, each time I see a capture on a screen – I learn something new! And that makes for a great experience each time, more than just reading about it in some book. I laud myself on a little aspect – which I now find invaluable – that I experiment. I may not post all my experiments, but I experiment a lot. With shutter speed, aperture, long exposures, lenses, filters, composition, crazy ideas ( like taking a picture of bubbles in a bubble top water dispenser which occurs only when you fill water, so try to fill water and set off a camera at the same time, for back lit bubbles – striving for some sort of studio effect! Aaarrggghh! ).

Reminder : Please click on pictures for an enlarged version, sometimes I do write a story or an anecdote to go with it. Please DO NOT reproduce pictures or words from this blog, without prior permission.

Karthikai Deepam also known as “My brother owes me money!”

Aditya Hridayam Punyam

This post is a dedication to the Sun God, to light – as the headline suggests, in sanskrit. Light is perhaps, the most important element in photography. Capturing an objects beauty through a lens is completely and solely dependent on light. The shadows, the highlights, the enhancement of color, soft light, harsh light, shot next to a window or shot in the open, light is the key factor, isn’t it? Photography is in a lot of ways the study of wielding light to capture images.

Every afternoon, a small ray of sunshine filters through our living room window and traverses across the room as the sun sets. I took a few shots of a single object in the living room – an urli(small vessel) filled with water and floating chrysanthemums. I shot these mid afternoon, just as the ray of light begins to form in the room. I shot these with an f-stop range of 4.6-5.3 with a 18-55mm lens and played just a little bit with the shutter speed to experiment on how the shadows were captured. This is the first of my dedications to light…..soon the offerings shall get bigger and better! I did play with these pictures a bit on photoshop – just cropped dead space and played a bit with black and white and sepia tones, just to see what I can come up with. Some pictures will be presented in color and black and white, simply because I cannot make up my mind on which one is better.

As usual, all my photos and posts are copyrighted. Please click on a picture to view an enlarged version – which is truly the only way to enjoy them!

Happy Weekend everybody – now am happily off to see Endhiran(a tamil movie) and Harry Potter 7 , over the weekend. See you on the other side.

Aditya Hridayam Punyam

The storm that never was!

There was this little cyclone called ‘Jal’, that threatened to ruin an otherwise wonderful Diwali weekend. Fortunately like I said in my earlier post, it was kind enough to accomodate Diwali. There were predictions of 80-100kmph winds accompanied by heavy rainfall of up to 25 cms, with the storm making landfall between Chennai and Cuddalore on sunday night. The city and its mayor, in all their prudence, set up emergency vehicles, shelters, evacuated people from low lying areas, ensured a stock pile of food for emergency distribution, readied up little motor boats for rescue operations , if required.  They forgot one crucial detail though – in all these years storms have never listened to the Meteorological Department! Their predictions are accurate, to the tee – in opposite effect. So the moment they announced that Chennai was going to be in the path of the storm – Jal, packed her bags and moved to Nellore as usual. Somehow, storms that have a path to Chennai are skittish about being in the news! This however doesn’t mean that we didn’t get soaked or have rough seas. Throughout daylight on Sunday, it poured and there was enough wind to uproot a few trees. The sea was at its glorious best, rough and wild.

Let me also add for the record that I love the rain and I love gloomy wintry weather. The romantic in me is a die hard fan of such weather and it inspires an ‘x’ amount of creativity in me. Everything is cleansed in the rain and the natural colors shine through from trees and leaves and whatever else is blessed by it. There is a sort of magic in the air, from the mist it creates to the light spray that falls on your face when you watch it from an open window. Its those beautiful little things, that are so extraordinarily simple to enjoy that make up for the best moments.

“Rain is what the thunder brings
For the first time I can hear my heart sing
Call me a fool but I know I’m not”   – Madonna

However, it is difficult to capture rainfall with a lens. Pictures of rain are usually a suggestion of rain. Of water on a window, or a wet road twinkling from the reflection of traffic lights, people with umbrellas walking down a flooded road, or someone getting wet and soaked. Suggestions of rain have always made for better photographs than actual rain itself. This post is my tiny little experiment in photographing some rough and wet weather, by capturing the wetness created by rain and the rough seas created by an impending Jal.

As usual, do click on the pictures for a better view and some anecdotes(some are possibly funny) and please do not reproduce print or picture without my permission.

If you have suggestions on how to improve, please do leave me a note.

The storm that never was!

