Category Archives: Photography

Raghu Rai – 30 minutes with the genius.

Sitting all alone in a maroon suede chair, a feet away from an oak dining table, he picked up his mug of brew and took a sip from it. The cold air from the air-conditioning vent blew over his balding head. The fried samosa and cottage cheese which was kept on his table was becoming cold. His muffler and black waistcoat probably kept him warm. Attentively, he was scanning his environs. Outside the glass window, about 10 feet away, the dark monsoon clouds loomed large, threatening to burst and flood the streets which were about 16 floors below. Below the clouds, a 270 degree panoramic view of Bangalore city was visible. Tall glass buildings and lush green trees formed a homogeneous mix of vibrant colors and gave the perfect bird’s eye view of the garden city of India.

I went up to his table and asked if I could join him for some time. With an enthusiastic “Yes!”, almost bordering relief from seeming boredom, he gestured me to join his table. I sat down.

It took a couple of moments to realize that I was sitting next to Raghu Rai, the best Photojournalist India has seen. He has the distinction of being the only Indian photographer to be a member of Magnum collective. He is a Padma Shri awardee((the fourth highest civilian award in the Republic of India, after the Bharat Ratna, the Padma Vibhushan and the Padma Bhushan). His work has been published in almost every publication/journal/newspaper worldwide. A civil engineer by education, he became a photographer by accident. Even his first picture, that of a wild donkey, received critical acclaim! His most noteworthy work was on Indira Gandhi, Mother Teresa, Bhopal gas tragedy and Kargil war. He has numerous books( 25+) to his credit. His other work included pieces on Agra, Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Tibet, Khajuraho etc.

ImageNikon India had organized an event (Nikon-Through The Lens) for which I was invited. I remember asking the Nikon team the agenda for the evening. When they said Raghu Rai will be there to give a talk, I was delighted! The talk was short and hardly lasted 15 mins. I wanted to hear more from him. I had many questions. Now was the time to ask!

In his talk, he mentioned about how he had been a user of nikon film cameras and with the advent of digital, he had to transition to digital cameras. He mentioned that film grain was the spice of the pictures from the yesteryears and that people despised grainy pictures when digital technologies made an appearance and how people are beginning to like grainy pictures all over again. He also mentioned that black and white photography was what he grew up on and it had taught him more about composition and photographic elements than color which came later. He chided the current day photographers and mentioned it was too easy to take a well exposed picture these days. The learning curve is non-existent he exclaimed! He also said that people are getting carried away by the glittery, “colorful” pictures. “All pictures look the same these days. No one wants to differentiate their work from others”. In his closing remarks, he implored the audience to immerse in the craft to get better at it.

Raghu Rai addressing the gathering

Raghu Rai addressing the gathering

Back at the table, after having heard his talk earlier and having heard other talks by the technical team of Nikon, I was ready for some discussion and a few questions with Mr. Raghu Rai.

My first question was: Why is there only 1 Magnum Photographer from India? What gives?

[Note that the responses below are not verbatim answers, but 90 percent of what he said.]

Mr. Rai: The photojournalist’s world is changing. People are not coming up with photo-essays like they used to. There is no revolutionary photojournalism happening. Not many are working on elaborate projects. Anyone with a mobile phone camera can get you pictures which can be printed in a newspaper or magazine.

Me: True, I’ve heard most media houses and newspapers don’t have full time photographers and are working on a freelancer model. For E.g, Chicago time laid of it’s entire full-time photojournalist staff which included a pulitzer prize winner.

Mr. Rai: …which is why I work on my own and still continue shooting to this day. *Points at his camera on the desk*. I still carry my camera everywhere I go. *Points outside the glass window* Btw, I was shooting around the building earlier today and this just not feel like the India I know. (We were in UB City, a plush mall and he was alluding to the extravagant high rises. His work has taken him to the heart of India and I agree with him here.)  Photojournalism is dying a slow death.

Me: Which project of your’s was your personal best?

Mr Rai: I can’t really say. All my projects are very endearing!

Me: *Nodding in agreement* Indeed, I have been following your work and have chanced upon a few of your books and I must say they are all great. (I expected this answer because it is very tough for an artist to favor one project over another!)

Me: Raghu ji, how do you chose your projects? How do they happen? How do you ideate and execute them? Do you take on a project and work on it exclusively and move onto the next?

