I’ve been using Google Photos since the Picasa Web days. From storing photos and albums it’s today turned into a smart photo library.
If you use Google Photos, you would’ve noticed the ‘Assistant’ automatically creating new variations of your images, animated versions and even making a movie out of your photos.
I recently decided to experiment with my photography workflow by uploading images directly from my Fuji X100s to Google Photos. I expected to see a movie and some gif images show up.
But to my surprise I noticed HDR images it had created by merging 3 different exposures of the same scene I had shot. While the result was not perfect, I was amazed to the extent to which Google had invested in this product.
If you haven’t tried the search feature, give it a shot and you will be surprised at the results. It searches using AI and will pick landscapes, snow, trees or whatever else you search for and can be found in your images. This is not simple file name or meta information search, but looking for those artifacts in the image itself.
After seeing these rather good HDR images created automatically, it got me thinking if in the future a product like this with AI, can replace Lightroom?
What if it learned your photography and post processing style over time and applied that automatically to images? I would take that 9 out of 10 times, while still retaining the option of manually correcting images if required.
That kind of AI in photography and post processing specially, is not too far away. The Snapseed app and the Google Photos web app auto correct for horizontal alignment. Think of more such basic corrections that can be done without human intervention.
I’ve been using Lightroom for the longest time as it fits my post processing workflow perfectly. It’s a huge time saver, but if you’re a photographer, it can still suck a lot of your time. Heck, I have images waiting to be processed from as far back as two years.
For folks like me who don’t need Photoshop or too much of post processing, this automated processing of images could be great. We still have a long way to go of course before it can completely replace Lightroom, but would’ve thought all of this was possible a few years ago.
It was December 2008. Lehman’s Brothers had shut, the markets had turned upside down, and I had just graduated with my Masters degree. And I needed a vacation.
A few friends from school decided to go on a week long trip to the sunshine state of Florida. When we landed there, I was reminded of the Bangalore weather; it was sunny, yet pleasant. NY, on the other hand, was freezing.
Our first stop was Weston, Florida, a posh neighbourhood with million dollar mansions overlooking a golf course and a lake.
The next day we drove to Tampa. The drive was fabulous with lush grasslands (Everglades) on either side and a bolt straight road cutting through them. I wish I had good pictures to share from that drive. The grasslands are a sight of beauty.
We spent the whole of the next day at the Busch Gardens Theme Park. The highlight of the day was going on a crazy rollercoaster called the Sheikra. The ride starts like any other roller coaster, but then you are taken vertically up, inch-by-inch, to a height of 200 feet, stopped right at the top and turned looking straight down a 90 foot drop. Before you know it, you are hurtling down at 110 km/h. You experience forces of up to 3.5G on some turns. It finally ends in a flourish with a splash of water. You walk out feeling buzzed. Some experience!! If only I had a Go Pro. 🙂
The scariest part of the rollercoaster was this… (watch the entire sequence here)
The theme was Africa, so they had some animals too.
You can see more pictures from Busch Gardens here. I must warn you, these were early days in my photography obsession.
The next couple of days were spent in Orlando at the Universal Studios, Islands Of Adventure and Seaworld. This trip was the first time I experienced rollercoasters, the real ones, not the Funworld type. By the end of the trip, I was addicted to the adrenalin rush. We ran from ride to ride to cover as many as we could in a day. On all days we were literally the last people to leave the theme park. In fact, on one particular day, we had the security escort us out. 🙂
Hampi was on my list of places to visit for a long time. I never found the time or the company to go with. And then out of the blue, I managed to find both. The latter turned out to be quite a find 🙂 (for those who know the story).
Hampi is a mesmerising place if you’re a lover of history and culture. Now, a small village, but a thriving metropolis during the rule of the Vijayanagara Empire in the 15th century, it is one of the few relatively well-preserved historical sites in India. Like most thriving cities, it finds itself on the banks of the Tungabhadra river.
While most of the remaining structures can be traced back to the Vijayanagara Empire, some predate to as far back as 1CE. Jain temples found in this region are also traced back to a pre-Vijayanagara period.
Hampi can be reached by road via three major routes from Bangalore – Chitradurga/Hospet, Hiriyur/Bellary and Anantpur/Bellary. The Hiriyur-Bellary Road is probably the most scenic, and with hardly any traffic, it’s a pleasure to drive on this stretch. As you near Hospet, be prepared for crater-sized potholes and heavy truck traffic.
A city of this size with seven layers of fortifications (of which only the innermost is well preserved), seems to have been a well-planned and constructed settlement. An ancient gateway that served as a toll gate in those days still stands strong. Talarighatta Gate, meaning toll gate, was one of the primary entrance points to the urban centre of this sprawling 15th-century metropolis. The road from here also leads to what is probably the most famous site in Hampi, the Vijaya Vittala Temple Complex.
