Rajiv Chopra Photography: Blog https://www.crookedimagez.com/blog en-us (C) Rajiv Chopra Photography (Rajiv Chopra Photography) Mon, 30 Aug 2021 12:06:00 GMT Mon, 30 Aug 2021 12:06:00 GMT https://www.crookedimagez.com/img/s/v-12/u1030210122-o263957316-50.jpg Rajiv Chopra Photography: Blog https://www.crookedimagez.com/blog 80 120 Where Do You Draw the Line? https://www.crookedimagez.com/blog/2021/8/where-do-you-draw-the-line  

IMG_20210818_081736IMG_20210818_081736

The Skies

These days, sky replacement seems to have become quite the rage. Skylum offers this via their program, Luminar AI (the link you see is my affiliate link), and so does Photoshop. If you are an amateur (beginner or advanced), or if you have a lot of images to process, then I can recommend Luminar AI to you.

But this brief article is not about replacing the sky alone. It is about the philosophy of editing and image manipulation. When you go back in time, you realize that practically no one has created an image that has not been manipulated to some extent. I believe that there are very few magazines, or publications, today (The National Geographic being one) that insist on receiving photographs that are not touched up.

Many of us like to look back at the days of film and believe that images shot on film (or using other vintage techniques) were not manipulated. This, of course, is not true, and I know I lived in this world of self-delusion for a long while.

When you analyze this, you realize that the mere act of cropping an image is an act of manipulation. Add techniques like burning, dodging, toning, etc., and you end up with quite a merry mix.

Yet, digital techniques that have emerged, and are evolving, enhance our ability to twist and shape an image into anything we like.

 

The Line

IMG_20210818_081736-LIMG_20210818_081736-L

When I moved to the world of digital photography, I eschewed simple techniques like cloning and healing. Yes, I lived in some dreamworld. And in this fantasy, in which I considered myself to be morally superior to those digital artists and photographers who edited their images with an almost maniacal frenzy.

So, now we move back to the question of sky replacement–do you do it, or not? You are damned if you do and damned if you don’t. There is no correct answer to the question, and I doubt that there ever will be one.

In general, I don’t replace the sky and will do so when I want to make a point. For instance, in the images of the Gurgaon skyline as it is, and with the clouds, I ask–where are the monsoon clouds? When I present you with these images, then I am explicit in my admission of guilt!

However, Delhi has a terrible sky these days. It was not always the case, and this tempted me to replace the skies in my images of Delhi. I may just do so, and you may never know.

When I was here during my teenage years, and again in my 20s, the sky was ‘acceptable’. We had clouds, and most of them were proud, strong clouds that lit up the sky. In contrast, these days, we have flat, hazy skies almost burnt white with dust, haze, and heat.

So, I confess, when I am editing images of Delhi, I will occasionally replace the skies. But, I do so with a heavy heart, because I feel as though I am entering the world of the damned.

For those who want to try Luminar AI, please click my affiliate link here

]]>
(Rajiv Chopra Photography) artistic digital photography editing india license philosophy photography postproduction replacement self-discovery sky software https://www.crookedimagez.com/blog/2021/8/where-do-you-draw-the-line Mon, 30 Aug 2021 12:05:56 GMT
Vision versus Editing https://www.crookedimagez.com/blog/2021/6/vision-versus-editing The clouds at sunset. SatauliCloud in SatauliThe clouds at sunset. Satauli

Vision versus Editing

A photographer asked a question on Twitter and inspired me to write this post. His name is Alfredo Mora, and you can find him at https://www.twitter.com/AlefredoMPhoto. His question, or statement, was this: Vision or Editing Skills or combination of both. My response, briefly, was that editing must support vision. You also should know what the purpose of the image is.

To which he jokingly replied that he was glad that the days of HDR were over!

I stand by my statement that editing must support vision, and not the other way around. There has always been a thin line between editing to enhance, and downright manipulation, and no one knows where the line lies.

Many people like to imagine, fondly, that the days of film represented the true days of photography, when no one did any heavy manipulation. Yet, when I read about Ansel Adams’ famous image, “Moonrise Hernandez”, I read he had done some heavy editing. And, when I say he had edited the image heavily, I am speaking of dodging and burning. Plus a bit of cropping. When you make a print from a negative, you also add a tint at the end of the process, to create the final mood.

And so, you enter the realm of art.

I have been told that photographers who photograph for the National Geographic Magazine may not do any manipulation of the image, else the image becomes, in a way, corrupt.

Ever since we entered the digital age, image manipulation has become much more prevalent. I am not saying that it has become easier: witness the teams of image retouch experts who work on a single image intended for advertising or product advertising.

When I listen to them explain their techniques, a strange fatigue enters my soul, and I want to crawl into a dark place!

What I Do... As of Now

So, where does it stop? Yes, I clone and heal to remove dust spots. I also clone distractions away. I transform my images slightly, sometimes to create the final composition. Towards the end, I add my color grading, and I have invested in some tools, to help me. Color is not my strong point!

I add a color tone (I favor selenium these days) to create the final image. When I want to create something completely crazy, then I sometimes put the image through Exposure Software’s image processing tool, to create a film look (full disclosure, I am an affiliate), and at the end, I run it through Topaz Labs DeNoise and Sharpening tools (again; I am an affiliate).

When I do black and white, I may use Nik Silver Efex Pro (I am not an affiliate) to create my image.

But I dislike warping mountains or make flowers twist and shout. I dislike creating reflections where none existed and passing them off as genuine reflections.

So, the question remains: where do you draw the line?

If you are creating art, make the artistic process as true to yourself as possible. If your approach is journalistic, then don’t manipulate the image, clone stuff away, or do that sort of thing.

Editing must support vision, but both must be true to the purpose of the image.

This Image

I shot the image you see here, in Satauli, Nainital District, Uttarakhand, India. No warping, but lots of dodging and burning. Let’s say that this is yet a work in progress. Maybe, I will return to it after a month and complete it.

I edited the image in Silver Efex Pro and did some burning and dodging. However, I intend to start all over, give it a radiant glow, and then add the tone at the final step 

 

]]>
(Rajiv Chopra Photography) an black & white black & white photography digital photography do draw edit editing how image india line much photographic photography the versus vision where you https://www.crookedimagez.com/blog/2021/6/vision-versus-editing Mon, 28 Jun 2021 08:52:13 GMT
Where Are They Now? https://www.crookedimagez.com/blog/2021/6/where-are-they-now Two FriendsTwo FriendsTwo men siting in front of a shop in Zakhir Nagar in South Delhi.
I edited this image using Silver Efex Pro from DXO. These were noisy images, so I ran them through DXO Pure Raw, then Photoshop. I did the final toning in Silver Efex Pro. For this image, I used a selenium tone.

Covid-19 caught us unawares

At the time of writing, the government’s lock down in India has gone on for over a month. If you ask why, then there is only one answer—we were all caught surprised and unaware by the speed of transmission of the second wave of Covid-19. Apart from this, we nothing prepared us for the sheer viciousness of the second wave. Yes, Covid-19 caught us unawares.

I don’t want to get into any debate about how the government has failed, because it has. The second wave of the virus has devastated people across the country, and no one will be the same. Apart from this, the vaccination rate is very slow, and I expect that millions of Indians will remain unvaccinated by the end of the year.

What this means is that we are looking at the strong possibility of a third wave.

Since I have been ‘locked down’, I have been spared much of the chaos, the death, and the misery. Yet, I could not put the faces of the people I photographed behind me.

Faces of the People

So, when I decided to re-edit some images, I shot a few years back; I focused on the faces of some individuals. Here, I had gone to Zakhir Nagar, in South Delhi a few years back, to take part in a food walk. The organizers had planned this in the holy month of Ramzan, or Ramadan. The word Ramadan refers to the scorching heat of the sun. I assume that the scorching heat of the daily fasting reflects the scorching heat of the desert.

I remember straying off from the group and wandering around the streets. When you think about it, there is only that much you can eat in one evening. Anymore, and you resemble a stuffed pig.

When I walked around, I spoke to the people, and then photographed them. There were some who I photographed and subsequently acknowledged with a smile. I find this to be the best way to do street photography.

Recently, when I edited the images again, I wondered what had become of them. You will see, in the image above, two men sitting in front of a shop. They were chatty and seemed to be friends.

Where are they now? The one thing I know, is that we Indians have been pulling ourselves out of this mess by supporting each other, and we know that the government has failed us. This is not the first time, and neither will it be the last.

I shot these images with my Nikon D 200 years back, using a 50 mm f1.4 prime lens. The light was low, so I had opened the lens but was still shooting at ISO 800.

A Word on the Editing

When I edited this image, I started with DXO Pure RAW, which is fantastic. Then I ran it through Photoshop, and finished it in Nik Silver Efex Pro, where I gave it a selenium tone.

If you are interested, you can click this link to a Loom video where I discuss two other images.

