You know sometimes you find an image that you really love…at the time, then, when you go back and look at your files a year or two later, you see something else that really jumps out, that trumps your initial selection. Well, for me this is one of those times. Initially I had chosen the image above as my "hero". It was the expression of intense devotion on the woman's face that got me. I ignored the rest…until now more that 2 years later.
Below are my edits from that particular shoot and now there is only one image that stands out amongst all of them. My initial selection is too cluttered and the people in the back merge with the subject. Can you guess which image is my new champion? My choice is below.
This image shows more of the setting, there is still a lot of emotion in the face of the woman who is performing her bathing ritual, but it is the apparent dispassion of the two ladies in conversation behind her that seals it for me — I wish the guy in the back had not raised his arm but I can live with it. What do you think?
I was going through my files looking for an image from the 2013 Maha Kumbh Mela when I came across this one. I liked the chaos of the hands and arms, as well as the bold colors, but what was it all about? What was going on? Does the image work on its own as a graphic treatment of a moment in time? I don't think so.
Recalling that moment during the first of 8 days that we spent in Allahabad, while there to witness the world's largest gathering of humanity during the Maha Kumbh Mela, I went back and looked at the set of images I had taken. They showed a group of women, one who seemed to be the center of attention in her role as a "seer", performing a ritual puja on the banks of the Ganges. From time to time the woman in the red sari would go into a trance state and start shaking her head while the others attended to her. Seen in the context of the story, this image makes more sense.
I spent 15 minutes watching and photographing this whole session. I had gained their approval before taking one picture so was able to move in fairly close and record the whole event with a wide angle lens. After a minute or so I was invisible to them. From the 80 images that I shot I have narrowed the results down to 16.
On our train journey from Jaipur back to Delhi today, Indian Railways was running ahead of schedule so we had a 30-minute delay at Rewari Station in Haryana. I decided to set myself a project and spend those 30 minutes productively — to go out onto the platform and produce some meaningful images of some of the travellers in the seriously overcrowded train carriages in the warm setting sunlight. The following is my pick from more than 150 frames. I made a few friends in the process!
Recently I was approached by one of the participants from our recent Pixelchrome/EpicPhoto Tours tour to Gujarat. She had been reviewing her images and was feeling very nervous about sharing them with her peers on our group Facebook page.
With her permission, I would like to share the contents of her email and then comment at the end:
"I have selected a few photos I love in the categories I had preselected before the trip. Faces, Working, Street Life, Hands & Feet, Sharing and after being on the trip a new one, Animals. I am following the Facebook posts from the group and feeling a bit intimidated/nervous about posting my photos on Facebook and mentioning Pixelchrome/Epic Photo Tours; I am thinking only fabulous photos should be shown to showcase your company in the best light. Without post photo enhancement software, the best I can do is crop and a bit of highlighting…whatever Windows standard software allows."
First of all I would like to commend Lois on her foresight and on her wish to tell the story of her journey through Gujarat. What a great idea to try and tell that story with each of those categories in mind. This is certainly a good way to organize one's thoughts and a good way to plan the narrative — not that it would preclude her from photographing all of those random moments that would crop up that would not necessarily "fit" into those categories.
Secondly, having looked through the following collection of images, if I were a newcomer to the photo tour experience may I suggest that I might be intimidated by what I have seen here. This is quite a collection of images, one which I would certainly be proud to share with my peers, and indeed with the rest of the world.
Lois came on this tour as a fledgling photographer, and having been given the myriad opportunities which our tour offered, she stretched her photographic wings and soared.
I have arranged the images in galleries in the categories in which Lois had divided them, and at the top of each gallery I have chosen my favorite image from each collection. I have explained why in the caption — oh, and the first four images below are my pick of the whole bunch.
Please grab a cup of coffee and take some time to look through this body of work — one which you should be proud to have created Lois. Brava! (click on the images in each gallery to create a slideshow)
All images © Lois Brassart, 2015
Strong, bold colors, good composition and great use of shadows. Timing was a little off. I would have waited till there was a little more separation between the two men (see example). I would have also altered my position so as to create more of a diagonal with the kite strings (see example). As it is the white strings form a rather strong 50:50 division of the frame
I love the mood in this image and it is the "gestures" that are what really make it work — the woman washing her hair, the position of the hand of the woman standing, and the raised paddle as the woman beats the clothing — great timing! Great use of the reflection. Maybe get lower next time and include the whole reflection.
Fabulous portrait, great connection and beautiful light
Here I really like the use of the arms as the lead in to the image. The diagonals are very strong, the color is strong and all the elements come together to tell the story of this sale/trade. In a perfect world I would have moved my camera perspective slightly so as to get rid of the bright spot of earth in the lower mid frame.
