A cup of Tea anyone?

Tea is something i can never refuse, a cup of tea or a glass of tea here in India is better than any cold drink even in the middle of our blessed summer. Some time about noon, some where in UP.


The early bird gets the worm I guess, though I had to literally push myself out of bed because of all the late night discussion at home and on the phone I guess it was worth it. This is a photograph of one of the most photographed monuments in Lucknow – The Bara Imambara. Will fill you in on the short history class shortly.

The Eclipse

Okay first the confession, I had no plan to wake up the see the eclipse, none what so ever!

Being given the responsibility of waking near and dear ones the alarm went off at 6 am, guess things were mid-way by then. Yes I know I woke up late! Anyhow without my ultra dark glasses by my side and everyone telling me to take a photograph I reluctantly got the 20D with 400mm out (did not want the risk the 5D). Some where in the back of my head I had the vision of the magnifying glass burning my eye etc etc.

So how was I supposed to take the shot without looking through the camera?

Then it dawned me .. the Depth of Field preview! That tiny little button that you can press with your left had, bringing in the Aperture leaves together restricting light to a tiny pin hole at F40! With the light down and being able to see what I was shooting without going blind I was able to take more than the usual arc in the sky.

It took me a good five minutes of shooting without looking and other tricks before I remembered the DOF preview button but we wont talk about that!

Red and Green

A village school run by the daughter-in-laws of the village was one of the many interesting visits during my week with RGMVP. We were walking back to the cars wading thru the puddles on the kachha road while a tail of children excitedly followed to bid us farewell. The village was the usual mud-huts with thatched roofs. One house however had a brick wall with this turquoise green paint. Though the rest of the team had already moved ahead and there was a good chance I would be left behind this time, I stopped and took this shot.


On a trip in Bhutan some years back I waited in the front seat of our car camera in hand hoping to see a Red Panda. At about four in the evening I gave up and put the camera away. (Packed up for the day.) We must have driven for another 10 minutes when we found one, not in the trees far away but on the road staring us in the face… of course I don’t have the shot, had packed up for the day.

Some of my best photographs have been a result of not packing up when it seemed the time to put the camera away. Its as if I was being tested and having passed the test was allowed to see what I did and so photograph it. I have always struggled with clients friends and family as I insist that the cameras should not be put away. So when is it the right time to put the camera away?

Covering a meeting of a Self Help Group (SHG) for the Rajiv Gandhi Mahila Vikas Pariyojna (RGMVP) I was asking myself the question all over again. The meeting was over and we were being offered sweets and water, I was wiping the sweat on my face that threatened to seep into the camera and short circuit it. It had been a good day despite the heat and the humidity. Waiting for the rest of the team I was whiling time looking absentmindedly all around when I this visual came to me. Running across the village square I reached the spot just in time to capture the moment before the ladies put down the graphic chart that explained the benefits of Unity.

So when’s the right time to put down the camera and say okay lets pack up? Guess never !

Photography-Drawing with light

The simplistic meaning of the word derived from its Greek roots is something many photographers take some time to quite understand. (including me) While there is more to a photograph then just highlights and shadows and often the subjects we photograph are so captivating that it seems unimportant to fuss about this, yet the proper light (or lighting) can make a good photograph even better.

Now before you take up arms and attack me with strobes, flashes and anything else that you use for your lighting up the frame, as I have said before there are no rules and in many cases one has to work hard to get even lighting for certain products etc. but we are not talking about that right now.
It has been my experience (and I am hoping you will agree,) that when light come from the right direction it can draw some extraordinary work on the canvas of your sensor (or negative for those of us who still shoot film at times). Often though we don’t find the time that this task demands because of our busy schedules, even if all we do is take photographs (and want to do it well).

The important lesson to remember here is the simplest, all it takes is to remember what photography means and then see how one can do justice to its simplest meaning. Very often the time of the day when we walk past a certain building or monument may not be best with regard to shadows etc. but instead of waiting a half hour or having a cup of tea and then returning in an hour we just go ahead and take the photograph (nothing wrong with that,) and never return to see what would have happened if the lighting had changed.
What would light draw an hour or two hours later?

Seeing what is there is one thing, but looking for what can be there is something quite different and the results will speak for themselves.


Being in the right place at the right time that’s what its all about! (i'm not so sure!)
It surely helps to be there at an opportune moment but there is more to it then just being there. I am sure you too have realized. There have been times when I was at the right time in the right place but could not make the most of it. Simply speaking I could not take a single shot!

One such situation was when I was in Hawaii chasing the Humpback whales. I’d been riding boats for over a month or so chasing these majestic mammals. As per the laws you cant get closer than a certain distance but the whales are free to approach you. A calf did, it came real close, about a meter from the bow of the Zodiac where I was with my cameras just waiting….. and THEN all out of the blue a huge male whale surfaced not more than 10 meters from us to sound a warning.

