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Some visuals remain in the memory long after the words describing the events have faded from our consciousness

Alabama Chanin Women Who Inspire Margaret Bourke White (photo credit Time Magazine)

I am taken by surprise at the surge of tears as I stand in one of the galleries of The Partition Museum in Amritsar. I am no stranger to Partition. I have studied it for years in my history classes, answered exams about it, watched myriad television serials and read books around it. They did move me, but in this distant and disconnected sort of way. But Margaret Bourke White’s photographs are like a punch in the gut. She was the first ever female photojournalist for Life Magazine and made it her mission to document the times through photographs.

Margaret’s camera recorded the staggering displacement of the greatest number of humans in the history of the world. She captured the images of death – people shot, dismembered, their bodies left to rot or picked clean by dogs… and images of the living as they clutched their heads in despair or stared blankly at her camera, the incomprehension, bewilderment and shock screaming at you from the pictures. Even after so many years, it is haunting to stare into the faces of people who have been to hell and back.

Migration India, October 1947: Boy sitting on rock ledge above refugee camp.
Migration India, October 1947: Boy sitting on rock ledge above refugee camp.
Mahatma Gandhi and the Spinning Wheel, 1946
Mahatma Gandhi and the Spinning Wheel, 1946

Here I must also speak of photographs that offer a glimpse of heaven. For a long time, stunning black and white pictures of classical singers that I had cut out from an inflight magazine, framed and hung on my living room wall. While I enjoy music, I know little of it, but something about the singers so completely immersed in that moment was almost mesmerizing. I felt the photographer has frozen for eternity that exact moment when Parveen Sultana, Bhimsen Joshi, MS Subbalakshmi, Gangubai Hangal and Kishori Amonkar were talking to God…The singers are oblivious to the photographer, but the latter is obviously so in sync and alert to them.

Bhimshen Joshi(left), MS Subbalakshmi(right)
Bhimshen Joshi(left), MS Subbalakshmi(right)

A smiling baby, a young bride, a jubilant sportsperson, a pet… Photographs can uplift. It is instant happiness. The lockdown has obviously given people the pause to stand and stare and photograph. A double rainbow in Kolkata (a phenomenon that has surely happened before), and Facebook and Whatsapp were flooded with images of the same! In all the despair and uncertainty, the rainbow seemed like a dependable friend, constant and oh so beautiful and never to be taken for granted.

These photographs capture stories good and bad, sad and hopeful, in a way no written tome ever could. Wordy accounts can be manipulated, misinterpreted, misrepresented and misreported. The photographs are stark documents of facts, warts and all. And of ordinary people and their extraordinary lives.

About the Author

Pankaja Srinivasan

Pankaja Srinivasan is a recently retired Senior Deputy Editor with The Hindu in Coimbatore for fourteen years. Before that she has been with several National dailies and magazines, besides doing freelance work. She enjoys reading and is currently also wrapping up a cookbook she has been working on for far too many years.

I’ve always been fascinated by the utility of creative filters. They have the potential to elevate an image and introduce to the viewer, something beyond the ordinary.

Instagram was one of the first to introduce this idea on a digital platform through a series of filters for our own images. Depending on the mood we wanted to communicate, irrespective of the actual photograph, we had in our hands the ability to go from dark and moody to warm and happy with a single tap for our images. In fact, filters have significantly grown not only in terms of their popularity but also to work with the photograph and produce something quite realistic but, at the same time, starkly different from any ordinary photograph.

But I digress. The purpose of this particular blog is not to enlighten you on the effective use of digital filters. I’m sure you already have a handle on that. What I seek to experiment with, and hopefully you will too, is getting creative with physical filters. And no, I’m not talking about ND or UV filters but rather, everyday objects we find in our own homes!

From curtains to frosted windows, even colored water bottles, among others, the number of possible filters are plenty. Ultimately, what may hang from the top of our windows, for instance, does not just regulate the amount of light coming in but also presents itself as an opportunity to Get Creative with Photography!

Here are a few photographs of different subjects being shot through filters sourced from in and around the house!

The photograph above, was shot at around 7 in the morning with sunlight streaming in from the left. I was trying to take a shot of this candle stand by the window when I realized the warm tone of the curtain mesh was similar to the warm tone of the candle stand. Naturally, the two came together and seemed to complement each other in terms of the mood I was going for.

