Frozen In A Pause

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Between Shades and Shadows

To create a set of compositions in the grains of black of white realms is a rare and unique habit. In the world today photography has moved from its first inhibitions of influential international design movements. If Bauhaus gave us clean sculptural lines of buildings, Henri Cartier Bresson and Irving Penn and many others defined a period in which the look itself would become a signifier of urban modernity and of modern life.

Here in India the relics of S.Paul and Raghubir Singh give us contrasting studies to contemplate upon. Photography means different things to different people. For the commercial photographer Ravi Dhingra it is a kind of oasis when he takes off from assignments and goes in search of quiet corners and explores the shades and shadows of nooks and crannies to create a suite of works that are at once limpid notes on a dulcet tranquil tapestry of time.

Perhaps at the end of the day, it all depends on one’s personality. If you prefer to have more of a goal, structure, and pattern– then working in a project-based mindset may be advantageous to you. However if you consider yourself more of a free spirit and don’t like to work feeling restrained- the natural way of just reacting to what you see may be better for you.

These images are not about the portraits or moods of people but they are about manifestations of people, it’s the things/spaces that are created by people that become subjects of Ravi’s vision.

So when Ravi steps out or into interior spaces he does not just focus all his attention and energy to people. Rather, he looks for elements that might juxtapose each other and make statements about society. This can be manifested through objects of things you find on the ground, urban landscapes, and other messages he might find.

For someone who shoots most of his commercial assignments in colour when asked about his penchant for black and white Ravi states: ” We are surrounded by colours, everything around us is colourful which at times makes our visual experience a bit monotonous. The absence of colours in an image helps in breaking the monotony, the boredom. Colour photographs are too obvious, whereas monochrome ones provide a different perspective with each colour depicting a different shade of grey.”

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Light and Shadow

The act of seeing is at the heart of his language of images. The window is as much a sentinel as the chair that is merely throwing its shadow against a wall. The dancers moving in synchronized rhythm as vital as the pigeons that sit or fly off the wall of the ruins of a fort. The puddles and dark silhouettes of human form as brisk as the silhouette of the wrought iron chair that stands in front of the shutter. Light becomes the fulcrum around which he captures his compositions.In his quest for light and shadow Ravi looks for a visual experience.

Each image tells a story, that starts with a single scene: its like a brief, imagined film clip unspooling through projector light and developing into a story on the screen of his brain. That unfolding scene often begins with an object or image Ravi is drawn to and had captured within and without. I am reminded of the great architect Louis Kahn who presented a treatise on light.  It was the central element in Kahn´s philosophy because he regarded it as a “giver of all presences”: “All material in nature, the mountains and the streams and the air and we, are made of Light which has been spent, and this crumpled mass called material casts a shadow, and the shadow belongs to Light.” For Kahn light is the maker of material, and material’s purpose is to cast a shadow.

As identified by Leonardo da Vinci, we often encounter three types of shadows: Attached shadow, shading and cast shadow. The attached shadow falls on the body itself – like a cantilever roof causing a shadow on the façade. The second type belongs to bright and dark contrasts, which are inherent to the form and depend only on the source of light, e.g. a ball shaped pavilion, which even under a cast sky shows a darker zone in the lower part. The third, cast shadow, could be the result of a high house generating shadow on the street due to the projection of the building outline. These images personify the passion that Dhingra has when he shoots his compositions in the right inclinations of sunlight.

Ravi presents his own rumination on light.
” Some chase light but I prefer to chase shadows. Shadows create volume, add another dimension, and this interplay of light and shadows can make an ordinary object look extraordinary in the photographs. It is all about using the available light for lighting the subject to create shadows.”

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Time of day

Indeed when you look at these images its as if the photographer is out to explore the secrets of shadows during different times of day. Only when you study light in the context of gradations of light and dark do you learn that the dark shadow is a natural part of light, interestingly Ravi never attempts a pure dark space for a formal effect. For him, a glimpse of light elucidates the level of darkness. A good composition in the tones of light and dark should be read like a harmony of spaces in light.

Ravi elucidates: More than the time of day, the desired effect in a photograph is more relevant , a high contrast image will need bright afternoon sunlight whereas early morning or late evening Sun will help in getting long and soft shadows. I also work a lot with light coming through windows, doors and other openings which give a different glow according to the time of the day.”

Between the debates and descriptions of light and dark zones we know that even a space intended to be dark should have just enough light from some mysterious opening to tell us how dark it really is. Each space must be defined by its structure and the character of its natural light. As a result, the light as a source is often hidden behind secondary walls, thus concentrating attention on the effect of the light and not on its origin.

