Monday, May 22, 2006

Capturing Beautiful Pictures

You have probably looked at beautiful photographs in magazines, books, in websites ... or elsewhere so many times and if you were like most people, you thought: "I wish I could take a picture like that!" Well that's not just photographer's instinct, I know. But looking at these pictures didn't really help you to take better pictures.

Why not? Because you didn't know what to look for. You saw a beautiful picture. You felt that it was beautiful picture. But, you couldn't tell why it was beautiful. You couldn't tell what the photographer had done to produce a beautiful image. Perhaps, the magazine, book.. told you the name of the camera, its type and the lens the photographer used, perhaps the aperture and the film that photographer used. Well these are the technical details - but they didn't help you produce better pictures. And it's like knowing the names of the paints and brushes used by Leonardo da Vinchi but it won't help you to produce a painting as beautiful as the Mona Lisa.

The missing ingredient in the process is KNOWING, what to look for. And, perhaps that's the most important thing in capturing beautiful pictures. There are three simple guidelines of what to look for. The skill of seeing the beautiful pictures in the world around you, is what I say "the photographer's eye."

Let's me tell you these three simple guidelines:
  1. A good photograph has a clear subject. (We sometime call this a theme.) It's about someone or something. It may even tell a story about that subject. But the subject is clear and unambiguous. Whoever looks at the picture immediately sees the subject.
  2. A good photograph focuses attention on the subject. In other words, the viewer's eye is immediately drawn to the subject.
  3. A good photograph simplifies. It includes only those elements that draw the eye to the subject, and it excludes or diminishes those elements that might draw the eye away from the subject.
By starting right now to think in terms of these three simple guidelines, you will find yourself looking at published photographs in a new way. More important, you will find yourself seeing the world around you in a new way. Most important, you will find yourself taking pictures in a new way. You will start to see the world through viewfinder with the eye of a photographer!

Now here is one very beautiful picture for you to check above three simple guidelines. ;)

Thursday, May 11, 2006

That Beautiful Day

Fancifully, I woke up in a strange bedroom and it didn't take long for me to realize that I was in a luxurious accommodation of Himalayan Chalet at Nagarkot. I grabbed my rested wristwatch at the bedside table and it showed exact 5 o' clock early dawn. Memorable images of a day before start to flashback inside my mind and I wonder how life sometime makes living so interesting. It was that beautiful day, why I stayed there for a night. Wearing a childish smile on my face I sprung up leaving warm bed and peeked outside. It was still dark and foggy. Prior dusk I've planned to be on time at some good height to take pictures of Sunrise but it was too early to venture out. So, with sluggish heart I took shower. Water was soothingly warm enough to animate my taut muscles. For a moment I felt pity on my muscles because I never let them have enough rest and get fatty.

At 6 a.m. it was still foggy outside and there was no sign of Sun on the horizon any sooner. Anyway, I stuffed my camera and went out hoping to capture some beautiful shots of nature. Place was eccentrically deserted despite its good fame as a tourist destination and this is all because of one freakish shoot-out incident that took place at the Chundevi Temple of Chihan Danda, Nagarkot where an off-duty army men massacred 11 local lives in a wildest drunken spree, 6 months ago. It was a hideous story and its impact was disastrous to all tourism enterprises of Nagarkot. I hope time will heal that terror and things will get back to normal. Several roadside snack stalls are getting sprouted which I think is positive indicating that in coming days tourists will flock again.