I’d come across this fascinating frosted window pane one morning and immediately got a friend of mine to stand behind it. The apparent focus “fall off”, caused by the frosted window, added a really interesting effect to what otherwise might have been an ordinary photograph.

Backlight from a bright morning sky also contributed to creating a glow in the window and added an amount of contrast to the entire frame.

“I was looking through my dad’s old photo albums from the 80s and I noticed that each picture had a warm tone filter like material on top of it. So I took a couple of them out. I was curious to see what kind of effect this would give. I immediately tried some shots of some flowers right outside my balcony. With a little bit of trial and error by holding the DIY filter in different positions, I managed to get some interesting results. The murkiness of the material along with the folds together made it look like the plants were underwater. “

There are a couple of things to take note of when you’re looking to photograph using filters.

  • The objective here is not to simply shoot through something. Whatever we may choose to use as a filter in our house, has to add value to the photograph.
  • Experiment with different angles and compositions. Learn to balance the effect of the filter and the subject so that one does not get lost in the other.

Working with filters at home is a great way to help you understand how different materials react to light. This will help you make the best out of the potential subjects around you and, more importantly, helps you get creatively different with your pictures!

So what filters at home can you use to elevate a photograph? Tag @llaonline and show us!

The fascinating thing about Aperture is that it is very much like our own eyes! Our pupils regulate the amount of light that enters our eyes simply by adjusting its size based on how much or how little light there is. This is the Aperture’s primary function! The Aperture ring on the camera, based on its diameter, determines the amount of light that enters the camera. Now while our eyes automatically adjust to the ambient light, and auto modes on cameras do the same, it is important to understand how this works so we can control how much light enters the camera to take the kind of photographs we want to take!

Side note: Remember that while this is to do with regulating the quantity of light that enters the camera’s sensor, Shutter Speed deals with how long (duration) the sensor is exposed to light let in by the aperture ring.

So how does the camera tell us what the diameter is so we can make the necessary adjustments to get the correct exposure in a frame? F-Stops.

At some point, you must have noticed on your camera screens the letter f followed by a number like 5.6, for instance. These are values that tell you how big or small the aperture is in a given setting. F-stops on most lenses range from f/4 all the way to f/22.

And what do these values mean? At each f number, the aperture ring is open to a specific diameter. So changing the f number changes this diameter. So at f/5.6, a wider aperture, for instance, the diameter will be relatively big, consequently, more light would pass through the lens than at say f/16, where the diameter will be a lot smaller and hence, less light will pass through the lens.

Side note: Keep in mind that it is the lens that controls the amount of light entering the camera. While the smallest aperture on most lenses is capped at f22, the widest aperture may vary with the focal length. That is why the f number displayed on the lens is of the widest aperture. This is a very important factor when looking to invest in lenses so keep an eye out for the f number of the lens model.

So how can we make use of wide and small apertures to do some creative photography?

Shallow Depth of Field

With Shallow Depth of Field on the lower end of the f- stop spectrum and Great Depth of Field on the other end, there really is space for some great photography by simply experimenting with f- stops alone! Not to forget photographing in Low Light with wide open apertures!

So take out your camera and experiment with f- stops! Show us how creative you can be and tag LLAOnline! (Instagram: @lla_online | Facebook: LLA Online)

Great Depth of Field

Getting Creative with Macro Photography

You know how they say that you should enjoy the little things in life? Well, what are you waiting for then? Find those little things and photograph them. Macro-photography or closeup photography is a branch of photography dealing with really small subjects like insects, flowers, dew drops. So how do you unlock this brand of photography? Let’s dive right in and find out!

The Basics

The idea of macro photography is to show small subjects with intricate details magnified. Imagine a picture with just the head of a fly. There are two main considerations when it comes to clicking something like this.

First is how close you can get to a subject. Every lens has a minimum working distance or minimum focusing distance. Obviously, to get a good macro shot you want to get as close to the subject as possible. You can actually see this mentioned on all of your lenses. So if your lens says 0.1m it means you can as close as 10 cm from a subject and it will be able to focus.