The “mysteriousness” of shadow in photography is also closely linked to evoking silence and awe. For in a composition while darkness evokes the uncertainty of not being able to see, it also inspires deep mystery. Then it is in the hands of the photographer to capture compositions that evoke silence, secret or drama with light and shadow – to create a “treasury of shadows.”

When asked about his thoughts on the power of composition and its impact Ravi provides his insight. ” Composition is the art of photography and very subjective and there are certain laid out rules also for composition. For me simplicity in the frame is the key, I generally avoid including too many elements, a straight forward approach works for me. A balance between various elements is very important in a photograph, the process of inclusion and exclusion help in maintaining the right proportions.”

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In an age where cellphone photography has inundated all visual culture and everyone is trigger happy it isn’t always easy to find a formal set of works. This collection belongs to that category.

Ravi adds his perspective. ” Photography is much more democratic now in the cellphone age and technically these smartphone camera produce decent images. This has made photography more challenging, to create a photograph which not only is good but also different is a tough task.There is nothing called  good or bad photograph, it is all about interesting or boring photograph. The viewer’s attention will still go to a visual which is different from others and yet effective in getting the story across.”

Ravi admires the works of Raghu Rai & Rafique Sayed and finds inspiration from their oeuvre. Among International names Yousuf Karsh is one of his favourites besides the historian and epic colossus of human studies the invincible Sebastio Salgado.

Critical essay by Uma Nair, Art Critic & Curator

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The book is available online on  Amazon and Flipkart

Click here to order Frozen In A Pause

Buy artworks online at Mojarto

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Coverage in Hindustan Times, HT City, 25th October 2017. Click here to read

Hindustan Times e-Paper - Frames that captured poetic moments - 25 Oct 2017 - Page #40

Click here to view the video by Art Explore 

Coverage in Millennium Post 6th November 2017. Click here to read

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Coverage in The Asian Age dated 9th November 2017. Click here to read the article:

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Photographs from the Exhibition Opening & Book Launch on 31st October 2017

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Ramayana

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Ramayana in Mudras by Kuchipudi exponents Raja and Radha Reddy 6

Click on the photograph above or the link below to view the ebook.

http://www.youblisher.com/p/982885-Ramayana/

Option to download as PDF also available.

Character Portrayal

Rama: Raja Reddy

Sita: Radha Reddy

Ahilya: Kaushalya Reddy

Ravana: Rashmi Vaidyalingam

Lakshmana: Tamal

Hanuman: Stans

Shurpanakha: Yamini Reddy

Jatayu: Bhavana Reddy

Kaikeyi/Garud: Shloka Vaidyalingam

Deer: Mahesh

Making of Goddess

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Every year around this time, before Durga Puja, a festival which exemplifies victory of good over evil, as demon Mahishasur is killed by Goddess Durga, idols of Goddess Durga are made all across the country. Kumartuli in Kolkata, West Bengal is known and famous place for sculpting the idols, it is a major tourist attraction for experiencing the process of creating beautiful masterpieces by hands.

Chittaranjan Park (C.R. Park) in Delhi has a substantial population of Bengalis and is an important location for Pujo celebrations. A part of Kali Mandir here is converted into a workshop where many artisans work together skilfully to create multiple idols which are installed in various Pandals all across the city.

It is a delight to visit the place and get immersed in the creation of idols of various Hindu deities along with Goddess Durga. The whole space depicts the hustle and bustle of “work-in-progress”, from neutral and subtle tones of clay to bright, colourful and vibrant sculptures, all are scattered all around. The combination of natural light coming from outside, through the gaps in temporary roof and artificial lights for dark areas make the place very dramatic, a photographer’s delight. Though the space is congested, there is hardly any moving space to not to touch the idols and accidentally damage, yet there are enough opportunities to capture the details, experiment with framing and bringing out a different perspective.

© All Rights Reserved Ravi Dhingra

Flat Lay Food Photography, a fad?

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Recently during a discussion about food photography on Clubhouse, the topic of flat lay came up.

These days most of the food photographs we are seeing are taken from a top angle, camera parallel to subject. Does the top angle aka flat lay always work?