 

]]>
(Rajiv Chopra Photography) are black & white black & white photography caught covid-19 delhi digital photography friends india now people photography portraits stories street they unawares us where https://www.crookedimagez.com/blog/2021/6/where-are-they-now Wed, 02 Jun 2021 08:39:52 GMT
The Blind Girl https://www.crookedimagez.com/blog/2021/5/the-blind-girl

A Blind Young ChildA Blind Young ChildWhen I was working with DSM, we were supporting a school for blind children. We called this Project Roshni. Roshni means 'light'.
This was one of the most difficult shoots I have ever done. It was emotional.
We cry about lockdowns. What do you do when you see a young child like this?

The Blind Girl

I shot this girl when I was employed in my last job. At that time, I was President of the Indian operations of a Dutch multinational and did not know that this was to be my last corporate job. I had gone to visit one of our business groups in Pune, India, and during my trip, one girl asked me if I would visit a school they were supporting.

They had named the CSR project they were running “Project Roshni”. Roshni means “light, bright”, and it is of Persian and Hindi origin. It has a physical and psychological meaning, and in this case, the reference was to the psychological aspect.

The schoolchildren were—are blind girls, so by supporting them, we were attempting to bring light into their lives. In most images of blind people, we see someone wearing dark glasses, carrying a cane, and sometimes accompanied by a dog.

It’s rare to look into a blind person’s eyes, and the experience is unsettling. I remember my hands shaking when I raised the camera, and my heart feeling squeezed. It was a very difficult visit—emotionally—and I could not help but wonder what the future held for these girls.

I always have that same feeling when I look at the images of these girls. It’s been years now, and as I write, the SARS-CoV-2 virus (and its mutations) is ravaging India. Most of us are holed up at home and are unhappy about it. We crib, moan and complain about how we cannot party or go to restaurants or engage in many social activities.

It must be even more difficult for these girls. There is always someone who has a more hard time than we have.

The Blind

  • When I wrote this piece, I did some research on some aspects of blindness. Let’s look at a few:
  • · Physical: the inability to see anything, including light.
  • · Spiritual: the inability to recognize God.
  • · Mental: one aspect of mental blindness is autism. This is a deep subject.
  • · Emotional: the inability to perceive your own, or another person’s emotional state.
  • How many of us are blind in one, or more, of these aspects? It’s a tough question to answer. Whenever I look at these old images, I hope the girls are well, and I wish them well.

How many of us are blind in one, or more, of these aspects? It’s a difficult question to answer. Whenever I look at these old images, I hope that the girls

]]>
(Rajiv Chopra Photography) all are black & white black & white photography blin blind corporate digital photography emotional faces girls india light natural nikon people photography poor portraits responsibility self-discovery social stories we https://www.crookedimagez.com/blog/2021/5/the-blind-girl Fri, 07 May 2021 10:39:43 GMT
A Spot of Storytelling https://www.crookedimagez.com/blog/2021/4/a-spot-of-storytelling ThoughtfulThoughtfulEvery kid should have a normal, happy childhood. These kids in Bangalore were fed by the government as part of the "Mid-Day Meal" scheme. While it provided calories, it did not give them any nutrition.
You can't build a nation on garbage

Photographing People

I like to photograph people, and what I like to do, is to capture some essence of their spirit. I like to capture something of their personality. For me, people photography is about storytelling.

There are many genres in people photography:

· Beauty and fashion

· Headshots

· Formal portraits

· Candid portraits

· Storytelling portraits

· Natural light portraits

· Environmental portraits

· Studio portraiture

· Conceptual portraiture

As you can observe, the list is almost endless. Not only can you keep adding genres, but you can also split them into sub-genres. That’s why it is important to decide which genre of people photography you like to do.

A Spot of Storytelling

SeriousSeriousThis young girl was one of the more serious kids out there.

I like to do headshots, conceptual portraiture, and storytelling portraits. I like to capture something of people- an expression in their eyes perhaps, something of their personality, a hint of their mood. If I can, at that moment, tell something of their story, I am happy.

Maybe, it’s time now, to talk a bit about these portraits, and I do like to call them portraits. I had gone down to Bangalore many years back. Those days, I worked with DSM, and I was President of their Indian operations.

We had given added some minerals and vitamins to the daily meal that these kids were receiving from the government and wanted to see if this had had any positive effect on their health. While the government was feeding them, I don’t think that the food was nutritious. Yes, the food contained enough calories, but not enough of the macro and micronutrients that are essential for growth.

Many years later, when people write some honest stories about India, one of these will be that of poor health caused by malnutrition.

When I reached the school, it was lunchtime, and I got to see first-hand how they ate. Honestly, it was not surprising to look at them sit on the ground with their little lunch boxes, eating the food that the school doled out to them. Yet, these children receive so little that they were grateful for even this meagre meal.

After lunch, with their hunger sated, they crawled all over me and begged me to photograph them.

I photographed them in groups, and I photographed them individually. Over the years, I have edited the images in different ways.

Recently, I took up the images again, and I looked at the expressions on their faces. Each of them had a unique expression, a different mood. How would it be if I were to be in a storytelling mood? How would it be if I were to write their stories from their faces?

I think each would be very different, and I hope I captured some essence of their personality and their spirit in that one visit.

You always take something back with you, and when you really tell the story of the people you photograph, then you can be at peace.  

]]>
(Rajiv Chopra Photography) black & white black & white photography childrens expression expressions eyes facial headshots in india of people personality photography portrait portraits spirit stories story storytelling their https://www.crookedimagez.com/blog/2021/4/a-spot-of-storytelling Thu, 29 Apr 2021 11:28:57 GMT
Oblivion https://www.crookedimagez.com/blog/2021/4/oblivion  

OblivionOblivionI shot this image in Allahabad, India. I was walking along the street with my friend, and we turned and looked at this man, passed out in the gutter. My friend looked away, but I just had to photograph him.
He just lay there, passed out, and was oblivious to the world. This is the state in which most of us live today.
I processed this image using Niks Analog Pro.

 

Oblivion: Are People Asleep?

 

“Man is a machine, everything with him happens: he cannot stop the flow of his thoughts, he cannot control his imagination, his emotions, his attention. He lives in a subjective world of ‘I love,’ ‘I do not love,’ ‘I like,’ ‘I do not like,’ ‘I want,’ ‘I do not want,’ that is, of what he thinks he likes, of what he thinks he does not like, of what he thinks he wants, of what he thinks he does not want. He does not see the real world. The real world is hidden from him by the wall of imagination. He lives in sleep. He is asleep.”

 George Gurdjieff quoted by P. D. Ouspensky, In Search of the Miraculous

Over the last several years, I have become convinced that people are oblivious to what is happening around them. In short, they live in a state of complete oblivion.

George Gurdjieff, the Russian mystic, and P. D. Ouspensky, his ‘disciple’ were convinced most people were sleeping. While I agree people are, in many ways, sleepwalking, you cannot compare sleep with a state of oblivion.

Whether it is the environment, decoding a politician’s double-speak, or reacting wildly to a social media post, many of us are indeed quite oblivious to alternative realities or interpretations.

Which is why many of us seem to react and live as though we are in some sort of hypnotically induced daze? Actually, let me rephrase this sentence—it appears that most people are in the grip of some sort of magician who holds the key to their thinking ability. Therefore, the world is such a mess today.

Oblivion: This Image  

“I was walking along the Troitsky street and suddenly I saw that the man who was walking towards me was asleep. There could be no doubt whatever about this. Although his eyes were open, he was walking along obviously immersed in dreams which ran like clouds across his face. It entered my mind that if I could look at him long enough I should see his dreams, that is, I should understand what he was seeing in his dreams. But he passed on. After him came another also sleeping. A sleeping izvostchik went by with two sleeping passengers. Suddenly I found myself in the position of the prince in the “Sleeping Princess.” Everyone around me was asleep. It was an indubitable and distinct sensation.”

P. D. Ouspensky, In Search of the Miraculous

I shot this image when I was in Allahabad, India, when I was walking down the street with my travelling companion. While we were walking, I noticed the man lying in the ditch, completely spaced out.

This is when an ethical dilemma cropped up, and I had to ask myself if I should let him be, or if I should photograph him. After a short internal debate, I photographed him.

The image has been lying on my hard drive, and suddenly, I did a quick edit using Nik’s Analog Efex Pro, using one of their wet-plate presets. After all, this scene could have been commonplace in ancient times as well. Drunkenness, and oblivion, are not the exclusive preserve of our times.

Allahabad. Some History.

The current government has renamed the city as ‘PrayagRaj’, since it lies on the confluence of two rivers—the Ganga and the Yamuna. There is—used to be a third—river called The Saraswathi that people believed also joined these two rivers. The Saraswathi dried up many years ago.