The second factor is magnification, which is a key indicator of how big the subject is going to look in your frame. Typically it’s expressed as a ratio (1:1, 1:2,…). 1:1 means that an object of let’s say 1 cm will form an image of size 1 cm on your sensor. If your lens has 1:2 magnification, that same 1 cm object will form a 0.5 cm image. If magnification is 2:1, a 2cm image will be formed. Remember, this magnification factor applies at the minimum working distance. Another way of looking at this, is finding out what’s the smallest object that you can fill the frame with using your lens. Either ways, practically, today’s DSLRs have a lot of pixels and you could get a good macro shot even with a lens that only has a 1:4 magnification.

What You Need

There are many ways to get started on your macro photography no matter how much you can realistically invest into this.

Option 1: A macro lens

If you can afford it, there are plenty of good macro lenses available to choose from. They come in various focal lengths. How does focal length matter, you ask? For a lot of subjects like insects you cannot get really close without disturbing them, so you’d ideally want a longer focal length to shoot such subjects. Higher focal lengths allow you to put some distance between you and the subject while still getting the same magnification. A good and versatile option is to choose a lens close to 100mm (on a full frame camera).

Option 2: An Extender

Macro lenses are quite expensive and if you cannot afford them, don’t worry. You can turn your regular lenses into a macro lens by using an extender. This basically is like a cylinder you put between camera and lens that gets your lens closer to your subject. Sounds cool right? Do check out the compatibility of your camera and lens with this extender before buying one. You can even make one yourself. Typically these work best if you have a fully manual lens (in which you can adjust aperture on the lens itself).

Option 3: Clip-on lenses

Can’t afford any of the options above? Do not worry. There are plenty of really affordable macro clip on lenses available for your phone. You’d be amazed by how well some of these perform. I’d suggest everyone try these out as they are very pocket friendly, both literally and figuratively. Imagine you’re out hiking and see a beautiful flower with dew drops on it. Just whip out that phone, attach that clip on lens and get clicking!

Watch Out

Alright! Let’s say you got some form of macro capable lens with you. Here are some other things you need to know while shooting.

Concentrate on focus

Macro-photography requires you to get very close. That automatically means that your depth of field is going to be very shallow. This is going to give you 2 challenges. The first is getting the subject fully in focus. To do this you could close down the aperture (higher f number), but remember that this means you need to be working with ample light. The other challenge is getting the focus right. I find that autofocus is not very reliable. My advice: Switch to manual focus, set the focus approximately and then slowly rock back and forth till the focus is right. Take a deep breath, hold it and click.

Too close for comfort

While getting close to the subject be wary of not disturbing it. You don’t want to invade the private space of that bug. Don’t bug the bug. Also, make sure you aren’t blocking the light while getting close to the subject.

Get Creative

Insects, flowers, leaves, dew drops: These are all among typical macro photography subjects. But don’t limit yourself to these. Try out all sorts of both natural and manmade subjects. You’ll find that when you look closely they have some beautiful and sometimes strangely wonderful textures and patterns. These subjects are all around you. Have you seen the human eye magnified? Or just the fibres of the fabric you’re wearing?

There’s so much beautiful detail in these tiny subjects that we barely pay any heed to and you’d be surprised and amazed by the kind of pictures you can produce. All you got to do is look closer.

Try this out:

Typical macro lenses have longer focal lengths(~100mm) and it’s difficult to show any surroundings around the subject. However, there are some really good wide angle macro lenses(~15mm) out there that you can try out with some interesting results. With these, you can show an insect with the landscape around it also seen.

Share your macro photography images on instagram and tag @lla_online and stand a chance to be featured.

About the Author

Vivek Mohan

Once-upon-a-time-engineer, worked for an MNC for 3 years before deciding to find something more creatively inspiring. Tried my hand as a user experience designer for some time before finally taking the plunge into the world of photography. A year full of adventure, learning and self-discovery at Light and Life Academy was the ideal starting point for that journey.

Seeker of interesting conversations. Lover of good design. Fan of dark humour.

Instagram(@why_wake_photography): 
instagram.com/why_wake_photography/

Website: 
https://www.vivekmohanphotography.com/

Getting creative with pinhole photography

With every passing year, we hear about a new phone with… hold your breath… wait for it… one last thing… an extra lens. Most photographers’ kits are bound to have at least 3 lenses. So many to choose from – Wide, Tele, Prime, Macro, Zoom, Pancake(no, you can’t eat it). And then there are the features. Does your lens have VR 1 or VR 2? Or wait is it IS 1 or 2?

