Sunday morning at Cubbon Park

I took my camera out after a long time on Sunday. Sharing some photographs from the morning photo walk with PIXELS group at Cubbon Park, located at the heart of Bangalore.

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With sixth semester officially done, I now want to invest more time in making pictures.

Christmas ’11 in photos

I met my best friend from school yesterday and we roamed around talking and clicking pictures. Here are some images of the Christmas celebrations /decorations. Shot using my favorite 50mm lens (bokeh!)…I think it did a decent job with the lights, colors and mood..

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Rock Pigeons at Lalbagh

An early morning walk at Lalbagh by the lake is something that everyone in this city should experience. Especially those who’re consumed by the daily street smoke and other exhausts. This is one of my favorite spots in the park (walk straight down from the west gate) seized by rock pigeons who’re fed by the walkers / joggers every morning. A single clap and you’ll see them fly around a chopped trunk of a tree and return back. A beautiful sight to witness for a few moments.



The next time you spot a pigeon, know that you are looking at one of the most intelligent birds on the planet. They have been used as messengers, race birds (sold for $130000+), life savers at sea (since they can identify & differentiate colors), etc.

Note: There are 2 more related photographs on my photoblog – here and here.

Hall of Paleobiology

The National Museum of Natural History is located on the National Mall at Washington DC and is administered by the Smithsonian Institution. It hosts the largest group of scientists dedicated to the study of natural and cultural history in the world. I was stunned every five minutes with so much to see and absorb all in a day! The hall of paleobiology was my favorite section in the entire museum. Never in my life I’d thought that I’ll get to look at the fossils of dinosaurs and other reptiles! This was when I started giving thought to evolution and have started reading more about it now.

Jurassic Park was the first movie I saw when I was 3 or something. I’ve also had dinosaur winding toys when I was a kid, and hardbound large size books about these extinct marvels. It was funny how I’d forgotten about all of this. It all came back to me that day – at the hall of paleobiology. I stood in front of the real life size fossils of different dinosaurs, trying to get their names right and learn about them. The following are some of the photographs of this section of the museum.

Their Fossil Lab was very impressive too. It was a huge room open to public viewing from the outside -with sound proof glasses – and was situated at the corner of the main dinosaur hall. We could see scientists working (without getting distracted by people gazing through the glass) and pieces of bones/stones/what not stacked everywhere waiting to be assembled.

Washington DC was the last city that we visited on our summer road trip in July. It is one of the cleanest cities that I’ve seen so far – with relevance to politics and administration at every few blocks on the streets. Do not miss to visit this museum (along with the other ones of course) if you’re there. Plus, the entry to all the Smithsonian museums at DC is free! I wish I’d seen something like this when I was a kid – I would have probably developed an interest in science & biology earlier and got some kickass ideas too. Other parts of the museum that I really liked were the Ocean Hall, the Hall of Gems & Minerals and the Hall of Bones where I got to see their Forensic Anthropology lab! It was all too much to handle in one day.

Lalbagh Independence Day flower show 2011

It was decided almost instantaneously today morning to visit Lalbagh with grandmom to check out the 100’th annual Independence Day flower show. I had been there last year at the exact same time and thus knew what kind of an exhibit to expect, but it was different for my grandmom as she was witnessing this flower feast only after many years. Being a gardening enthusiast, I was sure that she would enjoy it. This year, the horticulture department has put up a 20 feet high and 30 feet wide replica (decked with white roses) of the famous Lotus Temple (Delhi) in the glass house. Apart from this creation, there were many many varieties of flowers from different parts of India and the world- just like every year.

I just don’t understand why they chose to create the Lotus Temple this time. Not that there is anything wrong in it, but I would have liked to see something more relevant to the city being displayed instead. I would have preferred gasping at a structure that is symbolic to Bangalore. Not necessarily an architectural monument, I’m sure one can bring out the city’s essence in other ways too.

Turns out the show was not exclusive to flowers only. There were a lot of stalls outside the glass house where all sorts of items were being sold. From seeds to decorative lamps and herbal products, etc were showcased, just like in a fair.

