The thrill of photography.

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Omkar temple, Bangalore, India. One of my favorite images.

Today, Aug 19th, is World Photography Day.  Why Aug 19th, you ask?

In 1827, Nicephore Niepce made the first photograph, using a pewter plate coated with bitumen, and exposing it to the sun over eight hours. He called it a heliograph.

Later in 1829, Niepce met a French stage designer and artist called Louis Daguerre, and together they developed a much improved process, that came to be known as Daguerreotype.

_DSC7918Niepce died suddenly, and Daguerre continued the development of the process with Niepce’s son, Isidore. In 1839, the French government purchased the patent from Daguerre and Isidore, in exchange for a modest pension for the two innovators.

On Monday, August 19th, 1839, the French government released the Daguerreotype photographic process to the public as an open-source technology.

In the meantime, British inventor William Fox Talbot also developed his own photographic process called calotype, patented in 1841. Unlike the French government, Talbot did not release his patent to the public, and levied a license fee.

As a result, Daguerreotype was quickly adopted by enthusiasts across the world, except in England. And so, thanks to the French government, you and I can enjoy photography without paying hefty royalties to anyone. Vive la France!

In the days of celluloid film, photography was a demanding hobby. Composing a good photo required considerable skill, a great deal of patience, a lot of good luck and a competent studio that could develop film correctly. A professional photographer or a serious hobbyist who wanted to develop his own photos had to have skills in chemistry as well, and a dark room, and plenty of money for film and chemicals.

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Scarlet darter at dusk.

Film photography was a time-consuming and expensive hobby, but it was fun nevertheless.

Things changed with the birth of the digital camera. Nikon introduced the first commercial digital SLR camera in 1986. And Canon, Minolta, Sony et al quickly followed. Those early digital cameras cost a fortune. Most of us photographers in India could merely dream of buying one.

Today, we have cameraphones, point-and-click digcams, gopro’s, webcams, god-knows-what-else, for any budget, any skill level.

Some questions about photography:

Is photography very expensive?

Of course not. If you have a decent smartphone, that’s enough to get started. Some of my best images have been made with my phone. If you have about Rs.20K to spare, you can get yourself a very good bridge camera that’s almost as good as a DSLR camera.

If you don’t have Rs 20K to spare, there are hundreds of affordable point-and-click digital cameras out there.  As your skills improve, you can spend as much as you want, depending on how far you want to go. For most people, a bridge camera will be all they need.

Should I buy Photoshop or something?

Not necessarily. Most camera manufacturers offer free imaging software with their cameras. And there are many photo apps on the net, all free. Gimp, Snapseed, VSCO, the list is endless.

Do I need a computer?

Perhaps. For cameraphone photography, you don’t need a PC. Just click, process, share. For a bridge or DSLR camera, you do. Any unbranded PC is enough.

Where do I save my photos?

As you take more pictures, you will find yourself running out of space on your PC or phone. Not to worry. There are many cloud-based sites like Google Drive, Flickr and 500px that allow you to store and share hundreds of images. If you have the money, buy an external or internal hard disk.

What is the best time for photography?

In principle, any time is good. For outdoor photography, daytime is best. I do most of my photography in the hours between 3pm and 6pm, depending on the season. Dawn is also a good time. Avoid afternoons, in general.

What kind of photography do I get into?

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Passion flower (Passiflora incarnata).

Anything you like. Nature, wildlife, food, people, travel, street, candids – anything at all. There are on-line resources for every taste, every skill level, every person.

Does photography pay?  No.

Don’t even think of quitting your job. At the professional level, photography is really expensive and very risky. Save your money and time. Enjoy photography as a hobby, take great photos that you can share with your friends and family, spend as much as you can afford, and not a penny more.

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Butterflies are difficult to shoot!

Which camera do I buy?

Buy only the camera you can comfortably afford, without the need to pay in instalments. Buying a camera ( or any other electronic device costing less than Rs. 20K) on instalments is just foolish. Cameras have negligible resale value. Remember that.

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My workshop on World Photography Day. Bangalore, India.

As I said, all you need is a good smartphone and a free app. Nowadays, you get all kinds of affordable lenses and accessories for smartphone photography, if you think your phone is not good enough on its own.

If you’re looking for an inexpensive and immensely satisfying hobby, that will last for a lifetime, I’d say modern photography is one of the best options you have.

Go ahead. Take out your camera. Make your day.

And while you’re at it, why not check out my Instagram feed, @fotofundas

 

Cheers … Srini.

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Phool khile hain … Lalbagh flower show.

_DSC7211-SIt’s the month of August. And the Independence Day flower show at Lalbagh botanical gardens is on.

The flower show at Lalbagh is a semi-annual event, held in August to commemorate India’s Independence Day, that falls on August 15th, and in January, as a tribute to our country’s Republic Day on Jan 26th.

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I’ve been a regular at the flower show since many years.  I make it a point to visit the flower show several times over the two weeks it runs, armed with a variety of lenses and cameras.

It’s quite a challenge, I must tell you. Shooting macro images of flowers while being mercilessly jostled by thousands of selfie-morons sticking their hands, heads and other body parts into my shot. Not to speak of the cops constantly exhorting me to move on. In their defence, they’re just doing their jobs. The cops at the flower show are a harried lot, so can’t really blame them.

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Each flower show has a different theme. This year, the flower show is dedicated to India’s armed forces and to the Kannada film industry that turns 85 this year.

The floral arrangements are elaborate and put together with a lot of hard work and months of planning. All that hard work is wasted on the milling crowds. In spite of the cops cautioning them, they pluck and grope at those beautifully crafted floral works, in a mad collective rush to obtain as many selfies as their phones can shoot.

