Exploring a new world – Introduction : Author Vigensh Subramanian

All of us want to bring back great photographs from our trips, don’t we?

For most of us it might be just a casual vacation but there are a few among us who plan “THE TRIP” meticulously and are pretty serious about what we do. A dedicated photography trip with weeks to spare is a luxury for most of us and all we get is a week or max two weeks to do our “JOB”. This is where the so called “performance pressure” hits us and we go berserk with our DSLR’s in our hands and treat them as if we are holding a machine gun , shooting almost everything that we come across. The result – a bunch of mediocre shots ! Well I have been through this time and again. The first serious photography trip of mine was to Rajasthan where I ended up with more than 4000 photographs out of which I scrapped almost 90% of them !

Today I am starting a weekly/biweekly post (depending on how much time I’m able to devote) called “Exploring a new world” in which we will discuss one aspect of travel photography per post and how to nail them while you are out there exploring! This way you can concentrate on specific subjects and ignore the rest.
PS: this is just a guideline and an eye opener.

Each post will be illustrated with a photograph/s (mostly taken by me) and a few short techniques on how each can be achieved with “WHATEVER EQUIPMENT” you have. We will also discuss what equipment to carry and what not to. I say this because I truly believe that “Great travel photographs are taken in the mind and the camera is just the tool “. Of course it doesn’t mean that if you have access to great equipment, you leave it at home, but any camera should be able to capture what it can within its limitations!! Neither does it mean that if you have state of the art equipment you will end up with award winning travel photographs!!

Now what Is Travel Photography All About?

Just because you travel to remote exotic locations does not mean your pictures too will turn out to be exotic. Travel Photography is about capturing the “ESSENCE “of the place. I emphasize on the word ESSENCE because that is what Travel Photography is primarily about! If your photograph does not tell a story about the place then it does not do justice to the place! It need not be a photo which wins awards or one that can be exhibited, however it must tell a story.
A friend once told me that I would love to travel but I don’t have the time to. I ask, is it necessary that one has to travel far and wide to get great travel photographs? The answer is a resounding NO and Why, you ask? Because your home town is also a travel destination for someone else ! Travel Photography starts right here at HOME (Of course eventually one day you will have to step out , but hey till then you have plenty to cover !! ).
My aim is to kindle a new thought in every one of you who is reading this post. After you finish the series you should start thinking and question yourself each time you travel and see a cliché shot how can I photograph this better? Like for e.g. our very own Taj Mahal. The moment you say Taj Mahal, the only picture that comes to your mind is the straight shot of the TAJ from the front entrance with the fountains and the garden in the foreground as shown above. But is that what you want to take back? , a cliché photograph that every person who has ever been to the TAJ already has in his album or hard drive. We will look at different techniques and practices that can help you get compelling images at the end of your trip.
One final thing, please don’t be a passive reader. I would love it if you can comment or share your inputs about the topics discussed. Keep it engaging, there are plenty of people who can benefit from your knowledge.

Exploring a new world – Environmental portraits

All right I understand that the post came a bit late ! Apologies for the same. Life and my wife have kept me a little busy :)
Well here it is , the very first part of the Travel Photography series Exploring a new world – Environmental Portraits !

Ganga Aarti at the banks of the Ganges by a Priest

Environmental portraits, as the name sounds are portraits taken of people along with their surroundings. The surroundings must depict the identity of a person such as what work does he or she do, or where is she or he living and so on. The picture shown below is of Dayal Singh , who is a weaver. The shot was taken at Varanasi at a Banarasi Saree handloom.

The most important thing about environmental portraits is to get your subject comfortable with you pointing the camera at him / her. The easiest thing to do is to talk to them. It’s really simple. Ask them a few questions about the nature of work, how long does it take to weave a saree (in this particular case) , how long have you been in this profession and so on. It’s really amazing to see that when you show interest in them they really open up and give you a lot of information. Once you have broken the Ice, politely ask them if you can take a couple of snaps. I have never been told not to till date!!

Dayal singh is a weaver and has been weaving Banarasi Silk Sarees for the past 35 years

Chai wala at the Jodhpur market

The second approach is to take candid shots as in picture 3. The above shot was taken at Pushkar in Rajasthan . Choose the best option, at the end of the day the picture is what matters. The point is to capture the true sense of the place and the person who is closely associated with it. If the person is a driver you might want to depict him along with his car, a potter with his pottery wheel and so on.

Santosh Parimal , a street hawker selling Bhajiyas.

Things to remember while taking environmental portraits.
• First and foremost – Ask permission! If they are not interested politely apologize and move away. Not everyone is comfortable in front of the camera!
• Contrary to point 1 , capture candid shots.
• You are on a vacation; the person whom you are photographing is not. Make sure you don’t disturb him/her in their activities.
• Your subject is human: for you he or she might be a great subject to photograph but remember that they are human! Don’t go around sticking your lens on their face!
• Smile, greet and be polite: It’s amazing to see how a simple smile on your face and a short greeting could help you get that shot that you always wanted.
• Be quick: Set your camera before hand and make sure you get your shot in max 2 or 3 shots. Don’t keep the person occupied for long.
• Use a wider lens (if you have one) which will be able capture the person and the scene around.
• Acknowledge: Make sure you thank them before you leave. In some places people might ask for a small tip (chaai paani ) , you have got the shot so remember to be kind enough to oblige