The image below if of one of the three massive gateways to the Vijaya Vittala Temple. Archaeological Survey Of India has banned the movement of private vehicles around this area. They have shuttles (electric vehicles) driven by women (+1 for women’s empowerment) that will get you to the main site and back to the parking lot.
Once you’re in, you will notice many temples and courtyards around you. The one structure, that grabs everyone’s attention is the famous Stone Chariot.
It might look like a monolithic structure, but it isn’t. Since the chariot couldn’t be moved, it’s wheels were spun and you can notice the wear and tear. [Some interesting facts about this iconic structure in Hampi http://hampi.in/stone-chariot]
You will find intricate carvings on stones everywhere you look. Stories from the Ramayana and depictions of Chinese travelers who visited Hampi during its heydays can be seen in many places.
As you walk around and absorb the beauty of this place, you will also notice the artistic talent, architectural vision and clever use of the structures. The first picture in the collage below is a blueprint/miniature model of the temple behind it. The bottom right picture is an example of rainwater harvesting. The fine holes drilled into the stone is for water to drip and collect below.
Another example is how they provided slits in the roof for the light to come through and reflect off the water below to light up the interiors. All we can come up with these days, are energy inefficient glass-fronted buildings.
Away from this temple complex is another area of well-preserved structures where you’ll find bathhouses, last remains of the fortification, a destroyed Queen’s palace and much more.
On the second and last day of our trip, we visited the most religious and famous temple in Hampi. Virupaksha temple located in the old town of Hampi is considered the most sacred of temples there. The large gateway (Gopura), a nine-storeyed structure, is the main entrance that leads into the courtyard and the temple.
The area facing the temple is the bazaar which until recently was still being used by squatters. Thankfully they’ve been evicted and hopefully it will be restored soon from whatever damage it might have suffered.
If you’re looking for other activities besides visiting places mentioned above, Hampi also offers lots of trekking and rock climbing opportunities. A short trek from this place (http://goo.gl/yG9ulX) took us to the view below. The stones arranged like little pyramids can be seen all over this place. A local we spoke to at the temple below, who came with us on the trek, told us these were created by folks who come up here to make a wish.
If you live in Bangalore and looking for a quick weekend trip, Hampi is one of the best places you can go to. The trip turned out to be a memorable one for many reasons.
Have you been to Hampi? I’d love to know what your experience of the place was like.
What started off on a whim on Twitter after seeing Abhinav’s blog post turned into a conversation and eventually a plan was made over a beer at Toit. I’d always dreamed of driving along the Indian coast, specially after my experience of driving from SF to LA along US 1. The monsoon was just the perfect time for such a drive.
Day 1 – Nagarhole, Kalpetta
I picked up Abhinav from his place and we left Bangalore by 7am. We drove through the lush green Nagarhole forest and stopped every time we spotted any wildlife. The moment we crossed into Kerala, the roads got even better. As we approached Kalpetta, the winding roads, perfectly laid and painted, were an absolute pleasure to drive on. We stayed at a homestay called Four Seasons run by a lovely lady and explored a few places around Kalpetta that day like the Pookode lake.
The day began with some lovely Appam and bird watching. Sat in the balcony watching the 15 minute cycle of rain and birds flitting from one tree to another. After checking out from our homestay, we drove to Chembra peak. It was a long drive up to the top, or rather the base. Winding roads, incessant rains and lush green tea estates presented us with numerous photo ops. We stopped at a couple of places on our way up. The walk from the parking to the watchtower was incredible. The panoramic view of the valleys and hills around was breathtaking. We decided to spend some time and shoot a few time-lapse sequences of the clouds drifting over the hills.
We then went to Banasurasagar Dam after lunch at CFC – Crispy Fried Chicken. A km of walk in the rain from the parking area to the dam, just like the previous place, was fun. It is the 2nd largest earth dam in Asia. Didn’t get too much of an opportunity to do time lapses as it poured every few minutes and by the time we left, it was around 5pm.
Our next destination was Kannur. The roads again were brilliant for the most part, while some parts were waterlogged. Every small town seemed to have a mandatory mosque and/or church. Drive in the ghats was brilliant as the roads were superb. Once it got dark, and we moved away from the Ghats, the roads got patchy in some places, the traffic slowed us down and night driving tired me out. After having reached Kannur, I was hoping to get to our place, recommended by our previous host, and crash immediately. But it took us an eternity to find the place. We finally managed to reach by 10, had dinner and watched torrential downpour and heavy winds blowing in from the sea, until midnight.
