Thought Process – Making of a Photograph.

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“Shoot from the gut, edit with the brain” – Anders Petersen. 

Should have blogged on what I am about to a year back, but nevertheless, looks like this is the apt moment.

Good Morning

This blog revolves less on how the photograph above was shot and more around the thought process involved in reaching the image.

The above image was shot during the 2012 edition of Scott Kelby Worldwide Photowalk – Dubai Edition hosted by a good friend Zameel Hamza.

Those who have no idea who Scott Kelby is, click here. Scott Kelby Worldwide Photowalk is one of a kind global photo walk which somehow ‘Team-Scott Kelby’ pulls off year by year with grand success. ‘One day – One world’ is the kind of theme they follow. Whole world participates in this photo walk and the best image from each city is passed on to Scott Kelby to choose the best and award them. Most challenging part of the photowalk is the fact that the participant photographers have just 2 hours to create their best shot. After 2 hours its wrap up. Its a true test of ones photographic experience.

This image of mine not only was chosen as the best photograph of our walk in UAE but was also chosen by Scott Kelby as the ‘Top 50 photographs’ from across the globe in his list of ‘Honorary Mentions’. Click here to view the list.

Heres what Scott Kelby had to say on why he thinks these 50 images deserved a recognition despite not winning the competition.

“I think these images, and the one’s you saw yesterday, are actually even better than they first appear because:
The photographers weren’t able to choose the location (it was chosen for them).
Or the time of day (also chosen for them).
They had to shoot in whatever lighting conditions at that time
They couldn’t go back later (or earlier) to shoot in better light.
They were only able to shoot for two hours.
Compare that to most any other photo competition, where the photographers can choose any photo from your photo library, or any photo taken in the past year, etc., but in this case, the photographers hands were really tied. Yet they came away with images that are totally inspiring and very creative. Two hours. That’s it. And look what they came up with! To me, that makes these images all the more amazing”

I am very much pleased to organize this years edition of Scott Kelby Worldwide Photowalk in Dubai through my group Photowalk Dubai. This blog is for each of the members who have shown interest in attending the same and challenging their skills.

Getting back to where I started, Here’s how this image was made – The thought process involved from the word “Go” to “Bingo”

Zameel Hamza – The leader of the walk which I was participating in, guided us to Al Rams Fishing Village in RAK. About 70+ photographers crowded the silent village just around sunrise. Within minutes the crowd dispersed and photographers were out all guns blazing to get their winning shot. On the contrary, me and my good ol’ streetographer friend and my partner in running Photowalk Dubai – Oldfashioned AJ, decided to take it easy and relax a bit with a smoke and a coke.

Thought Process 1 : Never Rush

I had literally no clue on what image I would create. So instead of rushing through the process, I decided to give myself time and knew things would turn out well. Decided to let my Nikon D3100 + Tokina 12-24mm click star trail. Light pollution around the area + almost sunrise, led to a lazy composition ( Knowing it wouldn’t work out well ) but the music of shutter is quiet essential for the warm up . Below is the first image of the outing.


Thought Process 2 : Think Different

There were photographers literally across the shore shooting long exposures. Long exposures didn’t look like a good idea for two reasons :

1. Every vantage point was occupied by atleast 5 photographers.

2. For a simple reason that it was being done in excess.

It was time to think different. Thats when I thought of softboxes and flashes – my not so good buddies in my camera bag. Never fancied using soft boxes, somehow just not my thing. But this time around, I knew this would be my only option to create something new. Got the Nikon SB 910 and the softbox ready for action .

Got my newly acquired D800 + 50mm f1.8D into the party. Fishermen were just about warming up to the fact that their village was being invaded by sharp shooters. Bit of smile – few kind words and they were ready to pose for my camera. Though I still didn’t have much clue on what I was upto with the softboxes n etc, I had the sense of warming up to something awesome. Zack Arias One Light DVD playing back in my head – The mantra – “Aperture controls flash exposures, Shutter Speed controls ambient exposure ” on repeat mode as I shot my first few shots with the D800. Below are the results.



Thought Process 3 : Never Settle

Those images above weren’t bad but the intention was to not shoot a “Not-So-Bad” image, intention was to shoot a “Holy-Fuck-Thats-Awesome” image. So what exactly is a “Holy-Fuck-Thats-Awesome” image ??? Its not what I expect people to say when they look at the image, its something that I would say to myself when I click it – that ‘One Image’ which could create a tsunami of satisfaction within my heart. Above images – Nope, they didn’t even create ripples, Tsunami Aside. Its simple – Never settle till you get that ONE IMAGE from each of your photowalk. It will eventually happen – all you need is “Just a little patience”

This made me wander further away from the crowd to a not-so-popular-non-fancy corner of the fishing village. Glimpse on how it looked.


Good to have instagram’errs around you 😉

Oldfashioned AJ was still with me and he was shooting film ( now you know the source of the title ‘oldfashioned’ ) . Yet again, smile and few words helped me gain confidence of another fisherman to pose for me. Images below.


All I had running through my mind was “Not yet there – Keep Looking”. I needed something even better. Just then, came across this other fisherman who was cleaning his boat before heading for early morning catch. Moment I saw him splashing water on his boat, I knew why I had my softbox with me this very day ( Most often softbox rots in some corner of my home). Bingo, I could see my image right away.

Thought Process 4 : Gear Doesn’t Matter.

Dumped my D800+50mm and grabbed the D3100 + Tokina 12-24mm without a second thought. Asked AJ to help me with softboxes. Smile and few words didn’t convince this shy fisherman. Initially he strongly refused. I just said a cheeky one liner which came out of blue “If you let me shoot, I will win the competition”. No more objections. Next set of words were “Thank You” after I got my shot. I knew this was THE “Holy-Fuck-Thats-Awesome” shot I was looking for. 3 shots is all it took to get the right one.


First Shot…


Thought this was the one, but the clutters were too much for my taste.

Good Morning

And the one I was looking for – Clean and Simple.

So the winning shot, the image appreciated by the maestro ‘Scott kelby’ was made on a Nikon D3100. Like its said a million times over and over again, Gear’s don’t really matter. Camera you got is more than sufficient to create stunning images – all you need to do is practice practice and practice. Experience creates great images, not gears. Embrace these facts and see magic happen.