Mr Rai: I never have just 1 project on hand. I work in parallel! I always have 2 or 3 projects at any given time. Some projects have lasted a few days, a few months and some a few years! Besides, I am always shooting, so every project is ongoing!

Me: Any project that you are working on right now?

Mr Rai: (*non-commital* 🙂 )Well….yeah…let’s see how it goes. (Mr Rai, I’m sure it’s going to be par excellence as usual!)

Mr Rai: ….But let me tell you about something that I am really interested in. I would like a double censor camera. I could do wonders with such a camera. You know, in which there are two sensors adjacent to each other which gives you a wide frame in a single shot. I hate and cannot use stitching in my work since they scene changes very fast.

Me: Wouldn’t we need a new line of lenses for it to avoid vignetting and distortion?.

Mr Rai: No, the sensor size can be reduced slightly to accommodate the extra width.

Me: Nikon must surely be working with you on this? (@Canon, @Nikon, @Sony, @Pentax, @Olympus, are you listening?)

Mr Rai: Yeah, sort of.

Me: Would taking a large MP camera and cropping help?

Mr Rai: It’s too cumbersome! I would prefer if straight out of the camera.

The brews and grub get replenished and we continue our chat.

Me: I know you got into photography by accident, but what made you continue it? When you started off, it wasn’t a very popular profession.

Mr Rai: Sometimes, you just need to forget about everything and do what you feel like. It was unknown, but I didn’t care! (Touche’, Mr Rai!)

Me: What was it to work with Henri-Cartier-Bresson?

Mr Rai: Great experience!

Just when I was about to get into his work on Bhopal Gas tragedy, about Mother Teresa, and many other points, he was invited on stage to give out the awards. Both of us finished our brews, clicked a couple of photographs and I thanked him for the opportunity.

He had chosen a picture for an award some time earlier. It was displayed and it was a shot of clouds against a moonlit sky. While presenting the award, he mentioned why he picked it as opposed to others. “It’s different from the others”, he said. “It’s not the glittering picture that we see so often these days”.

Raghu ji, wishing you the very best! I went back and saw each and every one of the 2323 of your pictures which are on the Magnum website.

You can see his pictures HERE.

Bhopal Gas Tragedy - Picture by Raghu Rai

Bhopal Gas Tragedy – Picture by Raghu Rai

Thanks Nikon for this wonderful event and for giving me the opportunity to chat with Mr. Raghu Rai himself!

What would you have asked Mr Raghu Rai if you had 30 minutes with him? Did I do justice? Leave your responses in the comments!

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Monsoon Roadtrip

The onset of Monsoon during June is an ideal time to witness the transition from dry and brown to green and fresh. The entire Indian sub-continent undergoes a transformation within a few weeks. What better way of witnessing it than driving through it all.

Route: Bangalore – Wayanad – Kannur – Marvanthe – Karwar – Hubli – Bangalore
Distance : ~2000km
Days: 5
States: Karnataka , Kerala

This is the first time I was shooting video as opposed to clicking pictures like I mostly do. In a way, this is my first experiment with video.

Music: N’to – Trauma (Worakls Remix)

Monsoon Roadtrip

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Contrast, Contrast, Contrast

India is diverse not only in its culture, but also in climatic conditions, terrain and temperatures. These are a few pictures and illustrations taken during my travel escapades. We have some of the  highest, lowest, coldest, hottest, driest, wettest places in India.

  • From extreme cold of Dras, Kargil district, Jammu & Kashmir (lowest recorded of -60 deg celcius)  to the extreme heat of Dholpur, Rajasthan (highest ever of 50.6 deg celcius)




  • From the wettest place in the world Cherapunjee, Meghalaya (annual rainfall 1,041.75 in) to the dry Thar desert, Rajasthan ( annual rainfall <10 inches).




  • From the highest Mt Kancehnjunga (height 8,586 m (28,169 ft)) and the snow clad Himalayas to the large coastline (length 7,517 km (4,671 mi)) and the 2 seas and 1 ocean that surround it.



  • From the dense forested areas of the Western ghats or Arunanchal Pradesh(total India forest cover 23%, with very dense forest of more than 70% tree canopy at 3%) to the arid expanses of Rann of Kutch, Gujarat and Rajasthan.




