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Posts tagged “strobist

traffic marshals of tomorrow

this project was inspired by a little road accident i had earlier in the day. i was on my bike, heading off to interview the deputy inspector-general of the traffic police (poetry in motion, if you ask me) when some nepali chap stepped right into my path. he did check traffic before crossing the road alright – he was looking for oncoming vehicles on the other side of the road.

i swerved to my right but still struck him a glancing blow (my left shoulder connected with his jaw). because i was going downhill i did not hit my brakes immediately, as that would mean a 10/10 somersault, possibly straight to heaven, on my part. after the impact, i fell over the handlebar, rolled and landed on my behind. damage? not a single scratch or bruise on me, only that my lens filter (as seen in the first picture above), which was on my lens and loaded facing down in my backpack, cracked. 100 bucks gone but considering that the damage could have been a lot more extensive – peanuts, i say.

this incident is one in a whole spate that illustrates a recklessness that permeates the psyche of road users here in nepal. you can follow the rules of traffic down to the tiniest jot and tittle and still get into an accident. i thought about the episode a lot today, and as much as i’d like to say that i have to accept some of the responsibility, i can’t.

after the collision the fellow walked away, rubbing his jaw and quietly mumbling to himself, knowing full well that what happened was his fault. i had a field day screaming at him in the middle of the road, amidst the hee-haws and disbelieving gasps of a few nepali aunties. i got back on my bike, thinking that this incident will wake jawbroker up and that he’ll take more care.

at least until he starts getting complacent again.

thanks to my buddies and fellow ‘kings of kathmandu’ for helping and participating in my fool’s scheme.

for more posts direct from nepal, click here.


kathmandu ink

INK COMMUNION: Mohan Gurung, of Mohan’s Tattoo Inn, works on a design of Akash Bhairab (Sky Shiva) on the arm of his friend, pilot Vijay Lama.

as published in nepali times #496

In a tiny space on the second floor of a Thamel shophouse, tattoo artist Mohan Gurung is hard at work within a gargantuan world – one filled with age-old tribal symbols to modern bio-mechanical images. He is a conduit for the art, which flows through steady hands onto canvases of skin.

“I have a big studio in Pokhara, but little business. Here in Kathmandu I have a small space, but big business,” jokes Gurung. The quiet and affable Gurung, who received his training in South Korea after some persuasion from a good friend who noticed his talent, counts celebrities and fans from all over the world among his clients. He is so busy, in fact, that he is booked all the way till the end of the year and has stopped taking any more appointments.

Tattooing is an art that transcends time and physical boundaries. The threshold of pain is pushed in the hours required to apply even a simple design. And not only for the person getting the tattoo – the tattoo artist sits locked in rigid concentration, knowing full well that even a single mistake is unacceptable.

After about 3 hours of work with Vijay Lama, a pilot with Nepal Airlines who calls himself a ‘devotee’ of Gurung’s art, the artist limps off for a break, the physical and mental toll apparent. “He spends 12-14 hours a day in this little place, hardly moving, and yet he is one of the happiest people I know,” says Lama. “I’m amazed.”

Gurung returns and explains that he is in talks with the Nepal Tourism Board to hold the country’s first tattoo convention in April next year. “With tattoos becoming more popular here, there is a niche for tattoo tourism,” he says. Returning to his seat, Gurung picks up his tools and gets back to work, his dreams of becoming a great artist and sharing his passion spurring him on. And the wider world is ready and waiting for him.

PREP TIME: Natural, vegetable-based dyes are injected into the skin at the rate of 80-150 times per second through tattoo machines from Micky Sharpz, a well-known brand. Needles range in size and configuration for different purposes like outlining and shading.

CLEAN, MEAN MACHINE: Hygiene is of paramount importance as the dyes are injected into the skin. Disposable gloves, new needles for each session, and a regular wipe-down of the skin with antiseptic solution are some of the precautions taken.

TOTAL TATTOOS: Tattoos and piercings adorn Gurung’s entire body. He gets inked by fellow artists, some of whom are his idols, at tattoo conventions all over the world.

IMMENSE FOCUS: Making a mistake is out of the question, and even experience cannot be taken for granted. Gurung is always looking forward to his next piece, because he knows it will be better than the last.