Looking forward to the event on October 5th 2013. Its back to square one – leading the group to the very same fishing village and with the winning image printed, to be handed over to the man who let me get my winning shot.

Hope this blog inspires atleast a few to think right and to think different.



Posted in Flash photography, Honors & Recognitions, Long Exposures, Photographic Locations, photography, Tips and Tutorials | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Shooting Heavens – Star Trail Photography

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Shooting at night – in absolute low light is one of the hardest aspects to master. It requires not only a very good technical knowledge about the settings on camera but also requires hell lot of patience. Its one of those genres which everyone tries their hands on, but not everyone succeeds at.

Digging in further deep into night photography, the absolute test of ones patience lies in trying astrophotograhy (Most often disappointing/depressing in beginning). But once you get a grip over it, it gets addictive. I am no different – There were loads of failures and disappointments in beginning but I knew its just a matter of time. And now I keep counting days for the new moon day to have a go at it – again and again. Ursa Minor, Ursa Major, Milkyway, Polar star/North star never meant a damn to me until I got into this particular form of photography, neither did ISO 1000 plus made any sense.

In this blog I would be showcasing some of the star trail images I created during the last few months and share some tips on how I do it. In the next blog I would be discussing on how to shoot milkyways.

 Liwa Star Trail

Nikon D3100 + Tokina 12-24 f4 | 60s | ISO 200 x200 Photos | Location : Liwa Desert

Embrace yourself for one crazy-long blog 😉

I would divide the whole process into 4 categories :

1. Preparation

2. Requirements

3. Settings

4. Post Process

Lets run through each of them NOW.

1. Preparation :

a. Clear Skies : Residing in UAE, Clear skies are never a big deal. Most often I pray for clouds to show up, so that I could shoot long exposures of the beautiful cityscapes of Dubai. Even now the prayer continues but when new moon day (No Moon Day) is close, I pray for no surprises. All I need is one clear night during the new moon day. Clouds aren’t your best friend when shooting star trails.If its a cloudy night, save your energy for something else.

b. Light Pollution : Light pollution caused by cities are visible far beyond one can imagine. You may convince yourself of being in a dark place, but when you shoot long exposures, the camera sensor does sip in the light pollution from the cities from the far horizon. Staying in UAE, which I am sure is one of the most well lit countries in the world, its pretty hard to get away from light pollution. Do travel as far away from the cities as possible and find a real dark spot with least possible light pollution. My travels usually range upto 200+ kms away from Dubai and further 20 odd kms off road. The More deep you head in, lesser the light pollution.

c. New Moon : The best time to shoot astrophotography is during the no moon day. Stars are best visible during these days. Surprisingly, only during such shoots you actually realise the light emitted by stars, they lit the ground like moon does on other days (though this may not be evident for naked eyes, but the camera sensor picks up this light). A few days before/after new moon is a good bet aswell.

d. GPS : Make sure you have GPS in your car. Travelling away from the cities and deep within to some location unknown can prove to be disastrous (Believe me, I been there, I done that 😉 ). GPS is your best buddy on such dark nights, and yes, make sure you got enough gas in your car. Being lost + being short of gas = Disaster.

trails n tree

Nikon D800 + Nikkor 14-24mm f2.8 30s ISO 200 x150 Photographs | Location : Al Aqqa – Fujairah

2. Requirements :

a. Obviously your camera – Star trails involves shooting loads and loads of photographs, so make sure batteries are fully charged. Have a couple of extra batteries if possible. Have a good memory card (atleast 16GB+).

b. Tripod – A Good solid steardy tripod is a must. Even a minor shake can break the path of star trails.

c. Intervalometer – This makes your life easy. Set up the intervalometer with (The number of shots x Intervals between each shot) to be taken and it does the rest for you. Phottix makes some really cool easy to use intervalometers. If brand conscious, buy the Nikon/Canon for 3 times the price of Phottix. Make sure you have one – Thats all matters. Nikon has them inbuilt BTW.

d. Torch : Not only for your own safety in a dark creepy place but torches also help in fixing your focus on foreground interest by providing the light assist.

3. Settings :

Glow of the dark

Nikon D800 + Nikkor 14-24mm f5.6 | 4s | ISO 1600 x1350 Photographs | Al Aqqa – Fujairah

a. North Star : Even before you set up your camera and decide on settings, find the north star. North Star also known as Polaris/Pole star is the star which lies directly over the north pole. The reason why this star plays a crucial role in Astrophotography is because of the artistic advantage – All the stars rotate around the North Star while North Star lies fixed on its Axis (almost), thereby giving a circular star trails (as seen in image below). Its not always necessary to shoot pointing towards north star. I Usually shoot pointing in other directions as I like the abstract feel of star trails more than circular. It all comes down to personal taste.

So how do you find the North Star.

The North Star2

Nikon D800 + Nikkor 14-24mm f2.8 30s ISO 200 x200 Photographs

 *Either learn a bit of astronomy and try understanding where the Ursa Major (Big Dipper) and Ursa Minor (Little Dipper) constellation falls in Northern sky (which is quiet easy to find). The North star is part of the Ursa Minor and the brightest one of the lot. They can be clearly spotted with Naked eyes, so no rocket science. Just look north and find the constellation, once you do, point your camera towards the same.

 *Or just use apps over your phone/tabs. There are few which comes free like Planets and there are few which are paid and more advanced like Stellarium .

Bottom Line : find the North Star if you wish to shoot circular star trails or point you camera anywhere you wish to, to shoot stars trails running wild.

Now that you found the north star the next step is to set your camera and get it ready to shoot. There are various ways of doing this. But heres how I usually do it.

b. Aperture : I shoot at the wide aperture range (f2.8 – f5.6), reason being, I need as much light to enter in as possible, this rescues me from shooting at crazy high ISO. But this would change according to the place I am at, the phasing of the moon, the light pollution and more of such factors.

c. Shutter Speed : Again this is subjective to the photographer. I shoot most often at 30s to 60s max. There are few photographers who shoot exposures of about 5 to 10 minutes. More longer the shutter speed – More the heat over sensor – More Noise. So you decide.

d. ISO : Its about the exposure triangle  Now that I choose f2.8 as my aperture and 30s as my shutter speed, ISO is clearly decided by trail and error. Shoot sample pics at ISO whatever, review the image. Keep increasing the ISO till you find good solid dots of stars on your image – like seen in the image below. You don’t have to see all the billion stars, just few prominent stars indicates you are set to start the intervalometer.