Its one of those moments I can see again and again but just did not have the wits about me to pick up my camera and shoot. It was the moment I had hoped and prayed for every time the boat left the harbor. A lot changed after that, I began being more prepared and though there are going to be moments in the future that might take over, I hope I’ll be able to react in time to get the shot - more often than not!

A couple of months after the trip to Hawaii I was sipping a drink on a beach in the Caribbean when a wave broke right behind a girl playing on the beach....
I took the shot.

Need cat-like reflexes? Yeah! May be, it sure does help once you are there (at the right place at the right time!).


As an artist one is always exposed to a fare share of adulation and scorn, its part of life I guess. After 32° Fahrenheit opened I got calls and mails telling me what every one thought of my work, it was the same after I won the National Award and I made it a point not to let it get to my head.

When Rajesh Khandelwal a resident from Indore called me I could not help take it to heart. Rajesh wanted to tell me how great my photograph looked on the back cover of the latest Issue of SPAN. In the fifteen minutes that I spoke to Rajesh he confessed to me that he was no artist but lived on art rather than food! What moved me more than anything was the effort that he made to call me.

Seeing the photograph on the back cover of the magazine he called the American Center in Delhi, asked the guard for my details when that failed he called his brother-in-law to check the website and get my number and then made the call to me.

Few compliments I have got so far have quite compared to the sincerity and excitement that Rajesh’s voice conveyed.

He wrote to me today:' आनंद आ गया । शब्द नही है इतनी सुंदर कला के लिए । मन से आभार और शुभकामनाएं । इंदौर आने का न्योता । '
It’s a pleasure (to see the work). I don’t have words to describe such beautiful work. My heartfelt gratitude and best wishes. An invitation to visit Indore.


From dawn till dusk we constantly see things around us, and while sometimes what we see can make for good photographs right away, often that’s not the case. If on the other hand one decides to look and search of the ingredients of good imagery in all one sees we’ll find that there is lot around us that can make for good photographs.

Living in Gurgaon I’d often look at the sand pit below my balcony. Once when the children were off I noticed the clear shadows on the sand that by the evening would switch sides. I finally set up my tripod one day and captured this play of light in the childen's playground to crate Samay ( समय- Hindi for time).

While the subjects of a photograph have a lot to do with the final imagery that one creates its important to understand that it’s not always just about the subjects. Lush green pastures, or an unbelievable moment can be ingredients of great photographs but even the mundane and simplicity of life can create stunning imagery if one chooses to look carefully and give the subject due attention and time.


Denied by the modern India, but knitted to the lives of the teeming millions, the Mandi, cacophonous, chaotic, dusty, is unwelcoming. It has no patience for halts, stops, makes no way or allowance, the Mandi it too old to care. The heart of traditional commerce that has fed our cities for centuries, the Mandi has no time, for any one. Countless nameless lives move in and out of it everyday, countless livelihoods. I was walking through these ancient markets beset by the sights and sounds that refuse to give you space of any kind. A place with no image, no arresting visual of the new-age capitalistic make- over we so like to wear. And in that frenzy to find a moment, a time, and a space for reflection, ponder and rest, that is what the picture titled Mandi is, a fleeting brief in time captured and through the lens discovered.

The picture was taken in the wholesale markets of Chandni Chowk, amidst sneezes from air filled with the dust of ground spices and grain. Part of a document on markets of India, an ongoing work, the picture was selected for the Lalit Kala National Academy Award for Visual Art for the year 2008.


Often when I am chatting with friends and aspiring photographers I get to hear this line “I don’t have talent photography is just a hobby I cant do what you guys do”.

I could not help feeling a rush of pride run up my veins to my head when I first heard this. I had something that most people did not, I was better than the crowd of camera dangling, picture seeking, not so talented people that roamed the world taking not so great photographs. WOW!

Then I became bored of it, and then… it came back to haunt me when I struggled to explain good imagery, I’d hear the line from my frustrated students and I’d get stuck!

Did I really have talent? Was everything I had done just a result of my inborn talent? Did all the hard work and sweating it out, nearly getting beaten up, and getting stung by bees and wasps mean nothing at all? Was I never going to be able to mentor someone into becoming a good photographer if they did not have inborn talent?

So then I began thinking, (and yes I do think once in awhile,) what did I do to get the understanding that I now have with regard to photography.

Yes its true, when I was first given my brothers Zenit I did take photographs that I think even today have some level of quality. So may be yes those photographs I took during my first year of graduations did make me feel for some time that I was blessed. (Yeh I had something called talent, I was an ARTIST, so what if I had never been able to draw or paint anything.)

With time and thinking about this over and over again I realized that I had to dethrone myself from my elevated talented status where I was going to look down at all the not-so-fortunate untalented souls.
The Good old Zenith 122 ( screw on lens, cloth horizontal shutter and without a light meter ) with which i took the first few.