But did you know? You can click pictures on your camera without a lens? Yes. The technique is called pinhole photography and it’s based on a natural optical phenomenon called Camera Obscura. Basically, if you have a light proof box with a tiny hole on one side, an inverted image is projected on the other end of the box. Figure out some way of recording that image, and voila! You have a pinhole camera. There are many applications of the pinhole camera and some fascinating history that dates back all the way to 500 BC.

Let’s get back to now though. You can make your own pinhole camera with your DSLR. Just remove the lens and in its place put a circular black chart paper. Make a tiny hole at the centre of this chart paper. You could use a burnt tip of a needle or anything else with a really small sharp tip. Make sure the hole is precisely at the centre of the circle and try to make it as small and even as possible. You could use some other harder material like cardboard or wood too if you are used to handling those(make sure it’s black though). Look through the viewfinder and experience Camera Obscura for yourself! The more precise the hole, the sharper it will look so give it a few tries till you’re satisfied.

You are now the proud owner of your own pinhole camera! Go out there and give it a spin. It is in effect like a lens with a very closed aperture (high f-number), so make sure to carry your tripod along so you can get the correct exposure without shake.

Get transported to another time with your pinhole camera. Explore a “hole” lot of creative possibilities that exist out there. Happy shooting.

You can share your pinhole images on instagram with the tag #LLAOnlineFeatures.

Try this out: You can put some distance between the camera and the pinhole using paper rolled up as a cylinder. See how your image changes when you do this.

Cleaning anything in general is quite a good habit; Especially when it comes to our cameras.
Ensuring a clean camera helps not only with its longevity but also when it comes to getting the best possible output.

Camera Cleaning Kit:

This is a crucial part of any photographer’s kit. They generally consist of:

1. Air Blower (To blow out loose dust settled on any surface of the camera)

2. Brush (To brush out some of the more stubborn ones)

3. Cleaning Solution (To properly clean sensitive areas of a camera like the lens, the LCD screens and so on)

4. Micro Fibre Cloth (To efficiently clean the lens or sensor surface without leaving marks behind)

Dust

One important issue most of us photographers (professionals and hobbyists) face is the presence of dust. Be it dust on the sensor, even on our lenses! As careful as we may be, in the small time frame that we expose our sensor directly to the outside while changing lenses, for instance, a few specks of dust somehow manage to sneak in and accumulate on the sensor! We may not realize this then but at some point we begin to notice the weird looking out- offocus spots in a few of our images. Then comes the time wasted on photoshop removing these specks of dust one by one. Prevention, after all, is better than cure, isn’t it?

The sensor is perhaps the most crucial component in a camera. So cleaning it needs to be done with the utmost care and attention. An important point to note before we begin cleaning the sensor is to employ the “Mirror Lock Up” feature in your camera. DSLR cameras come with a mirror that ultimately reflects the visuals entering the lens to the view finder. This mirror is placed right in front of the sensor.

The tools most commonly used for this purpose come as part of a general camera cleaning kit. For the sensor, this becomes the brush and the air- blower.

Here’s how to use these tools to clean out your camera sensor properly:

Hold the camera face down. This is so that the dust falling off the sensor falls directly out of the camera.

Using the air blower at a safe distance from the sensor, begin to relieve the sensor of any dust.

You may notice that even after doing so there’ll still be fewer, more stubborn specks of dust sticking around. This is where the brush comes in handy. Gently use the bristles to brush against the sensor and take out any residual dust that may remain.

Note:  The sensor is quite fragile and needs to be handled with a lot of care. If you find it difficult to remove certain specks of dust from the sensor, take your camera to an authorized service center to have it professionally cleaned. Do not try to forcefully clean out the sensor as you may risk damaging it.

Remember that this method is useful even when it comes to cleaning our lenses. Cleaning kits also come equipped with microfibre cloths and a solution to help keep our lenses clean. Having first employed the air- blower and the brush to take out dust, spray the solution onto a small portion of the micro fibre cloth and begin to clean the lens using a circular motion. Following this, take a dry portion of the microfibre cloth to wipe away whatever may be left of the solution on the lens.

