Upanayanam Yagnyopaveeta dhaaranam

Aravind’s Upanayanam (or Brahmopadesham)

I am currently processing photos of 11 year old Aravind’s brahmopadesham or thread ceremony. Here are some photographs from the event:

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Birthday shoot, Bangalore

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The OM-D EM-5 in the Hands of a Full-Frame Shooter


The OMD EM5 is an exciting mirrorless camera!

I recently picked up an Olympus OM-D E-M5 camera. Honest to god, I have not been excited about a new camera in a long time. My last camera upgrade was from the Canon 5D Mark II to the Canon 5D Mark III. It was a reluctant upgrade – because I was mostly looking to solve the slow AF tracking on the Mark II. I was quite happy with the older camera otherwise. I had been following the mirror-less camera buzz for a while, but never really thought about buying one. Two years with the Mark III, and the only real complain I have is that it is bulky (and oh, I hate the poor dynamic range but let’s not talk about that here). It is funny what I feel about the size of the 5D  Mark III now. When I upgraded from a XXXD to an XD camera a several years back, the superior handling from the bigger camera actually gave a huge psychological boost.

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Wooden toys from Little Latitude

I got a chance to click photos of wooden toys made by Vinay Diddee and available at the Little Latitude online store. I visited Vinya’s studio in East Bangalore along with the author of My Red Palette. Interacting with the creator of Little Latitude’s products was very interesting because of the insight Vinay had into children’s toys and play activities. The studio itself is a great place, very open, airy and in quiet location. The wooden toys use elements of Chanapatna artwork. To see how Chanapatna toys are made, visit my personal website: http://pixelshooter.net/photo-features/toy-making-at-channapatna/
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Custom made Internal Camera Unit

If you have read my Clik Elite post, you are probably aware that I prefer sturdy camera backpacks that balance load ergonomically. The Clik Elite met my requirements in that area, but fell short in others. One of the greatest shortcomings was the lack of a laptop unit. I also own a Kata Bumblebee PL-220 which carries every single lens and accessory I own, including a laptop. This is a great backpack for use within the city, and when I am moving around in a car. It falls short for hikes and travel because it does not carry load very well.

The internet introduced me to the F-stop series of bags. I was initially not very sold on the idea of a bag inside a backpack. If you have not heard of the F-stop mountain series, I suggest you start by watching this video:

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DSLR Sensor cleaning

DSLR sensor cleaning is scary. DSLR sensor cleaning is an intimidating thought initially, but once you get a hang of things, it is pretty simple. The first time I did it, I was mentally repeating all the prayers I knew, and was hoping I don’t have to visit the camera service center with a scratched sensor. Technically, it is not the sensor itself that is being cleaned. Every camera has a high pass filter over the sensor which you are touching during the cleaning process. Nevertheless, any damage to the high pass filter/sensor would mean a lot of money spent on repairs. My first time was good, and everything went fine. By now, having repeated this process many times,  I am confident in cleaning my camera’s sensor. I use a product called a SensorKlear (which I refer to as sensor pen) and at $9 I think it is one of the cheapest and most effective dry cleaning methods. Other products like the Arctic Butterfly and Copperhill system are all above $10 (even running into hundreds of dollars).

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Clik Elite Nature Medium camera backpack

Photographers are generally obsessed with bags. This may sound ridiculous to a non-photographer, but hey, we’ve seen people obsessed with clothes just for form, right? For us, it is all about functionality. Many photographers I know go through the cycle of purchasing several bags before settling in on one or more bags that they think will last them for a lifetime. However, requirements change, age catches on, and generally one has to start the process of looking for a new bag, again.

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Canon TS-E 24mm 1:3.5 L II

One of my most recent acquisitions is the Canon TS-E 24mm 1:3.5 L II lens. I purchased this after much deliberation, as it is an unusual lens. In fact, it only focuses manually, but costs quite a lot! What is so special about this lens, and why did I buy it? There are several reasons behind my investment in the Canon Tilt/Shift lens. Some of them are:

  • My go-to ultra wide angle lens for landscape photography is the Canon 17-40L lens. However, I’ve been lately noticing that this lens is unable to resolve the Canon 5D Mark III very well. The 17-40L is quite an old design, and is not the sharpest ultra wide in the Canon line-up. After using the new generation of lenses such as the incredibly sharp Canon 70-200 f/2.8L IS Mark II, I began to feel the need for a sharp wide angle.
  • The Canon TS-E 24mm lens has excellent corner-to-corner sharpness.
  • I couldn’t find any of the usual rental agencies owning the Canon TS-E 24mm 1:3.5 L II in Bangalore. This includes Tapprs and Toehold.

Let me break down the nomenclature of the Canon TS-E 24mm 1:3.5 L II for my non-technical readers. Feel free to skip this list because it is rudimentary.

  • Canon: Obviously, the company that makes this lens.
  • TS-E: Stands for Tilt/Shift. The mechanical nature of the lens which makes it unique. There are very few TS-E lenses in the world.
  • 34mm: The focal length. Being a ‘block’ lens or a ‘prime’ lens, there is no zoom functionality.
  • 1:3.5: This indicates that 3.5 is the widest aperture of the lens.
  • L: Stands for Canon’s ‘pro’ lineup of lenses
  • II: This is the second version of this lens. It was introduced in May 2009.

