New School 2005 – PGI

Jay Maisel
Jay Maisel

Finally after some pondering over how best to concisely and accurately present my impressions on the New School 2005 seminar series I decided that it is best that I divided the post by people rather than days and then add some more comments. I realise, whatever I write will not be able to do real justice to the vast amount of knowledge that I gained in those four days, still I am vain enough to try.

First the cribs: The organizers were a bit sloppy, given the fact that this was held at a 5 star hotel and most of the on venue things were already taken care of they could have very well taken care that the AV systems and other equipment were setup properly and well in advance. Also they could have had better communication with the speakers and what would be the content of their talk – other than that things went very smoothly

Joyce Tenneson : Subtle sensuous spirituality This is the person I was most impressed with – in fact I gave her the epitaph of “Goddess of photography”. After having authored 10 books you cannot expect anything less. She presented using 35mm transparency slides and was the only one who did so, a practiced presenter, her style was simple and honest. What amazed me most was her confession that her studio setup is almost never more than 2 lights set at an angle of 45 degrees and when outdoors she just uses a clip-able backdrop and a reflector.

Jay Maisel : Visual Vitality “To be a good photographer it is a good start if you have your camera with you!” Indeed Jay always had his camera with him, he even took pictures of the audience he was presenting to!

“Make your mind do visual push-ups” was his advice. He showed how after you have mastered light, color and point of view it is actually the gesture which the photograph makes to the viewer which is most important. His pictures have highly saturated contrasting colors which he told he fell in love with when he started using Kodachrome film and thats what he strives for even in digital.

David Zimmerman : Ingenious Imagery This was the day when the master of spill and liquid photography revealed it all. David was the most honest of all the presenters – I am sure everyone has seen those Coke and Pepsi ads with splashes of ice streams of fluids – he showed how he did it… Most of the props like glasses and bottles are 300% bigger, the Pepsi/Coke is diluted to give the transparency, if the splash is required to be of a specific shape then it is crafted out of resin and then fluid splashed on them. The result even when demystified is nothing short of magic.

In the second part of his presentation he talked about his affair with aerial photography and how he is building his own airplane in his garage. He ended his slot with an almost spiritual presentation about his trip along the path of the Ganges river.

Intermingled among all this were tips about how to make money, how agents and art galleries work and how *you* are your only real competition.

Max Vadukul : Maniac Materialism His pictures are crazy, he said beauty is boring and almost everyone is photograph-able. He showed ample examples to prove his point but the best part was a 3 hour photo shoot he held as a demo, he kept everything very simple, lit the set with just one single large Octa. The magic came from the way he directed the girls and the way he cropped the final results. The first thing he told the models was to stop posing and start having fun – he would keep adding small increments of instructions as the girls kept moving and finally trip the shutter when you least expected it.

He also extolled the youngsters to not give up on their dreams, stay away from alcohol, drugs and unprotected sex.

Sanjay Kothari : Crass Commercialization This man was the biggest disappointment, he was unprepared and very reluctant to share knowledge. He took upon a project to demonstrate which everyone knew could not be completed in the given time – audience did mange to coax things out of him but less said the better about that…

Some other mentionable tidbits – I talked with a lot of youngsters about what they want from Photography – money was the most recurring answer – sadly. There were, again sadly, more girls smoking than boys. Chivalry is nearly dead in metros and letting a lady get ahead in line took most by surprise.

I got autographs on prints of all the above photographers

Last but not the least, I won an Eye-One Monitor Color Calibration tool in a raffle they had 🙂

Back to work and some before that

Got back to Nagpur today morning after a slightly delayed flight and almost immediately to work – thankfully there is not tons of work to be done nor did anything go wrong, however there is not time enough to do justice to the New School 2005 workshop, I will make a separate post about it soon. In very short the workshop was worth many times the money I had to pay for it.

The trip was also worth it – Contrary to what was previously planned about spending the 17th on shopping for camera related goodies, the pros – Vivek and Atul Kapley – announced that they had some work and would be busy most of the day. I was left with a daunting task of not getting bored or rather make constructive use of my time as well. Not to be out done I figured out, using cabs and local trains, the way to VT station from Juhu. My first stop after getting down was PlanetM where I picked up loads of old Hindi film music, all the Mohd Rafi and Guru/Geeta Dutt stuff and an almost complete Carpenters collection.

