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?

On Monday, August 19th, 1839, the Daguerreotype photographic process was released to the public as an open-source technology. Read about it in Wikipedia, if you want.

Thanks to this great gesture by the French, you and I can enjoy photography without paying hefty royalties to anyone. Vive la France!

Photography is my primary stress-buster. Keeps me sane, makes me really happy. Almost as good as sex. Almost. (I have been an involuntary celibate since many years, fyi).

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.

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Made with my cellphone.

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.

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, and that may or may not get you laid, I’d say modern photography is one of the best options you have. I’ve yet to get laid, but one lives in hope.

Go ahead. Put your hand into your pants. Take out your cellphone. Make your day.

Cheers … Srini.

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Horn OK Please ….

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With the ambient temperature at 36 degrees, Cauvery water supplied once in a week and daily power-cuts by Bescom, we are left in no doubt that summer is here. It seems a bit ridiculous that one would choose to spend the whole day outside, roasting slowly in the sun, but the fact is that summer is a good time for birders. The trees are bare, birds are easier to sight and shoot, and summer is breeding season for many species.

One bird that breeds in the summer is the Indian grey hornbill, Ocyceros birostris. The members of the Bucerotidae family sport a prominent casque or a horn on their beaks. The term ‘ buceros’ means cow horn in Greek.

Hornbills are generally monogamous, meaning that they mate for life (unlike humans). They nest in holes or large cavities in trees. The female prepares the nest by lining it with mud and lays it eggs inside. She then seals herself inside, with just her beak poking out.  She remains sealed in until the eggs hatch and the fledglings are old enough to come out. Till then, the faithful male feeds her and the chicks. Hornbills feed on fruits, insects, molluscs and sometimes small birds.

I snapped this hornbill pair setting up home in a dried-up tree at Kokrebellur, about 120 km from Bangalore. Their grey plumage blends in perfectly with the surrounding bark, making them very difficult to spot and photograph.

Let’s hope they have a long and happy married life!

Cheers … Srini.

Vishnu’s vehicle …

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The Brahminy kite is a familiar sight in our skies. Its systematic name is Haliastur indus. The term ‘haliastur’ means ‘whistler’. The Brahminy kite does have a call that sounds like a hoarse whistle.

In Hindu scriptures, this diurnal raptor represents Garuda, Vishnu’s mount. The Garuda is the official bird of Indonesia’s capital city and lends its name to the national airline of that country.

The bird is also known as the Red-backed sea eagle in Australia. The Langkawi archipelago, off the coast of Malaysia, is named after the Brahminy kite. ‘Langkawi’ means reddish-brown eagle in colloquial Malay.

The adult Brahminy kite has a distinguished plumage that sets it apart from the other urban raptors. It generally feeds on fish, crabs and frogs, and usually nests on trees near waterbodies. When necessary, it will scavenge for food at harbors, slaughter-houses and fish shops.

Cheers … Srini.