Coming to think of it, India has a lot of contrasting stuff if you look around!

A Natural 360 Degrees Astronomy Dome In Dholavira, Gujarat, India

There is a place, somewhere in the western extremities of India, which offers a perfect 360 degrees dome perfect for astronomy observations, star gazing and astro photography.

Let me highlight the elephant in the room first. There are many challenges of finding such a place. For many years, I have been on the lookout for “The Perfect Dome” – An unabated 360 degrees view of the night sky without any terrestrial features blocking the view. And more importantly, without any light pollution. It is very tough to find such a place these days with light pollution from cities, towns, villages and vehicles. You might say that there are many stretches in India where there are no towns,villages or cities. This does not really apply for long exposures, since having a bunch of light sources as far as 60 kms away can ruin your 3 hour night sky exposure!  And if light pollutants were not enough, there are hills, mountains, trees blocking your view.

To illustrate my point, check this picture that I had taken almost 4 years back. I drove about 130kms from Bangalore on NH-7 and then a further 15 kilometers on an untarred road to find an absolutely pitch dark place( to the naked eye). Once I setup the shot and clicked, the illusion of having found a dark place went through the roof. Take a look at the shot and look at the light pollution!

Starry Night

Considering all the above issues, finding the perfect dome was quite a revelation. On the way to a place called Dholavira in Great Rann of Kutch in the western most state of Gujarat in India, you come across a stretch of road that is dead straight for 50 kilometers and surrounded by salt pans in all directions. This is what it looks like during daytime:





Come nightfall, this place transforms into a star gazers and astro-photographers paradise. The milky way is clearly visible to the naked eye. Millions of stars light up the night sky. What you had seen in a planetarium when you were little kids suddenly seems like reality. (Wait, what?! counter-intuitive right?).  A friend brings out a light saber and we study the night sky. The light  saber in question is an astronomy laser used for pointing stars in the night sky. It is a green laser beam (wavelength of 532nm) and <5mW power rating so as not to be strong enough to bring down airplanes with it. (In fact you can see a glimpse of the laser in the picture below.)

After identifying the pole star , a few star trail shots were taken with a 11-16mm Ultra-wide lens. Since there was no foreground( and we wanted it that way!) there is no scale of reference except the little laser beam.

Star trailsThe best part about this road is that there is absolutely no traffic on it. I was on this road at this spot for about 5-6 hours and just 1 vehicle passed by. The irony is that the vehicle took about 20-25 mins to reach this point from the time we could first see it( from about 15-20kms away). Imagine shielding your camera for that long to avoid flooding your long exposure shot with the vehicle headlights. You will also have to pardon the high noise in the shot. My humble  Canon 450D just does not cut the chase for astro-photography. The shot was a 40 minute exposure. I wish I could have gotten a longer exposure of a couple of hours atleast. In case you are wondering which laser was used, THIS is the one.

So that wraps up this post. The verdict is out: In case you want to get some clear views of the night sky, head to Dholavira, Gujarat  and setup camp!

April Thundershowers And Why Bangalore Rocks During Summer

April Thundershowers And Why Bangalore Rocks During Summer

When the parched plateau of Bangalore received rains on the eve of April fools day, thunder and lightning accompanied. For 2 hours, it poured relentlessly, much to the delight of the city’s residents. With no electricity for a couple of hours and the camera nearby, I got a few pictures from the balcony. I only wish that it rains everyday for the next 3 months of summer. Sudden downpours when it gets too hot is one of the main reasons Bangalore totally rocks!

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The Day I Spotted 4 Tigers In The Wild – Nagarhole Diaries

Spotting a tiger in the wild in India is quite challenging. Seriously.

Tigers need space. Infact, this animal on top of the food chain needs lots of it. And space(habitat) is really hard to come by thanks to widespread deforestation and forest encroachment.

There has been an impetus for protecting tiger population and conserving their habitat. Project Tiger, which was started in India in 1973, gave an estimate of 1411 tigers in the 2008 census and subsequently estimated an increase in population to 1600+ in 2010. I seriously think that this is a gross overestimation. I feel there are far fewer than 1600.

