Shameless Plug

Shamelessly I am about to plug an event that I am participating in, while I shamefully apologize for vanishing from these pages for several weeks. If you have followed this blog long enough, you do know that absence always stems from a plethora of chaotic events crammed into those days. This absence was no different – we have been part of several gallery exhibitions in New York City, participated in a couple of contests – one of which led to an exhibition in the city, had a parent and a dear friend visit us all the way from India, took a couple of quick trips and are now setting up for the next event which is on Sunday the 29th

Let’s address the shameless plug first, shall we – We are taking part in an event this 29th Sept, 2013 ( Sunday) at a local “Arts in the Park” event in our town of Highland Park, New Jersey. It will be held right on Main Street or our little chunk of Route 27 in Highland Park. If you are in New Jersey or know people in New Jersey send them our way to say hello, ask them to look out for Shruthi Venkatasubramanian/Photopportunist’s stall.  We will be selling beautiful matted prints from $10 onwards. But we aren’t the only ones there, there will be several different artists of various genres, live music, good food, petting zoos, and dance & theatre events. We do mean ARTS in the park! Weather seems like its going to hold up nicely, so come on by for a lazy sunday street event.

Arts in the Park Banner

Arts in the Park Marquis

Now for the apologies, people use blogs to engage with an audience, to build an audience , to market, to rant and whatever else one can think of these days. I do want to engage with all of you and build new audiences, but I believe if I have nothing concrete to say or contribute then I might as well shut up.  But if you are wondering – “hey lady, plugging isn’t concrete nor does it contribute” – then let me say, this is an invitation to all of you to come engage with us one on one, I would love to meet you loyalists, newbies,  and critics.  So if you are in the area, do come and say hello.

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Shameless Plug

Evergreen Opulence

I have been ruminating over my state of mind for the past few days. It is one of relaxation, rejuvenation, jubilation,  and unbridled ebullience. Perhaps it has to do with an 8 day long trip to Olympic National Park. I have said this on these very pages before, that America’s greatest gift doesn’t come from anything that is man-made, rather from its chaste and vast wilderness that they protect so furiously and with fervor. Rightly so, because there are so few places in the world that haven’t been debased due to the expansion of civilizations’ needs. To stand by an ocean and watch a sunset with nary a soul, to walk for miles through plush and luxuriously overgrown sitka spruce forests by the side of rivers that gleam turquoise as they rush from their glacier fed mouths to the ocean beyond, carrying in their belly the bounty of salmon and trout, and to watch the simple motion of a wave relentlessly battering a sea stack down to size with just sheer persistence and a loud, crashing moan – is a gift that I can never repay. I cannot even find words in my vocabulary to describe the peace that settles into my being when I am surrounded by these sights and sounds with a camera in my hand. To say I love my profession and what it allows me to do and where it allows me to go, would be an understatement. This profession of being a photographer is the greatest form of meditation that fills every need gap, every want and desire that I have had. To stand behind a lens and gaze at stars, landscapes, likens alike and to see the world in a manner that is in-depth from the middle of everything without leaving any imprint but an actual foot print on these gingerly balanced eco-systems is the best part of this profession. And yet, what I capture is but a very tiny fraction of the beauty that surrounds us.

C.Joybell once famously said, “Never waste any amount of time doing anything important when there is a sunset outside that you should be sitting under!”. Sunsets are the west coasts greatest reward especially in the summer when they stretch into the night and Washington’s shoreline along the national park is littered and strewn with cliffs and sea stacks that seem to rise abruptly off the ocean floor just enough to allow the sun to play peek-a-boo as it sets. The Pacific ocean is at her most raw and roughest form here pounding along these cliff faces and rocks and dragging along driftwood onto the shore, stacking them up like dykes against man and his exploits. Every beach from First Beach on the Quillette reservation to Kalaloch is craggy and stacked with driftwood, and sometimes just getting to them is adventure enough. From a mile long to 8 mile over night hikes to Shi Shi Beach and Point of the Arches, there is something for everyone. The farther you get the better the sights, and the less explored. But keep your wits and tide charts close because I cannot even begin to explain the number of times I have been side swiped and soaked by a wave during this trip, but that does not even begin to explain the dangers of a high tide coming in on a shore where several rivers and streams meet the ocean and cut off access during high tide. These aren’t beaches that are made for soaking up the sun, but these are beaches where you sit in veneration of nature and allow that feeling of being rendered small and tiny in the scheme of things to perpetuate every thought and every cell of your being. It is a humbling experience that lends perspective in a way that no city on earth can and these aren’t available exclusively at the beaches of the park. Further inland are the microclimates created by the Olympic Mountains and her interactions with the Pacific Ocean, in the form of temperate rainforests and alpine areas.

