God’s Own Country

Flying over the state of Kerala in southern India, the visitor is struck by what seems to be an endless panoply of palm fronds blanketing the land. This dense spread of the coconut tree has come to represent Kerala’s topographic signature. It serves as our motif in the sequence of photographs below. Here in the groves, the implements and the rhythm of everyday Keralan life are disclosed. The monsoon rains lend to the scene their deep water-soaked colours.

Backwaters at Alappuzha, Kerala<br>5D, EF 70-200 f/2.8 L IS

Backwaters at Alappuzha, Kerala
5D, EF 70-200 f/2.8 L IS

 
Vishnu Temple in Achan Thuruthu, Kerala<br>5D, EF 70-200 f/2.8 L IS

Vishnu temple in Achan Thuruthu, Kerala
5D, EF 70-200 f/2.8 L IS

 
Life in the Valiyaparamba backwaters, Kerala<br>5D, EF 24-105L

Life in the Valiyaparamba backwaters, Kerala
5D, EF 24-105L

 
 
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In Praise of 85L and 135L Lenses

In the realm of Portraiture, two lenses in the Canon line-up – EF 85mm f/1.2 L II and EF 135mm f/2 L – have attained occult status for their superlative optical performance and for the creative possibilities they open.

The 85L II lens was primarily conceived as a portrait lens. Not the fastest autofocus arrow in Canon’s quiver, it is best deployed in controlled, deliberate situations. With its widest aperture of f/1.2, it is a delicate tool requiring of care & skill.

The 135L lens revels in tight head shots and its fast autofocus lends it an extra edge. Stopped down, it is a splendid candidate for landscape work in the medium telephoto region.

A couple of portraits of my little niece Saraswati, taken in Panjim, Goa, are offered below.

The first image taken with 85L II underscores its signal feature: ability to cull the essentials from a composition – in this instance, the eyes – with its wafer thin depth of field at f/1.2.

The second is a quick, spontaneous capture with the 135L at an outdoors event. Here I had no choice but to make do with the angle & character of the available light at that moment. Perhaps the soft shadows in this instance enhance the profile. You decide.

 
Close-up of Saraswati<br>5D, 85L II

Close-up of Saraswati
5D, 85L II @ f/1.2

 
Portrait of Saraswati<br>5D, 135L

Saraswati
5D, 135L @ f/2

 
 
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Badami

Badami in the the state of Karnataka, India, is known for its  ancient rock-cut temples. The sandstone ridge, overlooking the town, is set afire every day moments before sundown.  In the image below, the Bhootnath temple is also seen on the banks of the lake.

Sandstone Ridge at Badami<br>5D, 24-105L

Sandstone ridge at Badami
5D, 24-105L

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Sweeping For Her God

Early morning drives through rural Goa are among life’s great pleasures.  Goan villages have a unique physical and aesthetic appeal.  The template is more or less the same:  life is anchored around the local temple or the church, a key village institution for matters spiritual as well as social.  Then there is the village ‘tinto’ – a hive of activity dotted with a tavern, cafe, barber shop, store, and local gossips.  This languid, bucolic world is now fast fading in the face of ‘development’ and out-of-control influx invasion from the rest of India.

At the end of a crepuscular photo excursion earlier this year, I stopped by the old temple of Ravalnath in the village of Mulgaon (Moolgaon). A lone figure in the courtyard greeted me, an elderly widow named Jayashree Gaonkar, as it turned out. When I inquired after her, she replied that hers’ had been a hard life but that she is now glad to have the opportunity to “sweep the courtyard for my God every morning.” We had a good conversation. When I asked if I could take some portraits, she was overcome by shyness. After some cajoling she acceded.

Jayashree Gaonkar at Ravalnath temple in Moolgaon

Jayashree Gaonkar of Mulgaon, Goa
5D, 85L II

 
Jayashree Gaonkar in the courtyard of the temple 5D, 24-105L

Jayashree Gaonkar in the courtyard of the temple
5D, 24-105L

 
Ancient idol of Ravalnath at Mulgaon<br>5D, 85L II

Ancient idol of Ravalnath at Mulgaon
5D, 85L II

 
 
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