Fantastic image. You know what I really like about it is the wonderful use of depth of field. The viewer is so drawn to the cows where the background could have been a great distraction — not so here.
Not sure what is going on here but whatever it is, I really like it. The textured "overlay" in the background is very complimentary to the image as a whole. The expression on the face of the man is engaged and the placement of the hand is very strong — the gravy is his red string bracelet.
I really like the unusual point of view. The light is nice and you have made a connection with the girl. Compositionally I would have included all of the ladle and given a little more breathing room between the tyre and the edge of the frame. The cut-off matchbox is not helping either.
Hands & Feet
Great shot. It fits beautifully into your category of hands & feet — a bonus having the woman in green in the background! Again in a perfect world there are a couple of things that I would have changed to make this perfect. A step to the right would have got rid of the merge of the womens' arms with the tree, and I would have preferred that the woman in the background had been one pace back so as not to be so close to the edge of the frame.
This image is really strong in part due to the mystery. What is it? Love the texture and pattern.
Great use of the telephoto lens to compress the image. Great colors
Nice barber shop image. It took me a second to see the reflection of the face in the mirror. I like the repetition of the hand gesture. A little step to the right and you could have had the reflection of the barber in the big mirror, and a little more space between the edge of the frame and the reflection of the guy being shaved would also have been nice.
The plan was to head down to the shipbuilding yard at Mandvi, on the banks of the tidal estuary of the River Rukmavati, to see where they were building the massive wooden cargo boats. It was evident that most of our group were soon bored with this so one by one they wandered off. Someone shouted back at me as I entered the hull of one of these wooden monsters, "come and check out the fish market!" I thought that in a moment, I would.
A half an hour later I remerged from the skeleton of the boat and headed towards the market. What a surprise — one of the most colorful, most friendly markets I have ever been in — small and compact, yet bustling with people and vendors selling all manner of wares from fruits and veg to fish both fresh and dried.
A further lesson never to under estimate the photographic opportunities that sneak up upon you around the next corner. To quote my travel partner and friend, Herb, "I love this shit. This is why we travel!"
As we near the one week mark on our trip to Gujarat I wanted to share a few images. As always India is amazing and it never disappoints — a true travel photographer's dream. Enjoy the images!
We all walk the road, most of the time routinely, but Kumbh wasn't one of those [times], it left memories and this clip adds substance to what I felt there…PK Bhatnagar
The Meaning of Kumbh
The literal meaning of Kumbh is a pitcher, but its elemental meaning is something else. Even as a symbol of pitcher, Kumbh is synonymous with holy activities as in daily life a pitcher (or kalash) is an integral part of all sacred activities in Hindu culture, and this pitcher is a symbol of Kumbh.
Holy scriptures say that in a pitcher, its mouth (opening) symbolizes the presence of Vishnu, its neck that of Rudra, the base of Brahama, all goddesses in the center and the entire oceans in the interior, thus encompassing all the four Vedas. This itself establishes the significance of the Kumbh as symbolized by the pitcher.
Different Forms of Kumbh
We shall not dwell upon the literary meaning of the word Kumbh, but we would like to mention the synonyms and origins. The Kumbh is a pitcher. Kumbh is the human body, it is the abdomen, and the sea, earth, sun and Vishnu are synonyms of Kumbh. The pitcher, sea, river, ponds and the well are symbols of Kumbh as the water from these places is covered from all sides. The sky has the cover of the wind, the sun covers the entire universe with its light, and the human body is covered with cells and tissues. That is why it is Kumbh. Desire, that is longing, is also Kumbh. God Vishnu is also Kumbh as He pervades the entire creation, and the creation pervades in Him.
Elemental Meaning of Kumbh
Kumbh is the confluence of all our cultures. It is the symbol of spiritual awakening. It is the eternal flow of humanity. It is the surge of rivers, forests and the ancient wisdom of the sages. It is the flow of life itself. It is the symbol of the confluence of nature and humanity. Kumbh is the source of all energy. Kumbh makes humankind realize this world and the other, sins and blessings, wisdom and ignorance, darkness and light. Holy rivers are the symbols of the lyrical flow of humanity. Rivers are indicators of the flow of water of life in the human body itself. In the human body that is an embodiment of home, nothing is possible without the five elements. The elements – fire, wind, water, earth and sky – symbolize the human body. The great sage-poet Sant Kabir has explained this sublime thought in his typical manner.
The Himalaya is the abode of the soul of the gods. The Holy Ganga embarks upon its journey from there, encompassing the forests, the mountain sages and the culture of the villages. The Yamuna is a co-traveler as it puts an end to all sins, and it is known variously as Tripathga, Shivpuri and other names. This is the Ganga that liberated the children of the Suryavanshi king Sagar. Its holy water is considered nectar itself.