I wish to go there next year as well. Not because of the flowers, but because I feel that I should be a part of something that has been organized for the people of this city, and which has a lot of work gone into it by non-mainstream folks. It’s like doing my bit to show them some appreciation. After all, Bangalore is not very community focussed and such rare unique events reminds us about the city we belong to.

B’lore Photo Walk at Avenue Road

After one year and one month, the members of B’lore Photo Walk got together for a photoshoot at Avenue Road. I had seen a lot of photographs everywhere and heard a lot of stories about it’s relationship with shutterbugs in the city (as a matter of fact, I could recognize the various shops and locations on the street today just by recalling the photographs!). Even though I had seen some initial parts of the road before to buy books, I had never gone further inside to explore/shoot. Every time I see pictures of Avenue Road, there has got to be people’s portraits, colorful doors & windows, MAD rush, vehicles, more people, wires hanging all over the place, name boards, all kinds of stores dealing with stationery to sarees to jewelry and what not. In short, “absolute chaos”. However, today, we all mat at the old famous ‘coffee-wallah’ at the Mysore Bank circle at ~ 7:30 and started from there. Being a sunday and a little too early, all the shops were closed and the street was less of a hustle. This gave us an opportunity to explore the place in a completely different environment. Newspaper stands were being busy as old men discussed news with chai cups in their hands. In other places, young boys arranged books on the footpath. What is interesting is how these boys know every book they own with precision and can tell which academic course requires which book by which author (including different editions!) without even having received basic education themselves.

We walked into the crossroads along side (which were VERY small and had like a hundred protrusions from everywhere). How do families live here?! The garbage filled gutters would become a menace during rainfalls. Children walked barefoot to school on these streets. Cows, dogs and mice must have made a mutual agreement to live in harmony- just like everyone else. Experiencing a place like this in a city as big as Bangalore is like having a reality check. However advanced this city may be, there lives some parts of it as old as the 80’s. Some parts which may sell and deal with today’s items, but whose lifestyle and ‘feel’ remain the same for years. It’s a good thing in a way. It’s like a connection between retro and new. People may move in/out and the shops may get reinvented, but the street leads the exact same life for years.

Today’s walk wasn’t about clicking intensive cliched photographs of streets and people. It was about meeting the people with whom I started this journey around 2 years back. It was nostalgic to walk with the same bunch of folks with whom I began learning about my city and it’s different faces. It was also about meeting new interesting people! Even though we ended up shooting a lot (duh!), we got an opportunity to talk about our experiences and findings. I can just sit for hours together and listen to how this dude walked for eight hours in the rain atop a hill to get back to his home in Dargeeling or how this another guy got caught up at the Delhi railway station not knowing where to go, and ended up in a cab to Jaipur! In the end, if there is a plate of Idlis and Vada to go with the stories, even better!

last few days in pictures

From 40 C to 25 C (plus rain!) was a pleasant change, especially after 22 hours of sitting in an upright position in artificial atmosphere. I woke up to the sounds of dogs barking, scooters accelerating, yelling vegetable vendors, steel vessels and dad’s daily dose of vishnu sahasranama after catching sleep for only a couple of hours in the morning. Images from the last 2 days below:

I left with a single bag 50 days back and returned with 2 bags yesterday. It surprised me how all the luggage could be unpacked and sorted within minutes. The real cleaning and sorting begins tomorrow, with a newfound love & respect for personal possessions.

‘click a smile’ photography exhibition

It is one of the best feelings in the world to see your photograph beautifully framed and displayed for people to see. Being there with family is the little icing on top. My dad almost spent 2/3 minutes looking at the photograph (that is wayy more than his normal attention span for seeing photographs). My sister walked towards my frame as soon as we entered Alliance Francaise.

We then spent rest of the time looking at other images, some of which I really really liked. People from the Akshaya Patra Foundation (organizers) told us about their work, and how it has been reaching out to thousands of school children across the country.

Here and Here.

Top #5 Free Photo Editing Softwares!