That done I started walking towards Fountain and in the way picked up some coffee table Photography books, lots of software for Aasim, a couple of PHP 5 books of which I had only an e-copy.

By the time I was finally done it was 5pm and I was too tired to endure the rush in local train plus I had too much stuff with me so I decided to splurge on a cab and had a most amusing Hyderabadi driver, he spoke the typical in Hyderabadi Urdu. He soon started quoting the likes of Bahadur Shah Zafar and Momin, which he succinctly interspersed, with the choicest and most innovative expletives hurled at the other drivers. I almost doubled up with laughter hearing some of them 😉

The next day onwards we were at the seminar, which as I wrote before will be a separate post…

Off to School!

Tonight, I am leaving for Mumbai, where I will be attending the New School 2005, a 4 day event on photography organised by Photographers’ Guild Of India. It is supposed to be a combination of seminars and hands-on workshop. I am very excited by the speaker line up which includes:

* David Zimmerman
* Gregory Heisler
* Max Vadukul
* Joyce Tenneson
* Jay Maisel
* Sanjay Kothari

Of the above, I am particularly keen on Joyce Tenneson’s Macro photography and Sanjay Kothari’s Photoshop skills

I am going along with Vivek and another of his photographer friend. We are going a day early and plan to spend some time shopping around for camera related goodies.

I will be taking notes and hopefully it will make a nice long entry when I return.

Getting Hot

Phew! just stepped in, looks like summer is going to be HOT! it is not yet March and the temperature outside is 35°C

Thankfully home and office are surrounded by tall trees from all the sides – however I am dreading summer more this time due to the power cuts we will have to endure.

Book of love and all that blah…

For many people love is a lot like this picture here. The thought behind it is very good but it is just not as beautiful and perfect as you imagined it would be. Somewhere the execution of the brilliant idea is flawed, you can blame it on deficient equipment – no pun indented – or whatever.

Is the picture so bad? I would say it serves its purpose as long as the person for whom it was made feels that it is beautiful and realises that this is something unique only she is getting, plus there is always a chance that you can make it better with more efforts.

However if you are not the adventurous kind you can play safe opt for the conventional kitsch kind of presentation, which will get you errr… ummm… the mediocre in return

Hope everyone is enjoying the Valentines Day 😉

On the more material front: We are adding a makeup table in the room adjacent to the studio – it will not be much but will serve the purpose, got very bright shades of nail polishes and lipsticks yesterday. Mirror will be added soon.

Clean Bill of health

Finally took time out for the so called annual check-up, read that as was skipped the last year and before. I had my Cardiac Stress Test done by a very pretty lady doc, so pretty that my resting heart rate was 140 per min to which she very soothingly said no need to be so tense!!

Unfortunately I was alone and double that with the fact that she does not wish to become subject of my photography skill.

So the bottom line is that my heart thanks to God and almost regular walks is apparently healthy, since the familial history is very strong I have decided that I might as get Thallium Scan done. Lipid Profile is very near the upper limits of normal lower limits of abnormal, but still OK

Yeah some guys have all the luck 😉

However it looks like Swati’s diabetes is creeping up on her, her serum triglycerides are haywire, still nothing to be alarmed of just need to keep a close watch.

Explaining Piracy, IP and OSS

After successfully initiating the process for starting of CBSE curriculum at Aasim’s school we now want to get them over to using OSS for students and their office.

To get them going at the office level we have a simple plan – the school library does everything manually, so we donate a computer installed with an OS Library Management software and teach the librarian to use it. Since the librarian is not very computer savvy she has no preconceived notions about how things should work.

The difficult part is what to tell the students, motivating the younger ones to use OSS. I am having a hard time trying to come up with proper analogies for piracy and open source without involving the complex almost incomprehensible issue of intellectual property… Stuff like you get a present and someone steals it does not cut because in software piracy the pirate is not stealing your software – just making a copy of it!

After a great deal of thinking the best I have been able to come up with is analogy of allowing someone to cheat from your paper in exams, this hopefully children will understand as cheating in exams is bound to be understood by them.