Anyway, Allahabad was, it seems, known as ‘Prayag’ in ancient times. In 1583, the Mughal Emperor, Akbar, founded the city of Illahabad at the confluence of the rivers. I understand the British could not pronounce the word, “Illahabad”, so the name became gradually corrupted to ‘Allahabad’.

Abul Fazal in his Ain-i-Akbari states, "For a long time his (Akbar's) desire was to found a great city in the town of Piyag (Allahabad) where the rivers Ganges and Jamuna join... On 13th November 1583 (1st Azar 991 H.) he (Akbar) reached the wished spot and laid the foundations of the city and planned four forts." Abul Fazal adds, "Ilahabad anciently called Prayag was distinguished by His Imperial Majesty [Akbar] by the former name". The role of Akbar in founding the Ilahabad – later called Allahabad – fort and city is mentioned by `Abd al-Qadir Bada'uni as well.
Source: https://www.wikipedia.com

The current, militant Hindu government decided to rename it as Prayag Raj, to correct the wrongs of history. And, thereby hangs a tale.

 

]]>
(Rajiv Chopra Photography) allahabad analog black & white black & white photography digital photography drunk efex expressions india life nik oblivion oblivious photography pro sleeping street https://www.crookedimagez.com/blog/2021/4/oblivion Fri, 16 Apr 2021 13:17:31 GMT
The Aravalli Forest Project 1 https://www.crookedimagez.com/blog/2021/2/the-aravalli-forest-project-1 Trees in Manger Village, in The Aravalli Forest. 
Faridabad. GurgaonTrees. Manger Trees in Manger Village, in The Aravalli Forest. Faridabad. Gurgaon

The Aravalli Forest

A few years back a friend of mine asked me if I was willing to work on a short project on the Aravalli Range. We did not go ahead with the project. He wanted to document the deforestation that is taking place in our lifetimes and create infographics around this. At that time, I did not have a specific aim in mind, so we drifted off, and the project did not get off the ground.

Over the last few years, I have noticed that the forest boundary has been receding at an accelerating rate. I lived here in 1993 and went away for 20 years. When I was living here, we were surrounded by the forest. While I was away, the forest was cut away to make room for buildings. And, I live in one of those buildings. Yet, while I can see the forest from one of our windows, I realize that it will disappear. In the last 7 years since I returned, more and more have been cut away.

This is why I finally decided that it is now time to shoot the forest, or at least as much as I can, in the next year or two. Once I finish this, I may move on to documenting the Yamuna.

The Project

I have more or less decided to edit each picture in two ways - color, and black & white. Shooting forests is not easy.

There are two challenges, maybe three.

The first is to create a context. It's easy enough to shoot sections of the forest, and edit them in an artistic manner. And, you can create an atmospheric image. But, the problem here, is that it will be difficult for any viewer to identify with the forest in question. The images can be from anywhere in the world.

The second is to decide on the artistic treatment. The two have to blend or mesh, with each other. I am referring to the question of art and context. 

The third is to decide on the overall tone of the project. My guess is that I will adopt something that highlights the beauty of the forest, with a wistful sadness that it is disappearing. You cannot whine, because no one likes someone who whines.

The final - what formats? I guess a book, a podcast, a YouTube video. And, a few folios. Shall I update people on the progress? Why not?

 

]]>
(Rajiv Chopra Photography) black & white deforestation digital photography forests india mobile nature phone photography projects self-discovery https://www.crookedimagez.com/blog/2021/2/the-aravalli-forest-project-1 Wed, 24 Feb 2021 10:06:10 GMT
Introducing The Old Doors Project https://www.crookedimagez.com/blog/2021/1/introducing-the-old-doors-project  

Prison Door. Chunar FortPrison Door. Chunar FortEntrance to a prison at Chunar Fort

Edited with Exposure Software!
My affiliate link has been embedded.

The Zine

I’d like to talk about a Zine that I am working on. It’s a Zine, or book, on doors. Over the course of my travels, I have seen many doors. I am referring to doors across the world. It was only when I left my corporate career, and started to focus more on photography that I started looking at doors more carefully.

 

Most of my travels over the last years have been restricted to North India. Old doors have character. Their designs vary, depending on the city.

 

When I started to put these images together, I did some research on the symbolism of doors. One site I visited was https://dreamastromeanings.com.

 

There is a lot of symbolism in doors, and I invite you to read the article. I did consult several articles, but I have listed just the one here.

 

Anyway, I started to notice the doors. The British era doors in Delhi. The British imposed their culture and sense of aesthetic on a Mughal Delhi. Yet, they did it in a manner that seemed to harmonize with the rest of the construction. It’s only in architecture where the Brits did not do something that was out of harmony!

Doors

The doors in Benares are different from those in other parts of the country.

 

As I walked around, I started to ask myself if the doors were all old, or if they looked old. Most of them are quite worn out.

 

I also asked myself if the doors held memories of the people who had lived inside. Did the doors remember some of the old stories? Did they hold memories of tears, laughter, anger?

 

Have you read the books by Carlos Castaneda? You will find paragraphs in which Don Juan talks of stones holding memories of emotions. When people hurl a stone in anger, some of that anger is transferred to the stone.

 

We’ve lost that mystical connection to life.

 

On a different note, I used Exposure Software to edit the photos. My affiliate link is embedded here - https://bit.ly/33Bkrsq , and in the word – Exposure Software.

]]>
(Rajiv Chopra Photography) digital photography doors emotions film looks india old style photo projects self-discovery stories vintage https://www.crookedimagez.com/blog/2021/1/introducing-the-old-doors-project Tue, 12 Jan 2021 12:54:26 GMT
Mr. Pillai https://www.crookedimagez.com/blog/2020/10/mr-pillai PillaiMr. PillaiMr Pillai. My first photography teacher

On Teachers

I am a Toast Master. Last week, I gave a small presentation on teachers. Like most people preparing a speech, I wrote several versions before I wrote the final draft speech.

Teachers play a critical role in our lives. Often, we forget them. More often, we don’t acknowledge them, or their contribution.

I started photography years ago, and I entered this field to change my lifestyle. It probably saved my life, so I owe photography that much at least!

I may have mentioned this in another blog post, but the reason I started photography was to do something creative, and to excel in my creative endeavours.

My drawing skills then, and now, are awful. If memory serves me well, I have been kicked out of more art classes than I can remember. The only ones where I stayed the course were the ones that school offered us. The teacher had no choice but to keep me on. They passed me, only to avoid having me back the following year.

Photography seemed the only option, and my father was good enough to pay for my first camera—an Olympus OM-2n.

I was off, and spent my Sunday mornings wandering the streets of Bombay, shooting probably the worst photographs the world has ever seen.

One day, I noticed a flyer for ‘Pillai’s School of Photography’. I enrolled and started class soon afterwards.

The class was a little small and seemed strange. I walked in with my little notebook, and the first thing he asked us to do was to write the words, “I see” in our notebooks.

Sitting at the back of the class—as usual- I wrote the words “I see”, with a huge “I” and a smaller see.

It looked something like this, below

I see

 

 

 

Your Vision.

There it was. I sat there feeling pretty chuffed until he walked up to see what I had written. This was the moment, I knew, he was going to throw me out of the class.

But no. The man jumped up and down with glee, shouting that this was it!

The importance of the “I”, he said, cannot be under-estimated. It is the foundation of everything we do. Not the ego of an obnoxious, egotistical person, but the ego of a creative, egotistical person.

We are all driven by our ego. It’s a part of our life. Anyway, what he meant was that if you don’t have a strong sense of what you want to communicate, there is no way you will create a strong visual narrative.

I am going to be honest here: this lesson sailed over my head. It must have whizzed around, and lodged itself into my subconscious brain, because I return to it repeatedly.

Mr. Pillai taught us the fundamentals of photography. Yes, he taught us a lot of beautiful shit about photography.

More than that, he brought energy and passion to the class.  He was constantly flapping his arms around and jumping up and down with excitement.

He passed something of that passion and energy to me through some weird osmotic process.

This has stayed with me. My passion for photography is alive and well, and I am sure that I owe an enormous debt to Mr. Pillai in this respect.

I also owe him a debt for stressing the importance of your personal vision. This is something that has helped me in my photography, writing, and business career. It’s helped me in life.

Is Mr. Pillai, or something of his spirit, living inside me? I am sure he is.

His lessons are alive and well. I am always developing my vision, exploring, and have refused to be typecast.

Mr Pillai. Wherever you are, I owe you a big one

]]>
(Rajiv Chopra Photography) bombay india passion photography teachers vision https://www.crookedimagez.com/blog/2020/10/mr-pillai Tue, 20 Oct 2020 06:34:47 GMT
Passion Projects https://www.crookedimagez.com/blog/2020/8/passion-projects  

 

https://www.crookedimagez.com/blog/passion-projects

My journey in photography has taken me down various paths, and I have explored many genres.

 

I have not photographed all the genres I explored over the years.

I did study some tutorials on beauty and nude photography. Then, I decided that these are not for me.

