Thursday, July 31, 2014

What if thousand words are not enough?

We always want more - don't we? As the saying goes 'a picture is worth a thousand words'. This is the value-add professionals provide in their photographs, their snaps tell stories - some short , others a bit longer. All of them convey different extent of emotions though. In addition to the specific instant, it gives an 'idea' of what might have happened before , what could possibly happen after that instant. 'idea' because we can not be certain, and can still let our imagination run wild. That's what makes art so interesting.

Now a simple thought, what if we want to convey bit more than 'thousand words'? "Simple" you say: just add multiple snaps....
and we get : 'video', and since we have prolonged the interaction with the viewer we now have an opportunity to add audio as well - lot more than what we asked for, didn't we? "more than Perfect" u say! 

No doubt it is worth much more than a thousand words now, but what we actually did is take away that 'imagination' bit from the viewer. In the video clip we now have a complete view of what's going on. So to make the 'story' more interesting we now need lots of additional parameters - screenplay, drama, suitable background music  etc.

Let's take a step back now - what if we just added audio to a particular picture. An audio which can add much more to the story ( adding aural along with the visual perception) , still leaving room for 'imagination'. 

Let's have a look at the below clip.

Movie1updated.m4v from Rajesh on Vimeo.

- The cricket shot for example, imagine just the picture without the cheering from a teammate (before) and the deafening roar from the crowd (after)
- the early morning shots of the lake/river along with the chirping birds
- sound from the firecrackers

Do you agree? 
The audio is not hindering the imagination but just guiding the viewer, giving few hints:
- presence of other subjects outside the frame e.g. the spectators in the cricket field, birds near the lake etc.

If you are still reading this, the next question, how to record this? To my knowledge there is no simple way to do this in a dslr/point n shoot cameras as of now. I have seen this within the camera app on mobile phones though and so expect to see these coming into the real cameras in the near future. The filesystem, editing programs, image viewer etc. should support this.

I simply took video clips after taking the pics, stripped the audio and added it to the picture in a basic video editing app. There must be a better way that preserves the image quality though.

Few considerations in my view: 
- 6-10 seconds audio should be optimal, big enough to make some meaning out of it and small enough not to distract from the primary object which is the picture itself
- this could work more for specific areas of photography like Action, Environmental portraits, Landscape, travel etc
- real audio from the scene (at the time of taking the picture) is more likely to appeal rather than an out of scene audio pasted in. Taking into consideration the typical shutter speed range of 1/2000 sec to few minutes, we  can rarely capture the 'real-time' audio as such, so there is some choice to be made, similar to composition, camera setting etc.
- audio would need to be of high quality, otherwise it will reduce the photograph's impact rather than enhancing it.
- with the use of directional audio technology it can easily be integrated into an art gallery environment

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Shooting away at the Beach

Travelled to Chennai a few weeks back and used the opportunity to click pictures at the beach. It’s not been raining but the sky has been cloudy most of the time. From where I stayed the beach was only 5 km away. The plan was to capture some long exposure shots as well as try to click different composition with the rocks on the beach. One thing I have learnt over last few months is using the camera in Manual mode provides most flexibility – and this situation was no different.
First time I went there it was in the evening, and got very dark because of clouds. I had not been able to carry my tripod from Pune so kept the camera on the boats to make it steady. I wanted to keep the shutter speed around 20-30s, aperture around f/8-f/13 and minimum ISO (100). It was too dark so had to use f/6.3. 
17mm | ISO 100 | f/6.3 | 30s
 I was hoping to click towards the sea (east) and include clouds with rays during sunset but the horizon had heavy cloud cover most of the time. Decided to go to the beach the next weekend for some sunrise shots. Yellows from the sun light provided quite a contrast with the bluish cloud. I used a very low stool (4 inches) to rest my camera and had to keep a close eye on the waves after pressing the shutter to save my camera from getting wet.
17mm | ISO 100 | f/8 | 25s
 I was a bit late reaching the beach on this one, there was too much light so couldn’t go for slower shutter speeds. A Graduated Neutral Density Filter (GND) is a must in such situations as the sky would be overexposed in most cases if you want to expose the foreground correctly. I did not have the filter so have used the Graduated Filter tool in Lightroom during post processing. I quite liked the colors and the wave splashing from one of the big rocks. This was shot handheld (Lens stabilizer ON), again keeping the camera very close to the ground. 
21mm | ISO 100 | f/13 | 1/25s

Sunday, June 19, 2011


Canon EOS 7D, ISO 1000, 85mm, f/2.2, 1/1000 sec
Clicked this in our society garden using the diffused light during the sunset. (Model - Aarathi) The background was an inclined stone wall and i would preferred if it was a bit further - to be able to give a better blur. It was pretty windy so i wanted to keep a faster shutter speed to reduce any blur on the hair. 1/250s should have been enough but in hurry I did not notice the high ISO so that's what gave 1/1000 s for proper exposure.