Photo editing goes hand in hand with photography in this generation. Many criticize about taking away the main essence of photography by processing. Editing an image to improve its quality is not such a ‘new-gen’ thing, really. It existed even during the film photography times, where professionals adjusted the black and white colors, contrasts and light in their dark studios/laboratories. Its only much more digital now.When your whole world is going digital and improving, then why not your photography?

Editing an image w.r.t photography means only one thing – enhancing its quality.

This is NOT about graphic designing where things are removed/added to the frame, turned into a cartoon, etc. If you are looking for turning your portrait into an avatar, then read no further.

Having said this, the following is my top #5 picks for the free and open source picture editing software. (for Windows)

#5 – Picknik.

This is an online s/w. No sign-up and download required. Helpful with the most basic features w.r.t. image editing, like crop, rotate, adjust brightness and other things. Got popular on flickr as it is inbuilt & integrated with it.

#4 – Picasa.

No surprises here! This Google’s application is extremely simple and easy to use. Apart from managing all your photos, editing features includes cropping, tone and brightness adjustments, many more. Picasa, however, does not allow you to do pixel-level editing. You may feel very limited once you start looking for more features.

#3 – Paint.NET.

Brought to you by Microsoft, convenient  in terms of tools and options. Has layers features as well. Just 2/3 levels below Adobe Photoshop. The application, in fact, has the look of PS. Nothing more to add here. If you are a MS fan (cough-cough), go for it.

Download: http://www.getpaint.net/download.html

#2 – Photoscape.

An amazing picture editor! Extremely simple and user friendly. Options include combining images, batch processing, color picker and the latest addition – RAW converter. Coming to the editor, Photoscape is pretty neat when it comes to adjusting levels, contrast and colors. Has everything in simple, layman terms and is very well organized. Good options for filters as well. It is jam-packed with features, while remaining very easy to use.

Download: http://www.photoscape.org/ps/main/download.php

#1 – GIMP.

The “poor man’s Photoshop”. The carbon copy of PS in terms of interface, tools, layers, filters, curves, etc. You can use this easily if you are well versed with the options of PS. I mean, you have to individually know what tool means/does what. GIMP was originally developed for Unix/Linux users. Stability with Windows has been improved by now, with an increasing number of users.

Download: http://www.gimp.org/downloads/

~

A very important thing to note is that almost all photo editing s/w will have the same features and stuff. You must know HOW to use them. It’s not about turning a good photograph into a graphic poster by using artistic filters. No.

It is about making your photograph visually appealing.

Not everyone looks for the same features in a photo program to edit their photos. You must know what you want to improve and how to do it. This will be developed over a period of time when you’re more aware of every option/tool that there is. You can even edit your images within seconds!

Another important thing is to stick to one editor. At a max, 2. Using more editors is just insane and makes no sense. Learn & get the most out of one platform.

Other s/w that I haven’t mentioned in this article are – Pixia, ImageForge, etc, simply because I have never used them.

Having talked so much ’bout FOSS, it is a known fact that you may still want to end up with the much hyped Adobe Photoshop!

If you are bent upon it, I reckon you go for Adobe Photoshop Lightroom instead, for photograph editing. The version 3 just got released with the most helpful features like noise reduction and lens correction capabilities! You can try out the trial version to get the feel of it. Lightroom [ http://www.adobe.com/products/photoshoplightroom/ ] is exclusively developed for photograph editing, unlike Photoshop, and is getting increasingly popular.

Feel free to add/comment/say anything. Happy editing!

Best Vacation Ever.

Alert: Long post ahead.

One day for college to begin. 2nd year of Engineering. I am still surprised how one year just passed by so soon. I know its cliched, but really. A lot of things have happened since then. Things about which I’ve already talked about here.

My vacation began from June 1st. I was initially very apprehensive about how I’d spend 2.5 months of time doing nothing. I wanted to make the most of it. I wanted to make it special. It went by very well, wayyyyyyyyy well than I’d imaged! This wouldn’t have been possible without certain people. All very kind and extremely supportive. I sometimes am amused by the help I’ve got from the people in my life. All strangers to me at some point!