And voila! In your hand is a clean camera ready to record some beautiful images!

(Still think there’s room for improvement with your photography despite a clean camera? LLAOnline’s Get Creative Photography Course is for you!)

The key to getting better at photography is, simply put, practice and understanding.

When you observe certain good photographers out there, you’ll notice that anytime they start to photograph, they rarely stop in the middle to review the image on camera. In fact, they rarely even look at the screen after having tweaked, for instance, the shutter speed or the aperture. It’s like they know exactly what happens to the image with every setting they change without having to take another test shot.

When we try it, however, our fingers go immediately to the delete button because of how bad the image seems and then proceed to change the settings all over again and take multiple test shots until we get the right exposure! (PS, this is what I call Playback Photography: because you’re constantly playing back the image to see if you got your settings right)

Photographers back in the day did not have the luxury of reviewing every image before clicking the next one and they were all the better for it! Because this meant they had to study, practice and understand the effect of changing the settings which, most importantly, meant they had to understand light.

How then do we go about practicing and honing this skill? There’s an interesting way to do this. All we’ll need is some chart paper roughly the size of our LCD screens and some tape. So here’s an assignment for you, tape the chart paper to your LCD screen so you have no way of reviewing the image on camera and then, happy shooting!

Spend a week going around town photographing various subjects in various settings all the while consciously making use of your camera settings. At the end of each day, copy the images to your computer and see how you did. This practice will teach you where and what aspect of your photography you need to improve in. It also helps you  know what to change and how much of what setting to change in order to get the desired output. Rather than rolling the dial around until you get the desired effect through the Live View. Soon enough, you’ll reach a point where you learn not to depend solely on the LCD screen but, primarily, on your understanding!

“So today’s assignment was about visually experiencing the aesthetics without even looking into the camera’s digital screen. This experience was created by putting up a piece of black paper on our camera’s LCD monitor so that we would look into the viewfinder and compose our images without the digital renders on our LCD screens. The experience taught us that it’s not just a click of a button that makes an image, a lot of thought needs to be put behind creating every single frame.”

Sagun Lunia (Batch 2019-20) 

“This assignment was really challenging, to make it even harder I used a 50mm lens where my focal length will be limited. I knew I would have a hard time in getting the image focused as I always use touch auto focus in live view. This assignment helped me a lot in observing things around me. I really enjoyed it and want to do more of this!”

Baby Santhiya (Batch 2019-20)

“In today’s digital world, the key factor for image making, that is the aesthetic part of framing, often gets lost when the photographer focuses on the technicality on the small LCD screen on their camera. We often overlook small details when we capture a photograph solely based on the digitally rendered image on the screen. So, in this uniquely designed assignment, we covered our LCD screen and framed our images through the viewfinder with immense attention to details. And the exercise helped us to move from our trial and error method of image making onto a better grip on our photographic skills.”

Arka Prabha Das (Batch 2019-20)

(Show us how using this method worked for you and tag LLAOnline!
Time to get creative with LLAOnline!)

I was on holiday with my family in Darjeeling a few years ago and one of the many popular spots there was known as Tiger Hill, a beautiful spot on the top of a hill to watch the sunrise from. It seemed the view was worth waking up at 3am in the morning for a lot of people because, having reached the spot, what welcomed us was quite a crowd standing shoulder to shoulder, wrapped up in jackets and shawls, eagerly awaiting the sunrise. Nonetheless, it was dark but, to the east, we could see a faint glow of light gently making its way above the horizon. The sunrise was imminent.

As the first hint of the sun slowly made itself visible, silhouetted figures of jittering teeth moved ever so slightly in its direction seeking warmth, perhaps, from the warm glow of this ball of fire. As did we until I noticed, somewhere to the north, the tiny outline of the world’s third tallest mountain, Kanchenjunga, being lit up by the rising sun. I immediately made my way through the crowd and set up the camera. No sun in the frame, just the mountain and the view. I was tempted to go back and try to photograph the sun rising above the horizon but I knew it’d be worth it, waiting for the sun to work its magic on these mountains; and how magical it was!