So what had made me take good photographs right from the word go?
(Okay some good photographs, few were out of focus.) I traced my steps back to my childhood and tried to find clues if there were any. My childhood was spent in a tiny village of East Bhutan that was home to country’s only college with a large library from where came home books on everything I could think of. NO I was not much of reader, but YES I would spend many a hour going through books my dad got back provided they had Photographs.

Except for occasional paragraphs my reading was limited to the bylines. From National Geographic that was my favorite to the books on WWII that had graphic images of the Holocaust and other subjects I spent hours staring at the imagery. When I grew up and the family moved to India I was suddenly exposed to imagery like never before, the daily paper, magazines and the numerous advertisement. While my reading did improve (though not much I confess) I spent more time just looking and seeing everything my eyes could catch!

So when some one talks of talent to me today, I say yes … talent is important (don’t want to chase away the talented lot) but its mostly hard work, lots of it! Whether you realize it not its really all about hard work. Those many hours I spent going through one book after another, sitting and watching everything around me from wasps (that stung me quite often) to the life of a busy market, all of this was hard work (that I just happened to enjoy).

Now the next time you think you don’t have the talent to take good photographs, divert your time and energy to thinking of how you can improve your work and may be then some day you’ll discover that you too are talented.

“Life is a funny thing that happened to me on the way to my grave"

“Life is a funny thing that happened to me on the way to my grave"
My elder brother once spoke these words during an inter-school debate and has since forgotten about it.
Yesterday as I prepared myself to enter St. James church I was sure I’d be able to stay calm and attend my first funeral, I heard the words ring in my head.

Dr. Wilson (or Willy as we called him) was principal of St. Stephens during my 3 years at college. The 3 years that changed my life. What made a man that I hardly spoke to during college and only began talking to 5 years after I graduated …… so dear to me ?
May be it was the notices that he wrote, one in particular was concerning my love for dogs that had led to a canine menace in rez. Maybe it was his stories in the assembly like the one about the Ostrich that every batch had supposedly heard before us. Was it because during graduation dinner he mentioned me when he said “even Andre Fanthome has cleaned up and looks like a man!”

As humans we always tend to look for reason to justify everything, this tragedy is no exception. As I stood talking to Anu and Mrs. Wilson in the cemetery I shamelessly broke down as we all agreed that at times like these we fail to find reason.

There is no way to justify the suffering and pain,
There is no way tell why all this upon us came.
There are no reason for what went wrong,
No reason to see so weak, a man so strong.
No way to hold the tears back and smile
No way to ask for time, just a little while.
While images and voices from the past,
Make his memory linger and his thoughts last,
As tears rolled down in selfish thought
Of his pain and suffering I forgot.
To see a family I barely knew
To share that pain of but a few
And now I write to speak his praise,
To his life my glass I raise.

There are times when you have to let go and just be a person and not some one behind the lens!

Jargon not really!

I recently picked up an issue of one of the nations most popular Photography magazines, and was shocked at what I read.
'Focal Length: This describes the distance (in millimeters) between the front of the lens and the image formed on the sensor or film plane when it is in sharp focus at infinity, that is , the farthest possible distance.'

From what I remember of my school physics (and I don’t remember that much) it’s the distance between the central plane* of a lens and the crisp in focus image of a subject at infinity! (*The central plane here just refers to the line running down the center of the lens cutting it into two equal halves. )

Needless to say that such a simplified explanation is not going to satisfy any one.
Now in terms of our Photographic lenses:

The focal length of a lens is defined as the distance in mm from the optical center to the focal plain ie. the sensor or film if the subject (at infinity) is "in focus". Period!

A Start

So I have finally decided to start writing here, have not planned the layout yet but I guess that can wait, I can’t use it as an excuse not to start posting now can I?
The mentoring program is in full swing, and yes I prefer to use the term mentoring rather than teaching because I personally think you cant really teach any one, anything, but you could help them learn and can advise them from your limited experience on how to go about things that you may know about.

This (much delayed) Blog shall be a platform for me to share with you what I keep learning as well as a place for you to share your learnings. Photographs can be sent in to me for critique, this can be kept confidential or posted on the Blog for others to learn, as you like it best.(remote mentoring?)

Questions with regard to photography are most welcome as I see it as a source for me to brush up my learning’s as well. I like to think I have a sense of humor so you will need to bear with me when I crack jokes that you may not understand (even my friends seldom get the jokes).
I will of course add in bits about my life that I hope will give you a laugh now and then in the personal section.

Wish me luck since writing has never been my forte but I am trying to make that change now.

This Photograph taken on a camera lent to by Amrita, was the first of my Photographs to have won an award. I still remember how I felt when Mr. Ragu Rai spent an extra few seconds looking at the entry.