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All the same, at every flower show, I do manage to get myself some decent images that I can admire in my old age.

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The flower show is held at the Glass House. The rest of Lalbagh is handed over to hawkers and stalls of all kinds. I generally ignore the hawkers and the stalls. Waste of time. And you are quite likely to get ripped off.

If you have a green thumb and if you’re careful, you can get some exotic floral species, but don’t expect to get them at reasonable prices. Caveat emptor!

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A stunning Gerbera.

The flower show itself is worth your visit, if you’re in Bangalore. Avoid weekends, and definitely avoid August 15th. On that day, the queue to enter Lalbagh will be over a mile-long. You’ll have to wait for hours to get in. And you won’t be able to appreciate the flowers, because of the crushing crowds.

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Not surprisingly, the horticulture department that runs Lalbagh makes a great deal of money during those two weeks. I wonder how much of that money is used for the actual maintenance of Lalbagh. The place has definitely deteriorated over the years.

The flower show at Lalbagh is one of the few attractions still left in Bangalore.

In a city consumed by corporate greed and political corruption, entombed in concrete and glass, buried under garbage, infested with stray dogs, stripped of its trees, its lakes foaming with pollution, the flower show at Lalbagh offers a few hours of relief – and a brief reminder of what Bangalore was before this fair city got “developed”.

If you’re in the city, get yourself to Lalbagh, and spend a day with the flowers.

Cheers … Srini.

 

Guruvé namaha!

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Karate teacher with his students. Image copyright: SK Srinivas. All rights reserved.

The scriptures tell us that if you see your Guru and God standing before you, then fall at your Guru’s feet first.

This is because your Guru shows you the way to God. And this is why the word ‘guru’ means ‘remover of darkness’.

The 15th day, i.e. full moon day, of the month of Ashada is celebrated as Guru Purnima. Ashada is the fourth month in the Indian calendar, and corresponds to late-June or July in the Gregorian calendar.

In Buddhist tradition, this was the day on which Gautama Buddha delivered his first sermon at Saranath, after he attained enlightenment. Since Gautama set the wheel of Buddhism in motion with this discourse, it is known as the Dharmachakra pravarthana sutra.

Guru Purnima is dedicated to Veda Vyasa, revered in our scriptures as the Guru of all Gurus. For this reason, this day is also known as Vyasa Purnima.

Vyasa was born to the sage Parashar and Satyavati, the same Satyavati who later wed King Shantanu, father of Bhishma. Since he was dark in complexion, Vyasa was named Krishna, and since he was born on an island (Dvipa in Sanskrit), Dvaipayana is another of his names. The island on which he was born had many ber trees. The Indian plum, or ber, is known as badara in Sanskrit, and so, Vyas is also known as Baadarayana.

Although there is little doubt that he did exist, Vyasa’s actual time-period is still the subject of scholarly debate. Most scholars generally place him in the era of the Kurukshetra war. Vyasa is considered the author of the Mahabharata, and is also the progenitor of the Kuru race. If you’ve read Mahabharata in any form, you will know that Vyasa fathered the sons of Vichitravirya, namely, Dhritharashtra and Pandu.

In our scriptures, Veda Vyasa is given foremost pride of place.

There appears to be no end to Vyasa’s literary achievements and the extent of his genius. It was Vyasa who systematically organised the Vedas into various sections, and made it much easier for ordinary people to appreciate the divine content of our ancient scriptures. Under his other name of Badarayana, he is considered the author of the Brahmasutra, the canonical text of the Vedanta school of philosophy.

A scholar of towering intellect, Vyasa left behind an enormous legacy of wisdom and literary works unmatched by any one else in Indian history. But Vyasa the man remains a mysterious and revered figure about whom little is actually known.

After splitting the Vedas into sub-Vedas, Vyasa first imparted that knowledge to four of his disciples, thus creating the guru-shishya tradition. This system of teaching is unique to India.

Nowhere else in the world is the relationship between a guru and his disciple worshipped as it is in India. The relationship between a Guru and his disciple is considered sacred. It is above and beyond material considerations. It is purely spiritual and totally selfless. The Guru gives to his disciple all that he knows, and he expects nothing in return. The student accepts his Guru’s teachings with humility and reverence.

The Gurukula is not a school. It is regarded as a sacred abode, in which the Guru and his disciples live together as one extended family. The term ‘Gurukula’ itself means ‘Guru and his family’. For years, the Guru and his disciples live as one, until the Guru deems it fit for the student to take his place in the world.

The student, before taking his Guru’s leave, offers him Gurudakshina, in acknowledgement of his gratitude for his Guru. No Guru asks for money or for objects of desire, and no student is expected to insult his Guru’s teachings by offering him money as recompense. The Guru usually asks his student to perform a task for him, as did Dronacharya when he asked Arjuna to capture King Drupada.

Arjuna promptly set forth, defeated Drupada after a mighty battle and presented him before his Guru. Drona generously gave Drupada back his freedom and retained half his kingdom, not for personal gain, but to prove to Drupada that he was his equal in all ways.

More often than not, Gurus in ancient India took nothing at all from their students. They would consider their students’ success in the world as their Gurudakshina.

What you are today, you owe in large measure to your teachers. So, on this day, prostrate yourself before your teachers and thank them.

अज्ञानतिमिरान्धस्य ज्ञानाञ्जनशालाकया चक्षुरुन्मीलितं येन तस्मै श्रीगुरवे नमः

To that Teacher, who dispels the darkness of my ignorance by the medicine of his wisdom, to that Teacher who opens my closed eyes, to that Teacher my salutations.

Cheers … Srini.