One interesting reason for increasing trend in flat lay photography is more usage of mobile phones for taking photographs, since most of the mobile phones have wide angle lens which is not apt for food photography if used at low angles, the images are distorted in terms of scale and proportion of subject. One way to avoid distortion for low angles is to take from a distance and crop later while editing but this results in deterioration of image quality, going closer to subject will cause distortion since objects near the camera will appear bigger as compared to objects which are farther. To avoid distortion, keeping all the objects on same plane, top angle/flat lay is widely used now for taking food photographs.

Food has form, height, texture which doesn’t necessarily come out well in flat lay photographs. Though the shape of crockery and other accompaniments come out good, but those are not the main subject, hero is food, rest are side actors.

For platters where equal importance is to be given to all the food items, top angle works perfectly well, but where main food which has form & height, which requires more attention than the side dishes, low viewpoint work better. Not only working with different planes, closer & farther, depth of field also comes into play while taking photographs at lower angle.

Also food items like soups which take the shape of bowl are more suited for flat lay, flat food like pancakes which do not have height but are more geometric in terms of shape are perfect subject for top angle.

For most of the food, eye level, the way we see the food placed on table or even lower viewpoint, almost same as height of food work better in terms of depicting form & height of food. Yes, mobile phones will have an issue here but when it comes to photography correct reproduction of subject is very important and same applies for food photography also.

Flat Lay/ Top Angle
Eye Level
Low Angle almost at height of food

Happy Clicking!

Dark Food Photography with iPhone using available light

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There are some options in iPhone camera which can be used to create beautiful low key/ dark food photographs. The video explains the features and workflow.

Here is the link:

https://youtu.be/pqWGw9aCaUk

Dark Food/Low Key Food Photography

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Dark Food Photography is not about making food look dark, with the use of light modifiers the surroundings and ambiance is made to look darker. The video explains the process involved in modifying light with the help of light cutters.

Canon EOS R6 First Impression

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Year 2020 has been a landmark year for Canon, with the launch of EOS R5 & R6, the camera giant has set new benchmarks for photography industry. These future proof cameras are way ahead of competition and the image capturing capabilities are technology wise much advanced. Though there is more hype about R5, R6 is not far behind in performance and for still photography it is a perfect camera .

The design is very simple and minimalist similar to EOS RP, no LCD screen on top, only dials. The grip is big enough for 4 fingers of hand for stability and comfort.

The fully-articulated flip screen is now a standard feature in almost all the new launches by Canon, makes photography and videography much simpler especially at difficult angles like low ones.

What’s new in R6

The Multi-controller on the rear of camera body is perfectly placed, it is like a joystick and is really helpful in selecting focus points while composing a photograph.

Resolution & Image Quality

As compared to R5 which is 45 megapixels, R6 has a resolution of 20.1 megapixels only but there is no compromise in image quality and details are nicely captured. The quality is good enough for most of the professional still photography assignments.

Image Stabilisation and Low Light Performance

IBIS ( In Body Image Stabilisation) was missing in the earlier Full Frame Mirrorless Cameras, ROS R & EOS RP but now this feature has been introduced in both R5 & R6. Upto 8 stops IS is extremely useful in low light conditions and this works fine with EF lenses also, not just RF lenses.

As you can notice in the above photography, I have used 85mm focal length lens and as thumb rule, to avoid camera shake, the shutter speed must be around 1/85 seconds, but with IBIS, the photographs are sharp without any camera shake even at a shutter speed of 0.3 second.

As far as ISO sensitivity is concerned, no complaints here too. Even at 25600 ISO, the image quality is excellent and noise levels are acceptable.

HEIF(High Efficiency Image File)

JPEG format is here for many years now but the future is HEIF Format where the information stored is much more, better details are captured in terms of dynamic range of the camera resulting in much improved details in bright and dark areas in a frame.

The details in magnified area, which is the brighter part of frame, are captured better in HEIF format as compared to JPEG Format where it is almost burned out at that particular spot.

Focus Bracketing

The feature of Focus Bracketing was first introduced in ROS RP and now is available both in R5 & R6. While doing closeup/macro photography Depth of Field is relatively less due to which overall sharpness in the subject, from closest point to the camera and farthest point cannot be achieved. With Focus Bracketing option, multiple photographs can be automatically clicked, from closest to farthest part of the subject and later on stacked/merged in an editing software.

Here is a comparison of photographs taken at Aperture f2 & f22.

Here is the one with f22 aperture and because of less Depth of Field due to extremely close distance, subject is not fully sharp, some part is out of focus.

By enabling the Focus Bracketing option the camera, Multiple photographs have been taken. The first point of focus is closest to the camera. For critical focussing, there is an option to magnify the image at 10X on LCD Screen.