~ I finally got a chance to buy my very own DSLR. One word: overwhelming.

~ Got to watch the whole of discovery Plant Earth series, Helvetica(!), Objectified, etc and read about Typefaces, Design and Photography. All thanks to Suyog. There is always something new and uplifting after every discussion and meeting. I am not even kidding, THE most inspiring person I have ever met in my life.

~ PESIT Photography Club. I started a college photog club. Got in touch with the director and he responded positively. A lot of things to be planned and executed. The facebook page has 100+ fans. I’m hoping this will go well for the next 3 years of my college life. Photography seems to be everyone’s new found passion all of a sudden!

~ IISc visit.

~ Yoga. After a lot of pestering from my mom, sister and music teacher, I had to sign up for a month long crash course in yoga. I had to wake up at 5:30 every morning. I don’t know. I just wasn’t comfortable listening to stereotypical discussions at that place. I know it would do me good and even help me with my wheezing problems, etc. But I wouldn’t do anything if I didn’t believe in it. At least as of now, no. I fell ill after returning form Mysore and gave up on it. I have an option of continuing the course now which I won’t be. I can’t handle another major time consuming thing in my life right now. 5:30 mornings are reserved for assignments and record writings.

~ Learning Light Painting and Stop Motion.

Work experience. I mostly did stuff at home but visiting them every week and having long random and non-random discussions was fun. I got to learn a LOT of things from them and be more open minded. Sandeep and PeeVee are two great people and really supportive. I can’t thank them enough. Sometimes, other people are more confident about you than you are about yourself. Its very strange.

Lepakshi Photo Walk. I have already written about this. This walk will be special for more than 3 reasons.

Mysore Trip. One word: Awesome!

~ Scott Kelby’s Worldwide Photo Walk. I had an option of choosing between 2 places. One, Malleswaram, where all of my photography friends were going to. The walk was lead by Suyog and PeeVee, the location choice was excellent. Second, was BTM Layout. I chose the 2nd option. It was a challenge to be shooting in a metro highway area, with a lot of limitations. We did manage to explore the little cross roads and talk to a couple of workers there. I got an opportunity to shoot alone [even though in a group] and learn by myself. It was basically about going out there and doing things differently and seeing things on my own.

~ Shopping with mom. Not half as bad as I’d imagined it to be. Its actually fun. I’ve always ALWAYS shopped with my sister. This was my first time experience of shopping alone with mom [yes, after 19 freakin’ years!] I think since we both are straight to the point, I find it easy. We don’t spend too much time contemplating. Its simply like: “Like it? Buy it!”

~ Audible India. Nice and fun. Not just the podcasts but the whole process of making each episode. The long aimless skype conferences with the team and especially with this kid, who makes me feel old already. But yes, behind the scenes is always fun. Its like a whole team effort.

START Magazine Issue 1 release. What an experience! Again, I can’t thank my sister enough for this. She gave up on sleep for many days just so that we could go through the layout and design again and again. Her suggestions always work out. The issue has crossed 800+ hits now.

I know I have missed out on many things. I can’t write about them all here. This has gotten long already [ignore the typographical and grammatical mistakes, too long to proofread!]. So just for the record, BEST VACATION EVER!

START – A beginning

http://issuu.com/startmag

Friends, I present to you the first issue of START, a project that I’ve been working on for weeks. This is important to me for so many reasons, all inside of me and difficult to put into words. START is a magazine for and about artists. With this, I wish to document the works of people who have inspired me not only as an artist, but also as a human being. This is an attempt to peep into the minds of young folks of our country who Create and Inspire. It is NOT about what is right or whats ought to be. This is just about what is. I don’t know if that makes any sense.

I had thought of a big long post explaining the idea, the need and everything. That just feels absurd right now, especially after having gone through the whole process of making it. I’ll just leave it to you. Interpret it as and how you like. Its all art and that’s how its supposed to be anyway. It is not perfect, nor the best. You may find a bunch of typographical and other sorts of errors. But the attempt is true and sincere.

I’d appreciate all the support in terms of promotion and suggestions.