But the most obvious question is – isn’t 24mm shorter than 17mm? After having used a 17mm lens, how does it feel to use a 24mm lens for taking landscape photos? If you have seen my landscape work, you’ll know that I love to shoot ultra-wide frames. Now, with the 24mm TSE, I need to start getting creative with my compositions, and learn to start shooting at 24mm. Without the zoom feature, I really need to plan my shots better. It has been only a month or so since I purchased this lens from Jayesh Mehta (Fotocircle), so I cannot comment now on how I use this lens in the field. My initial tests confirm that this lens is wonderfully sharp and lives up to my expectations. There are also techniques to overcome the 24mm limitation. This is one of the uses of the shift function. More on that next. Another use of the shift function is to be able to correct the keystoning effect that one comes across when shooting buildings. Keystoning refers to the distortion in straight lines when shooting with the camera pointed up, or down, and not parallel to the structure. I’ll blog about it after I have more examples. The ability to control shift makes this lens great for interior, and architecture commercial assignments.

So what are the other uses of the Tilt-Shift feature? Incidentally, I initially had my eyes on the Zeiss 21mm lens. This is a legendary manual focus wide angle lens for landscape work. It is also a little less expensive compared to the Canon 24mm Tilt-Shift lens. I was largely influenced by Darwin Wiggett‘s work, when I was researching online for a good wide angle lens for the Canon 5D Mark III full frame camera. Darwin is a huge fan of Tilt-Shift lenses. Photos that he’s taken with the 17mm and 24mm Tilt-Shift lenses really appealed to me. Darwin even has an e-book on how to use the Tilt-Shift effectively for landscape photography. Like i mentioned earlier, one can use the shift function to overcome the limitation of 24mm. By taking multiple shots and combining them later in post, one can get an angle of view wider than 24mm (equivalent to a 14mm lens, if I recall).  This technique also preserves the ‘look’ of 24mm and does not produce distortions that ultra-wide angles are known for. While the ‘elongated edges’ look of ultra-wides can be used effectively, sticking to a conservative 24mm look means more thought behind the composition. And I love this new direction of becoming a little more deliberate with my composition and photographs. Here is a photograph that shows how 3 individual photos can be merged to give a really wide angle of view.

A 3 stitch panorama at Mekedaatu near Bangalore, taken with a Canon 24 TS-E.

A 3 stitch panorama at Mekedaatu near Bangalore, taken with a Canon 24 TS-E.


This picture is again a panorama of three individual photographs, shot using the shift feature of the 24mm TS-E.

A 3 image stitch shot with a Canon 24mm Tilt-Shift lens.

A 3 image stitch shot with a Canon 24mm Tilt-Shift lens.

The versatility of the lens is extended by the fact that one can rotate the shift feature to use it both horizontally and vertically. The two examples above are examples of each. The tilt function is useful to get a very narrow depth of field, even at wide apertures. You can have both the foreground and background sharp by tilting the lens. I haven’t used this feature much, so more on that in another post.

A few other strong points of the 24mm TS-E lens is the ability to focus close, and the ability to use the tilt function to take creative shots. Examples of these are:


Common Jezebel by Pratap J on 500px.com

Common Jezebel
Pratap J

Closeup with a 24mm TS-E

In the coming days, I plan to test this lens in upcoming trips to coastal and mountainous regions of Karnataka. I am currently taking a fresh look at my collection of filters. The 24mm TS-E has a 82mm diameter and takes filters of 82mm. Most of my circular filters are of 77mm dia. This means I need to purchase a new circular polariser for the 24mm TS-E, and also migrate from circular ND filters to square ND filters. This shift will also help me overcome vignetting problems I tend to face while stacking circular filters. My favourite circular polariser is the Kaesemann Circular Polarizer MRC Filter. This time, I am looking at purchasing the Singh-Ray LB ColorCombo Warm Circular Polarizer/LB Color Intensifying filter to see how it stacks up against the B+W. Of course, all of this has, and will continue to dent my wallet. More to follow!

How I created this HDR image of the Qutub Minar

In this brief tutorial, I’ll outline the post processing steps I employed on an image I shot in Delhi recently.

Before I get into the steps, let me answer the question – why HDR? The primary goal of an HDR image is to show a dynamic range greater than what can be captured by a camera sensor under normal circumstances. This means, to show a tonal range of beyond 5 stops. Even though I reached the Qutub early in the morning, it was 10 am by the time I started shooting.  Sunny mornings generally present challenges to the camera sensor. I used a 5D Mark III, whose dynamic range I am not at all pleased with. I loved the scene here – yellow/green lawn and the majestic Qutub MInar against a blue sky. I really wanted to do justice to what I was seeing in front of me, so I decided to shoot a HDR.

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Sonam Weds Rahul

I got to shoot the Mehndi function and wedding of Sonam and Rahul early in May. Rahul is from the South, while Sonam is from the North. They had two wedding ceremonies – one in mallu style, and another in the north Indian style. Here are a few photos from the cross-culture couple’s wedding. The Canon 50 1.2L came in pretty handy during the evening. I got to make use of much of the available light!


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