The rain forests are a constant reminder of why Washington is known as the ‘EverGreen State’, extensive and abundant, covered in a blanket of green in every hue, dripping with droplets of rain that shine like gems in the sunlight. Strewn with a shore of moss that grows over everything and clouds that wrap themselves over the forest like a constant shroud, the Hoh river charts its course through the forest from the Hoh Glacier on Mt.Olympus down to the Pacific at Hoh Indian Reservation. Turquoise green and crystal clear and carrying chinook salmon and steel head trout, anglers and fishing enthusiasts dot the river as it meanders through the valley. These are but descriptions of what is, but what happens when the eyes perceive the myriad greens around and to be surrounded by life itself as it grows and fights to occupy every inch of the earth around you isn’t a sense of bucolic calm but one of thriving in abundance that is unprocessed and untouched. Stand under this canopy and look up, even the sun is fighting hard to get through. But in the forests of Olympic National Park, sounds are just as beautiful as sight. Walking the trail to Sol Duc Falls, the anticipation increases with every step, as the crashing sounds of water get closer and closer, tiny streams flow along the path to distract and remind that something even bigger is coming soon. As the grand finale Sol Duc greets every visitor with a welcome spray of mist as she thunders below their feet in a 37 foot drop into a narrow canyon as three – four separate channels. The sounds are akin to the arrival of a Queen – the drum beats get louder as she gets closer and as she passes by, you gaze at her with reverence and devotion, mixed ever so slightly with fear and knowing only too well that you know her but she has no idea or need to know you.

hoh Rainforest

Sol Duc Trail

HOH Rainforest

Sol Duc Stream

Ruby beach Sunset

Second Beach - Sunset

I can fill pages on every little detail that is Olympic National Park, but none of them suffice. I am sure the experience is going to be just as spiritual if I were to visit any of the other national parks in this country. For the sake of repetition and even more so for the sake of imbibing this in the mind of every outsider visiting this country, I shall say it one more time – Please spend far less times in the cities, go into their vast wilderness and explore, it is the greatest thing this country has going for it. The people you meet on these journeys, the conversations with strangers about sharing an experience and to live away from the drudgery of routine will open your mind and allow you to understand things about this country that you otherwise have NO chance to. I’ve spent 6 glorious days there and have barely scratched the surface before my induction back into civilization began slowly at Seattle. Again this is a city I have praised and said before that I would move to in a heartbeat, and every time I go back there the intent only grows stronger. If the park wasn’t enough to subdue me and inject me with humility, I got to go collect an autographed copy of my idol’s latest book – Art Wolfe’s – The New Art of Photographing Nature. To stand in his gallery, to hold a book with his images signed by him, surrounded by large size prints of his amazing body of work and to see the photograph that inspired me to become a photographer staring at me from a large wall – I now know the true meaning of the word – “pilgrimage”!

Seattle Skyline

This is the kind of shameless affluence that I would like to partake of every day , if only I could have my way.

All Images are (C) Photopportunist / Shruthi Venkatasubramanian. DO NOT print, download or reuse in ANY form without our explicit written permission. For prints and digital downloads, kindly contact me on my website – http://www.photopportunist.com. Sharing is encouraged.