Kashmir: Trapped in Conflict
India , Pakistan , and Kashmiri separatists continue their increasingly dangerous struggle over Himalayan territory that once delighted residents and travelers alike.
This article was written about Kashmir in the Sept 1999 issue of National Geographic. The story is a good introduction to Kashmir itself and to its relationship with India and Pakistan. Check out page 16. It mentions Butts Clermont Houseboat where we stayed.
GUEST POST BY HERB LEVENTON OF EPIC PHOTO TOURS
It is five o'clock in the morning and the group is rubbing the sleep out of their eyes. Coffee and tea is ready in the dining room. We are on the way to Tiksey Monastery for an early morning photo shoot. The high altitude doesn't deter the mellow group of 11 and super photo leaders Jeremy Woodhouse and John Isaac…
As we walk the ramp leading to the the prayer room we hear the trumpets and can feel the air change. In we go, all get in the lotus position and scan the somewhat darkened room which has a sweet smell of juniper. Children as young as six and men as old as eighty are chanting, the bugles blow, the drums get banged. The little novice monks fill small bowls with rice in front of these serene praying Buddhist men. Straining to carry the big bowl we watch him fulfill his daily task. As soon as that is done he walks with a heavy copper pitcher carefully pouring warm milk into into each bowl.
The chanting continues, all prayers are for peace. The group is mesmerized, some scenes need to be permanently recorded, this is one of them. This is Ladakh at 11,560 feet and we are the only foreigners here. We are blessed to have at the opportunity to experience this. Definitely an Epic Photo Tour moment. The group is smiling, we are feeling peace.
GUEST POST BY HERB LEVENTON OF EPIC PHOTO TOURS
Dal Lake in Srinagar is at 6,000 feet altitude and I think that height has possibly impacted the functioning of the houseboat owners where we are staying. In the 60's the Beatles stayed at Butts Clermont and smoked great ganja, sang and laughed and felt peaceful. Their houseboat is still there but sunken in mud, with peeling paint, totally dilapidated, lacking windows and really looks like a wound and not a relic. This sunken houseboat isn't a national treasure or an ancient ruin but an eyesore in a magnificent location. The houseboats are furnished in old carpets and the couches seem to be from my dead grandmothers apartment in Brooklyn. Bob and Ann, two extremely nice fellow travelers and photographers are staying at another one of the houseboats that is half on land and half in mud. When I asked Bob about his houseboat he said to him it was a plywood shack in mud and he was fearful that Ann who was in the next room would slip while taking a shower and wind up sitting on the toilet because of how the boat was lilting in the water.
The owners are a group of brothers who all love their inheritance dearly but aren't sure in what direction to take the houseboat complex. So it remains stuck in mud. As a tribute to their departed father they keep it untouched, an interesting business strategy for sure.
This place is in a time warp to the extent that they don't have a refrigerator. I asked how they are keeping the food cold and they said they shopped daily. Definitely from market to mouth while staying here. One of the toilets didn't work and after asking numerous times to have it fixed and offering to call my plumber in New York for technical support it was fixed which they proudly announced and became a source of animated discussion. I just wish that Peggy, who is shooting video, could have captured that scene. They spoke about the plumber for two days and how proud of the new toilet they were – I am sure John Lennon could have written a song about it. When I mentioned that the walkway should reach one of the far houseboats so that people shouldn't always be stepping in the mud/yuck they nodded excitedly and said "inshallah" (God willing) Gabe from Boston, who received this trip as a gift from his parents as a graduation treat, seems to have this yuck as permanent attachment to his feet.
The grounds are magnificent and the flower garden something to envy. The food is excellent and the kabobs far better than any I have ever tasted. The waiter is a wonderful man who has been there for 30 years and I feel honored to have shared his water pipe. The two chefs are constantly smiling and when I went in the kitchen to thank them for another meal they beamed – you could feel that Dal Lake love. Abdullah, the on-site barber, masseuse, and tailor has a work bag that mentions his numerous skills. For 200 rupees ($3) he gave me a scalp and shoulder massage which left my skull red and a memory for a lifetime.
The Beatles are no longer but Clermont Butts remains. When I travel I want a totally authentic experience and the Epic Photo Tours group is surely getting one. Everyone is smiling, in the trip zone, getting exceptional photographs and they all know that this is as good as it gets. I think I will fill out an employment application here at the Butts, but first they will have to find a pen that works…yes, I will return again…I love this place!
Jeremy Woodhouse is a professional photographer and traveller. He leads photography trips to all corners of the globe