The multiple images are stacked in an editing software and subject is now sharp all across.

I have explained the process of Focus Stacking through a video on my YouTube Channel

Diffraction

Even if there is a possibility of getting overall sharpness in the subject, photographing at narrower apertures (less than f11 like f16, f22…) results in diffraction due to which a softness in photograph creeps in. Rather than clicking at f22 it is better to click at less narrow aperture like f11 and use the focus bracketing option.

Focus Bracketing and Bokeh in multiple objects

Bokeh is aesthetically out of focus areas in a composition and pleasing bokeh can be created by using wide apertures like f1.2, f1.4, f1.8, f2, f2,8. There is no issue with bokeh if there is single object in the composition but with multiple objects, at wide apertures, object away from camera is likely to out of focus. Here Focus Bracketing is useful to get all the objects in focus and also get a pleasing bokeh.

As mentioned before R6 is a perfect camera for photographers who are more involved with still photography than videography. Competitively priced and packed with advanced features, this is one of the best options available for photographers planning to buy a full frame mirrorless camera. Mirrorless cameras will rule in future and with an exciting range of RF lenses, some already launched and some in pipeline, R6 is an extremely good buy.

© Text & Photographs Ravi Dhingra

Close Encounters

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When I was learning photography around 22 years back, tried to explore all the genres of photography. Closeup or macro photography has always fascinated me, bringing out the fine details in a subject which our eyes fail to notice. Since I didn’t want to spend money on a macro lens, started using the closeup filters. The closeup filters, when mounted on a lens help in reducing the working distance between subject and camera. Most telephoto lenses are designed to focus on distant subjects, these are not meant to be used at shorter distance. Here Macro lenses come into play for for photographing subjects at shorter distances. 

Besides helping to go closer to the subject, macro lenses have another feature called “flat field” focus.The front element on non-macro lenses is generally slightly curved, which makes centre of the photo in focus but things will be little softer around the edges of the frame. It may not be noticeable in normal, non-macro photography but becomes obvious while you photographing objects that are close and tiny. Most of the macro lenses “flat field” focus, because of which the edges of the frame are all in the same focus as the centre and detectable curvature is reduced.

But macro lenses are expensive, the closeup lens is not a substitute but helps in clicking photographs as a very small distance and bring out the fine details. Basically the working distance is reduced when a closeup lens(filter) is mounted on a telephoto lens.

For my travel photography, I use Canon EOS RP with RF 24-240mm f/4-6.3 IS USM lens since I do not want to carry too much equipment( means extra weight). This combination has really worked well and handling is much easy with one body & one lens. Here the closeup lens from NiSi comes handy, rather than carrying another lens for macro photography, this filter is compact and comfortably fits in my camera bag. A macro focussing rail is another accessory from NiSi for focus stacking where multiple photographs are taken at different focus points and merged together in an editing software to get overall sharpness( from front till end) in the subject as Depth of Field is shallow in closeup photography.

Sharing some photographs which I have taken with the above mentioned combination and close up lens. The detailing is extremely well captured images are quite sharp.

Abstract photography is one genre which I wish to explore more and this closeup lens will sure come to use in my upcoming projects, extreme closeup images of ordinary subjects which are not going to be definitive, identifiable but more fluid & flexible and surreal.

Happy Clicking!

© Text & Photographs Ravi Dhingra

Rise above the clouds

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Story telling through photographs #2

Caption/Title

A simple caption or title can change the narrative.

An ordinary subject or situation becomes interesting by adding a few words next to the photograph.

Some artists believe in keeping their art untitled leaving the interpretation to the imagination of viewer. The caption helps in understanding the thoughts of artist at the time of creation of artwork.

Rise above the clouds:

It was a random photograph where the bright shirt of the painter attracted me, he had just completed finishing of wall before final coat of the paint. It seemed a very ordinary photograph but when I started observing the photograph I was able to see clouds on the wall, white and grey, ready for rain. The painter climbing the ladder completed the narrative.

LAN vs Wireless Connectivity

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Story telling through photographs #1

Caption/Title

A simple caption or title can change the narrative.

An ordinary subject or situation becomes interesting by adding a few words next to the photograph.

Some artists believe in keeping their art untitled leaving the interpretation to the imagination of viewer. The caption helps in understanding the thoughts of artist at the time of creation of artwork.

