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Somebody, I forget who exactly,  ( I will Google it in a minute ) said something like;

“The point of photography is to teach us to see”.

For the past 6 months or so I’ve been posting to Instagram on a regular (almost daily) basis. Mostly these are images of life in Chennai and in particular around my neighbourhood of Besant Nagar. Essentially they are vignettes of the stuff of everyday life here that I see when I’m out for a walk or taking an auto ride or whatever. So they are very much of the moment and a bit of an eclectic mix of  street-photography/portraits/documentary. I tag the collection ‘Insta India’.

For a long time I had ignored Instagram as just another Social Meeja gimmick that was mainly for kids who want to post selfies, and whilst it’s true that for many, Instagram is just that, it’s also surprising (or it was to me at least) just how many great images and photographers there are on Instagram. And OK it’s a format which is best suited to viewing on the sort of mobile device on which these images mostly originate, but so what? Where’s the rule that says that great photography, creativity and innovation only apply to those photographers who shoot on a Hasselblad and print on Fine Art paper?

Apart from the fact that it is fun. Social Meeja is taking a bit of stick these days, and I’d be the first to agree that Facebook book is probably best suited to those that can’t face a book, and Twitter is for the ‘Twitterati”. But if we discount the Selfie Lovers then Instagram is at least an online community of creative people who are more interested in sharing their work, and learning from that of others than with the number of likes or followers they have.

Having said that you can follow me on Instagram @meelius and like my Insta India series here 🙂

https://www.instagram.com/meelius/

 

PS: “Photography helps people to see.” – Berenice Abbott

One Night in Bangkok

Insta Karma

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Sunday afternoon. Besant Nagar beach or Bessy as it’s know colloquially.

31 degrees. Hazy and Hot.

I have just bought a T-Shirt for less than the price of a Latte in a London Starbucks.It’s a ‘Superman’ T-shirt.  Bought with irony in mind and 300 rupees from my wallet.

The exact cost of the T -shirt is 295 rupees. I still have the 5 rupees change clasped in my hand as I exit, and see Our Man.

Actually I had seen him on the way in, his hand outstretched toward me. But at that moment I was a (superman) on my way to rescue That T-shirt. So I did what I normally do in these circumstances. I ignored him.

Now I exit the shop in my new persona, and  I am feeling guilty. I have just bought a T Shirt at a price that can only mean its been stitched by 1000 Bangladeshi orphans  for a dollar and a stick of chewing gum. What to do?

Make amends obviously. Settle the balance with the Universe ASAP!

I thrust the 5 rupees into his still outstretched hand. And he looks at me. And mumbles something in Tamil which I don’t understand at all, but I don’t have to because his eyes say it all. THANKYOU!

I nod back and mumble make my exit, and hustle into the Puma sportswear shop (shorts to go with my T-shirt).Five shop assistants who were enjoying a languid Sunday afternoon doze just a few seconds ago jump to attention at a whistle from the security guard and start trailing me around the shop. Which is enough to drive me back out in under a minute.

And anyway I’m no longer interested in shorts. I can’t get this guys face out my head. I have to get his picture!

Fortunately he hasn’t wandered far. And I watch him for a few more minutes as he totters around the Sunday afternoon visitors to Besant Nagar beach imploring each of them to part with their Hard Earned. But people are not interested. Or at least they are more interested in enjoying the many and assorted foods ,sweets, trinkets, attractions and other assortments that Bessy has to offer to a punter on a Sunday afternoon..

And it Still HOT! But for once these bright southern Indian skies are not blue. The sun is up there alright, but its usual fierce gaze is dissolved and diffused behind the huge billowing clouds that have been growing ever higher all morning.

Bad news for a day at the beach. It looks and feels as though these same clouds are going to dump their contents downward any moment now. But the plus side of this is that the light is softened and subdued. Good for portraits.

I cross the street to our man. Phone camera at the ready (the best camera is the one you have with you) He turns and stretches his hand out again, and then recognition dawns and a slightly puzzled look crosses his face.

I say “Hello’ and ‘I gave already’ in a weak attempt at humour. But he clearly  doesn’t understand and replies in a stream of Tamil which I don’t.

‘Can I take your picture? ‘ I ask. Pointing to the phone and holding it up toward him. More torrents of Tamil..A nearby couple have been watching/ laughing at our exchange, step in and  intervene and translate, and apparently permission is granted. ‘He’s saying Ok you can take his photo!’

So. It’s the Decisive Moment. I step towards him, and bring the phone up to eye level. But the bright sky behind him means all I see on screen is a silhouette. ‘Hang on! Wait a sec..’ I say. More torrents of Tamil but the tone is bemused, as is the expression of the translator couple still watching and giggling off to one side. Who’s this idiot foreigner who can’t even use his camera phone? I finally find the exposure settings in the camera controls and notch it up a couple of pegs and Wwwwhoooaa! Suddenly That Face fills the screen, and I know before I have even clicked the shutter that I’ve struck gold.

I take 3 or 4 shots in quick succession, moving in a bit closer each time, and then I’m done. I give thanks and bow my appreciation to our man, and in return he smiles and makes a blessing like motion with his free hand.

And just for a moment. All is well again with The Universe. 

And I really am Superman!

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Al Aint

So here are a couple of shots from that same recent Al Ain shoot.

Actually, and probably obviously one is cropped version of the other the intent being to create a more pleasing composition.

But in a flurry of Photoshop workflow I didn’t stop there.

Spot the difference?

So perhaps you noticed that the cropped version has also had its levels tweaked to up the brightness and contrast a little -you can see the sparkly things on the back of the lady nearest the camera as a result. (click on the image to enlarge)

Maybe you can see that the line of the building verticals have been straightened with a little bit  Edit>Transform >Rotate. so that they no longer appear to be toppling over.

Perchance you noticed the hint of Azure that has been added to the sky?

But most likely you certainly noticed that the flood-lights on top of the building to the left have been removed.

The maxim that the camera never lies, may still be true. but you can certainly stretch the truth a good deal in Photshop.

I hardly ever take my retouching in post this far. Im not even that keen on cropping. I prefer to show the ‘reality’ of the scene as shot. But on this occasion I felt that those lights were not only distracting elements in terms of composition but that they took something away from the scene -somehow making it less ‘exotic’ .

But in my attempt to ‘prettify’ the picture I am aware that I am no longer telling the truth.Ok its a small fib and maybe no big deal but next time where will it stop??

And does it matter?

Retouching or Reconfiguring?

Everyone’s at it. Even Annie Liebowitz employs a team of retouchers.

Answers on a postcard please -alt you could just leave a comment below 🙂

Al Ain

I took a trip to Al Ain last weekend with a few fellow photographers. Its an old city in the middle of the UAE about an hour and half drive from Dubai.

We managed to visit a few of the popular tourist sites including the fort and the museum. Here’s a few my favourite images from the shoot. You can few my entire shoot here:

https://picasaweb.google.com/100330476664616731537/AlAin?authkey=Gv1sRgCJmv_YfIzNahFA&feat=email