The next question was so how does OSS fit into the analogy – In the OSS school there are no exams!! Everyone shares their knowledge with each other and to each ones capability.

I know that there are still few loop holes in the analogy – so if anyone has a better idea do write in….

Models Vs Subjects and subjective beauty


Fact: Most women are beautiful.
Fact: Most women do not acknowledge this to themselves.

Result: A very common refrain among all my (amateur?) photographer friends that finding people/women to pose is difficult. That is unless you are a very handsome fellow wherein being a damn good photographer does not matter 😉

Why do all of us have to be slaves to the western concept of beauty?

Indian women are genetically built differently and naturally tend to be more curvaceous, rather to put bluntly hip heavy! Only a small percentage will have stats which fit the correct golden ratio in every manner.

I, an ugly looking runt, experienced success very early but only after I stopped searching for models and started looking at subjects. I saw women as beautiful and made them feel confident enough to consider themselves beautiful, though this is the first time I have been able to put this in words

None of my subjects are professional models or conventionally beautiful (read: someone who would attract wolf whistles as she walks down the street), or now for that matter very young, all of them are 30 years or older.

A more specific example is the gorgeous woman you see here – Nivedita. She is 34, mother of a 10 year old boy, a school teacher, dark skinned. In short you most likely would not look at her twice if you met her and this is not being derogatory to her in any way.

Her pictures however tell another story. In fact some women have confided that this ability to turn on/off the attractiveness is a great asset and I can well imagine

Professional portrait photographers will agree to this – You will be always better off talking to your subject and getting to know her before you being your photo session – Once again every woman unless she has really abused her body into clinical obesity is beautiful and it is up to you as the photographer to demonstrate that – learn to be an empath and soon you will be taking great portraits.

Of course in my case having Swati around helps a lot in many ways and I can rightfully (dear?!) boast that she has been my first successful convert. This was about 14 years ago, when I first took her pictures which we to be sent to prospective grooms, well then that is an entirely different story for some other day…

Oh! In case you have not yet clicked this album has 14 pictures of Nivedita from last Sunday’s shoot and for the technically inclined 3 of them have links to corresponding pictures of the setup used

Middle Class logic and CA

When it comes to money we are very very middle class about it….. and one of the advices from my CA which I definitely don’t follow is to spend money to save taxes. the logic is simple

Money Spent = 100% thus savings = 0%
Tax given = 30% thus savings = 70%

Even a 5 year old will tell you that 70 is more than 0 🙂

Yes – We do follow the cash flow and expenditure planning so that maximum benefits can be derived by timing the expenditure properly.

Mundane Monday


Am getting bored…. well really bored is a relative term, after a Superb Sunday getting back to the daily drudgery is pulling me down.

Yesterday I woke up late (by our usual standards) and as soon as Aasim left for his tabla class got into the studio and started the setup for some table top photography – the aim was to take a picture very similar to my earlier Garlic but on a white background. A couple of things immediately became clear – Mirror would not work with a white background, I had to be careful about the light fall off effect to prevent the white from turning excessive grey, the contrast had to be much lower and white needs more negative space to look better…

After Garlic I tried some pictures of Roses which turned out all cliched except one – will put that up later.

Once Aasim was back he wanted me to continue with his logo lessons – I finally told him that he could use shorthand notation and he was thrilled with it 🙂

Lunch was a nice mutton curry with zeera rice and rotis lovingly, efficiently and expertly cooked up by Swati (yeah, the maid bunked) in 50 min flat.

Around 2:30 in the afternoon Vivek called up saying that he was coming over in an hour with a friend who would be willing to be the studio subject (I somehow am now not liking the word “model” for the women I photograph) and that he wanted to try out the lights which I had recently acquired and it was implied that I could use his D70.

From 3:30 to 6:00 we tried three different setups. butterfly lighting, modified butterfly lighting and something of a cross between kicker lights and rim lighting. Nivedita, to say the least is an unconventionally beautiful woman….

The experience for me with no puns intended was “Enlightening”

Hmmm… now that I just re-read the above – I do have a reason to want One more Sunday 🙂

P.S. Verdict on lights useless lights fit only for a useless camera like mine