Evergreen Opulence

Hedonistic Weekends

Most weekends, we find ourselves rushing through personal commitments and chores that have no choice but to be relegated to the two days that are meant for rest and relaxation, but there are some that come by every once in a while that are made for pure hedonistic pleasure. Mine is defined by a weekend where cellphone reception is a bare minimum and the rushing sounds of cars on a freeway are faint, if not entirely absent. To stand in the middle of a fresh and flourishing forest, 1.5 hours away from New York City, surrounded by silence that is occasionally broken by the wind rustling the tops of pine and birch trees and of a gurgling creek that ebbs and flows as several small waterfalls through humble box canyons; is invigorating to say the least. There was even a moment where we lost track of the only trail that led to and from the waterfalls we headed to. A trail that is only slightly beaten and completely unmarked, which is probably why it doesn’t get the massive crowds that a neighboring cascade attracts.

Up on the Poconos, just that side of the New Jersey/Pennsylvania border within the confines of Stokes State Forest are these little known gems called Indian Ladder Falls, they were unknown until they recently broke the news on a TV show called ‘Motion’. But thanks to its well known sibling – Dingman’s Falls – it is far less visited! Although the trail that we were on was unmarked, there is another trail that is very well maintained that reaches the lowest of the falls  and then climbs up to the Upper Falls. The one we were on, did exactly the opposite – we climbed down! What does it matter, when there is the sound of water flowing freely and crashing against rocks to keep you company? These sights and these sounds when coupled with photography, is the perfect antidote for ‘photo block’!

Indian Ladders Falls 2 copy

 

Indian Ladder Falls 1

 

Indian Ladder Falls 3

 

DO NOT reproduce/reuse/print/download without the explicit written permission of the author. All Photos and material on this blog are copyright of Photopportunist/Shruthi Venkatasubramanian. For prints and digital images kindly leave me a message or visit us on our website – http://www.photopportunist.com

Hedonistic Weekends

A Paradoxical Sunrise

4.30 am is an unearthly hour to be awake, but in the profession I choose to be in, its the time one wakes up, puts on their shoes and heads out into the cold, to catch the preternatural phenomenon called dawn and sunrise. Those minutes just after the darkest hour, when first light begins to break through, when dark clouds part to colors that explode until they calm down to a brilliant sky blue, those are the minutes I have been craving to encounter. Winter sunrises after a storm are brilliant that way, so long as one can shield themselves from dipping temperatures and whipping wind. But luck is as Seneca says, “…. is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.” So I prepared, found the beach I wanted to be at to capture dawn and its kin -sunrise, dressed myself in layers; up to the point of looking like a crab with just two eyes sticking out, studied tide charts and made sure I was between tides, chose a day that was to be sunny just after a snow storm, charged my camera, cleaned out all my equipment ahead of time and even went to bed early on a saturday night.  So as my favorite author said in ‘Old Man and the Sea’ – “… It is better to be lucky. But I would rather be exact. Then when luck comes you are ready.” 

I was ready! I had prepared and I was about 90% sure the opportunity was right and prime, and boy! was I right!! I could articulate in words that victorious feeling of being right, but pictures sometimes do say a million words, so this time – I will just let them do the talking.

Spring Lake 1

Spring lake 2

Spring Lake 3

These were shot at Spring Lake, New Jersey – a shore town that am increasingly fond of and can’t wait to go back to. Sometimes, all it takes is the magic of nature to make us feel tiny, not insignificant, but tiny. There are wondrous things happening around us all the time, and we miss it all in the pursuit of so called happiness. This is a free show that happens everywhere, everyday, why not catch one? Its paradoxical when you step out in freezing temperatures to witness something so blissfully warm.

Now on to technicalities – I used two ND Grad filters stacked, since I don’t own an ND filter as yet and I broke my polarizer. The only adjustment done in photoshop was some contrast and a tiny bit of color adjustment(not change, just saturation!). All pictures are copyright of Shruthi V/Photopportunist.  DO NOT reprint/reuse in any form, without the authors explicit written permission.  If you are interested in prints leave me a message here or on my website – http://www.photopportunist.com.