This image above shows you the start point.

e. Focus : Its dark – How does anyone focus !!! Again there are 2 ways to do it. 1. Find a foreground subject, like a tree or a rock or whatever. Using you torch, help your camera focus on it. Lock the focus. From there on, you go on a manual ride. 2. If you don’t really have much in foreground to focus upon, shoot at infinity. Simple.

f. Noise Reduction : Turn off noise reduction in your camera – usually referred to as High ISO NR. If ON, this will slow down your camera after each long exposure click.

g. Intervalometer : Once all the above settings are done, its time for your intervalometers to take over. Star Trail photography involves shooting 100 and sometimes 1000s of images and stacking them together in a software. My usual set up on intervalometer is as follows – Infinite number of shots at 2 seconds interval between each shot. Since my shutter speed is 30s, after every shot of 30s – camera gets a 2 second gap to breathe (this is why you need your High ISO NR to be disabled, else this 2 second gap wouldnt be good enough for your camera to buffer the images in a long run) and then the next shot of 30s is triggered by the intervalometer and this goes on till I stop the intervalometer. Usually I shoot upto 2 hours before I stop the intervalometer.

4. Post Process :

star 2

Nikon D3100 + Tokina 12-24mm f5.6 | 60s | ISO 800 x300 Photographs

You come back home with hundreds and yet times with thousands of photographs. Processing them is indeed the easiest part.

a. Edit and Sync : Import all the photographs to Lightroom (or any other editing software) and edit the very first image with all the minor tweaks to suit your taste. You would especially need to correct the white balance and do a bit of noise reduction on the images. Rest is upto you. Press Cmd+A (Ctrl+A if you still live in stone age 😛 ) and press the sync button on the right hand bottom to apply the same edit to rest of your images. Export them out of Lightroom. Now that the quick edit is done, its time to stack them together.

b. Stacking : Number of free programs are available on internet for stacking these images. One of the most popular one being – Startrails.exe . Download the same, load your images into it and within minutes you have your image ready with beautiful star trails. Even Photoshop does it – in various different ways. You can even create an action in photoshop to do the same for you which works equally well. More freeware softwares : Image Stacker / Deepskystacker

Voila, thats about it. You have your star trails in atmost glory.

Next up is a blog on how to capture Milkyway. Its kind of art in itself.



Posted in Long Exposures, Photographic Locations, photography, Silhouettes, Tips and Tutorials | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

Scrapyard Diaries – Page # 1

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“Two Hours” – said the repairer with a sorry look on his face, where I left my car for AC repair. It was a burning hot day and industrial area is not really a great place to be at, at such soaring temperature. He advised me to take a cab and go home and return back later to collect the car. Though it sounded like a good idea, I had some better plans. Had my Fujifilm X100S (thanks to Fujifilm Middle East for giving it to me for a test run) , with this gorgeous camera in hand, industrial area just seemed to be a perfect hang out spot to date this gorgeous beauty.

It was around 3pm when I started my walk across the industrial area and it was more or less like a maze. Even before I could figure out where I started from, I was lost. This directionless journey got me to a scrapyard, which almost felt like a mortuary of cars. Skeletons of cars filled the whole area as far as your eyes could see. As I dug into this area, from one garage to the other, I wasn’t feeling comfortable to start shooting. People here work in such extreme conditions and doing such hard labour, I just couldn’t convince myself to sneak and shoot candids. I decided to go the other way around, made up my mind to talk to them, know them and have a good long chat before I could actually start making photographs of theirs.

Intention of the whole shoot was pretty simple – to show life as it is. These people work so goddamn hard to earn their living. No comfort of AC – No comfort what-so-ever. Just few hours of photowalk through these alleys almost got me to my knees – completely exhausted and dehydrated. But these people go through this every single day. But as I started mingling with them, It was turning out to be a very pleasing experience for me to make them feel important by taking their photographs – they were not just clicks – they were much more than that. 

As I walked through, I came across a guy named Uttam from Bangladesh, who was welding some car parts. (I seriously have no clue what they were welding, why they were welding, where those parts would finally fit and no clue if even the techincal term for what they were doing was ‘welding’). As I approached him, he stopped what he was doing and pulled the mask over and asked me which newspaper I was from. When on Streets, I been asked this question n number of times before. Convincing him that it was for my personal project was an easy task. As I continued chatting with him, I finally asked for his permission to shoot his portrait. He was shy and half heartedly refused. Like Don Vito Corleone (Marlon Brando) famously quoted in Godfather “I’ll make him an offer he can’t refuse” , I did offer this person something he couldn’t refuse 😉 I offered to not only shoot his portrait BUT also offer him the print of his photograph. Now he was definitely interested and result is what you see below. BTW do check out the way fuji X100S paints with light, it is just unbelievable. You help it meter the light and it nails it – Period.


I was totally satisfied with the portrait and so was he. But I had the urge to shoot his portrait as he did his work. He agreed to it and he got back to his routine. This part was tricky and technical. I had an image in mind – to have the person lit by only the lights from the light emitted by welding and have the background lit by ambient light. Also I wished to have a low key exposure for the main subject with loads of darks. As I thought about it, I remembered what I learnt from flash photography. Ignore the subject to be filled by flash and expose for your ambient light. Once you get the ambient right, get your subject into the picture by filling them with flash. Confused !?!?!?! Let me break it for you with examples,


As you see in the image above, the main subject is in absolute dark ( as he is supposed to be exposed only by the light emitted by welding sparks) and I have worked on getting my background light (ambient/natural light) well exposed to have that warm hue in the outdoors.


In this shot, the setting remained the same as above, f2.8 at 1/250s.  As he started welding, the light emitted  filled the main subject with just enough light to expose him (while the background light remained constant as in the pic above). This theory of mixing ambient light with flash light is basically the thumbrule to get great shots outdoors when shooting with flashes/strobes. Here my flash was not a Nikon/Canon but something even better than them – The Welding Light – Super powerful and no expensive pocket wizards required 😉 Though I dont do much strobist work, the knowledge acquired could somehow be applied here. 

I would be going back to Uttam this weekend (27th April 2013) to hand over the print of his portrait. Will be documenting the reaction of Uttam as he sees them ( he wishes to mail the print to his daughter back home) and load the video footage to the blog in the coming days – Hopefully.