 

I have a lot of respect for photographers who specialize in these genres of photography. Spending hours retouching a model’s face is not for me. Similarly, I explored product photography, composting and other areas of ‘commercial photography’.

 

My motivation was to expand into an area of photography where I could make lots of money. Lots of money.

 

My realization? I am just not motivated to excel in these fields. There is no point in trying to enter an area where you are not motivated. Money is a terrible reason to enter a field. Money will be the outcome of deeds accomplished with passion — provided you possess some basic talent and intelligence.

 

“People who cannot motivate themselves must be content with mediocrity, no matter how impressive their other talents.” Andre Carnegie.

 

So, I ask myself repeatedly: what drives me?

 

Repeatedly, I come to the same answers — people, culture, and the beautiful world in which we live.

 

My style has been journalistic. However, of late, I’ve been pushing my own artistic boundaries.

“Don’t settle for mediocrity. Take a chance. Take a risk. Find that passion. Rekindle it. Fall in love all over again. It’s really worth it.” Brian Cranston.

 

I also realize that I cannot, and will not, take Photoshop to the limit to create images that look absolutely unreal. For those who like this approach, I say — “Go for it!”

 

I don’t follow a rigid style or formula. However, I will come back to this topic another day.

 

These days, climate change fills me with dread. I live in Delhi, or the National Capital Region of Delhi.

Bhimtal. The Kalsa RiverBhimtal. The Kalsa RiverThis is an image of the Kalsa River in Bhimtal India.
Bhimtal is in the hill state of Uttaranchal, India

I used a 10 stop Haida filter for this image

The first settlers who came to Delhi about 5,000 or 7,000 years ago, were attracted by the forest, the river and the Ridge.

 

The original inhabitants of Delhi will not recognize the city today. We have buggered it beyond recognition.

 

The Aravalli Forest has almost disappeared, and The Yamuna River is almost dead.

 

The Aravalli Forest and The Yamuna River are two of my Passion Projects. There are restrictions on travelling because of the virus. So, I will start with The Aravalli Forest.

The Yamuna River Project will follow.

 

I am now about to write my little book, “The Covidian Skies”. More on that later.

 

Finally, I love analog photography. My third passion project will be to photograph Delhi with my Olympus OM-2n, my Nikon F75, some old, old analog cameras and some pinhole cameras. More on this the next time.

 

“Purpose is the reason you journey. Passion is the fire that lights the way.” Anonymous.

 

]]>
(Rajiv Chopra Photography) aravalli delhi forest forests india passion projects river rivers yamuna https://www.crookedimagez.com/blog/2020/8/passion-projects Wed, 26 Aug 2020 12:23:15 GMT
Homeless Soles https://www.crookedimagez.com/blog/2020/7/homeless-soles Homeless Soles
©Rajiv Chopra. Homeless Soles

My Past

I started my photographic life on the street. That was many years ago. During my past days, I used to revel in shooting poor people on the road. I always felt that this made me a more authentic photographer.

My hair has grayed since then, and I have seen too much suffering on the streets. I have seen an eight or nine-year-old girl — a pretty girl — with her left eye gouged out. I could see right through to her skull. I have seen men, with hands and feet chopped off, wheeled onto the streets to beg.

Their owners perform these unspeakable acts of violence, so they move us to pity and give them more money.

I have seen people holding distended organs out in front of them for us to see. Then, some people live, eat, sleep on the street and perform their daily ablutions for the world to see.

This is how life works on the street in India.

Delhi

About 50,000 nameless people die on the streets of Delhi every year. I don’t expect anyone to lose their sleep over the plight of the homeless and the nameless. They exist.

Home is where the heart lies. This is the proverb that many of us have grown up with.

Home is also where you have no choice but to live — and die.

The drama of life and death plays out on the streets, and we are indifferent to the action, mildly affected, or emotionally disturbed by it.

The Image

It was a frigid winter day when I took the image in this post. The man whose soles, you see in the image, is a cart-puller. He sleeps on the cart whenever he gets the chance. People often wake him up at odd hours of the night to give him work. He eats when he can, and bathes on the street.

Possibly, he does not own a pair of shoes. The soles of his feet are calloused and scratched.

Maybe he earns enough money to send to his family wherever they are. Probably when the government makes grand announcements about feeding the poor, the benefits don’t reach him because he has no identity papers.

The police and the people who hire him, possibly abuse and mistreat him.

No one mourns his death. There are many waiting to take his place.

Ashes to ashes. Dust to dust.

From an anonymous birth to an unknown life, to an anonymous death, he goes.

Death finds him a cart to dispose of his mortal remains somewhere.

]]>
(Rajiv Chopra Photography) abuse delhi homeless india people photography street streets https://www.crookedimagez.com/blog/2020/7/homeless-soles Thu, 16 Jul 2020 09:57:51 GMT
Does Every Image Have To Be Perfect? https://www.crookedimagez.com/blog/2020/7/does-every-image-have-to-be-perfect Do your images have to be perfect?
A plant in muddy water
In Muddy Waters. ©Rajiv Chopra

At Kurukshetra

I shot the image that you see above at Kurukshetra. It is some sort of paddy plant, or just a plant, in the muddy waters of the paddy fields. 

Kurukshetra gets its fame mainly because of the great Indian epic, the Mahabharata. It was at Kurukshetra that the great armies of the warring cousins, the Pandava brothers and Kaurava brothers, went to war. 

Krishna recited the Bhagwata Gita here at Kurukshetra. 

I did not realize, when I visited Kurukshetra, that the ‘region’ also has an excellent university and lots of paddy fields. 

It was a gloomy day when I went exploring. I stood there in the slush and photographed the fields and the farmworkers. 

Film. And Digital Perfection

I have said this often enough, but I will repeat it again. I started off shooting film. 

You may say that my approach to photography has always been ‘raw’. Emotions and the visual story have always been important. I would say that they have been vital. 

Over the last few years, I have gone through millions (it seems), of Photoshop videos. I have seen photographers clone, warp, add in stuff and do all sorts of crazy stuff. In many cases, the resulting perfect image has ended up being a bit sterile. 

Often, it is hard to distinguish the style of one photographer from another. This is especially so for long-exposure fine-art photographers.

Where do you draw the line?

This Image.

The Start Point ©Rajiv Chopra

This is where I started. It’s messy. Nature is messy. We will never get a perfect scene. 

So, I did clean up the image quite a bit, as you will see from the top image. You will also notice that I kept a bit of muck. 

A defect on the leaf
A defect on the leaf ©Rajiv Chopra

Scroll back up to the top of the image. You will see some signs of leaf decay in one of the leaves. I left it there in the final image. 

My decision to do so was deliberate. I wrestled with myself for a long while. In the end, I decided to leave it in.

Birth, life and death form a continuum along which we must travel. Sometimes the decline is sudden. At other times, it is gradual. 

I could have spent an hour cleaning up every little defect. Was my decision not to do so the correct one? 

 

 

]]>
(Rajiv Chopra Photography) digital perfection digital photography nature photography photoshop self-discovery https://www.crookedimagez.com/blog/2020/7/does-every-image-have-to-be-perfect Mon, 06 Jul 2020 12:53:23 GMT
Panipat. The Second Battle https://www.crookedimagez.com/blog/2020/7/panipat-the-second-battle Panipat: The Second Battle
A kind of dargah at the site where the Second Battle of Panipat supposedly took place ©Rajiv Chopra

A bit of history

The Second Battle of Panipat took place on the 5th of November 1556. In April 1526, Akbar’s grandfather, Babur, had established the Mughal Empire. He died four years later, and his son, Humayun, was chased out by the king, Sher Shah Suri who found the 20 year-long Sur Empire.

Sher Shah Suri, in my opinion, is one of the greatest kings ever had. He is also one of the most under-appreciated kings. His administrative and financial reforms were practised in India for over 300 years. He was king for just seven years. Sher Shah Suri had a positive impact on India, and his influence lasted down the centuries. He called our currency — the rupee. We call it the rupee. The term, with its variations, is used across South and South East Asia.

Look at the arrogant idiots who lead many countries today. We will suffer the consequences of their tenure has heads of states for many years to come.

Anyway, he died. His successors were weak, and Humayun won back his kingdom. The Sur General, Hemu, declared himself king and made war against the Mughals.

Humayun died, and finally, Hemu’s army met Akbar’s at Panipat. Akbar was just 13 years old at the time, and he was in battle along with his guardian, Bairam Khan.

Soldiers brought Hemu’s body to Akbar at the end of the battle. Bairam Khan asked him to behead Hemu, which Akbar refused to do.

After Akbar agreed to touch his Hemu’s head with his sword, Bairam Khan chopped Hemu’s head off. They hung the head in Kabul and the body at the Purana Qila in Delhi.

Akbar’s reign was secure, and he went on to become one of the greatest kings India has ever seen. Only two kings in India are called ‘The Great’ — Ashoka and Akbar.