Canon EOS 7D, ISO 100, 85mm, f/2.8, 1/200 sec, Flash

Shot some pictures of the instructor's of Naach Dance Academy. For this (Model - Yash) one just used a grey cloth as background, and bounced flash on the right wall. This helped get a bit of catchlight in the eye and also gave uneven lighting on the face. The left ear seems to be little overexposed - reduce the flash output (or using a softbox) should have helped. 

Canon EOS 7D, ISO 320, 85mm, f/2.8, 1/200 sec, Flash
Similar setting on this one except the background and flash angle. Used a fan to blow the hair to make it more dynamic (Model - Prakruti). 

Friday, May 6, 2011

Dance | Salsa Party

Got a chance to cover one of the Naach Salsa Parties for the 2nd time - at Thea Lounge, Koregaon Park. The stage was very near to one of the white walls and pretty dark setting. Without flash even with ISO 5000 I was getting underexposure at 1/100s - so no option but to use flash. I bounced the flash on the roof and also on the sidewall. The wall - though helped in bouncing, posed difficulty in blurring the background as it was too close to the stage - specially when shooting into the wall. So i tried to go to the sides and shot most of the pictures along the wall. The flash allowed me to use lower ISO. 

Canon EOS 7D, ISO 200, 50mm, f/2.5, 1/200 sec, Manual Exposure, Flash
(In the pic -Divya, Akshar) 
Bounced the flash on the wall (right side) on this one. Used the 50mm at f/2.5 to get shallow DoF as I did not want the other dancers to be in focus. One of the issues I faced is capturing the exact moment while the dancers are spinning around. Can't use continuous shooting because of the slower recycle time of the flash. The aperture has to be exact - not too wide to be able to have both the partners in focus and not too closed down - in order to blur the background. If the dancers are moving around in sync then it'd make sense to keep everybody in focus - but it that's not the case I prefer to keep only 1 couple in focus at a time. 

Canon EOS 7D, ISO 200, 50mm, f/2.8, 1/250 sec, Manual Exposure, Flash
(In the pic -Geeta, Puneet)
Liked the colors on this one - bounced the flash on the ceiling as I did not want uneven light on their faces. At f/2.8 it is absolutely essential to get the focus spot-on and this is more difficult for moving subjects. Usually the stage is darker and the camera takes a while to focus - by that time you've lost the moment. What I do is to use the AF-ON to focus, try to anticipate a particular move, reframe it and release the shutter at the right moment. Basically it's a choice between getting absolute focus or the right moment. I will try the continuous AF mode the next time.

Canon EOS 7D, ISO 200, 20mm, f/2.8, 1/250 sec, Manual Exposure, Flash
(In the pic -Geeta, Tushar) 
Similar to the earlier one - used a wider lens to capture the full-body pose.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Sports | Clicking sports action at the tournament

Clicked some snaps on the final 2 days of the sports tournament (SPIRIT) held at the office campus couple of weeks back. Spent most of the time shooting Volleyball.

Canon EOS 7D, ISO 5000, 85mm, f/3.5, 1/500 sec, Manual Exposure, Evaluative Metering

This one was from outside the netted enclosure while the basket ball match was on. The light available was quite low so forced to use high ISO.

Canon EOS 7D, ISO 5000, 85mm, f/2.0, 1/400 sec, Manual Exposure, Evaluative Metering

Shooting the volleyball match under the lights - was a challenge. Didn't want any blur on the ball so chose 1/400s shutter speed. Kept the aperture quite wide open and still got the ISO as 3200. In volleyball most of the action happens close to the net. The Set, Spikes/Blocks are a little easier to capture as you know the positions so easier to focus. The only issue is having a clear view at the subject. It's important to observe where the other players usually place themselves during spike so you can position yourself accordingly to get a clearer view. In this snap The shorts of the blocker and the top part of the net (and most importantly the parts of the ball) look a bit washed out. I put a bit of vignetting in Lightroom to put more focus on the action in the middle.