UPDATE : Yes, I did go back to this person on 27th April as promised to keep my word. Handed over the print of his photograph. Here’s how it looked 🙂


It was a rainy day in Dubai. He was considerably free – thanks to the lazy climate and given they work outdoors without a roof over their head, most of the workers had gathered around to have some leisure time. My entry was something he didn’t really expect – atleast on this rainy day. Though had my GoPro mounted on my Fuji X100s and though it was recording the events as I handed over the print and shot his picture with the print, I somehow got carried away with the proceedings and realised only when reviewing the video at home later that day that I didn’t do a decent job in documenting the whole process. Nevertheless I will try working on the video soon and hope for the best. I am not even close to being upset about screwing the video – I lived the moment and thats all matters.

Here’s the round up of the images shot over a weeks gap.


Special thanks to my good friend, fellow blogger and a passionate photographer Vineet Suthan who helped me with printing of these images.

Dont just click – Click to make a difference – One person at a time 


Posted in Flash photography, Photographic Locations, photography, Scrapyard Diaries, Street Photography, Tips and Tutorials | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Long Live Composition

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Photography has come a long long way since the film era. Digital has completely taken over films, made photography accessible and affordable to masses, which is good but film era did one thing that digital fails to do – ‘Make a photographer think’. When I say think, its not just about the cost per shot or cost per roll, but it made a photographer think many folds more before each click ; about compositions, lights, exposures and all other aspects that makes a photograph compelling. Since there was no chimping option during those days, photographer either did it right or missed it completely. That charm of artistic thinking has vanished in this mad digital age. Memory cards are cheap, so are hard disks. Each outing equals 1000’s of pictures but no real photograph. 

Digital Photography equipments have come a long way aswell, the camera companies have become the photo equivalent of drug dealers, giving the so called BEST-PRODUCT-EVER once in every six months and photography enthusiasts get trapped with more choices than needed and end up buying everything thats not really required. Pixels are swelling up, wide angles are never wide enough, telephotos can never reach far enough, that’s the world we live in for now. People are busy talking about pixel counts than talk about compositions, more busy battling on the never ending Canon vs Nikon war than actually spending time on field shooting. One thing these people fail to realize is the more important aspects of photography. Without COMPOSITION all that’s created with these MEGAPIXEL giant cameras is just ‘highly detailed crap’. Composition is the king and light the queen – camera, lenses etc etc are just the loyal citizens – the day you know this hierarchy, you excel. 


“Better graphics doesn’t mean a better game” and ‘better camera doesn’t mean better photographs’

Roof top photography is now officially a new genre of photography and most often the easiest to shoot. Get over 80 odd floors up (abundant in UAE), point your camera in any direction you wish to and shoot. Thats about it, nothing can look bad from that height. Reason being the point of view. Its not very often that we see city from that heights, so no wonder these photographs are instant hits. Nothing wrong with that until you see a billion pics online with almost the same ‘spray and pray’ motto. I do know some brilliant photographers, Daniel Cheong to name one of them, who do jaw dropping work when on roof tops, their work stands out because they know what they do, they work on their compositions, on exposures and they look into every small detail before hitting that shutter button. Compelling photographs come from inspiration, not duplication. Unfortunately, its the other way around. Duplication rules over inspiration. Never get lost in the crowd of billions by doing the same old thing, rather do something new, something fresh and something different. How do you do that – by thinking and by composing. Like Ansel Adams rightly quoted, “The single most important component of a camera is twelve inches behind it” – figure it out. 

Recently I got on roof aswell and the idea was simple. To compose rather than point and shoot and get lost in excitement. Reached the roof by 5:15am. As I climbed the stairs to helipad, I visualised my very first photo opp right there (as seen below). By 6:15am, the light I was looking for was finally at its full glory. Without further due, I got back to the stairs where I knew I had my photograph waiting and one exposure is all it took to get what I wanted. Relieved with what I got, played around the roof for another couple of shots and it was wrap up. Came back home with 5 shots on my D800. Looks like good habits are creeping in finally 😉 Below are the images from the outing. 

Stairway to Heaven

 Nikon D800 | Nikkor 14-24mm | 14mm | f16 | 8s | ISO 50

I titled it ‘Stairway to heaven’ (which by the way happens to me my most loved song ever). The composition is simple yet powerful. It shows the same old roof top perspective with a difference. It feels as if this stairway actually leads us to heaven and seems like its floating in mid-air over the city.

stairway to heaven

Nikon D800 | Nikkor 14-24mm | 14mm | f16 | 60s | ISO 200

This was another shot from the roof topping. The staircase is now visible, proving it actually wasn’t floating in air 😉

Bottom line : Photography has evolved, digital replacing film, darkroom being replaced by lightroom but one aspect which has remained the same is ‘COMPOSITION’. Before you hit the shutter button, pause for a moment – think, compose and then shoot.



Posted in Long Exposures, Perspectives, Photographic Locations, photography, Tips and Tutorials | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 11 Comments

Tequila Sunset – Decoded

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UAE has been suprisngly blessed with amazingly overcast days through this week. Thick dense clouds, cool breeze and extraordinary sunrise/sunset. Its funny how these beautiful weather shows up during weekdays and disappears during weekends. This sunday the clouds were so darn beautiful, it was obvious that the sunset was going to be a treat. ( PS : Sunday is Middle Easts Monday – we call it SUNDAY BLUES in this part of the world).

Just around sunset, I positioned myself in what I consider as THE BEST spot for long exposure in UAE ( Al Aqqa Fujairah and this spot in Ajman happens to be my most visited spots in UAE without a doubt). When it comes to long exposures, ND 1000 is something I cant live without. Been shooting with ND1000 for almost a year now. But this time around, decided not to use the ND and rather shoot filterless, just to tease myself to get out of comfy zone. Had my whole kit with me with choice of 6 cameras, but again, decided to use the most basic and my oldest partner Nikon D3100. If D800 had feelings, I am sure this decision would have done a lot of damage to its ego 😉 

So, no filters, Basic D3100 with Tokina 12-24mm and THE MOST AMAZING SUNSET EVER. Enjoyed the beautiful sunset with coffee and a smoke as I waited for the sun to slip through the horizon. Once I knew the light was just about right, it was time to do some magic. 

