December 22, 2010

Dec 22: India Part 9

Similar to my Taj Mahal images, I have many that use a human element to complete the picture.
For example, this image has a person in it, but it's too subtle. The resultant image is .... weak.

Adding a stronger human element helps.

Here's another where a human element provides depth and balance.

And another.

And one more.

Sometimes it's all about the people.

And sometimes the people look very natural.

Other times, not so much.

The women above are doing their best to blend in with the local color, but their fresh-bought saris are still creased from the packaging. She deserves credit for the perfect color matching though: sari, bracelets, phone, camera, purse... 
These women stand out because they look so unnatural.

These guys, however, stand out because they look just right.

December 21, 2010

Dec 21: India Part 8

Just a quickie, for people who enjoy civil twilight.
(All photos are unedited. The colors are 'as-is,' straight from my point'n'shoot.

Amsterdam airport at sunrise.

90 minutes later, en route to Portland OR. (Notice the ships, bottom right.)

Heading North and West, over Greenland and back down.

Just 3 hours after sunrise, the sun sets.
Actually, the sun didn't change much. We just flew way North, away from the December sun.

Another hour later, the sun is still setting. Or is it rising? It's hard to tell.

Another 90 minutes later, and the sunset/sunrise is still holding.

We experienced about 4 hours of civil twilight.
Then, I fell asleep. The sun finally rose one last time, and we landed around midday in Portland.

I imagine people living near the poles might experience this everyday in winter. It would be a long 20 hours in between, but 4-6 hours of twilight would be beautiful.

December 20, 2010

Dec 20: India Part 7

We saw over 100 species of birds.

Some were easy to photograph, like this Treepie. (begging for food, unsuccessfully.)

Some were difficult to photograph, like this heron with a frog in its beak.

Some were cute, like this Spotted Owlet.

Some were colorful, like this Indian Roller. (also difficult.)

Many of my photos were just for species ID, so that we could verify our sightings.
Sometimes though, I was able to focus more on the photo and less on the bird, like this one of a Martin. (similar to a Swallow.)

Or this one, of a Black Drongo.

I have a lot of boring photos of interesting birds. (owls, eagles, ducks, storks, etc.)
I also have interesting photos of boring birds, like these Rock Pigeons.

Dec 20: India Part 6

Recall what an 'average' tiger sighting might be, from a few posts ago.
Just 1 tiger, in the brush, for 30 seconds, with 50 or more people.

Here's what an extraordinary tiger sighting might be.

First, a female.

She lays in the road just in front of us.

Maybe 7 meters from the jeep?

Then a male, her brother, emerges. These 'cubs' are ~20 months old, nearly full grown, and soon to become independent.

He marks the tree and has a stretch.

He weighs roughly 200 kilos (over 400 lbs).

The siblings walk leisurely down the road.

As we follow, a second male (another brother) steps out behind us.

We wait for him to cross the road to join the others.

All three drink from the pond, then scamper off into the brush.

Total elapsed time between the first frame and the last: 26 minutes.
Or 1560 seconds, which is a bit longer than 'average.'

December 19, 2010

Dec 19: India Part 5

We had the opportunity to see some 'women crafts.' At first, I thought it would be a tourist-trap thing, where the 'local art' is really made off-site and brought in to sell as overpriced souvenirs to foreigners.
When we arrived however, we found the artists on-site, at work, and very approachable.
We saw people sewing, weaving, painting, and embroidering.
The textiles were stunning.

A man weaves a rug.

Eight women sit together, each working on a different piece.
They ask me to photograph them and we have a great time posing, shooting, and sharing.
Most pose like this. (I imagine this is the standard pose they give to all the tourists.)

When seeing their photos, they smile, laugh and make jokes.

This attitude is all for show. She smiles after the last frame.

It is incredible to see their work. The textiles are beautiful.
As are the women themselves.

December 18, 2010

Dec 18: India Part 4

One challenge of photographing Indian icons is the abundance of people. See: population 1.2 Billion, with a B.
The Taj Mahal averages about 6000 visitors per day. (~2-3 million per year.)

Unless you are French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who emptied the entire Taj so he could visit it privately, you can't take a photo without having half a hundred people in it.

The 'classic' angle has people crawling everywhere, from the walkways to the first platform. (The light is also not great, as the haze swallows the dawn sun.)

Searching for alternate angles to eliminate some of the people gave me an image that feels very forced.

After struggling to get decent images of the structure alone, I modified my strategy to embrace the people.

The sun broke through to bring out the colors.

I could then get more creative and photograph the Taj in interesting ways.

Often I waited a long time for good moments. Here, a fellow strikes a pose after seeing me.
I snap it anyway.

A few minutes later, the moment arrives.

December 17, 2010

Dec 17: India Part 3

Ready to see some tigers?
Be patient. Tiger sighting is an exercise in patience and luck. In India, you might call it Karma.

We spent close to 30 hours in the Nat'l Parks exclusively looking for tigers. (We saw many other great things along the way, but tiger was #1 on the shot list.)

I was fortunate to have 3 tiger sightings. One was at over 500 meters, which was exciting, but served mostly as a teaser. One was 'average' and the other was.... indescribable. (You'll see later.)

The following images describe an 'average' tiger sighting.

We travel with forest guards, expert trackers, and experienced naturalists.

We ride in open jeeps, from sunrise to sunset, with a lunch break during the heat of the day.

We search for signs of tiger, from scratches on the trees to pugmarks in the sand. Listening to the deer, monkeys, and birds is also a proven method.

Towards the end of the day.....
A tiger?

Oh $H!t, a TIGER!

Drat! Calm down and fix your exposure! Quick!

No! You missed it!
And.... he's gone.

Total time between the first shot and the last: 27 seconds.
Think about that. 2 days in a jeep for a 30 second view.

Also of note, there were over a dozen other jeeps at this sighting, which is right about 'average.'

The above sighting is a perfect example of what most people might see. Many people see less (as in, zero tigers). A lucky few see more.

I am one of those lucky few.

The last photo was taken during a different sighting. (duh)

Comparing the two sightings:
Average = 1 tiger, walking through the brush, in crappy light, for under 30 seconds, with 50 other people frantically pointing and yelling, jostling for position.

My lucky sighting = 3 tigers, in full view, in gorgeous light, FOR 26 MINUTES!!!!, with only 7 other people quietly shooting and whispering, taking turns, waiting for pristine moments.

I will share more from this lucky sighting, but not yet.
You'll have to wait for it.
Be patient.