A Paradoxical Sunrise

Of Whims, fancies and hunger

Fresh from an exhausting week, leading up to a moderately successful exhibition of photography, I am engulfed with a craving for the Far East. Perhaps it has something to do with my itch to scratch off the cabin fever that winter has gifted us with. It has been a long, harsh winter and it’s been below freezing since October of last year. But the groundhogs have promised us an early spring and it does seem just suitably far away. For now the windows outside are still frosted up, snow on the ground and my stomach would like nothing better than a spicy far eastern hug. From satisfying chilli fish to beef rendang, my mind in conjecture with my stomach, which so whole heartedly seems to be taking over every thought right now, is conjuring up steaming bowls of Malaysian, Vietnamese, Indonesian and ,absurdly tangential enough, Korean food. It is such a yearning that I had to run out in 4 layers of clothes to get a bottle of gochuchung, a good half a foot of galangal and a bunch of lemon grass. I blame multiple viewings of Kimchi Chronicles and Rick Stein’s Far Eastern Odyssey, because it would be sacrilege to just blame hunger for such monstrous hankerings? Let me for one moment wander away from this and plug Rick Stein’s programs – he is a seafood crazy chef from Padstow, England and has these shows on BBC UK, you can watch his programs on youtube though. If you are a foodie or a food writer of any caliber, watch his stuff, I don’t think anyone quite describes or articulates about food quite as well as he does, in this modern era of texting. He has a sort of transcendent way of making travel and food synonymous with the exploration of new cultures.

I digress, as I walk the aisles of a local H-Mart, the only recurring thought is a Beef Rendang lunch, made from scratch. So here I go this morning, toasting coconut or rather making kerisik and grinding together shallots, chillies, galangal, lemongrass, ginger and garlic to concoct this spicy and fragrant paste that the beef will slow cook in, along with a can of coconut milk, until the beef has drunk in every last drop of the heavenly gravy and is fork tender. I wish photographs had a way of conveying smells, it’s a sensory explosion that has gratification etched into it. There are certain smells in cooking that are deeply arousing and I don’t mean that in a sexual connotation. If you are like me an overwhelming joy can envelope you, at the smell of garlic and onions hitting hot olive oil or the smell of a slow cooked rendang, wafting slowly through the air in a gentle dance of seduction. There is a reason why warm, freshly baked cookies are made by realtors when they want to sell a house, the sense of smell is exceedingly powerful in eliciting an emotional response to things we see and hear.

For those curious souls who want to replicate this, there is a caveat – unless you like the strong taste of toasted coconuts this is not a dish you must attempt. I come from a country and region, where it is consumed atleast once a day, so its a taste that is reminiscent of my childhood. Also this is my interpretation of something that sorely lacks one of its key ingredients – Kaffir Lime leaves….I couldn’t find these at the asian stores close by and I didn’t want to risk the chance of frost bite just for a few leaves! Besides I had lemongrass and galangal – two things that are supremely versatile, exceedingly effluvious and generously divine. These two, have an irrevocable place in the spice cabinets of South east asians everywhere.

Without much more ado, read, look, weep and enjoy! Today’s whims, fancies and hunger have all been pleasingly allayed!

Ingredients

Spice mix

Beef Rendang

Beef Rendang

500 gms beef chuck or cuts used for stews

3 cloves

3 black cardamoms

2 star anise

2 inch stick cinnamon

3/4 cup toasted coconut (or kirisik is toasted to golden brown)

1 cup water

1 can coconut milk

1 tbsp sugar

2 tsp coriander powder

1 tsp turmeric powder

Salt to taste

Spice Paste

4 large shallots

12 dried red chillies soaked in water

4 cloves garlic

1 inch piece of ginger

1 inch piece of galangal

3 stalks of lemongrass, white part only

Grind all the ingredients for the spice paste in a blender until its fine, use some of the water the chillies are soaked in, if necessary.

Heat oil in a dutch oven, add the cinnamon, cloves, star anise and cardamom. Add the spice paste and fry until the raw smell of onions dissipates.

Add the turmeric and coriander powders and sautee for another 2 mins. Add the beef, the coconut milk, water and sugar. Cook for about 30-40 mins until the beef is half to 3/4 way done. Add salt to taste, cover the pot and allow to simmer on medium heat for about an hour to hour and a half, until the gravy has dwindled down to less than half. Check for seasonings and serve hot with rice.