Wait a minute, this is an optimistic post! This post is about having seen them and having some faith restored.  I can now proclaim to have seen at least 4 of them in the wild. This is by no means a trivial event for me. In fact seeing 4 of them on 1 day after having visited numerous national parks almost 10-11 times to get a glimpse. This day was a red-letter-day.

After having set off in a friend’s brand new car, we reached Nagarhole and started spotting the usual fauna. We were destined for Kabini, but there was some confusion with the bookings(cough.cough.. bullet bala) and we settled for Nagarhole (blessing in disguise No. 1) .We enquired with the forest office at Nagarhole and that was booked out as well.(blessing in disguise No. 2). We got out of the park and booked ourselves into this place.

We drove around the park and spotted quite a lot of wildlife on the way. We were greeted by an elephant charge. [ The tiger story is at the end, btw]

Followed by wild boar.

A Peacock…

An eagle

Deer at full gallop.


A langur

A few bison

A cat stalking birds 🙂

Macro’s are not my thing, but this one was too prominently out there and begged to be clicked with that vibrant green b/g

A herd of elephants frolicking

This was the usual stuff that everyone sees. We were there for the tigers. Expectations will nil. We set out on the last safari for the day. About 10 mins into the safari, we heard exclamations of a tiger spotting. We looked and saw a tiger, about 15 feet away, majestically seated under a bush. With the loud exclamations and the sound of the engine, it got up and slid away into the bushes. It took about 3-4 seconds to bring up my camera , 2-3 seconds to focus and by that time, it was gone. All I could manage is this picture. You can see just a little bit of the tiger. This is the only picture that anyone has of the sighting!

Content after our first tiger sighting in years, we moved on. Exactly after 3 minutes, we saw another tiger leaping across the safari track, leaping a few feet to high ground and disappearing. We were elated to say the least. The safari ended and we made a log registry entry of the tiger sighting at the forest office. We were lucky.

We had received a tip from the forest range officer that there is a temple about 20kms away and the road to reach it passes through the Kerala side of the forest range and a sighting is possible as the forest cover there was very thick. The thing about Kerala is that they don’t restrict vehicular movement in the night in the national park. Karnataka, on the contrary, does not permit vehicular traffic in Nagarhole between 6pm and 6am. Since  we were there for sighting the tigers and since we had nothing else to do at 7pm and we were officially in Kerala, we drove in anticipation. Similar to the safari, about 15 mins into the drive, we saw a tiger and a bison engaged in a fight. The tiger sped with the light of the headlamps while the bison stood there looking in the direction in which the tiger sped away. We were elated. We all thought we should buy a lottery ticket and we would have won in that as well. We reached the temple (in the middle of nowhere with a couple of small eating shacks) , had dinner, and started back. It must have been around 10pm or so when we reached the intersection of the temple road and the road to the guest house. There was a fork in the road and the other side of the fork was a road down south to kerala. We set ourselves a time limit of 30 minutes to drive down that road before heading back. All this while , we were still in the kerala side of the forest range. As we drove along the fork, we spotted another tiger at around 10-20pm walking parallel to the road. This tiger kept walking parallel to the road for about 2-3 minutes. We were amazed. Our fourth sighting for the day! The last was the best. We had a good 2-3 minutes view of the tiger.

The whole experience was insane! On earlier trips, when the expectations were high, the experience was very forgettable! With zero expectations came the experience that will not be forgotten!

Date of sightings: 16th June 2012.

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One Reason Why Street Photographers Should Start With B/W.

It has only been a few months since I have developed an interest for ‘street’ photography among other genres of photography. The street is where the action and drama is. Streets have perhaps the most important and compelling compositional entity of a photograph – People!  When I was presenting at the Open Show Bangalore , I was asked why I showcased my pictures in black and white(b/w). I did not have an answer then. Now I do. The answer is because I am an amateur and while shooting I have 1 less aspect of a photograph to worry about.


Kathmandu Bhaktapur Up In Smoke

Nepal –  Bhaktapur –  Up In Smoke

Equality ?

Equality ?


As I have mostly seen, the very subtle differences in composition and framing makes the difference between a bad photograph and a good one. I feel with color out of the mind, an amateur(like me) can concentrate more on the composition and framing and have 1 less element (of color) to worry about.

Probably one day, when my compositions are better than what they are today, I will add color to my street pictures. If you feel otherwise, do voice  your opinion in the comments section!


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