Festival of photography…..ummm..I mean light!

I hope it was a safe and wonderful Diwali weekend for all my readers, whoever you are. It is quite a blissful festival in India isn’t it? Very inclusive of all religions, castes and whatever segregation there is of humanity. That to me is the best part of Diwali in India. It’s not the new clothes, the lamps, the sweets or even the firecrackers. It’s the fact that when you step out on Diwali, people and especially children of every economic and socio-economic background band together to have fun. For one day the competition and fight is not about money, class, religion or caste, for one day it is about who wakes up the earliest to wake up the neighbor with a crackling firecracker.  I wish I had captured this on camera – oh well, here is a project for next year!

Diwali in India is a ringside seat to one of the greatest fireworks show on earth. It is 100 times the volume of the NYC July Fourth fireworks show.  In India you can actually burst them yourself. You DO NOT need a pyrotechnic expert! You don’t just get to watch, you get to participate and run the show. In fact you spend the days leading up to it, planning on how you can make it the best show.

Diwali in South India, is always marred by impending rain and this one was no different. A raging cyclone was predicted with high wind and lashing rain. Thankfully, Mother Nature cooperated. She adjusted her schedule by one day and paved the way for a beautifully sunny Diwali with absolutely delightful temperatures for Chennai. Of course, the standing joke did come true – whenever the meteorological department predicts something, it never comes true. The storm that was supposed to be gave us one rain soaked day threatening to scrape by Chennai, but decided to go to its’ usual abode of Nellore. Do not fret, I however did catch the rain soaked glory with my camera , but thats for the next post.

But it was a bountiful Diwali, filled with friends and family, sweets and crackers, food and more food. As a photographer, the evening is a show custom made for the camera. The night sky lights up for hours with the glow of a million rockets of varying colors and patterns. Although, like I said, the volume is far higher than even the NYC show, the flip side is that – like lightning, it never bursts at the same spot twice. Slow shutter speed, tripod, wind and the fact that I just mentioned about there being no sweet spot, just makes for a potent nightmare for a photographer. Add to that, clothes lines, dish antennas, a veritable cornucopia of cables, wires and plumbing on every single terrace in the city – it is a compositional challenge. One, I am not so sure I succeeded at. At least, not without the help of some cropping. Two things to keep in mind while photographing fireworks – is the haze that it creates from the smoke and with the kind of volume of crackers burst, the amount of light keeps increasing and decreasing in spurts. Aperture is the one dynamic in shooting fireworks – this was my experience! As a rule of thumb, from reading several articles and consequent experimentation, this stayed between F8 and F16 for me.  Shutter speed is open to experimentation but a slow speed of anything from 3 seconds to 30 seconds, depending on what you are looking to capture, does the trick. Tripod is the golden rule of photography that gets said enough and I am just reminding you of that. The other determinant factor that nobody talks about enough is the wind factor, if any, as much as it affects your camera shake, it also affects the streaks in the actual fireworks display – as you will see in some of my photographs. It all makes for a fun challenge and a great learning experience for any amateur photographer.  The biggest takeaway should however be – take a few shots, and then sit back , relax and enjoy the show. As photographers, we tend to look at the world from a lens, every once in a while, it is good to look up and just let it be. If its’ just too much of an uphill battle to keep changing positions and apertures or if like me you faced one direction lying in wait and the show began in an opposite direction, just get a few shots(if you can), then just sit back and soak in the moment.

My Diwali shots are not just of firecrackers, but of different elements that make up a Diwali in any Indian household – the sweets, the lamps….so enjoy the show. Let me know what you think. Click on the pictures to see enlarged versions of them – it is far more prettier that way and sometimes I caption them with little stories and anecdotes! Also, please don’t copy text or picture without prior permission – seriously, I’m an up and coming photographer, so don’t be a mean ass and in turn make me a bitch!

And the show begins……..

These are sparklers for anyone who is wondering…..

Please note the orange clothes line in the picture above….I  managed to crop it in the pictures above this, but unfortunately this was a freak moment and I didn’t have time to get lower and cut out the line from the frame.

And now for the gastronome…

And following John Greengo’s advise – I went in for the details….Details….Minor Details!

Please note the old english china, its a family heirloom passed on from my great grandmother on my mother’s side. What’s Diwali without a little shopping…here’s just one tidbit from all of the shopping I did….

And finally, to add some more beauty and little bit of calm after all the excitement…



Festival of photography…..ummm..I mean light!