LAN vs Wireless connectivity:

The wires and cables depict a connection which has limitation, restricting to Local area, the LAN- Local Area Network. Wireless is not bound by cables, no strings attached.

Will be sharing more such photographs from time to time where the title directs the viewer to a particular path as visualised by me.

Happy clicking!

In God’s own country with Canon EOS D200II

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After buying my first Mirrorless camera Canon M5 along with 18-150mm lens, I stopped using my full frame DSLR while travelling as the small and lightweight Mirrorless serves most of the purpose. Now I use the DSLR only for my professional shoots, otherwise M5 has become a companion for street and travel photography.

Sometime back when it was time for a family vacation travel to Kerala, I had the choice of either taking M5 or the new launch from Canon, a  DSLR, EOS 200DII with 18-55mm & 55-250mm lenses and I decided on taking the DSLR.

 

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EOS 200DII is one of the smallest and lightest DSLR with a vari-Angle LCD, Weighing just 449gm with memory card and battery, the camera incorporates DIGIC 8 image processor with 24MP CMOS sensor. In terms of specifications of camera, these are very similar to EOS M50 which is the Mirrorless version, both are capable of 4K video recording. The camera also happens to be first Canon DSLR to support Eye Detection AF with Live View shooting.

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EOS 200DII is an entry level, easy to use camera featuring the selfie mode, Guided UI display and Creative Assist functions, which are useful for people who are not experts in photography, want to take better photographs than smartphones.

So here I was, in God’s own country, staying in a picturesque sea facing beach resort in Palayambalam, Kannur with my EOS 200D II kit consisting of 18-55mm and 55-250mm lenses. When I joined classes to learn photography, when cameras were not common and smartphones non.existent, our esteemed instructor made a statement that when someone picks up a camera, the tendency is to click either of the two subjects- kids or flowers. The statement, made more than 20 years ago, finally made sense to me, my first reaction after checking into the beautiful resorts was to pick the camera and take photographs of flowers in the well-manicured lawns.

 

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Canon has always been known for the accuracy of colours and this camera just matches the high standards and brings out vibrant photographs.

 

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The vari-angle LCD in the camera really came handy when I was trying some late evening shots at the beach. I wanted to take some low angle photographs at slow shutter speed and I was not carrying a tripod. Placing my camera on low lying flat rock on sea-side, with 10 seconds timer, at ISO 100 on Tv mode, the vari-angle LCD was a boon for the angle I had chosen. The shot would have been very difficult  without this option in the camera.

 

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The Auto Focus in the camera surpassed my expectations, though it is an entry level camera the focus detection was extremely fast and I hardly experienced any focus-hunting. The only issue where I feel the camera could have done better by providing more AF points in the optical viewfinder, there are just 9 AF points. Whether it was a still object with very low contrast or when the subject was moving, the Auto Focus worked well in all situations. 

 

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The 24MP CMOS Sensor in the camera is instrumental in bringing out the finer details in the photographs, besides the accurate colours, the other details like texture are also very nicely captured.

 

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More than the sunset, it is the time immediately after which fascinates me, the time before darkness prevails, just before twilight. This time produces magic in the sky and its reflection on water. The light dims very fast and in this situation low light performance of the camera matters. At ISOs equal to 1600 or more, the camera helped in capturing these surreal moments.

 

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Kerala is known for its beautiful beaches and amazing variety of seafood but this is the first time I saw fruit cut and dipped in salt water in big jars topped with green chillies and coriander. The amalgamation of “sweet & sour” flavours of fruits and spicy flavours of chillies surely create a mouthwatering recipe. The camera cannot describe the taste but visuals attempt to do some justice.

 

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Being a hot and tropical area, Laterite rocks have been used extensively in the architecture in Kerala. The rust-red colour brings out the vibrancy in buildings and structures. The kit lens EF-S 18-55mm f/4-5.6 IS STM works well for most of the architectural photographs.

 

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As mentioned before, this camera is DSLR version of mirrorless EOS M50 having almost the same features. For photographers who are still not comfortable with using the EVF(Electronic View Finder) and prefer Optical View Finder, this small and lightweight camera is a good option. The Guide Assist feature explains the features of most of the settings with visuals which will be of great help to people who are in the early stages in photography.  Now a days, even the photographers who shoot still images are seeking an option in the camera to record high quality video and EOS 200 II does not disappoint here with the facility to shoot 4K video. Overall, it is a features packed DSLR in small and lightweight body, definitely not an entry level camera but a step ahead.

 

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© All Rights Reserved Ravi Dhingra