Thursday, October 27, 2016

Epic 1 by InFocus ~ Challenging the biggies!

“Hello Sir. Please step aside. You’re disturbing us. This is the last warning”- The elderly looking man advocated. Yes, it was pretty evident that he was annoyed at this late-evening “onslaught”.
“But dada, we are just clicking photos…..”- One of our young team-mates decided to take the onus of being the spokesperson...ermm, all in vain. He was abruptly stopped midway through the lines.
“We simply don’t care. Thousands of photographers come to Kumortuli at this time of the year with their huge lenses and camera bags…it hampers our work to the core. It’s the business end of the year right before Durga Pujo, people should respect that.”- The grumpy old man delineated. Well, let me confess, he had a point.
Historically, Kumortuli, the pottery hub of Calcutta, transforms into the favorite hunting ground of photographers right before Durga Pujo; yes as a photography enthusiast, this place serves as the perennial source of delightful frames - the lights, the colors, the textures and the charm of traditional artistic excellence reflects through the photographs. Having said that, the “crowd” of photo-hunters has increased exponentially over the years resulting in superfluous chaos; their sophisticated gear complicating the woes. I have even seen people struggling with their “towering” 70-200 mm, f/2.8L lenses in the narrow by-lanes of Kumortuli.
“Sir. Why would you need such high-end cameras for clicking pictures within such a narrow space?”- I remember somebody had posted this question as a photo-comment on a reputed photographer’s profile and that in turn, turned out to be a very engaging activity. The thread fetched around 150+ responses but the focal point of discussion was revolving around- “Can a mobile phone camera effectively match up to the standards set by a DSLR?”
To quote one of the best replies in thread- “I won’t mind investing in a high end phone that can click fabulous and sharp low light photographs. Who wants to carry heavy DSLR’s while shooting in tight spaces anyway?” – Oh well, very interesting take indeed. In-fact, he echoed many of our thoughts through these couple of subtle statements; here’s a couple of key deductions from the statement above:-

  1. It is pretty evident that NOT using a mobile phone in typical scenarios is, perhaps, not by choice but by compulsion,
  2. It has been well established in people’s minds that mobile phones could be a very convenient solution; that too for a value added functionality-primarily because of its light weight.
And here lies the catch- now that we have assessed the As-Is scenario, it’s not very difficult to re-engineer and gauge the To-Be solution when it comes to mobile phone photography. Talking from experience, I have had the opportunity to glance through Padmanshree Raghu Rai’s mesmerizing mobile photography series that was displayed at the Delhi Photo Festival last year; it strongly establishes the fact that mobiles phones could actually challenge the output of modern day high end DSLRs…of course that comes with the caveat that you need to be more creative and patient while clicking through a mobile device. And of course, coming to the aspect of “sharpness” of an image, the primary parameter in question is whether the lens has a large aperture. A large aperture opens up the possibility of more light falling on to the sensor and thereby enhances the possibility of better focusing and better results in low-light conditions. Also, point to be noted is, the use of a faster shutter speed is eased out because of the larger aperture which also results in crisper images and less of vignetting. The larger aperture, in general, allows the leverage of a shallow Depth of Field that becomes extremely critical while shooting products or portraits – the shallow DOF blurs the background substantially and allows crispness to step in while focusing on a subject; it could be a very interesting exercise to test whether a mobile phone camera can generate precise results while shooting a Diwali Diya with multi-colored bokeh in the backdrop. Alright…before it gets too technical, let us explore whether the existing mobile phone brands are investing in R&D and putting their thoughts together in terms of developing such a handy solution.
The answer is YES.
Presenting the all new Epic 1, the premium variant of the new series of phones (Epic) brought to you by InFocus.
Epic 1 offers to the customers, one of the best mobile phone front cameras available in the country; though personally speaking I’m more interested in exploring the 16 MP rear camera, with a large aperture of f/2.0 and most importantly the embedded hybrid AF that is ideally a combination of Phase and Contrast Detection. Any photography enthusiast would agree with the fact that having lens with a large aperture in itself is a big boon; the image quality is makes a “sharp” rise as a result. The fact that Epic 1 is offering you the leverage of f/2.0, I reckon you can now give your DSLR a much needed break. Also, ideally, if phase and contrast detection are assembled, you can in turn expect the best of auto-focusing functionality integrated with your device - that in turn, ensures speed of focusing and the crispness it generates on auto-focus lock. There’s another key aspect that I’d like to highlight here - I’ve been working on light trails since the last couple of months, in close concurrence with slow-shuttered images and I have been facing a hell lot of issues while focusing on the stagnant subjects in the same frame in the hand-held mode. The reason is pretty simple, if you have to operate at a shutter speed of 2 seconds, you need to hold your breath pretty tight to keep your hands steady; the issue is aggravated since the DSLR’s (with lenses on) would be pretty heavy. Now that Epic 1 promises to offer precise Object Tracking & Dynamic Auto Focus, this could turn out to be a revolutionary addition to the world of technology; I won’t be surprised if it generates decent output in while shooting moving objects in low light condition. I am presuming that we could control the ISO moderately to reduce grains in the image.
By the way, when I say that Epic 1 offers one of the best front cameras ever, I am convinced that the 8 MP, f/1.8 aperture lens is going to be a legendary inclusion. My word, clicking selfies in low light conditions would now be a cake-walk. There has been a growing controversy based on the traditional definitions and concepts, whether “clicking selfies” qualify under the umbrella of “photography”; Epic 1, equipped with a fabulous front camera with a large aperture, might just put an end to all that. Leveraging the AIS Support, the processor can instantaneously combine four consecutively captured images into one final output, eliminating the unwanted blur generated due to camera shake. Although I personally prefer still photographs, but shooting 1/32nd super slow-motion videos on your mobile phone could be fun - I am planning to implement the same while covering the Diwali Sky Lantern festival covering the entire trajectory of the lantern once it’s released. It could serve a dual purpose –