As I walked further up hill wide varieties of melodious chirping of forest birds greeted me. I felt so fresh and instantly I became a part of nature. Grabbing that rare opportunity I sat at nearby dune and got involved in sighting those birds of beauty. Needless to tell, birds form an important part of Nepal's natural beauty and bird watching can be a very rewarding experience. Well I am not a keen bird watcher but that morning I've spent quite a lot of time watching birds and it fascinated me to become one. Being myself a vivid pigeon fancier, I can identify many species of bird like humming bird, black drongo, magpie, robin, spotted dove, scops owl, common myna, sparrow, parrot, barn swallow, rose-ringed parakeet, crow, Himalayan cuckoo etc including almost all sort of birds of prey yet that morning I've sighted many species which were very new to me. Some were exotically blue with a short tail and very frolic in character; some were brownish yellow with a white patch below their beak and long tail; some were in bright yellow and very secretive; some small birds have puffy headed and quite shy, some birds were even in a pair grooming each other, making me miss my Sunshine ;) Wow! I was delighted by this beauty that nature offers for those who takes times to enjoy Mother nature's incarnation. Mother nature has all the joys and miracles for us to watch and learn. I guess this is one big reason why National Geographic Channel and Animal Planet became my favorite channels. I also have heard lots of amusing stories from my wildlife photographer friends who often venture out to shoot wild birds. I wish I could tiptoe to this world of pure nature once in a while but sometime it becomes a far cry.

Now forget about Sunrise, which was nowhere to be seen so I gave up my wish to mark one more tick at my year's resolution list of watching sunrise once a month. Then I started to walk back to the Chalet. By then local villagers were already getting busy doing their usual morning chore. Women were digging fields preparing bed for maize crop and others were going out carrying dokos (big bamboo basket) in search of fodder for their cows and cattle. In each house's yard a colourful prayer flags tied to a tall bamboo boldly represent community of Tamang tribe and it makes the landscape very distinct. Far away cuckoo birds still singing in pleasure taking advantages of such a calm landscape.

Suddenly a loud noise from behind pulls my attention and as I turned back I saw large troops of army men jogging holding a rifle in their hands and a heavy pack on their backs. Anyone could easily guess how tough these drills might be by seeing drench cloths and sweaty faces of those lads. They were about a hundred in number and most of them seem fatigue. One among them carrying a red flag screamed, "Ek minate baki" (one minutes left). And I guess they were on routine drill that has to be done in a certain time frame. As for a photojournalist it was a good opportunity to take pictures but they already saw me holding camera. Generally people especially media are not allowed to take pictures of any security personal their activities due to security reason. Moreover they have this strict policy to stay out of media so even I approached them for consent they wouldn't allow me to do so. And once of my fellow photojournalist Prakash Mathema was manhandled by these security personal when he has published a picture of army men crossing Budi Rapti River at Chitwan carrying their wounded comrade. There have been many such cases where security personal treated media notoriously. That's why it's always thoughtful to study mood of the moment before taking pictures, than just follow the ethics of Photo Journalism. So, I just let the opportunity go by. Even after the troops passed me they kept continue making that commanding howl. Definitely the echo from those howl were pretty paradox to such a calm environment of Nagarkot.

As I got near the Himalayan Chalet, I met three school children waiting at the roadside and one of them was holding a beautiful 'Passion flower' (Ghadi phul in Nepali). Out of a curiosity I asked him why was he carrying a flower? And showing me saplings in a small blue plastic bucket which he brought from home, he answered he is going to plant these flower sapling at his school garden (Nyatapol English Boarding School) so he brought this flower to show his friends and teachers, as a flower someday those sapling bears. My O' my what a beautiful plan, I exclaimed silently in my excitement and his wisdom touched me and my heart smiled. We talked for long and I came to know a lot about him and his family. He was from near-by Tamang village and his name is Hira Bahadur Tamang studying in sixth grade. It takes an hour ride down to Bhaktapur to get his school and it became his routine every Sunday. To avoid this long route he stays in a rented room near his school with other local boys and visit home each weekend. This way he can have more time for his study rather than spending couple of hours each day. After few minutes later a local minibus rolled in and he hurriedly hopped in flashing a big smile on his face and bade me goodbye.