PAPER IS GOOD, SKIN BETTER: Akash Bhairab is the emblem of Nepal Airlines. Captain Vijay Lama has made it his own to mark his dedication to the national flag carrier, and hopes for clearer skies ahead.

to visit mohan’s tattoo inn, click here.

for more posts direct from nepal, click here.

freni promo shoot + dinner

l-r: shi hui, tze, lide, walter, liz. check out the details and the props!

did a really fun photoshoot for some friends a couple of days ago to make some pictures to promote their group in the upcoming wkwsci orientation camp next week. it was a nice get-together at sarah’s place (with the super cool old-world-looking basmement!) for dinner followed by the shoot.

since the theme of this year’s camp has a mafia-ish feel to it, we wanted to do something in the same grain – thus the choices of costumes and location that that you see. before i move into the technical stuff, just want to thank yudi for being an awesome assistant (always brings great insights and ideas to the shoots), sarah for being a wonderful host and supplying the food and location, and of course, the cast – tze, lide, shi hui and walter for being so fun and sporting and a pleasure to work with.

for the first photo on top, we had a speedlight close to camera right set to bounce light off the white ceiling for general fill. since there were a couple of available light sources (the lamp lighting shi hui and a spotlight on the ceiling lighting liz), we wanted to incorporate those into the setup and achieved that by setting a slower shutter speed to allow them to “burn in”. the main light was a CTO-gelled (for warmth) speedlight with omnibounce attached and pointed straight down from the ceiling to simulate a bare bulb. we flagged the side pointed at the wall to minimise ugly specular highlights from forming.

since the lamp was rather strong, there was a noticeable light falloff from left to right before we corrected that with a speedlight (low and right of camera) fired into a relector to match the brightness of the left. i then had to do quite a bit of selective colour-correction in photoshop to match the different colour temperatures of the various light sources.

for the set of images that you see above, we set up a speedlight bounced off a reflective umbrella right of the lamp, high and aimed at the subject to make it seem as though the lamp was actually the light source (it would have been too harsh a light if we were to use it). we had a reflector out of frame on the left to lift the shadows a little. that was it, simple setup.

i then wanted to try a low-key portrait with a warm light as the main and a cool light as the kicker. turned the camera’s white balance setting to tungsten to get a bluish tone (for the kicker light) and gelling the main light orange for the warmth.  the shutter speed was set near maximum sync-speed to remove all the ambient light (turning the background pure black). 2 light sources for this – a speedlight, gelled orange, bounced off a reflective umbrella right and just out of frame and another speedlight grid-spotted to control the spill, left of frame. got the following:

for the fun of it, i also made a “movie poster” version by combining the 5 pictures above in photoshop and bumping up the contrast and stripping a bit of the colour for the edgy look.

and of course, i had to get my portrait of sarah. another one for the collection!

thanks for reading! hope this was informative.

for more posts on my photography, click here.

the birthday present

since i put in so much effort in wrapping sarah’s present and making the card, i thought, why not do a still-life shoot of them? could be an excellent pictorial record after the wrapping paper gets torn to bits. it did get torn to bits. i hope the card is fine.

here is the set-up for the first picture:


main light used was a sb-800 through an umbrella with removable backing half removed to control spill of light. grid spotted canon 430ex gelled blue to create the “halo” of blue as well as light the background. the 430ex was powered 1 – 1.5 stops over the main light.

gift was sitting on a  piece of black construction paper with a white corrugated board as the background. both these items just happened to be lying around.

guess what was used to prop the background up?


the set-up for the second shot just required a quick switch-around:


main light in pretty much the same position, just that it was shifted off a bit to the left. silver reflector on camera right for fill. what you don’t see in this frame is the position of the backlight. here it is:


same grid-spotted canon 430ex for highly-directional light. a gold gel was used for the final picture instead of the blue as seen in the picture above. i was experimenting with the colours. the 430ex was powered 1 – 1.5 stops over the main light.

photos were then touched up a little in photoshop.

there you have it – simple strobist 2 light setup that you can also do in the comfort of your bedroom.

for more posts on photography, click here.

classics in lego

came across the series “classics in lego” while looking at the strobist website.

classics in lego” is photographer balakov’s (michael stimpson) recreation of iconic images by masters like henri cartier-bresson (behind the gare saint-lazare), steve mccurry (afghan girl) and jeff widener (tiananmen square) among others – all with lego pieces and meticulously lighting them.

frankly, i am amazed by the attention to details that balakov pays. this is macro photography taken to a whole other level, with a unique set of challenges.

for more posts on photography, click here.