Today. And, that day!

© Rajiv Chopra. The kids I joked around with, in the fields

Today, however, I live in a country filled with jingoistic fools. They do not think Akbar was a great king because he was a Muslim. Loud, jingoistic fools fill the world.

I couldn’t find the site of the second battle. It seems that there is a statue, or memorial, dedicated to Hemu at the place where he was beheaded. Nobody had a clue. Finally, I arrived at someone’s farmland, with a kind of ‘dargah’ next to it. I don’t think it was a holy place because the old man who lived inside had hidden a signboard belonging to the Archaeological Survey of India beneath sacks of cloth.

A few kids were playing around the fields. I chatted a bit with them. They asked me to photograph them. I am an accommodating kind of chap!

We fooled around. The kids were convinced that this was the site of a great battle. Everyone around me was convinced. They had no idea of the name, “Hemu”, or that he had died there.

I don’t think I ever found the site of the Second Battle.

Still, I had fun with the kids!

]]>
(Rajiv Chopra Photography) "journeys" "kids" black & white black & white photography digital photography india indian history photography travels" https://www.crookedimagez.com/blog/2020/7/panipat-the-second-battle Wed, 01 Jul 2020 12:06:07 GMT
Panipat: The First Battle https://www.crookedimagez.com/blog/2020/6/panipat-the-first-battle Some History

Ibrahim Lodi Lies HereIbrahim Lodi Lies HereIbrahim Lodi lies here, in peace. People live around his grave. They have no clue as to who lies buried here.

Ibrahim Lodi lies buried in this grave, and he lies here with the background of someone’s home. He was the last king of the Lodi Dynasty of North India. The Delhi Sultanate ended with his death.

What was the Delhi Sultanate?

Around 1092 AD, the Afghan chieftain Mohammed Ghori defeated the Rajput chief, Prithviraj Chauhan. Ghori returned to Afghanistan but left his general, Qutb ud-din Aibak to govern the newly conquered territory.

 

Qutb ud-din Aibak set up the first Dynasty of the Delhi Sultanate. His Dynasty was called the Mamluk Dynasty, or the Slave Dynasty. There were five dynasties in, what has become known as The Delhi Sultanate.

 

Babur was a young Afghan-Uzbek chieftain who wanted to make his mark in the world. He succeeded. Babur came into India, and on the 21st   of April 1526 he faced off against Ibrahim Lodi’s army at the First Battle of Panipat.

 

In those days, kings and generals led the army. It is quite a far cry from today’s practice of sitting in a War Room, wearing a fancy suit, and pressing a button. Today’s machismo dies if a head of state is required to do anything more than deliver thundering speeches and pressing buttons.

 

It’s easy to be brave in a War Room.

 

Ibrahim Lodi died on the 21st  of April 1526. The Lodi Dynasty ended, and the Mughal Dynasty was born. Babur’s Dynasty lasted until 1858, but it’s most glorious years ended in 1707.

 

Far Removed

There were a couple of kids playing around in the park near the grave. I assume that they played there several times a week, and it was nothing more than a grave for them.

 

I asked them who lay buried there, and they shrugged and said – “Some old king.”

 

They had no idea and did not give a damn, that a Dynasty changed hands at this very spot almost 500 years ago.

 

Some men were hanging around, gossiping, farting and picking their noses. I figured that it was no point in asking them if they had any idea.

 

History is a fascinating subject. I detested it when I was in school, but have grown to appreciate it in recent years. It is also a subject that politicians love to twist, manipulate and colour beyond recognition.

 

Two Sentences About The Edit

 

I used Nik Silver Efex-Pro to edit and tone this image. I don’t usually use presets, but I decided to use Nik this time. It saved me a lot of time.

 

Nik Silver Efex-Pro is probably the only programme that I use if I am not converting an image manually to black & white in Photoshop. I am not an affiliate, so you can trust me when I say that it is an excellent programme if you want to convert your images to black and white, simulate film, and give a finishing tone.

]]>
(Rajiv Chopra Photography) black & white photography blacknwhite digital photography history india indian journeys mughals photography travel https://www.crookedimagez.com/blog/2020/6/panipat-the-first-battle Tue, 23 Jun 2020 11:23:52 GMT
Panipat. The Third Battle https://www.crookedimagez.com/blog/2020/6/panipat-the-third-battle The First Frieze. Third Battle of PanipatThe First Frieze. Third Battle of PanipatThe Third Battle of Panipat was fought in January 1861, between the Marathas and the Afghan chieftain, Ahmed Shah Abdali.
About 100,000 men they say, died on that day.

Panipat is a dirty, stinking town in North India. I went there in November 2014.

The Self-Promotion!

I wrote about my trip there, and it is available on the Apple Book Store as well as on the Blurb Book Store! That’s my little of self-promotion! The magazine is part of a series called “On The Indian Highways”.

Some Background

Panipat, for all its dirt, muck and pollution — in which its like any Indian town — is associated deeply with Indian history and mythology. Considering this, I would have thought that the townspeople would try their best to make it look good and presentable. But, I guess that they don’t give a damn about the money that can come in from tourism. 

They say that Panipat was founded by the Pandava brothers. These brothers have been famous ever since our epic, “The Mahabharata” came to us from those who wrote and contributed to the epic. 

Panipat is also home to three battles, each of which were pivotal in their effect on India’s history. 

Aurangzeb, the last of the great Mughals, died in 1707. After his death, the Mughal Empire started to implode. The implosion lasted all of 151 years. In 1858, when the Great Uprising of 1857 (Brits call it The Great Mutiny) ended, and the last Mughal, Bahadur Shah Zafar was packed off to Burma. 

Anyway, the Brits had started to make their inroads into India from 1757. Their 190-year-long stay in India has been called An Era of Darkness by Dr Shashi Tharoor, and I agree with Shashi. 

Anyway, once Aurangzeb died, the Marathas from West India started to create their empire. Nadir Shah attacked India in the 1720s.

The Battle

It was then, Ahmad Shah Durrani — or Ahmad Shah Abdali — founder of the Durrani Empire, and the modern state of Afghanistan who then started to make his incursions into India. 

In 1761, Ahmad Shah Abdali crossed over from Afghanistan to Panipat. The Marathas and their allies travelled almost 1,000 km up from West India. 

The battle was fought over a few days — some say one day — and resulted in the deaths of over 100,000 warriors. 

Ahmad Shah Abdali, acknowledged the fighting spirit of the Marathas, and never returned to India. 

However, over the next years, the power vacuum that developed in North India allowed the Brits to extend their power base from East India to North and North-West India. 

The Photograph

I was at Kala Amb, which some people believe is the site of the battle. I shot this image — a stone frieze. 

When I processed it in Nik Silver Efex Pro, I gave it a copper tone. Somehow, I think that this tone is the best for this image. Strong contrast helped, I believe, to tease out some drama and life in the somewhat flat image. 

The drama of life, battles, death and glory. Men die so that kings and queens can gain and retain power. 

 

 

 

]]>
(Rajiv Chopra Photography) battles black & white black & white photography copper toning digital photography india indian history nik silver efex pro nikon panipat https://www.crookedimagez.com/blog/2020/6/panipat-the-third-battle Fri, 19 Jun 2020 10:59:19 GMT
The Tree https://www.crookedimagez.com/blog/2020/6/the-tree I have always loved trees. I would say that I have loved trees for a long time.

 

When Tolkien wrote about The Ents, I was fascinated. The idea of having shepherds for the trees is intriguing. In my opinion, we need shepherds for trees, considering the alarming rate at which we are getting rid of them.

 

In India, as in many parts of the world, forests are being cleared away at a rather alarming rate. An article in The Quint will give you an indication of the complexity of the situation. Politicians typically try to gloss the issue over. The degradation is a shame. They will be gone, but our descendants will have to pay for our sins. Al Jazeera states that by 2050, the world will lose a forest area equivalent to the size of India. We, in India, are struggling to maintain 22% forest cover. The target is 33%.

Tree Bark 1Tree Bark 1I took this image of the tree bark in McLeodGanj. I was walking down from one of the temples on the top of the hill to the main town below. I have always loved the structures and patterns on trees, of water and the like.
The question was - how do I highlight the thin strands on the bark?

I live at the edge of the Aravalli forests. The Aravalli is an ancient forest and hill range that is slowly disappearing. Experts believe (I don’t have the links, sadly) that, if this continues, then Delhi will gradually become a desert.

 

Trees are beautiful, and it takes a moment to stand next to a tree, to run your fingers down the trunk and appreciate the beauty of the texture.

 

Trees are diverse. The patterns, sizes, leaf cover, textures offer us a breath-taking diversity.

 

In Delhi, we are lucky to have many trees, but for how long?

 

How do you define development? Cutting down trees and raising columns of concrete and steel?

 

The loss of diversity, the warming of the planet will be our reward.