Day 3 – Kannur, Muzhapilangad beach, Bekal fort
After breakfast, a cold water shower, and a passing storm captured on time lapse, we headed up towards Marvanthe in Karnataka. Our first stop was Muzhapilangad, Asia’s 2nd largest drive beach, a good 5kms stretch on which you can drive. I’d never done anything like this before, and it was quite an experience. As we were driving up and down the beach we could see a massive storm approaching the land and the waves got closer and closer and at one point going under the car. I managed to tear my flip flops from one of the receding waves while we were on the beach and I’d managed to soak my shoes on the first day, not a smart thing to do by not carrying weather proof shoes. I was now without any footwear and had to drive barefoot for a little while. Our next stop wasn’t a planned one but turned out to be fun.
We decided to stop at Bekal fort (you might recognize this place from Mani Ratnam’s Bombay). We walked up a watchtower hoping to get a good view of the coastline and the fort. Looking at the clouds we estimated it would take another 15 minutes for the rain clouds to pass over us, enough time to go check out the next couple of viewing spots. The next thing we know we’re stuck on this tower with blistering winds and heavy downpour for 10 minutes. I had to hurriedly put everything underneath the rain jacket and take shelter behind the wall from those winds. We were crouched behind the wall into a ball waiting for the rains to stop. When the rain gods were done I was soaked. Thankfully the camera and other things remained dry. When it subsided, we walked through the rest of the fort. Even if we had time we couldn’t have gone down to the beach below the fort because of the high tide.
It was 6pm by the time we left Bekal, and we reached Mangalore in 2 hours. Refueled the car and our stomachs and decided to push on through to reach Marvanthe. Driving on a single lane highway with buses using 6 headlights, all on high beam, can make it very difficult to drive. We finally got to our destination by 11pm with Abhinav taking over the wheel after dinner. Thankfully it wasn’t too hard to find unlike the last place. The roads weren’t as good as they were on day 1, but Kerala still had better roads overall. Almost every town/village we passed through in Kerala had to have a mandatory mosque and church. Also, kids on the street play football! Didn’t see a single cricket game that you generally see when you drive through the other parts of the country.
Day 4 – Marvanthe, Karwar
Spent the first half of the day lazying and walking around on the beach & the resort. The sea was rough to get in, but we kept ourselves busy with our cameras. The rain storms kept coming every hour. By the time we left the waves had reached the gate of the resort. The drive started after lunch. A stretch of about a km of the national highway runs right next to the sea, with fresh water running on the right, possibly the only such sight on a national highway in India. The roads were again surprisingly very good, except for about 10 km of bad stretch. It poured nonstop all the way upto karwar incredibly. The roads leading into Karwar are beautiful. Hills in the backdrop, tributaries running into the ocean on your left and lush green paddy fields at the foothills. The place we found while doing a quick search on our way turned out to be quite nice. It was located on a hill overlooking the Kali river bridge and the estuary.
Day 5 – Karwar, Hubli, Bangalore
I woke up very early to see if I could get some good shots of the bridge from our balcony. It was amazing to watch the rain clouds drift in from the sea and the bridge disappear almost completely in that heavy downpour. Since the place we were staying at was an old fort located on a hill, it had a good view of the surrounding areas. We went to one such viewpoint and managed a few shots before it started to pour again.
By now it was time to get ready and leave. We had our breakfast and decided to drive 10 kms further north and cross into Goa, for two reasons: We could tick off Goa on the list and most importantly to refuel at a whopping Rs.54.83 per litre. On our way back passing through Karwar we stopped for a quick walk through a warship memorial. The road to Hubli where we planned to have lunch, was again to my surprise, fantastic. After lunch, it was the straight line stretches of NH4 and we began to see some blue sky for the first time in 5 days.
Shot on Nexus 4- Kali River Bridge, Karwar. That’s not mist! It’s the rain storm moving inland from the sea.
Shot on Nexus 4 – View of the bridge after the storm passed. Karwar
Navy Warship Museum, Karwar
As you would’ve noticed by now, a lot of images on this trip were taken on my phone (Google Nexus 4, with the help of gorillapod and some photojojo lenses). It acted as my secondary camera during the trip and I was quite amazed at how well it could capture images. Chase Jarvis is right when he says “The Best Camera Is The One That’s With You.” Abhinav and me also took quite a few timelapse sequences during the trip. I stiched some of it together and made a video out of it. Take a look!
Hesaraghatta, a man-made reservoir, from the pre-independence era, is now unfortunately a dry lake bed. But it still remains an ecological hot spot. Steps to revive have been attempted, but it’s been a lake in decline for many decades, and would require significant investment of resources to bring it back to its former glory. According to its wiki entry, people wind surfed at this lake. I can only imagine how awesome that would have been!
This was my first photowalk of 2012. And it’s been a while since my last, as is evident from my lack of posts on this site and other photoblogs. There are numerous blogs explaining how to get there, so I won’t go into that. It’s fairly easy to reach the place, and the roads are pretty good. When we (Sumeet & me) reached there, it was still dark. We waited for a bit for till it became brighter, and took a walk on the tank bund. The fog was dense and it was chilly. Thirty minutes later, the sun was out, but the fog still blanketed the entire area. We drove out towards the grasslands area. It’s picturesque to say the least, even though it was all dry.
