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!

2 thoughts on “Festival of photography…..ummm..I mean light!

  1. Tell me about the waking up thy neighbor part … im a victim —- have an idiot who for the last 25 years been bursting a stupid sutli (as good as ear shattering) cracker ever 5 mins, for one hour, every new years day !!!!!! @ 5am … he’s lucky i dont have the energy to get myself off my bed to drive that same cracker up his… *** but one day !! one day, he’l have it…

    anyway now that i have vented.. beautiful cracker pics!!!

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