Lepakshi Photo Walk

I woke in the morning with a lot of excitement. Met Prashant at Vijaynagar at 7 [he was already there, waiting, surprisingly!]. We reached the station in 20 minutes and met others. As we walked towards platform No.2, a lot of folks joined in. We were 14 of us on our way to our first photo walk outside Bangalore city.

The train journey was fun. Arvind and Akshay discussed all Geeky stuff. People pulled their legs. I got ‘enlightened’ with all the talk. I learnt how to create HDR images. On the way, Zeeshan reminded us that it was exactly one year back that we’d been on our first photo walk to Lalbagh! [I can’t believe a whole year passed by! I remember making a post about our first photo walk!] We reached Hindupur at around 10:45. Hindupur is a small town in Andra Pradesh, around 120 kms from Bangalore. We walked till the main road to find some place where we could have breakfast. After some walking and searching, we fond this little joint sort of a place run by a couple who could speak Kannada and were happy to serve us Dosas, Idlis and Pulav.

Lepakshi is ~15 kms from Hindupur. We were waiting for a bus on the main road when someone randomly mentioned how much fun it would be if we climbed on top of the bus. Just then, an open matador passed by and Natesh with his amazing whistling skill stopped it. We climbed on it and had one of the most memorable, best rides of our lives. We passed by lakes [where we spotted many rare birds] and villages [where we merrily waved at the villagers].

We reached the famous Veerabhadra temple in a while. It was HUGE! And photography is allowed inside the temple premises so everyone shot happily. I personally loved the architecture and design of the place. It is spread out on a large area and there is ample space around. The ancient paintings on the roof are beautiful. We marveled the famous hanging pillars for a while. Arvind, the film maker, created stop motion and time lapse. He even showed it to us on spot on his Mac :D Everyone were impressed. We stayed in the temple premises for till around 3, shooting and talking. We came out and hogged on cucumbers and ice creams. We then walked towards the huge Nandi bull, made of a single granite stone.

We walked back to the main road [well, somewhat of a road] to get back to Hindupur. We wanted to catch the 3:30/ 3:45 train back to Bangalore. We took 2 open auto ricks. It was a bumpy ride, but fun. Everyone seemed high :-|

We reached the station in some time only to realize that we’d just missed the train to Bangalore. The next train was scheduled at 6:30 pm. We immediately took the same autos to the main bus stand and boarded a KSTRC. Everybody almost immediately fell asleep in the bus. Woke up after 2 hours and hogged on some junk. The awesome music on my phone entertained everyone on the way back :P

It was ~7 when we reached the Majestic bus stand. Everybody bid adieu to each other. Nishanth and I took a pre-paid auto and spoke about photo processing, lightroom, etc etc on the way back. I reached home within 40 minutes with a contented heart and mind.

Stay tuned to my flickr for more photographs from the trip & everybody’s pictures on our group pool.

Stop Motion Tutorial

I made this tutorial for the college photography club. Just thought would put it up here too.

“Stop Motion is the art of making movies by capturing each image, basically one frame at a time.”

I must tell you that stop motion is 95% photography and 5% videography.

Though that there are different types of stop motion, the basic concept of every stop motion is the same. That is, to capture EACH frame one by one and put them all together as a movie.

To keep it simple, I will take the example of this work and explain the steps.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pBCDleTqXtM

Requirements:

1. Camera – Any type will do.

2. Tripod or Rest – The camera *has* to be still during the whole process. Any disturbance will cause discontinuity in the video.

3. Subject(s) – It is very important to choose your subject, ie, what you want to move/change/etc. [example of subjects: book, toy, sock, etc].

4. Figure everything out – Yes, figure out the story or what exactly you want to happen in the video. [example of a story: make a pen move form one side of table to another]

Sure these may sound simple, but along the way it can get very confusing if you don’t have a good firm idea.

Procedure:

1. Mount your camera on a tripod. If you don’t have a tripod, wedge your camera in between big books on a table [it should Not at any cost, move] or make a custom base for it. You get the idea.