  1. To test the “mettle” of the rear camera in terms of capturing low light images/motion pictures 
  2. “Smoothness” of the recorded video and to check whether the quality degrades if two or more videos are combined to form a short movie. I have also been told that the camera supports 4K Video recording that indeed adds to the quality and the richness in color & tone. 
Having said that, I can’t wait to get a hands-on experience! Who knows, I might put my DSLR up for auction if I’m happy with the results! Perhaps the artists at Kumortuli can now breathe a sigh of relief. ;)

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Pujo 2016 ~ An Emotional Roller-coaster

“Thanks Sam. I have fallen in love with the city already!”- She predicated.

I was rather taken aback; yes Calcutta is indeed a photographer’s delight but then for someone who has arrived just a couple of days back, isn’t it a slightly expeditious call?  
“I did manage to reach Daw Bari yesterday and I cover Chatu Babu, Latu Babu’s ancestral house on the way as well. I was mesmerized.”- She continued, I could sense the kinetic euphoria in her voice.
Damn! That’s very impressive; new in town and hunting down those traditionally key focal points within a short span of time…
“Oh and I must mention that the popular myth that Calcutta is over-crowded during Durga Pujo has been busted this time around. Laudable traffic control by the Kolkata Police”- She ratified over call.
Goodness gracious me, I was rather startled at this….she is pretty much echoing my thoughts. I strongly believe that the “traffic scene” has been rather impressive this year; we have been covering almost all the major Pujos across North and South Calcutta, not too many road blocks or traffic congestion this time around. Yes, there have been times when Pandal hoppers have been asked to take a slightly longer course, but then that those calls have been taken rather strategically. Apart from the bizarre hike in Ola and Uber prices, this has been a pretty seamless affair.

“Oh yes, I forgot to mention this….this would rather be the pivotal talking point of my trip”- She narrated, I was dying to listen to the rest of the story...”That boy helped me a lot! I don’t know why he did, but he was the one who made it possible.”
“Who?”- My impulsive reaction followed. She had been with us right through the day at our friend’s “Bonedi Bari” and as far as I remember, she had left alone.
“I don’t know his name, but I met him near Beadon Street. A young chap, he seemed very interested to see the photographs that I had clicked and in turn, agreed to take me to some of the famous Bonedi Bari’s of North Calcutta. He also wanted me to click a couple of his photographs; and I happily agreed. I could see the jubilance on his face; he never wanted money….”- She recited.