This blog is about how to get it right with the most basic equipments and a bit of Lightroom and Photoshop post processing. I don’t usually use photoshop, as lightroom does almost everything that I need ( given I do just basic touch ups, lightroom is a blessing to photogs like me who wish to edit in less than a minute). But there are times when photoshop becomes essential. For me, photoshop never was and never would be an editing* software. Photoshop just serves my need to merge images, especially in case of star trail photography and like in this case, blending of 2 images of different exposures. So once or twice in a year, I do open photoshop 😉 

Below is the final output of the blended image. 


Here’s the secret of how it was shot. The scene was difficult. It was hard to properly expose the sky and the foreground water in a single shot without the use of any filter. Given that I have played with ND 1000, I know the trick of trade on how to get it right with just one single exposure. But I wasn’t using the ND1000 – thats how ‘stubborn-me’ works. So the only way to get it right was by exposing one picture for the sky and the other for the foreground. Many may wonder how about bracketing, I am a ‘manual-to-the-core’ kind of guy. Bracketing doesn’t give full control of the shots, camera makes good amount of decisions in that case, which never works for me. So bracketing has never been and will never be an option for my kind of photography. 

Exposure for sky (Background) : 

The first picture I took was exposed for the sky. All that mattered with this shot was to get the colors and details of the sunset without any clippings. The foreground exposure of rocks and water was completely ignored in this picture. So as a result I got a photo which had the tequila sunset perfectly exposed and the foreground underexposed, as seen below.


EXIF : f10 30s ISO 100 (Metering on sky)

Exposure for Water/Rocks (Foreground) : 

Now that the first photograph underexposed the foreground, it was now important to get a second shot of the scene with foreground properly exposed while background completely ignored. So result was a well exposed foreground and an overexposed sky, as seen below. 


EXIF : f10 60s ISO 100. (Metering on rocks)

Next step was to edit these images in lightroom to match my taste. Once done, pictures were blended in photoshop using layers, masks, brushes, blah blah and more blah. It took me less than a minute to edit them in lightroom and hardly 3 minutes to blend them in photoshop. I wish I could explain in detail about how to blend them in photoshop, but unfortunately I am not technically qualified to talk anything about photoshop at all 😉 A technically sound guy would have spent another half an hour working on each pixel to get the “Blending” spot on, but I invest that time on field while I shoot rather than on my mac. So, four minutes and I am done with my shot. It was a 4 minute edit because I had nothing much to correct in the images, each of the pic had the respective elements well exposed, all I had to do was blend. ( Alternatives like, Bracket 9 images, blend them manually inch by inch for an hour or HDR these 9 bracketed images to bring out a result which hardly resembles planet earth – never works for me at least ) Keep it simple. 


Nikon D3100 – Tokina 12-24mm – No filters.

So there you go, never complain about not having a pro camera or this-that filter or anything of that sort. Get out of  “I need” syndrome and concentrate on shooting and enhancing your knowledge. Spend more time on field shooting than on editing. End of the day, your shot reflects you, so better make them look good 😉 

Happy Clicking


Posted in Long Exposures, Perspectives, Photographic Locations, photography, Silhouettes, Tips and Tutorials | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 11 Comments

‘Photowalk with David Burnett’

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Here’s another quick ‘Video Blog’

Its said “The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams”

Not sure what the future holds, but yes I am a dreamer and dreams do come true if you believe in them. 

As a photographer, its streets and people photography that attracts me the most. Photojournalism has always attracted me and I always focused on creating such images. One of the best ways to pursue photography as a passion is to look for inspirational photographers and idolize them. My list was pretty simple and straight – Steve McCurryDavid BurnettHCB to name a few. Steve McCurry and David Burnett – these two names were always on top of the list. Always had a dream to meet them someday, may be shake hands with them, have a word or two beyond just ‘Hi and Hello’. Would that dream ever come true ? – I had no answer to it, but I just kept wishing for that day and kept dreaming.

I consider myself lucky to be residing in Dubai, it sure is a ‘Centre of Now’. All the big names in any given field visits this place at some point of time in their life and this very fact kept me reassured that these legends I was dreaming to meet would someday make it here.

Steve McCurry visited Dubai in Dec 2012 and I wasn’t too thrilled about it – reason being, I was flying to Istanbul on the very same day he was landing in Dubai. So close yet so far kind of situation. But I am optimistic about meeting him some day and that day shall come 😉 ( UPDATE : I met Steve McCurry at the 2014 HIPA awards in Dubai – Voila )

Meeting David Burnett – Gulf Photo Plus is a blessing for photographers across the globe. The best photographers from all different genres from across the globe meet at GPP annual event. GPP 2013 had very lavish names attached to it, from GPP regulars like Joe McNallyDavid HobbyZack Arias to  to some legendary photographers like Greg Heisler, David BurnettDavid Alan Harvey and more. Its a great meeting point for passionate photographers to mingle with world reknown photographers and learn a thing or two from the masters. 


GPP hosts week long activities ranging from workshops to photowalks with the masters. I grabbed this opportunity to photowalk with the legendary David Burnett ( I missed this opportunity in GPP 2012). The feeling was overwhelming. The photowalk wasn’t about petty talks like which camera is better or what lens to use, it was more about knowing the legend upclose and having the freedom to ask him questions you always wished to ask. It was sheer pleasure listening to David talk of all those years of experiences ranging from his coverage of Vietnam War to Iran revolution, from Olympics to his national geographic projects ( Some unreleased footage sneak peak) and more. Every photograph has a story and David is indeed a great story teller. It truly was a memorable walk (and talk) and yes, it was a ‘Dream Come True’. 

Here is a video compilation of few of the photographs I took during the photowalk. Make sure to watch it in 1080p HD. 

Now its time to wait for David Burnett to get back to GPP 2014 and hopefully have one more eventful  photowalk with the legend.

And ofcourse wait for Steve McCurry 🙂

PS : All the photographs were taken with Fuji X-E1. Yes I do brag about this camera a lot and believe me ‘I’m just getting started’ 😉 It truly is a poor mans Leica and the photographs shot with this beauty backs my claims. If you haven’t got your Fuji yet – Go-Get-One. (You don’t have to sell your kidney for it, fortunately!) 

For now, let me grab another tea and start working on my next blog

Happy Clicking and Keep Dreaming 🙂




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‘The Lesser Known’

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Its always good to get out of your comfort zone. It just lets you know how good or bad you actually doing. Its true with any aspect of life and in my case, like always, I am pointing at photography. 