On a side note, I wish I could change my camera with immediate effect and get some new lenses to replace the broken ones….feel like I am missing a couple of limbs with a broken camera and lenses. Please do not reproduce or reprint these pictures or writing in any form without the author’s permission.

 

Of Whims, fancies and hunger

A launch and a request

Hey everyone,

I finally bit the bullet and launched my official website today – www.photopportunist.com ably supported by a facebook page – http://www.facebook.com/Photopportunist. I appreciate everyone who takes the time out to read this blog. You come from different backgrounds and yet you understand and appreciate what I do, proving that art transcends all that. For your support and encouragement, I am eternally grateful. Do visit the website and “like” the facebook page, to keep in touch with everything I do. It might be a bit tacky to ask someone to “like” a page, but am small fish in the ocean who needs the props from all of you to be visible. Thank you so much for everything you do for me.

Much Love

Shruthi

A launch and a request

Fallen for Maine

It’s a fantastic fall day in New Jersey – sun is bright, skies are blue with long white streaks of clouds, the leaves are falling off the trees every time the wind blows.,the forest in the backyard is rife with colors and yet my heart is in Maine…..I have never seen the turn of a season look so beautiful, despite the incessant rain and a broken camera.  For weeks I had agonized over tide charts, weather reports, foliage reports, sunset timings, nautical sunset timings, moon phases and a ton of astronomy that I never knew I needed to know for photography, just so that I would know what to look forward to and be prepared. The thing that surprises me the most about myself  and most human beings is our inability to accept that expectations are far different from reality – maybe this is the key to zen living(?), I don’t know – but clearly I don’t possess the ability, in-spite of know-how. The two days that were spent in Maine, were supposed to have been sunshine and mildly cloudy, but in reality it was rain, fog, cold winds and more rains.

I had a schedule of places I needed to be and shoot and no one had warned the weather gods of my plans. The thing about Acadia National Park is that, weather is just a backdrop, nothing takes away from its real beauty. The park is like a queen, tucked away on the coast of Maine and the drive from Jersey winds its way through New York, Connecticut,Massachusetts, New Hampshire before finally entering Maine. I say queen because Acadia has a sense of arrival, Maine is beautiful no matter where you go, but as you move towards the park the fall colors keep getting bigger and better, until it finally explodes in your face at Acadia.

Save a few expensive hotels, Acadia’s main stay are BnB’s and we stayed at one this time as well. We were the last guests at the Inn for the season before they close for winter and so we had a chance to meet the owner and her wonderful little dog – Rosie. Floridian by birth, Rosie – a tiny shihtzu – was decked out in her favorite sweater and was crumpled up on her bed by the fire place, the whole time that we were there. The weather had got to her and all she wanted was a nice and warm place to rest her tiny little head.

The very first evening was the only time the sun was out, but it was bitterly cold and windy, that should have stopped me from going up Cadillac Mountain but the lure of a sunset was too much to ignore. It was by far the biggest mistake, at sunset (although pretty), every square inch of Mount Cadillac and especially the Blue Hill Overlook is covered by photographers. From those leading tours to workshops to individual enthusiasts alike. By next morning the weather took a turn for the worse and crowds quickly started dissipating out of Acadia. Perfect! But just one day in, my camera broke along with two lenses – one of them was my favorite 18-55! What I got till that point was all I had and I regretted passing by opportunities and scenes which I had promised to come back to during lesser rains and better light. Lesson learned – never let it go by, get some shots in even if you think the light maybe bad and never have an assistant who thinks he is too macho to put down the camera bag safely before attempting to cross a stream from rock to rock in rubber waders after a rain! The few shots that I did get in that time are here  and until camera and lens come back repaired or replaced – there will be a break in posting ( hopefully it won’t be too long, cross your fingers for me).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It goes without saying that all photographs and written material on this blog are my copyright and cannot be reused or printed in any manner without my explicit permission to do so. If you are interested in purchasing prints or getting in touch with me about work, please drop me a message here and I will respond by end of day.  Thank you for your interest.

Fallen for Maine