 

When I edited this image, I did not think of environmental concerns. All I wanted to do, was highlight the beauty of the texture, as it glittered in the afternoon sun of Palampur.

 

The light that afternoon was beautiful. The air was clean and fresh, and  Mother Nature was happy. I stood in the shadow of the Dauladhar mountains. Life was good.

 

When I edited the image – I converted the image to black and white using Tony Kuyper’s TK7 panel – all I thought of, was the light, the texture and the beauty of the tree that I had photographed.

]]>
(Rajiv Chopra Photography) artistic vision black & white black & white photography climate change editing ents luminosity panel nature photography self-discovery trees https://www.crookedimagez.com/blog/2020/6/the-tree Wed, 10 Jun 2020 09:14:48 GMT
Why Do I Shoot Nature? https://www.crookedimagez.com/blog/2020/6/why-do-i-shoot-nature Tree Bark 1Tree Bark 1I took this image of the tree bark in McLeodGanj. I was walking down from one of the temples on the top of the hill to the main town below. I have always loved the structures and patterns on trees, of water and the like.
The question was - how do I highlight the thin strands on the bark?

“The book of nature has no beginning as it has no end. Open the book where you will, and at any period of your life, and if you have the desire to acquire knowledge, you will find it of intense interest and no matter how long or how intently you study the pages your interest will not flag for in nature there is no finality”

                  ……………………………. Jim Corbett

Why do I shoot nature? Because nature gives me a feeling of freedom that I just don’t get in a city.

When I was ten years old, I went to Kalimpong in West Bengal. Kalimpong is in the hills and is very close to the border with Sikkim.

My father was in the army, and he was posted in a ‘non-family station’, as it was termed. What this does mean is that for three years, he lived in Kalimpong and my mother lived in Delhi with my two sisters. I was in boarding school in Nainital.

I had gone to visit him during his first winter there. It was December, and I had my room, which was a fantastic privilege.

When I woke up the first morning, I stumbled out onto the little sitting area they had next to the garden. As I held my cup of chai, I looked up and saw the Kanchenjunga mountain right in front of me. It seemed to glitter in the morning sun, and it also seemed to beckon me. It was love at first sight.

Years later, I was fired from my job. I think that my boss felt that I did not defer to him or worship him.

We went to a place called Satauli to visit a friend. It was raining the evening we arrived, and it continued to rain through the night.

At about 9 am the next morning, the rain stopped and the clouds rolled away. I saw the Trishul mountain range in front of me, waiting patiently.

Nothing can compare to the sheer bliss that I feel when I am in Nature. That is why I photograph nature. To photograph it, so that other people can experience the same magic.

 

]]>
(Rajiv Chopra Photography) black & white Black & white photography landscape landscape photography mountains nature nature photography self-discovery https://www.crookedimagez.com/blog/2020/6/why-do-i-shoot-nature Mon, 01 Jun 2020 12:46:40 GMT
Raw Emotion https://www.crookedimagez.com/blog/2020/5/raw-emotion  

Woman. FrankfurtWoman. FrankfurtThis first set of images of street photography in Germany was an experiment.
An experimentation in blur.
For this one, there was this demonstration that seemed to be going on. Cops were all over the place. This woman, who seemed a junkie, was getting some shit for herself.

I have noticed that there are a couple of approaches that street photographers take towards street photography.

Some adopt an almost minimalist approach and convert the images into an almost abstract form. The human being in the picture is reduced to a small element of the composition. These images have a limited appeal for me.

They are good, artistically. I would even go to the extent of saying that the images are excellent.

These photographers have an excellent grasp of light, shadow and placement. There are times, I must confess that I wonder if the photographers asked the people in the photographs to pose in a particular position. This, in my view, may be possible, but I really cannot confirm my guess.

I live in India. Some people live their entire lives on the street. They live, from birth to death, on the street. It is just the way that many poor people live in my country.

We interact with them. We see the poor on the street and often ignore them. When we see a beggar on the road, we brush by with annoyance.

Some people feel that there is no escape from the poor and the beggars. It is, often, more comfortable, to just not acknowledge their existence and humanity.

There was a time when I was sitting on the road in North Delhi, near Kashmere Gate. I was opposite a structure built by the British to commemorate their victory during the Great Uprising of 1857. After a while, I noticed a man dressed in rags. He was eating an orange that he had picked up from the road.

After a while, he walked away, pulled down the shreds that covered his legs and genitalia, and squatted on the road to shit. I noticed that he sat next to a puddle of dirty water that he used to clean his bum. After he had completed his business, he ambled off.

I noticed the man and watched him as he performed his ablutions publicly. He did not seem to experience any shame. I don’t think he had a choice.

His emotions were probably dead, killed by poverty, hopelessness and abuse.

Shame and sympathy coursed through me. What do you do at such a moment? Do you take a photograph of his naked bum, and walk away with your prize? Do you keep your camera down?

If indeed you photograph the man, how do you present the photograph? Do you offer it as your prize? Or, do you create a story around this, to highlight his pain?

We may not want to admit it to ourselves, but the moment we take a photograph like this and present it to the world, we intrude upon his private space. At that moment, we use his misery for our purpose. I do not believe that we can escape this realization if we are honest to ourselves.

Photographing people on the street, and capturing the raw emotion is a tricky business.

We all have to walk a thin string when we are capturing the raw emotions and stories of people on the street. The string can break, or our balance may not be good, and we will fall off.

When we whoop with joy after photographing a poor person, we are exploitative. When we treat people with dignity and respect, then we enrich ourselves as humans and as photographers.

It just boils down to one question. What is your intent?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

]]>
(Rajiv Chopra Photography) dignity emotions exploitation people poverty self-discovery shame street photography https://www.crookedimagez.com/blog/2020/5/raw-emotion Fri, 22 May 2020 07:21:21 GMT
Why Do I Photograph People? https://www.crookedimagez.com/blog/2020/5/why-do-i-photograph-people The Old Man Sleeps. The Others GossipThe Old Man Sleeps. The Others GossipI shot this one in Chitrakoot, in Madhya Pradesh, India.
Ram - or Rama - of the Ramayana fame, spent several years of his 14 year exile here. A version of the Ramayana was written here. The pilgrims, the faithful, gather here by the smelly waters to pray.

The old man possibly had no place to go. The bench was his bed, but there was no darkness, or quiet, to envelope him

I started shooting people when I entered the world of photography. It was a long time ago when I got my first camera. It was an Olympus OM-2n, which was a gift from my father.

 

Money was scarce, so I started shooting on the streets of Bombay. I think that there was no particular theme that I followed in the beginning. Buildings, animals, people and any bits and pieces of rubbish would catch my eye.

 

Over time, I did notice that I had a bias to shoot people. I look at people’s faces carefully, and when I look back at my earlier photographs, I noticed that I have always tended to focus on emotions and interactions.

 

India is full of poor people. They are everywhere, and in a city like Bombay (or, Mumbai as it is called now) they crowd the streets, the doorways, the gutters and almost any space you can find. My early influence was photographers who photograph poor people. Some “art movies” that I used to watch those days also had an impact on my mind, possibly subconsciously.

 

If you look at my early photographs, you may notice that they are full of poor people, and you will see them in all the glory of their poverty. I used to think that these photographs are authentic.

 

Over time, I changed. I realized that we photographers are entering the private space of those who live on the street. They cling to their last shreds of dignity. Many of them are abused by officials all the time. Often, they are abused by us. It gets worse because many of us do not even regard them as people. They don’t have an identity, nor do they have a face. They exist to serve us.

 

As I changed, and hopefully matured, I decided that I would focus on capturing something of the personality of people on the street. Their smile, a look in their eyes, something of their story: that is what I like to capture. I talk with them and smile with them.

 

I photograph people so that I can share something of their personality and their dignity with the world.

 

We become richer when we treat people with respect and dignity.

]]>
(Rajiv Chopra Photography) black & white digital photography human dignity people poverty private space respect self-discovery street photography https://www.crookedimagez.com/blog/2020/5/why-do-i-photograph-people Sat, 16 May 2020 13:38:38 GMT
Why Black & White? https://www.crookedimagez.com/blog/2020/5/why-black-white  

Monsoon CloudsMonsoon CloudsI was driving between Orccha and Khajuraho, when I saw the rain clouds looming over the trees in the distance.

The infinite space above caught me by surprise, and I had to capture it

I have written a post about this before, but I figured that it is time for me to come back to this topic one more time.

You see, I just finished reading a book called “Start With Why” by Simon Sinek.

Many of us talk a lot about what we do. We speak of the products we sell or the services we provide. We don’t often talk about why we do these things.

Maybe, it is time I asked myself the question – why do I like black & white photography?

Sometimes, I shoot with film. Most of the time, I shoot digitally, in colour and then convert the image to black & white.

It’s too simple to say that I love black & white. I do.

Let me go deeper into the question.