#KurlotsavKaptures: Pujo 2016 ~ An Emotional Roller-coaster - Poto-chitro depicting "Chokkhu-Daan"
#KurlotsavKaptures: Pujo 2016 ~ An Emotional Roller-coaster - Gearing up for the mega-event of the year 
#KurlotsavKaptures: Pujo 2016 ~ An Emotional Roller-coaster - The stars are shining bright :)
#KurlotsavKaptures: Pujo 2016 ~ An Emotional Roller-coaster - No refusal in this very case ;)
Eureka. I have been shooting and compiling a series called “People of Pujo” this festive season and I reckon I have already got a lead. But mostly importantly, this cardinal segment of the conversation made my day…in-fact the rest of my otherwise grueling post-Pujo-week. I remember our Pre-Pujo telephonic conversation when she had expressed her concern in terms non-acquaintance with the local language or Hindi; but then Calcutta has been historically hospitable towards tourists…the City with a Soul as they aptly say. The guy was pretty much with her right through the evening, guiding her through the “famed” by-lanes of Calcutta and even assisting her in finalizing her Nabami and Dashami itineraries. This episode reminded me of a German friend (I had met him through Instagram) who had a similar experience in Calcutta during Durga Pujo 2014; he was pretty much track of directions in the soaring late night Behala crowd when a rickshaw-puller stepped into the scene and guided him back to his hotel. In-fact renowned Street photographers from across the world who have come to Calcutta to shoot, have praised her perennial conviviality and amiability. I distinctly remember an incident that had made it to the head-lines during Pujo 2013- a yellow-taxi driver drove all the way from Salt Lake, hunted down a British passenger’s guest-house in South Calcutta and returned his mis-placed DSLR; this is Calcutta for you. When in Calcutta, you are in for surprises...this city never fails to mesmerize her visitors...!
#KurlotsavKaptures: Pujo 2016 ~ An Emotional Roller-coaster - And the stage is set for her magic!
#KurlotsavKaptures: Pujo 2016 ~ An Emotional Roller-coaster - Blessings on offer for my blog readers :)
#KurlotsavKaptures: Pujo 2016 ~ An Emotional Roller-coaster - The dazzle- she has almost arrived.... :)
#KurlotsavKaptures: Pujo 2016 ~ An Emotional Roller-coaster - She is getting all decked for the carnival
"Hey…are you there?”- She perturbed voice broke my trace. I haven’t been speaking for a while, it was a rather overwhelming feeling.
“Yeah. Sorry. So when is flight back to Chennai? Joining work right away?”- I asked rather un-mindfully.
“In just about 20 minutes…I thought I’d give you a call before leaving. It has been such a nice stay, all thanks to you and…..”- I stopped her mid-way, I did notice that she says “Thanks” way too many times. And I’m rather allergic to this, I wish I could have spent more time with her in this duration. I would have loved to have seen more angles and perspectives of my beloved city through her lens.
“I saw some of your pictures on Facebook and on our group. Those are really nice. As a photographer if you had to pick two of your favorite Durga Pujo moments, what would those be?” – I asked analytically. It’s a very interesting study I believe; to gauge a photographer’s unique point of view.
“Ummm…very difficult to pick, there were too many moments to my liking. However, I personally loved shooting Shondhya Aarti (evening prayer) at Kalighat and the holy Sindoor Khela (The Pre-Idol Immersion Vermilion ceremony) at Daw Bari, some beautiful frames in there. I would love to come back next year and shoot again.”- She asserted.
“Have a safe flight, V. Subho Bijoya!”- Yes. I made a new friend, a new connection, this Pujo; this, my friend...is going to stay!
#KurlotsavKaptures: Pujo 2016 ~ An Emotional Roller-coaster - And the coveted rituals would follow...
#KurlotsavKaptures: Pujo 2016 ~ An Emotional Roller-coaster - This looks supernatural doesn't it?
#KurlotsavKaptures: Pujo 2016 ~ An Emotional Roller-coaster - Final moments before she leaves.....
#KurlotsavKaptures: Pujo 2016 ~ An Emotional Roller-coaster - The pre-immersion Sindoor Khela....
Thanks to Kurlon for launching this very innovative #Kurlotsav campaign covering the major social networking platforms and creating a huge buzz on the digital space. I must say that your festive season offers are very lucrative; I personally loved the TVC since it aptly portrays the essence of celebrations through vivid imagery and engaging clips.
P.S. I know for sure that V, being a fantastic photographer, has sent in her entries for the #KurlotsavKaptures competition as well; I firmly believe that, is a critical success factor of this campaign which is pretty much in discussion in the photography circuit of the city. #KurlotsavKaptures has recorded over 2000 high quality entries across all the platforms combined; that is a remarkable feat indeed. I'm very sure of the fact that the entire photographers' community is eagerly waiting for the final results!

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