Little by little, the amber glow on the mountain grew increasingly vibrant… subtly contouring it’s every crevice. In the background, I could hear the ‘oooh!’s and ‘aah!’s as heads began to turn towards the mountains gracefully bathing in the glory of a new day. And that was that, Holi’day’ made!

This experience was a major turning point in terms of how I looked at sunrises and sunsets. While I had spent most of them staring in awe at the sun in the sky, I’ve made it a point since to take a look around and see how the rising/ the setting sun tells us a story on the canvas that is this beautiful earth!

So the next time you find yourself all settled in, with the frame set and awaiting the sunrise, try and see how your surroundings can tell you a story of the dawn of a new day… not just the dear sun!

(Put up pictures from your next sunrise/ sunset shoot and tag #LLAOnline! Time to get creative with LLAOnline!)

Shawn Stephen

I’ve spent nearly all of my life in the Nilgiris, a beautiful hill station in the South of India. With an inherent appreciation for landscapes owing to where I’ve grown up, I found myself best able to express this appreciation through photography. Which essentially is where my journey began.

A significant milestone in this photographic journey has been spending a year studying photography and eventually graduating from Light & Life Academy at Ooty. A place that has helped evolve my application of photography as a communicative medium.

This is where I currently am, at home in the Nilgiri mountains.

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/shawn.stephen.315

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/shawnjstephen/

Website: https://www.shawnjstephen.com

Sathish, Mentor, LLA Online, grew up in a family of photographers from different generations. His great grandfather opened and managed a small studio called Omni Photo

After completing his UG in Visual Communication, He chose to be nurtured under the wings of Iqbal Mohamed, while at the same time working for two years at LLA. During this time, he understood the importance of studying Photography formally and decided to join the course in 2006.

For Sathish, an insatiable thirst to give back to society and encourage more people to take up photography, both professionally and as a hobby drives him to become a mentor at LLA Online. According to him, even though photography knowledge is readily available online, feedback from professionals, a crucial aspect in the learning process, is missing. Sathish aims to help fill this gap with LLA Online.

Here are some of his top pics from the participants work:

This photograph has a very well balanced composition. The placement of the human elements shows the scale of the tree. The colour tone and time of day gives the sense of chilly weather and the posture of both men prove it!

With one single light source, the person and the items around him are lit up!

There is also a very creative use of shutter here. The tiny dots of fire particles in motion creates a dramatic design of streaks!

Notice how the colour of the birds, its feathers and the dry branch are in the same tone! The shadows also show a lot of detail.

The shape of the branch and position of the bird complement each other and are a perfect fit with regard to the sun. If this picture was taken a moment earlier, or later, the shapes would not match the circumference of the sun!

The stories on the painted 2D wall and the photograph of the 3D subject are almost the same. The dappled lighting on the subject adds value to the story and dramatizes the shot as well.

In this picture, the hard and warm tone early morning sunlight brings out the texture of the wall and creates long shadows! The shadow is clearly defined here and the subject looking at his own shadow makes for an unusual composition.

Garima’s interest in the arts began in the 8th Standard. Since then, she religiously researched courses and colleges related to fine art in India.She worked as a visualiser and pursued her Post graduation in Digital Media, specialising in Animation, after which she joined Light & Life Academy.

Once Garima graduated from Light & Life Academy, she rode the E-commerce wave back in 2011, taking up photography assignments for various e-commerce sites and excelling in it. She opened her first studio in 2011 and did a lot of freelance work, fusing her knowledge of applied art and photography resulting in a unique style of her own. She is now based in Bangalore and is an art director, graphic designer, painter, photographer and blogger.

Garima strongly believes that Photography is an art form for the masses. LLA Online’s effort in reaching out to the masses through many different languages is what intrigued her the most! After being very impressed with the work of all the participants of the LLA Online program, she picked some of her favorites!

Glamour in Mundane

The lines are captured to show harmony in our day to day lives formed with light and shadows.

Lukka Chuppi

In India, since childhood, we play with our Mom’s saree corner (pallu) .  Colorful sarees are one of the identity of motherhood, culture and it unifies India.

Impressionistic

When nature can be captured as an impression which then becomes symbolic.

Rippled Colors

It’s fascinating how ripples can change the tall structures made by humans and make them melt visually.