Recently, Fujifilm Middle East were kind enough to offer me their brand new X-series camera – Fuji X-E1. Was asked to play around and shoot anything I wished to. The moment I had the cam in my hand I knew this camera was a street photographers delight. Its one of those cameras which could give orgasm to a street photographer :P. I was no different and knew right then that streets was the way to go. This blog is dedicated to Fujifilm Middle East who have been very kind and supportive in encouraging local photography talents and groups. 

Initially had a tough time getting out of NIKON comfort zone. Though had this Fuji with me during every single shoot, somehow just couldn’t get going with it. Only way to shoot with Fuji was to leave Nikon home and that’s exactly what I did during a recent photowalk at Dubai fish market. 

It was a beautiful Saturday evening, a very busy day at the fish market. A perfect setting for good walk with the beautiful Ms.Fuji. For a change, felt like I wasn’t carrying any camera, X-E1 is feather light – A big turn on for a street photographer. Nikon D800 almost cracks my back after a long street walk ( Though I don’t mind that at all, may be I am just used to it ). Went spinning around looking for frames for 5 long hours. During my first round around the market, was bombarded with fish merchants trying to sell fish to me ( Big fish, small fish, red fish, blue fish, black fish, ugly fish so on and so forth. You name it , you get it 😛 ). One excuse that I came up at that very moment was “I am a vegetarian” which I repeated over and over again. It did work wonders. During my second round, no one had any further queries. They ignored me with a smile, that’s exactly what I wished for 🙂 

Here’s a video compilation of the photographs taken during the 5 hour long photowalk. 5 hours and 39 photos. Its good to be selective when shooting, Atleast that’s my way. Idea was to create a photo essay about the life in the market. People, Streets, Life – That’s my Genre. It was a perfect place for all that. 

‘The Lesser Known’ – Street Photography from subodh shetty on Vimeo.

It’s always such a pleasure to mingle with these lesser known people who are usually ignored. People need them for serving their purpose, afterall someone has to do the dirty job but the interaction with these people are usually restricted to the given business. No wishes, no smiles – pure business. I don’t transform their world with my photographs but atleast I spend quality time with them talking, chatting and bringing smiles on their faces as I shoot and share the picture with them. For instance, met a guy who works at the fish market and supposedly only guy with an email ID (and an iPhone – Chinese version :P). When I took his picture he asked me to mail it to him. I agreed and made a deal to send across all the photographs I take during the walk and asked him to further share it with his people working there. He was more than happy to do that. Atleast now I know these photographs are now not restricted to just my archives but actually reaching them too. Every person I clicked was informed to collect the pic from this ‘Guy-With-An-Email-ID’ (who was pretty famous right away). Tiny little pleasures of life 🙂

Speaking of fuji X-E1, I wont be reviewing the X-E1 like “THE REVIEWERS” do. I would just put my point of view about the camera, here we go…

Fuji X-E1 is truly an incredible camera. Its one of those which has created a segment of its own in the Nikon-Canon universe. It doesn’t compete with DSLR’s but rather has made its own space in the hearts of photographers. Its light, it looks vintage, feels great to handle, makes absolutely no noise when shutter clicks, got right amount of pixels, has excellent electronic view finder, produces stunning colors, has enough lens to back it up and so on. One of the best aspect of the camera is ISO performance. Most shots in the slide show, especially within the fish market were shot at about ISO 3000+ and the files were still crisp. 

But it does have its share of flaws (like every other camera has).  

Shutter Dial should have been in place where exposure compensation dial lies, would have been much easier to control the shutter when on Manual mode ( where aperture and shutter needs to be changed in a blink)

Focus was supposed to be the biggest problem of Fuji X series cameras. Though focus is not as quick as DLSR’s but its pretty much spot on most often, especially in good light. So not much to complain about. 

Changing the focus point is a hassle. Fuji should have sorted it out better. 

Camera goes into stand by mode and almost mimics my sleep, Just-Doesn’t-Wake-Up 😛 Switch off and switch on and its back to normal. 

Thats about few negatives, which are pretty much ignoreable. 

X-E1 is clearly a winner because its running a race in its own league. Its even better than its bigger brother X-Pro 1 in terms of its size and ergonomics. 

After all these good words about X-E1, just hope and wish I get a call from Fujifilm Middle East offering me a free X-E1. Would be more than glad to have one 😉 

That’s about it for this V’log,

Click and spread smiles.


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Just Wait for it…

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Let me begin the blog with a quote from Matt Stuart

”Buy a good pair of comfortable shoes, have a camera around your neck at all times, keep your elbows in, be patient, optimistic and don’t forget to smile.”

If you call yourself a street photographer or if you are interested in street photography or looking for inspiration before heading on for a street walk, make sure you check out Matt Stuarts work, it takes you to a world of absolute creativity, perfect timing and the best candid moments on streets. Without a doubt Matt is the master of juxtapositioning. ( Each time I head out for a street walk, I make sure I absorb much needed motivation by running through his photographs).

Each word in the above quote makes sense, lets quickly run through it. Walking miles is part of streets, so a good pair of shoes definitely helps. Carry your camera everywhere, we heard that a million times, haven’t we. Keep yourself ready for the shot at any given moment when on streets as the moment vaporizes much quicker than we anticipate. Patience is the ultimate weapon indeed  and smiling has convincing power like no other. But the word “Patience” is what this blog post is all about. 

When you look into Matts Stuarts work, one of his biggest asset has been his power to wait. He sees a frame and waits for the element to magically appear and fill in the frame. He visualises the scene and waits to execute it. Thats what makes him such a master of streets. He needs to be addressed as Matt StuART’IST for he is indeed a great artist 😉 

Its TRUE that street photography is all about grabbing those decisive moments which disappear in split second. You have ‘No Control’ of the situation, you literally care nothing about the settings on your camera, don’t care if you are on A-priority or S-priority or on M, dont care if you stamping someones feet, blocking someones way or whatever other awkward situations you can think of, all that matters is getting that moment right. Shoot right where you stand, just grab it…Bingo.

“But” –  its also true that its not always true 😛

It can be a bit different at times. You may have an opportunity to ‘Control’ the scene, a bit though. You have good enough time to frame your scene, get the settings right and get all the other textbook ABC’s spot on and then you wait and wait and wait for that magic moment. Eveythings under your control here, other than ‘THE MOMENT’. The difference here is, you still are capturing that decisive moment but you set the stage to capture that split second moment that you pray would randomly appear in your frame.  Confused !!! Lets look at an example.