Important Camera Settings:

~ Shoot in JPG mode. This is to save all the space.
~ Set White Balance to Manual mode. This helps all the photographs to have the same tone/look.
The idea is that the settings must not change throughout the shooting process.
~ Make sure the batteries are all charged up. Shooting a Stop Motion is a LONG process [mine lasted for 4 hours in all]. You don’t want to run out of energy while shooting.
~ Make sure the memory card is empty. A one minute stop motion movie may consist of around 300 photographs!
~ Since you won’t be printing any of the pictures, set the camera to lowest size image setting.

2. Shoot your animation. Now this is complicated to explain. Let me try my best. At first, shoot your first frame.

In the above video, my first frame was the empty open book. Then I wrote an “I” and clicked.
[at first, I made a small line and clicked, then elongated the line and clicked].
For the “W”, first, I wrote a \ [click] / [click] \ [click] / [click] == \/\/
Did you get it? You should write a little, then click. Write again, and click.
Continue this step FOREVER!

Yes, it is a VERY LONG PROCESS. That video took me an hour to just write and shoot 3 lines.

You can make this more creative by adding other things to your frames [I added paper clips, the heart, etc].

If you make a mistake while shooting, delete that image and take the right one. This will save you from editing your frame later.

3. Make the Video. I have used Windows Movie Maker for this.

Download all your images into an empty folder. Make sure all the photographs are numbered in order [the camera would’ve done this for you]. Open them all in Movie Maker.

Before you add them all to the timeline, you will have to change the Picture Duration and the Transition Duration. This is a very important step.
Tools >> Options
Reduce the Duration to the least time [0.250 seconds].

Now add all the images to the Video Time Line. Play the movie, to get an idea. Add audio if you wish to. Personalize it as you wish.

Save the video! Don’t forget to show us all what you made!

VERY IMPORTANT:

~ Shooting a Stop Motion is a LONG and TIRING process. Be prepared. Have patience. Don’t hurry.
~ More the number of images, the better.
~ Always have what you want in mind.
~ You can take breaks in between but DO NOT change the lighting, exposure, etc. Always shoot one scene at one session.
~ Always shoot more frames than what you need.
REMEMBER: The 1:08 minute video consists of 300 frames and was done over a period of 4 hours!
~ Always test out things before you finally go-for-it.
~ Don’t get frustrated or irritated if you end up with a very small video. Anyone who knows what it is will understand and appreciate all the work gone behind making it! Even a 30 seconds movie is worth it!

My first stop motion.

This is all I’ve done since morning. Thus it deserves a special post on the blog. I’d always wanted to try it. I read around 10 tutorials everywhere on stop motion. My advice would be to follow any ONE only. You can get mixed up with different things easily.

The first step was to the decide the kind of stop motion. It is important to have ideas and implement them. I spent a lot of time in choosing an appropriate song. I just randomly happened to listen to this one on grooveshark today morning for the first time :P Its a very sad song to be honest. Like a mother singing to her child or something. Bleh.

So yeah, next was the set up. This was crazy. I didn’t have a blank page book so used a lame quality small ruled notebook. My handwriting sucks. I had to draw a 2 cm line and click. Elongate the line and click. This went on forever. I completely lost interest in the middle of the process [it was too monotonous].I almost put glitter on the camera too. Nearly killed myself for it. I used the 50mm prime lens with auto focus which made things a lot easier [it will be easier with a remote #justsaying].

There are many flaws in it too. I have missed out on 2 frames [heart picture] that skips continuity. The last line “where will you go?” actually belongs to the last stanza of the song which is not even included in 1 minute. I also misspelled “where” and couldn’t do anything about it. Correcting it would require deleting ~30 previous shots and doing it all over again from there. I didn’t have a music editor [or whatever its called] so I downloaded some cheap shit off the web and later realized it would do only half of the things I wanted as it was a free software. So I expanded the song to 2:14 to get 1:07 minutes while saving. Phew.

I used Windows Movie Maker to finally put ~280 shots together. Making a stop motion is time consuming. One needs to be patient all the while and not get upset by the result. A 3.5 hours attempt worth 280 shots gave me only a 1 minute video :-\