Desiderata

Go placidly amidst the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence. As far as possible without surrender be on good terms with all persons. Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even the dull and the ignorant; they too have their story.

Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexatious to the spirit. If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain or bitter; for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.

Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans. Keep interested in your own career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.

Exercise caution in your business affairs; for the world is full of trickery. But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals; and everywhere life is full of heroism.

Be yourself. Especially, do not feign affection. Neither be cynical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is as perennial as the grass.

Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth. Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.

Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here.

And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should. Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be, and whatever your labours and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul. With all its shams, drudgery, and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful.

Strive to be happy.

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Experiments with Light – Street II

It had been a while since I went shooting on the streets and I was bloody bored as well. So, I thought I’d go out and shoot in the streets but quite differently this time, with a tilt-shift lens. Now I don’t own a tilt-shift lens, they’re quite (meaning very) expensive and are used mostly for perspective correction in architectural and interior photography. The next best option was to rent one and that’s exactly what I did!

Or at least wanted to do, for I was in for a disappointment when I went there to rent the lens. The lens was already taken, leaving me to choose from what was available there. So I decided on the next best thing, a fish-eye lens and went off to shoot. A little introduction about the lens though, it was a Canon 15 mm f2.8 fish-eye lens and I was using a cropped sensor camera, which makes the lens equivalent to a longer focal length one because of the cropped field of view. This leads to another problem, even though I may have an almost 180°, I won’t be able to get the fish-eye effect unless I shoot from very close, really really close. Now there’s a challenge, I thought. Shooting from very close, on the streets, in Singapore. How hard can it be?

Turns out, it can be hard. Especially on a day when the sun is out in all its glory and there’re are hardly any people on the streets. So, there’s dent number two in my plans for shooting that day. What do I do now? I turned to the next best alternative and shoot whatever catches my fancy. Now, what would catch my fancy, since I wanted to shoot because I was bored in the first place. These did.

Temple

Street

Urban Skyline

And so, there ends my adventure in street shooting, because a little later the weather gods thought it was too hot and humid for the day and decided to clear the air with a little (meaning cats, dogs and several other pet animals) rain. The following two images are not part of this shoot, but were taken on a different day at a different location. Meant to be submitted to a photo competition but never did, because I thought they were a bit too cliché.

Play

Slide

Nostalgia

1990. It’s almost 20 years ago. Thinking back, it makes me feel very old.

I was 9 then, in fifth grade. A bunch of us were put in a new class since er.. for whatever reason I can’t remember. Having studied with a class since kindergarten, being put into a new class with a new bunch of students and a brand new teacher who looked scary, was kind of traumatic to 9 year old me. So I did what I thought was best for me, I cried and threw a tantrum and asked to be put back in the class I was in. I must have been very convincing that the school agreed with me. Surprised and happy I went with the teacher, only to find myself in an entirely different class and not the old one. This time I didn’t cry but rebelled and was taken to the headmistress. Asked why I did that (after getting duly punished though), I gave her the reason. I didn’t like the teacher. It ended with me being put in the new class and the teacher who I was scared of turned out to be better than most others. Ah, the good old times. Thinking about it now puts a smile to my face as I realise how stupid I was.

This event came to my mind at the end of a sequence of others, as I finished talking about undergraduate admissions with my friend over dinner. We were discussing about the time when we finished high school and were about to venture into a world where the final preparations for an entry into a bigger world were to be done, the University. The conversation digressed from the admission procedures and the selection criteria to the best colleges and universities and ended up with us reminiscing about the life we had when we were kids, with parents doing what is best for us.

No, actually they did what they thought was good for us. Which was not always a good thing according to us, the kids. We wanted something, we got something else. Like it or not, you had no choice but to take it. I believe it was the same for everyone, but to a different extent. I think that extent, the limit they set on what we can get during those formative years defines a substantial part of our personality for the rest of our lives. Those who get everything they want during those years, end up taking everything for granted. Those who don’t, think ten times before they want to get something for themselves, even though they know well it is fully within their power to get it and there’s no one to stop them. I’ll leave further analysis to the professionals.

Coming back to nostalgia, it’s amusing how it brings back so much stuff and makes it jump from one memory to another just so randomly. The thoughts and events that are brought back are usually bad, those that were hurting, those that caused anger or sadness.In the end, nostalgia makes you think about those past stuff and you either laugh at it or make a decision not to pass it on to the future. Nostalgia perhaps is called so because it brings back those memories. Painful it may be, but sometimes it can make the person feel alive.

Experiments with Light – Birds

I happened to visit the Jurong Bird Park last Sunday (February 8, 2009) with a group of photographers. What follows is a short account of the day’s happenings.

We started the day at the African Wetlands Exhibit shooting a few ducks, cranes, shoebills and what not. Picture below shows an African Crown Crane.

African Crown Crane

Following this, we went to see the flamingoes and the macaws. The flamingoes were mostly in the shadows and couldn’t get a good shot with my Sigma 70-300 lens. An accidental shot that happened near the macaws.I noticed it only after I shot and tried for a better angle but couldn’t get any.

