Sunday, February 27, 2011

Explore Maharashtra : Rajgad Fort

View of Rajgad Fort from the base of the mountain.
I read about Rajgad fort, while looking for interesting places to visit during my holiday in Pune. Rajgad Fort (which means King of forts), is about 2 hours drive from Pune city (Maharashtra, India). The fort is approximately 4,250 feet above sea level.

There is no direct access to the fort except trekking trails, and the trek can only be described as strenuous. It is definitely not recommended unless you are physically fit. Also, due to the steep and dangerous trails, it is also not recommended for children.

I decided to do the challenge along with my 12-year old son Shawn. Initially, I had some misgivings taking Shawn along with me as I had read about the treacherous trail, but he insisted he is up for the challenge. I thought this would be a great opportunity for some father son bonding and I kept the option of turning back, if I felt that the trail was getting dangerous.

We started off early in the morning from our house in Kondhwa. We wanted to catch the first bus from Swaraj Gate. When we reached the bus station, I had a tough time figuring out which bus to take - and more importantly, when the bus would leave. My lack of knowledge of the local language (Marathi) was not helping me here.

I decided not to waste my time and looked around for other options. There was this guy who was inquiring about people travelling to Rajgad and I figured that he had a private vehicle. He was looking for 10 passengers to cram into his 4x4. I told him that I will pay the cost of all the 10 passengers - and we were off.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Photographing Fireworks.

Kuwait's 50th anniversary of Independence. 
Fireworks is one of the most photo-friendly activity because it is so dramatic and colorful. However, getting the right picture requires a little bit of planning, the right equipment and a little bit of luck.

Why luck?, you may ask. The reason is that fireworks generate lights of different intensity, and at random intervals. Your camera cannot do the calculations quickly enough to get the right exposure because the fireworks will be over before the camera computes the correct exposure. When shooting fireworks, almost everything has to be done manually.

Here's what you need to capture great pictures of fireworks.
   1. Tripod.
   2. Camera (preferably a dSLR) that can be set to "bulb" mode.
   3. A cable release (or a remote) that can activate the shutter and then close the shutter when you decide that the right amount of light has reached the sensor.
   4. Patience
   5. Bit of luck.

Nikon D300, f8, 5.2 seconds, ISO 200, 18mm, EV +0.5.
To get the above picture, I made sure that I found myself a nice uninterrupted view and set up my tripod 2 hours before the start of the show. During the entire period, I stood there making sure nobody else came and took my place.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

360 degree Panoramas

Image created using 360 panorama.

360 Panorama is a fun little application that I found for the iPhone. My experience with panoramas up till now has been to take a series of images and then stitch them together using various stitching programs such as Photoshop, Auto-Stitch etc. Here is an interesting example of a very large panorama that I did last year.

The problem with stitching software is that you have to load all the images into a computer and let the software do the magic of stitching. This means that any problems are identified only after the stitching, when it is too late.

What makes 360 Panorama interesting is that you do the stitching in real time. You launch the app, and a series of grids are displayed. You just move the camera in a 360 degree circle to fill up all the grids, and the app stitches the images as you move the camera. Really amazing.

Once the stitching is complete, you have various options of saving the images.

1. As a proper 360 panorama that requires you to go to the occipital website to view the panorama. Here's an example that I shot while sitting inside the Hard Rock Cafe.

2. As a flat image. This is an example of the 360 degree view as a flat image.

3. And finally, you have the option of flattening out the 360 panorama into a stereoscopic image. This is an example of the same interior shot of Hard Rock cafe flattened into a stereoscopic image.

I love the stereoscopic effect the best, because it is something totally out of the ordinary and definitely fun to experiment with.