As the bus rolled down the hill, my mind filled with good vibes of Hira Bahadur's beautiful plan and deep down inside my heart I wished him good luck. I kept my eyes fixed on the bus until it became distant. As I turned back to walk, that small blue bucket was still there at the roadside. Oh Lord! Hira Bahadur's forgot to take that bucket with him. A cold cramp gripped me from inside and I didn't know what should I do. No vehicle was available so that I could follow the bus. I felt so bad and tried to imagine the sadness Hira Bahadur would feel by loosing those saplings. But thank God coincidently I have asked for his phone number, while talking to him. I planned to deliver those saplings myself to his school and make a call. I bet he would be so happy to have them back. Feeling of relief came as I have this way out to make Hira Bahadur's wish come true.

And it's like when you wish to achieve something genuinely good for all, the whole universe conspire you to achieve it. Few minutes later a school bus moved in with big banner "Nyatapol English Boarding School, Bhaktapur" on it. Cheerfully ran toward the bus and waved my hand to stop it. I explained the driver that one of his students forgot this bucket and told him that he planned to plant these flower saplings at his school garden. One of the teacher in the bus took it and I let him note down the boy's name and his grade. Then the bus cruised down the hill to Bhaktapur. I felt good.

After sipping a cup of warm tea back at the Hamalayan Chalet, I went out gain for a short hike with my FRIENDS who just took a bold step in their life and became the prominent figures of THAT BEAUTIFUL DAY. We took a short break at Sherpa Alpine Lodge enjoying a scenic landscape wrapped by the soft fog. It was almost 11:30 a.m. when I had lunch back at the Chalet. After taking thirty minutes rest we zoomed back to usual hustle bustle of Kathmandu.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Ironic ... not always.

A traffic jam when you're already late
A no-smoking sign on your cigarette break
It's like ten thousand spoons when all you need is a knife
It's meeting the man of my dreams
And then meeting his beautiful wife
And isn't it ironic...dontcha think
A little too ironic...and yeah I really do think...

It's like rain on your wedding day
It's a free ride when you've already paid
It's the good advice that you just didn't take
Who would've figures

Life has a funny way of sneaking up on you
Life has a funny, funny way of helping you out
Helping you out

Sabrina Lama beautifully sang this popular song by Alanis Morissette to entertain us at Romi's wedding. I bet everyone around including myself instantly fell in love with her captivating voice. She truly has gifted soul to sing and is so lively in singing Aruna Lama's melancholy songs. Many rounds of applause to Sabrina's lovely voice and the joy she sprinkled on us that night. And unlike Morissette's song, life can be more then just 'ironic'. You'll never know, what surprises life has in store for you.

Every wedding season I go this battlefield where I shoot bride and groom like a pro. Past couple of days holding weighty Nikon F50 and FM2 with telephoto lens and continuously focusing, composing, clicking more than 1000 frames at good timing eroded all my calories. Heaven knows I had a tough time. And suddenly life winked at me and surprised me so pleasingly. It was like being out in pitch-dark night, when suddenly comes a flash of lighting and you see the entire landscape clearly revealed. One moment I was completely alienated by weddings gala and next sheer moment I was hitched to my love's embrace making it hard to believe how beautiful life could be in no time. I felt like God is a director and he changed the set of my life in a perfect twist. Even Steven Spielberg would comes no match in ways God change sequences of our life so dramatically.

Just like that I was submersed by cacophony of weddings and suddenly she plucked me gently. And in an unforeseen instant this familiar shutterbug got transformed into a doting boyfriend. Far from those hustle bustle in a quiet cafe sipping fresh pineapple juice enjoying evening drizzle with her was much needed break for me. It was not less romantic than vacationing in Puket beach. She didn't know how happy I was to sit besides her warmth and let the time ticks away. Due to nature of her job, she needs to be on move all the time outside valley so we meet occasionally but whenever we can we value it as a special moment and celebrate our LOVE. I think there is much more to celebrate in life then to condemn. That's why I am happy for her and happy for love. You know, if I were to ask the Almighty for something, what would it be? Good health, Happy life for my Sunshine. I don't want anything for myself - Coz I have her.
Sabrina singing various numbers.
Romi posing with her family.
Romi with her FRIENDS.

Deepa weds Sital

Please click here to see more pictures.

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