Canon EOS 7D, ISO 1250, 17mm, f/5.6, 1/1250 sec, Manual Exposure, Evaluative Metering

Tried a wider angle and very close to the ground to show complete picture and bit of background. f/5.6 was used to keep more area in focus - guess I could have closed down the aperture bit more and reduced shutter speed to compensate.

Canon EOS 7D, ISO 3200, 85mm, f/2.8, 1/640 sec, Manual Exposure, Evaluative Metering

For the above snap I went over to the other side to get the ball against the dark sky. In most of these action snaps I have used continuous shooting to ensure some good keepers. It is very difficult to time the click while the spikers and the blockers jump.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Festivals | Holi | The Colours of Holi

Decided not to play Holi this year and just shoot pictures. It would have been impossible to click pictures from close range without getting the camera wet! so decided to shoot from the terrace instead - 7th floor. This had a limitation as in i couldn't move around much to get different angles - still i preferred it over the other option. Good thing was that the celebrations were planned right next to our building - so had a clear view.

Canon EOS 7D, ISO 500, 85mm, f/2.0, 1/320 sec, Manual Exposure, Evaluative Metering
The above picture was taken the previous evening - holika dahan preparations - liked the way all of them are looking at the set-up, even the small kid! Clicking from the terrace gave a different perspective - than usual.

And then holika burnt...
Canon EOS 7D, ISO 4000, 400mm, f/5.6, 1/640 sec, Manual Exposure, Evaluative Metering
 I would have preferred something around 200mm (not sure when would i be able to gather funds for the 70-200 mm) but the next lens i have is 400mm. This gave quite a close up and since the max aperture was only 5.6, (and i was clicking handheld so wanted to keep the shutter speed fast enough to reduce blur) I had to bump up the ISO.
Canon EOS 7D, ISO 800, 400mm, f/5.6, 1/1250 sec, Manual Exposure, Evaluative Metering
This one is one of my favorites - After a few hours of holi the ground was full of colored water and the kids were enjoying big time, running around with their water-guns chasing each other. Again because of the location i couldn't move around to capture their face still shows a fair amount of energy - reminds me of my childhood holi days.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Sports | Football | Keeping pace with the ball

Got to shoot the U-23 India vs Myanmar - part of preliminary round of pre-Olympic qualifiers held at Balewadi Stadium, Pune. Had shot an earlier Football match from the stands but for this one got a pass to shoot from the ground (thanks to Amod & Chetan who provide live commentary & write articles for and I had realised that if i am just allowed to shoot from behind the goalpost i'd definitely need to change from wide to telephoto perspective at quick intervals. This is definitely not possible with one camera, so i took my 300D along and used it with 17-55mm to take wider shots - to capture action at the near-post. 
 Canon EOS 7D, ISO 1600, 55mm, f/5.0, 1/250 sec, Manual Exposure, Evaluative Metering, One-shot AF, Spot AF, Single shooting
Before the start of the game to capture some moments used the wider lens. 

Canon EOS 7D, ISO 800, 46mm, f/5.0, 1/250 sec, Manual Exposure, Evaluative Metering, One-shot AF, Spot AF, Single shooting, Flash
The Myanmar team posing before the match start. Kept the ISO high to capture the stands in the background (would have been better if we had some crowd in there - well that's the state of Football in India!) and flash for better exposure of the foreground.     

Canon EOS 7D, ISO 3200, 400mm, f/5.6, 1/800 sec, Manual Exposure, Evaluative Metering, One-shot AF, Spot AF, High-Speed Continuous shooting
Wanted to capture the goal-kick at the near-post - using the 400mm lens. The timing had to be exact - couldn't get on this one - still somehow liked this one. The right foot still looks bit hazy - to freeze it i should have tried 1/1000s - but again this one shows the movement.

Another one follows:

Canon EOS 7D, ISO 2500, 400mm, f/5.6, 1/800 sec, Manual Exposure, Evaluative Metering, One-shot AF, Spot AF, High-Speed Continuous shooting
Canon EOS 7D, ISO 3200, 400mm, f/5.6, 1/800 sec, Manual Exposure, Evaluative Metering, One-shot AF, Spot AF, High-Speed Continuous shooting
A major advantage of shooting from the ground level is that it would properly show the dynamism - when the players jump very high from the ground e.g. to take the headers. Another example of the photo above, shooting from the stands wouldn't have shown this perspective. A negative is that a majority of times some player would obstruct the action happening bit further away - specially when the ball is closer to the far-post. Thankfully i got a clear view on the above shot.