Black & white photography has an element of romance in it. There is a mystery that is unique to this medium. I think that there is a timelessness to monochrome.

Many people believe that the restrictions of black & white limit the possibilities for a photographer to express himself.

There are many shades of grey between black & white. This range creates a spectrum of possibilities that make every image unique and fascinating.

There is, for me, a sense of timelessness in a black & white image. Most people assume that a monochrome image is just an image with blacks, whites and shades of grey.

Black & white images can be toned – sepia, metallic, selenium etc. – to create an entirely different picture with a unique emotional appeal.

Do you like your image to be dark (low key) or light (high key)?

There is an irresistible allure to black & white photography. Everything that I have written contributes to the overall emotional appeal that this medium of photography has for me.

I have attempted to give a rational explanation of why I love this form of photography. It is this deep emotional connection that I have with the medium that drove me back home.

]]>
(Rajiv Chopra Photography) black & white black & white photography digital photography photography self-discovery https://www.crookedimagez.com/blog/2020/5/why-black-white Wed, 06 May 2020 09:34:25 GMT
Zen Camera 1 https://www.crookedimagez.com/blog/2020/3/zen-camera-1 I have just started reading a book called "Zen Camera" by David Ulrich. It seems to be an interesting book indeed. I have just got through the introduction, and will start on the first chapter, which he has titled "Observation"

Over the next one or two weeks, I will write a bit about this book, and some of the lessons that I am deriving. Or, learning.

I do have the time. We have a 21 day lock down in the country, and it is unlikely that I will be able to go out to do anything but buying the bare necessities of life.

In the meanwhile, I will try and observe a lot more about what we have in the house, how it looks, how the light falls on a particular object and simple exercises that will help me improve my observation.

Most of the time, we wait to go out to the great outdoors, to start observing. However, observation is a daily habit that we need to inculcate. It cannot be switched on and off whenever you want.

Till next time

]]>
(Rajiv Chopra Photography) books camera observation photographers zen https://www.crookedimagez.com/blog/2020/3/zen-camera-1 Wed, 25 Mar 2020 10:18:42 GMT
Heading back to Bhimtal https://www.crookedimagez.com/blog/2020/3/heading-back-to-bhimtal  

 

Dancing cloudsDancing cloudsMonsoon clouds, dancing through the trees at Bhimtal, Uttarakhand, India
I shot this from the other hill, so it was a bit difficult to get the focus absolutely spot on!

I am heading back to Bhimtal in the next two days.

For those interested, I have attached a link to the Google Maps site here:

http://bit.ly/2TVXZai

I will actually be going slightly beyond Bhimtal to a place called The Silent Valley Homestay. It's run by a family called Upreti, who have lived there for over 200 years.

The area runs along the Kalsa River, and is quite beautiful. http://bit.ly/2TB4ZdG

This trip will not be focussed on too much photography, even though I will do some.

Sometimes you need to get out and spend time with your kids. Kid, in this case. My son

Why not?

Still, I am sure I will come back with some cool images!

 

]]>
(Rajiv Chopra Photography) black & white digital photography nature photography road self-discovery trips https://www.crookedimagez.com/blog/2020/3/heading-back-to-bhimtal Mon, 09 Mar 2020 12:13:14 GMT
Learning again, how to see. Part One https://www.crookedimagez.com/blog/2020/3/learning-again-how-to-see-part-one  

 

A man, sitting on a tubular structureGassing on the phoneGassing

It has been an age since I was on the street. I had done my street photography project in the area that is now called Old Delhi in 2014. I had converted it to a book, but have now decided to do it all over. Hopefully, I will do a better job this time!

Anyway, what I did decide, was to do the same - or, almost the same - 12 walks, in maybe a shorter time frame this year. I had worn one layer too many, and soon got a heatstroke. That was a first - a heat stroke in February!

The somewhat dark mood gave me an idea for a new street photography project, maybe in 2021. I shall have to earn the money to buy myself a Fuji XT-4! or, a Leica. Let's see which one I shall be able to afford.

Anyway, for these 12 walks, I took out my Olympus OM-2n. This is the first camera that I have ever owned, and it is one that my dad bought for me. I shall be eternally grateful to him for this.

It has a fixed 50 mm lens, and I was using a 100 ISO film.

I had further put a constraint on myself of shooting no more than one film.

So, here are my constraints;

  1. Black & white film. This means, no instant feedback, the way that we are used to in a digital camera
  2. A fixed 50 mm lens. By implication, I have to move my butt towards, or away, from the subject to adequately frame the image
  3. A restriction of 36 images. This one is difficult because, when added to the other two, I was conscious of a need to be very picky.
  4. Black & white film. Black & white, as a medium, can be very unforgiving. Especially on the street
  5. Manual focus. I had to slow down even more!
  6. No variable ISO.

I found myself taking a long, long time to take the images. It was no longer a case of going click, click, click!

My feeling is that the images of this shoot will be quite bad. Let's see

My feeling also, is that the images will get better and better as I keep progressing along with this project.

Learning to see. After doing photography for years, I did not expect that I would again be training myself to see. However, this is a useful discipline to keep practising. 

It's also great to be back on the street.

The one concession I allowed myself, was to take my mobile phone along. I use a One Plus 6T. When shooting, I used an app called "Hypocam", which converts my phone into a black & white camera. Next time, I will take it one step further.

 

 

]]>
(Rajiv Chopra Photography) black & white black & white photography composition film fuji learning leica mobile olympus phone photography seeing self-discovery street https://www.crookedimagez.com/blog/2020/3/learning-again-how-to-see-part-one Tue, 03 Mar 2020 13:07:48 GMT
Creating History https://www.crookedimagez.com/blog/2020/2/creating-history This is going to be a short post, but the idea for this came to me last night.

We are always creating history at every point in our lives. We live in the moment, and then it passes into history, often to be forgotten.

This is probably one reason why history has always been written by the victors, and not by the vanquished.

Photography and video making does give us a chance to change all this.

We walk, we photograph a scene and then a record of that scene is generally made for posterity.

However, as in the case of a history writer who always brings his/her perspective to the writing of a historical narrative, the choice of light/composition/editing approach provides a subjective record of history.

Did the mountain look like that? Or, did I warp it out of recognition? Pixels can be manipulated. In a traditional setup, the choice of chemicals and paper, and tools like dodging and burning help us shape the image to our own artistic vision.

Life is like that.

We live in the world of our own perception. We live in our own little universes. It is this universe that we attempt to project onto the world.

It is how we write, and create, our own version of history and of events.

It's the way it has always been, and it is the way it always will be.

]]>
(Rajiv Chopra Photography) history perceptions photography https://www.crookedimagez.com/blog/2020/2/creating-history Tue, 25 Feb 2020 10:43:24 GMT
Black. Colour https://www.crookedimagez.com/blog/2020/2/black-colour Some time back, I was reading an article in which the photographer mentioned that sometimes black & white work is easier because removing the colour is akin to removing all the distractions.

While indeed you do remove the 'distractions' of colour, I definitely disagree with the statement that it becomes easier. 

In my view, it just becomes different. 

Colour adds its own mood to a photograph, and you can decide whether you want an image that is warm, cool, vibrant (with brightly contrasting colours), soft (with a more monochromatic feel). 

With black & white, you are playing with black, white and shades of grey. When there is very little tonal contrast, then the picture just seems very busy, with no defining element or subject. 

I would like you to look at the two images below. I shot this image in McLeodGanj. You may call it a click-through kind of image

A view of McleodGanj in colourMcLeodGanjIn colour A view of McleodGanj in colourMcLeodGanjIn colour I have not edited the colour image. 

Anyway, what are the main differences between the two of them, apart from the fact that one is in colour and one is in black & white?

In the colour, you will see a range of colours, from blue to green, yellow-green and shades of brown. Even though the luminosity ranges are similar, the range of colours keeps your eyes moving around before they settle on the buildings shining in the morning sun. 

In the black and white image, by contrast, the limited range of tonalites does have a kind of flattening effect on the image. It was a very difficult edit, trying to ensure that the buildings were not lost in a mass of grey. 

I did succeed to some extent, but not to the point where I would say that I am happy with the image. I may come back to it a few days/weeks/months/years from now, and approach it completely differently. 

Who knows?

My point here is not that black & white is easier than colour or, that colour is easier than black & white. They are different. 

When you want to work in colour, you will work differently from the way you will work in black & white. 

While the rules of composition don't change, you will look at colours, shades and tones when you are shooting with a colour image in mind. 

You will look at deep shadows, tones, shades of grey when you shoot in black & white.

Your eyes will change. 

 

]]>
(Rajiv Chopra Photography) black & white Black & white photography colour colours digital photography nature photography seeing shades tones https://www.crookedimagez.com/blog/2020/2/black-colour Tue, 18 Feb 2020 10:52:31 GMT
The Open Road https://www.crookedimagez.com/blog/2020/1/the-open-road The Open RoadThe Open RoadWhen I passed Agra, the open road lay before me.
Ah, the freedom of getting away from the maddening crowd...