Eyes

Next stop was the African Waterfall Aviary, where bird feeding was going on. The birds were a bit fast and the lens was slow. Here I got to try the 200mm f2.0 on the Nikon D3 brought by the organiser of the outing. The lens was humongous but fortunately the high ISO performance of the camera helped use high shutter speeds. Managed to catch a few starlings and carmine bee-eaters. Below shot is a Starling taken near the waterfall

Starling

Preceding the feeding show, we visited the SE Asian aviary, where the birds were in enclosures and with low light. My old lens was not upto the task and most of the pictures were ruined. From the Waterfall Aviary we went to the Lory Loft housing several kinds of Lorikeets. Very colourful birds, and very active too. It was almost midday when we reached there and the birds were getting fed by the visitors to the park.

Lorikeet

By the time we were through with the lorikeets, everyone were tired and we had to adjourn for lunch. Post lunch, we were on the way to the Birds of Prey enclosure and the bird shows at the amphitheatre when we met a celebrity who became an instant hit with all the photographers!

Penguin Paparazzi

It was a tropical penguin, yes a penguin that lives in the tropics! It was slowly walking out of the enclosure when we spotted it. The penguin gladly posed for us and seemed to enjoy all the attention. We had some time to spare before the shows started and so visited some swans and ducks at the Riverine enclosure.

Preening Swan

Duck

All in all, a very satisfying day of shooting the birds, and the first time visiting the bird park. More photos here.

The Kite Runner

Kite Runner : A person who chases after kites that are cut loose in a duel and retrieves them. Can be the same person as the one that flies the kite or a servant or a friend or…

I recently watched this movie by Marc Foster based on the book of the same name by Khaled Hosseini. In short, it’s the story of two kids who are inseparable when young, how they grow apart and what happens in their lives. What makes it interesting is how the story progresses and the depiction of the characters.

The movie starts with a guy Amir, receiving a box of his newly published book. He also receives a phone call from an old family friend in Pakistan and the story moves backward to Amir’s childhood. Here we get introduced to Hassan, the kite runner. He’s the son of the servant in Amir’s household. Both have a passion for flying kites, and Hassan is a very loyal friend to Amir. So much so that he suffers abuse (physical and sexual) from Assef and his friends, their bullies. Amir is reluctant to help and is later embarrassed of this. Hassan and his father leave Amir’s household after this incident though no one but Amir knows what exactly happened. Soon the Soviet invasion happens and Amir and his father move to the US.

In the US, he grows up, gets married, becomes moderately successful and publishes a book (he has always wanted to be a writer much against his father’s wishes) when he gets the phone call from Rahim Khan, a friend of his father and the one guy who appreciated Amir’s stories besides Hassan. Amir makes a trip to Peshawar where Rahim is living after the Taliban took over Afghanistan and learns about what happened to Hassan and who he really is. The rest of the story is about whether Amir has a change of character or remains the same spineless creature that he grew up as. Without giving away any plot details, it involves Hassan’s son and a meeting with his old bully Assef, who is now with the Taliban.

The protagonist and narrator of the story is Amir, a son of rich parents living in Kabul before the Soviet invasion and before Afghanistan is thrown into constant turmoil. He is a very passive person, non-confrontational and doesn’t even stand up to his bullies. Instead he lets Hassan fight on his behalf, which his father despises. He hopes that someday Amir will change and stand up for himself. Hassan is his close friend, his ally, and kite runner. He is from the Hazara tribe, considered lowly and not fit to be equals with the Pashtuns. Nevertheless, he’s extremely loyal to Amir till the very end of his life. Making the protagonist a weak character who the audiences won’t root for is a brave move on the part of the author. This being his first novel and going by the hypothesis that most first novels are autobiographical to some extent, we don’t know how much of Amir was derived from the author. Avoiding sudden changes of character in the second half of the movie and making Amir a sudden hero is a good move, and makes the movie more real. The movie ends on a positive note though, with Amir standing up for himself in his own way.

Abstract art (Minimalism)

Art is subjective. Art is one field where the adage “One man’s food is the other man’s poison” holds true. Art takes many forms and sometimes is without form as well. One of the forms of art is visual, taking to mean that art is perceived via the organs of vision, the eyes. The most popular of visual arts is painting. Painting is the use of colored media (oil, acrylic, pencil,etc..) on a material (canvas, paper, stone, wood, etc..) to create an image that is appealing. The appeal of the image to the viewer is highly subjective and is emotional.

Art in the early ages (stone age stuff) comprised simple drawings on the walls of caves. Probably the work of some curious and bored person on a rainy day. It has evolved so much over the years, yet sometimes is indistinguishable from those early works. Several media have been experimented with, several materials used and several themes tried. But one thing that has remained constant throughout all this is the fact that paintings represented more of what the artist saw and interpreted than what he imagined. And in those ages that required great skill, especially in the capture of how the subjects were illuminated, or in other words, the capture of light. The invention of the camera and the advent of photography changed all that.

Photography made it a lot more easier and faster to capture what is seen than it takes to paint the same scene. Now the artists suddenly found themselves without anything to paint (not really, but to give a general picture). They had to find something to paint and so started to exaggerate their interpretation of what they see. This led to some interesting developments like Expressionism and Cubism, but artists being artists won’t let it stop there. So they started a movement where there was no subject and art stood on it’s own. Art for art’s sake taken to the literal extreme! And the best example of such a movement is Minimalism. This style was a bit controversial since the works that were exhibited seemed to require no effort from the artist at all. But for the artists, it is the highest/purest form of art because it is natural, and straight from the sub-conscious mind. Below is a little experiment of mine in minimalism, or is it?

ennui