We drove through this area for about an hour. There wasn’t much activity so we headed back towards the lake area. By now, the biting early morning cold had given way to warm sunshine. We went towards the north side of the lake area and followed the road and paths created by numerous cars and SUVs that frequent the area. The bird activity had now picked up. I had quite a few lifers given that I’m still a noob at this. Here are some of the decent pictures I managed to get.
I’ve always liked nature and wildlife because of the early initiation to it during childhood when we would visit national parks in Karnataka almost every year. But I never bothered to take it forward and get to know more about nature, and the incredible biodiversity you find in such places. Since I developed an interest in photography, I’ve always wanted to shoot wildlife, and I’ve done it a few times, but without really understanding the subjects – flora and fauna.
So when a opportunity (Naturalist training programme at JLR Bannerghatta Nature Camp conducted by Karthik) presented itself to really learn and understand nature I jumped at it. It was a 3 day Naturalist training programme with 16 of us in the batch. Sumeet and Santosh carpooled with me, and we reached early and waited for the bus to pick us up and drop us at the camp; they do not allow private vehicles to enter the park. After checking into our tents, we had a short orientation/introduction session with Karthik, who then asked us to give ourselves a name of a bird/animal starting with the same letter as our name, and so I was Shark Sandeep (my lack of knowledge on fauna evident here) for the rest of the camp.
Our first session with Karthik was about the purpose of this training program and a discussion on who is a naturalist and what is his role [Naturalist is someone who studies natural history]. The good thing about all the indoor sessions were that they were never boring and was always interactive with some lively debate among us. I also got a better understanding into what biodiversity meant – it is the variety in genes, species and ecosystems in a specific region. Western Ghats that lies in our neighborhood is one such example, and is one of the top ten biodiversity hotspots in the world.
The program also gave me my first introduction to bird watching and learning a great deal about birds. It was fascinating to learn about their behaviors, characteristics, and learning how to spot and identify them. What Karthik did so well was to teach us the basics, and trying to instill in us the right approach to bird watching. With a long lens and a fancy camera, we sometimes would be more interested in capturing the bird on camera, rather than watching the bird, its physical shape, feather patterns, its behavior and so on. He made us carry a notepad and a pen on our nature walks. I too was tempted to use the camera first- identify later approach, but from the second nature walk onwards when I decided to change that approach, it was an entirely different experience. Having visited nature hotspots all over Karnataka, so many times, I never bothered to look above or below my eye line, and was only interested in spotting the mega fauna – the tigers and the elephants, the ‘poster boys’ of the jungle, like most of us. What we don’t realize is the abundance of life that thrives high up in the trees and at the ground level. Watching and observing that gave me a whole new perspective and appreciation of the nature around us.
During the three days I also made some new friends and we had some interesting discussions on a whole lot of things ranging from nature, conservation, education, Bangalore and traveling. Karthik did a great job in teaching us so many things by allowing us to make mistakes and then pointing it out in the field. I look forward to keeping in touch with everyone I met at the camp and hope to meet more such people as I explore this further.
Here are some books, online groups and movies that came up during our sessions and discussions that you might be interested in:
The Truth About Tigers – A film made by wildlife enthusiasts who we got to meet and speak to. They are trying to spread awareness through this film by screening it at education institutions. Take a look and pass it along
After I had shot this wedding, I was asked if I could do another one week and a half later. It was the bride’s brother who was getting married next, and he’d watched me during his sister’s wedding, and liked my approach. I met up with the to be married couple a week before the marriage, showed them some of pictures, and all other details were with regards to the wedding and the shoot were discussed and finalized. I think its a must for anyone shooting a wedding to meet the couple well in advance and get to know them.
It was a two day shoot. On the eve of the wedding, I was at the bride’s house, to photograph and document a few rituals and traditions, that were unique to girl’s side. (Read Coorgi tradition). Here are some pictures from that evening.
Bride wearing the head gear according to Coorgi tradition. Quite similar to how the Kashmiri women wear it.
Bride with henna (mehendi) on her hands
Decorations and lights at the bride’s house
The next day was the wedding, and here are some pictures from that morning.
I did a wedding shoot recently. My second wedding shoot after this. I borrowed another camera from a friend, Chetan Reddy, before the wedding. So I had the 70-200mm F2.8IS on my camera and the wide angle on the other camera. How I wish I had the 24-70L lens. Sigh.
Weddings are such a dynamic environment, it makes photography quite challenging. And if you have the “official” photographer and videographer with their bad-ass lights blinding everything out, then it makes your job that much more difficult. Also the customs and traditions take place one after the other rapidly, so there is no time to take a breather really…gotta be on your toes. But I enjoyed it.