The Open Road

Ever since I was a child, I have loved the open road. I remember those childhood days, when we’d be in the school bus, going to school in the hills. After travelling for a day through the dusty days of India, suddenly the hills would rise from the dust and haze. That’s when the magic of the mountains always entered our souls, and we’d thrill with excitement.

Yes, being on the road sets you free. The open spaces beckon, and the skies open up to infinity. There are those times when we are blessed with the momentary realization that the universe is spreading up, and all around us.

I shot this image several years back while doing a solo road trip in the central heartland of India. This was my first solo trip and followed up with a few after that. I must confess to being slightly nervous when I did this trip. The further you go into the central heartland, the more you realize you are putting your life in Fate’s hands. We have known the area for Thugs and dacoits. I have capitalised the word ‘thug’. The Thugs were bands of stranglers and murderers who roamed much of India until the end of the 19th century. Then, the dacoits emerged. Most of the notorious ones ended in jail in the last few decades of the 20th century. However, much of this area is still lawless. Mahatma Gandhi may have, for a few decades, projected the notion that Indians are peace-loving and, mostly, we are. However, there are places where you may not want to venture into at night.

Leaving Delhi

And taken comfort in my somewhat long lifeline on the palm of my hand, I left Delhi. 

It was not until I crossed Agra that I got the sensation of driving on a highway. It was just one long urban sprawl, and I drove through town after town.

As soon as I crossed Agra, the highway suddenly opened out, and the sensation of freedom and abandonment flowed through me. There are times when you are suddenly free, as though something broke the chains that bind you. It was like breaking free from the chains of humanity and letting the infinite in.

I don’t curse humanity, but when you are constantly rushing from place to place, there is very little mental space to appreciate the open skies.

So, when I crossed Agra, I parked my car on the side of the road and just let the air into my lungs.

 

 

]]>
(Rajiv Chopra Photography) black & white black & white photography digital photography discovery india nature nikon open road open sky road trips self-discovery travel https://www.crookedimagez.com/blog/2020/1/the-open-road Tue, 28 Jan 2020 14:33:34 GMT
Wabi-Sabi # 1 https://www.crookedimagez.com/blog/2020/1/wabi-sabi-1 Wabi-Sabi # 1Wabi-Sabi # 1This is an image of a Chinese Fan Palm. I love these palms, and the possibility of almost abstract photography with them.
I was tempted to make a perfect - 'perfect' photograph. In the end, I decided to leave some imperfections in. Hence the name - "Wabi-Sabi" # 1

 

Wabi-Sabi & Slight Imperfections

I started my life in photography with black & white film. While there have been masters like Ansel Adams, Minor White and the like, I have always allowed some element of imperfection in my photographs. In the beginning, it was done somewhat accidentally, and then I decided to allow some level of imperfection in my photographs, 

When I walk around in nature, I rarely see anything that is perfect. Yet, nature, when left to itself is incomparably beautiful. Digital photography has made it easier for us to make images that seem to be perfect, or nearly so. 

Make no mistake - the images that I see are 'perfect' in many ways. The colour, composition, sharpness and even shape are all fantastic.  Fine-art or interpretative, photography allows you to edit an image and present it in a  manner that reflects how you saw the scene. 

The tools that Photoshop offers allows you to manipulate an image in a manner that mirrors your vision perfectly. It also allows you to go back to the RAW image, and re-interpret it in a completely different manner a few years down the road. This is precisely what I did with the image of the Chinese Fan Palm. 

Perfection and Imperfection

With analogue photography, it is a bit different. Once the negative has been processed, then you can manipulate the final print developing, but the negative itself remains out of reach for further change. 

Perfection is a worthy goal, and sometimes the perfect images that I see move me emotionally. Very often, they move me technically. 

Nature is imperfect. Somehow, in the play of light, colour and the slight imperfection there always lies a story that creates emotional energy. 

Sometimes, it is good to allow this imperfection to enter your images. Just enough for people to notice it, but not enough to jar. 

How far do you go in this direction? This is a difficult question to answer, and one that I will always struggle with, I think!


]]>
(Rajiv Chopra Photography) abstract black & white Black & white photography digital photography imperfection nature patterns perfection photography wabi-sabi https://www.crookedimagez.com/blog/2020/1/wabi-sabi-1 Sat, 04 Jan 2020 12:36:04 GMT
Human Droppings https://www.crookedimagez.com/blog/2019/11/human-droppings Stairway To HellStairway To HellAbandoned steps on the shores of the Pong Dam
I dared not call this one Stairway to Heaven. Robert Plant would object.
However, since it does not harmonise with nature, I felt that calling it "Stairway to Hell" was more appropriate

Humans Impact Nature

We humans impact nature. There is no doubt about that. More often than not, the impact is harmful. But, let me go back to my childhood years.

Those days I worshipped Krishna, and I would go to a lady’s home down the road and help her dress up Krishna every day. Then, I went to boarding school, and then to college. In college, I discovered the world of black magic, the dark arts, and the occult. This took me away from religion as practised today. 

This is also the time when I discovered that most ancient religions were animistic - read pagan - in nature. When I began my corporate career, I continued to read about religion. About this time, I was drawn to Shiva and considered him to be the most fascinating God we have, and followed him.

I follow him, the Sikh religion (because of its emphasis on service), and animism. There is no conflict between my innate faith in Rudra-Shiva and animism. Rudra-Shiva is far, far more complex than the simple term ‘destroyer’ that people ascribed to him. If I may be irreverent, he is a cool dude who sits in his home on Mount Kailash, in a state of blissful meditation. He is one with nature, as is Pan, the Greek God. 

I think it is no wonder that I have a tattoo of a Trishul, as well as a symbol of Pan!

But, I get ahead of myself. Let me talk a bit about this picture, which is in my gallery called “Human Droppings”. I call it “Human Droppings”, because it has images of stuff left behind by humans, in nature. It’s not all bad. Some images, like Stonehenge, are good!

At The Pong Dam

During my trip to Kangra, I travelled to the Pong Dam in the Indian Hill State of Himachal Pradesh. Our authorities, in their wisdom, renamed the Pong Dam after some historical figure from India’s hoary past I really don’t know why our Indian leaders are so jingoistic and brainless.

It was a wintry day, with temperatures below zero degree Celsius. Sadly, mist and fog shrouded the lake, and patters of rain came down in a drizzle. There was not much to see, except the fog, some distant anglers and the waters. Yet, it was strangely beautiful, cold and mysterious..

When I walked around the grassy patch, I noticed this set of cement steps made, presumably, for a building that was subsequently abandoned. It seemed quite like a stairway to Hell, which is what I call this image. 

I did the edit in a manner to reflect a gloomy, surreal mood. It is almost hellish; I think. 

But then, we humans do have an impact that can seem like hell. 

 

]]>
(Rajiv Chopra Photography) animism black & white Black & white photography dark digital photography discovery human humans impact india landscape love nature nikon paganism pan self-discovery shiva https://www.crookedimagez.com/blog/2019/11/human-droppings Mon, 11 Nov 2019 15:53:38 GMT
For the love of black & white https://www.crookedimagez.com/blog/2019/11/for-the-love-of-black-white I started this site in order to showcase my black & white photography. For future reference, whenever I mention ‘black & white photography’, it should read as monochrome photography.

 

When I started my journey in photography, it was in black and white photography. My camera in those days was an Olympus OM-2n. It is a superb camera, and I still have it. I could not afford colour film, so shot in black & white. Apart from the fact that colour film was very expensive, buying all those warming and cooling filters would have driven me to a pauper’s grave.

 

Black & white, it was, and it so happened that I did indeed fall in love with black & white photography. I became a little snobbish about this as my photography became better, and then one day I quit. I did not pick up a camera again for almost 15 years. This happened when I moved to China.

 

I bought a Nikon F 75 and borrowed a digital camera to experiment with digital photography. The world had gone digital, I was told, and the days of shooting with films were dead.

 

I resumed photography, albeit somewhat sporadically, and my move to digital and colour was underway.

 

Colour never came that easily to me, and while I think that I have become quite good at matching colours, and creating somewhat good colour palettes, I am far more comfortable with the tones and shades in black & white photography.

 

It’s been a funny journey, and my return to the heartland of black & white photography has been encouraged (sometimes actively, sometimes passively) by the superb work that I have seen some international photographers create.

 

I still shoot in colour. Yet, my first love remains black & white.

 

Some people say that your first true love is the one that stays with you forever. I agree!

 

 

]]>
(Rajiv Chopra Photography) black & white Black & white photography china digital photography discovery film photography india love nikon olympus self-discovery https://www.crookedimagez.com/blog/2019/11/for-the-love-of-black-white Tue, 05 Nov 2019 13:41:10 GMT