When it rains in Dubai, it opens new doors for street photography. The above photograph was shot during one of those rainy days.

As I walked around the streets of Dubai, soaked in desert rain, I reached this zebra crossing which striked to me as a very potential frame. Great clouds in the background, beautiful wet road, brilliant reflections and just about everything right. All I had to do now is set the stage. I had enough time to set the composition I needed, get the settings on the camera right. I had to now just stand there and wait for the MOMENT. Many people walked through, many pictures were clicked  but somehow it lacked the feel I was looking for. It just wasn’t right. It took me 15 odd minutes to get the moment I was looking for (which you see above). Ladies walking through the frame, just about right position, right postures – I imagined it as a ramp walk on streets 😛 Below are the shots which were clicked before the FINAL one, those which failed to impress. 


Nothing wrong with this shot, but for me it was more like a snapshot which you usually see in some corner of a newspaper with headlines “Rain in Dubai”. I wasn’t pleased, so the wait continued…


This was shot next, but I knew something better would come. Decided to lit another cigarette and wait. Smoking in rain is so much fun 😛

and this, I thought this was THE ONE, empty, clean and neat with just one prominent human element…but I didn’t visualise this when I first stopped at this spot, there was a bit more drama I was looking for and so the wait continued…


and this…this was a beautiful moment but I wasn’t pleased enough to move on… (its all about personal taste of the photographer)

And then the final image was created. It may not be perfect, you may choose any of those rejected images over the final one, but as I said, its all about personal taste. I had visualised something on this line as I decided to wait at this junction and as I clicked and ‘chimped’ on this image, I knew I had it. 

Beauty about street photography is its very decisive. You think you got it, but street may have had more to offer, that is ‘if you just had waited a bit more’. “Click-Chimp-Move” syndrome has to be replaced with “Click-Chimp-Wait” 😉 Nothing wrong in chimping at your LCD after each shot, but make sure you analyse the elements in your shot close enough to know if you hit the sweet spot or not…and only and only when convinced about the moment you grabbed, move for the next shot. When you see a scene worth the wait, spend time on it, eventually all that patience would yield you with a very convincing shot. It can be annoying at times and patience may run out but force yourself to hang around, with practice you will get used to it.

I have another few set of examples to back this topic which would come up in next section. 

Until then, 

‘Click Chimp and Wait’ 😉


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Ignite Your Passion

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“Photographer” – What defines this word !!! 

– Its not the number of gear one owns, not how many lenses or camera bodies one has. 

– its not how technically sound one is about the concepts of photography – nope, its not that at all.

–  Its not how many likes one’s got on facebook page or how many likes the person gets on each of his ‘snapshot’ after posting it on a million other pages and pinging each person online to “LIKE” it. We all know those annoying peeps, don’t we !!!

– Its definitely not his Photoshop skills – Never !

The term “Photographer” can be summed up with just one word – “PASSION”

Passion is what drives photography. You either have it or you don’t. There’s no third option to it. 

Passion is what made Steve McCurry disguise as a native and sneak into war zone of Afghanistan with rolls of films sewed into his clothes, its this very passion which made him eat drink and sleep among rebels for months together – while they carried guns, he carried CAMERA – a weapon of his choice. 

Passion is what drove Robert Capa, the greatest war photographer of all time, to shoot those “Magnificient Eleven” on the D Day at Omaha beach during WWII. He risked his life to pursue his passion – while the German’s shot bullets at him, he shot pictures in return. How else could you describe that madness !

Such examples could go on and on as we are blessed with so many inspirational photographers over the years. 

But there’s one thing we got to remind ourselves over and over again – Passion is very very volatile. If you don’t push yourself to pursue it, it wont last for long. Owning a camera is the easiest part of photography and so called passion is on its peak at that very moment, you do actually carry your camera everywhere, click anything and everything. That’s awesome but sad part is the distraction for fame that pitches in. Zest for photography is lost even before you realize. Even before knowing whats beyond automatic mode of your camera, there’s a Facebook photography page with your name, then begins the hunt for likes and on n on. Between all that, ‘Passion’ evaporates.

So how do we keep the Passion alive and running from day one ! How do we not just be a DSLR-Owner and be a better photographer ! How do we keep that juice of creativity flowing ! 

Answer is simple,

Shoot Shoot and Shoot : Keep shooting without any excuses, over the weekdays and over the weekends. Sacrifice the luxury of sleep – luxury of your lazy weekend and head out and shoot. With passion serving as the adrenaline, its not hard to do. The more you shoot, more familiar you get with your camera settings, more familiar you get with those settings, more confident you get to shoot and confidence reflects in your photographs. Its a cycle which does world of good. Like Zack Arias says ‘Shut-up-and-shoot’.

Experiment : Don’t keep yourself comfy with one genre. If you love landscapes – fantastic, keep shooting more of them but don’t just do ONLY that. Try something new in between. Shoot for instance, streets or fashion or try your hands on timelapse or night photography, star trails, long exposures, macros….. Photography is infinite, its never ending. There’s always something new to do, something new to shoot – Its just YOU who has to dig in deeper and explore the world of infinite opportunities. Just keep pushing yourself out of your comfort zone. You will see great results coming your way. Click here to see one of my crazy experiments. 

Challenge yourself : How about shooting an entire month with just a prime lens ! or how about a telephoto ! How about shooting an entire shoot without chimping ! ( Chimping = Habit of checking every photo on the camera display (LCD) immediately after capture) or how about shooting an entire street walk with a theme, like say shooting only close ups or shooting every frame with a common color like red or blue or green. Create your own challenge and chase it. No ones watching you but yourself, be loyal to your idea and follow the challenge. Click here for one of such challenge I put myself through. It works and it works really really well. 

Explore : People in UAE always complain about how tiny this country is to explore photography. “There are no locations left to shoot” REALLY !!! The best photography location doesn’t have to be miles away, it could be right at your backyard. All we need to do is OBSERVE. Its been over 3 years since I been shooting and yet I don’t see this TINY country running out of photographic locations. Its because I do roam and see and observe. Most of times I head out with my partner in crime AJ to explore new places. When he asks where we going, I give an answer which without a doubt makes him worried. Most often it would be nameless, I hand over a set of coordinates and say this place looked interesting on google earth 😛 Lets see how it actually looks. There were times we drove 200 kms + to only end up in a military zone. We were sent back with a warning to never show up again 😀 There was an instance when we got lost, coordinates screwed us royally at 3am somewhere in outskirts of RAK. We kept our cool and kept driving without giving a second thought. Google maps continued to show some mountains at a distance with seascape around it. It was a good bet. So continued our blind journey and reached a fishing village and were welcomed with the most beautiful sunrise EVER. Since then this fishing village has been a regular spot for me. The fishermen around are now almost good friends of mine 😛 

How could I not mention the Haunted Palace. Late Thursday evening, AJ informed me about this unexplored supposedly HAUNTED palace in his beloved RAK. His plan was to explore it someday, my plan was to explore it that very night. Even before he knew, I was at his doorstep in RAK all set to challenge the spirits 😛 Didn’t exactly know where palace was, but somewhere around 2am we did manage to find the place but the security (who resides in a small place outside the compound of the palace) gave permission to enter the place only after 5am. We did make it then and explored the place. 

Bottom line – more you explore, more you find. There is always something left to be shot, keep your eyes wide open. Killer Tip : Use Apple maps, you are guaranteed to be lost and being lost is GOOD at times 😛

Travel : One of the best ways to ignite passion to a whole new level is to travel. Travel opens the mind and gives orgasm to the photographic eye 😛 Explore the world, one place at a time. Have a bucketlist of your fav places and plan your trips to experience them. I have my list and most of my list is filled with places from my own country – India. With love for street and people photography, I just cant think of a better place than my vibrant country, a country filled with so much of contrast. Its insanely beautiful and addictive. First on my list was Varanasi. September 2012 was when I did finally explore this stunningly gorgeous place along with Srinagar, Pahalgam, Leh-Ladakh as add on. It was indeed the most productive photographic experience so far and the whole perception of photography did change with that tour. Idea is simple, to have one BIG photography trip every year. Strike them off , one at a time. ( Though Varanasi is back on my list again, I am not done with it yet and may be ‘will never be’ 🙂 ) “Those who don’t travel have only read one page of the book” – That sums it up.

Get Inspired : There are so many photographers – International and local, who have done and have been doing amazing contribution to photography. Follow them. Read about them. Browse through their photographs. Learn about what makes their shot so special. When I see a inspirational photograph, all I do is stare at it and try decoding it by asking myself just few simple questions. Why is this photograph so good ! what makes it so special ! what was the photographers idea behind the composition ! what are the possible edits he’s done on it ! where did he burn and where did he dodge ! Those simple questions unravels the mystery. It may not be the right answers you convinced yourself with, but without your knowledge those disciplines will apply when you click your next photograph. Try getting in touch with few of your fav photographers if possible. Its a Facebook world, no ones too far away. Find few of them and keep a close eye on how they do what they do.  Here are few of those gentlemen who really inspire me from my friends list on Facebook : Gmb Akash ( for his stunning reflection on social issues, he is truly a gifted soul, one of my most admired photographer) Martin Prihoda ( love his blog, he’s amazing with words. One of those photographers who shoot superstars of Indian cinema and on other hand follows his passion to shoot street photography, met him in GPP and he is so damn down to earth) Raymond Gehman ( Nat Geo Photographer – Yalla, no explanation needed 😉 and ofcourse his simplicity as a person )

Doesn’t matter how, just get inspired, motivated and keep that ‘Passion Alive‘. Keep clicking like there’s no tomorrow. Learn something new, do something new and create something unique. That’s the mantra.

Until next time,


Just a thought about Facebook : “I love Facebook”. Facebook is a blessing to all the photographers. It is without a doubt a confidence booster for all the budding photographers and a marketing HQ for the serious amateurs and professionals. Without a doubt Facebook has played a huge role in promoting photography as the most happening hobby of all and led to the birth of hell lot of DSLR owners and some fantastic photographers aswell. Problem is not facebook, problem is those who get distracted by it. When you click pictures for the sake of Facebook ‘cool factor’, you are just harming yourself. Click for yourself, feel good about it, don’t let the ‘likes’ determine the value of your photograph. I get so many msgs on Facebook with just one line in it “like my photo at the following link *&^%$%^&*(*&^%$$%^&*” Spot on. No hi, no hello, no greetings what-so-ever, just a order “LIKE MY PIC”. If its for competition purpose where likes may make you win something, its supercool to market, thats what friends are for, But just for the sake of nothing when you pop up for LIKES, its insane. The obsession for “Likes” is unbelievable. This ain’t taking you anywhere. I have seen pics of some girls with typical duck face pose get more likes than photographs from Steve McCurry !!! So does it make it a better photograph  than Steve’s !!! It’s understood without any explanation. Don’t divert the passion for photography to passion for ‘fb likes’. Conserve your energy for the right stuff , Cheers 🙂 (and I have no idea why smileys on wordpress look so damn overexcited)

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“Third Eye” – Street Photography Virtual Tour

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As promised on the last blog, here is the video compilation of how I shoot – as I shoot, when I approach people on streets. It scares a lot of people to approach complete strangers for a portrait, this video just proves how simple it actually is. Just talk anything and everything, initiate a chat and you are in for a treat.

Hope this encourages atleast few of you fellow photographers to shoot more of street photography 🙂

Regarding the title, I beleive first eye is the eye of the photographer which finds the subject for the shot, second eye is the camera which freezes the moment with blink of the shutter and Third Eye in this case is the Pentax Optio WG1 which recorded the whole event.

The photowalk was done in busiest streets of Rolla Sharjah, the old market area, which is an absolute contrast to glittering Dubai, in simple it is the capital of street photography, glad to have explored this area.

Special thanks to Adam Backer and OldFashioned Aj for joining me on this walk and thanks to AJ for the Pentax camera to record the event (I fell in love with this cam and got one myself the next day)

Overall had a lot of fun experimenting with this new idea and hope it was inspirational to at least a few of you to shoot more of streets. Believe me, Streets help you in developing two most important elements of photography – “Eye of an Eagle and Patience of a Saint” 

Happy “Street” Clicking 🙂

Posted in Perspectives, Photographic Locations, photography, Street Photography, Tips and Tutorials, Video Blog | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments