About Me

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Pune/ India, Irvine/ CA, now Boulder/ CO
Welcome to my blog! I'm Hrishi from Pune, India. I am an earth system scientist currently working as a postdoctoral research associate at Colorado Center for Astrodynamics Research at CU-Boulder. These blogs are mostly about my travels, landscape photography, scientific computing, book and film reviews, fitness, cooking, and science communication. Feel free to navigate based on the labels below. My website: hrishikeshac.wix.com/hchandan


Sunday, October 18, 2009

Real successor of 35mm film

A few days ago I read a rumour on Nikonrumors.com

Nikon is patenting for a mirrorless small sensor camera with interchangable lenses! If the rumour holds true, then I'll assure you that we are in for a treat!! For so long I wished for a system with sensor not much larger than most of the superzoom point and shoots. Imagine the vast compatibility of the lenses!! and the 2.5x crop is just amazing!! 300mm will be 750mm!! and it will be so small and light!! and may be less expensive too!! It will be ideal for me for trekking and mountaineering as well as for birding! If the IQ is good enough for 12x18" prints and if ISO400 is usable, then it will definitely find more takers. In terms of the image quality, it will be equivalent to the 35mm film. (35mm FF DSLRs are already gving quality equivalent to that of medium format film. And Medium format Digital is giving IQ of Large format film).
Hope they add a video mode as well (mirrorless, therefore easy) and add real speed to it. They can make it pro too, like the RED. I've read Sony is planning something similar. I think this is what the future is going to be. Bye Bye mirrors! and heavy cameras! A real advancement in technology! True successors of 35mm film are here!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009


I have seen, for countless number of times, panoramic shots of beautiful mountains or sea shores. While they are good to look at, they somehow don’t impress me. I feel they are largely unbalanced. They always seem to be cropped and mind seeks for the elements which it thinks have been sacrificed for the panoramic composition. Panoramas, in my opinion, look good only if they are not excessively long and when they are printed in a large print and put on display. Otherwise, they look too tiny to look at, especially on the tiny monitor. A few months ago, when I became interested in landscape photography, I read about view cameras and subsequently got introduced to the square format. It suddenly struck a chord with me. I found it the simplest to compose and solidly balanced to view. It works well not only for landscapes but for other genres as well like bird or butterfly portraits. One important point is that it looks different from the zillions of 3:2s and 4:3s and the panoramas and makes the image stand out. It gives a whole new perspective to compose images.
Obviously, my initial thought was to crop the 3:2 photos into 1:1. But that makes me loose the resolution of an already modest camera (a 5MP Coolpix). Fortunately, I found a workaround. While exploring landscape photographers, I came across Darwin Wiggetts. Not only is he a master at capturing majestic landscapes, but he also uses tilt shift lenses for most of his work. He takes two horizontal images by shifting the lens and then stitches them together in a square format. Unfortunately, I don’t have resources for such investment. Hence, I decided to give it a shot using a friend’s Nikon Coolpix L10.

What I simply do is look for a good composition, do a little previsualization so that you know what your image would look like. I usually take 2 or at the most 3 horizontal images in vertical movement. As I don’t use tripod, I have to ensure that there is enough overlap in the images so that they’ll get easily stitched. To ensure this, I use the grid lines in the LCD. I start with the foreground first as I find it difficult to capture than the background. Then I move the camera a little upwards (assisted by the gridlines) so that 1/3rd of the image gets overlapped. The camera settings are automatic (it doesn’t have manual controls!). It is often suggested the camera should be set on manual mode and the exposure should not be changed during the panoramic shoot. For vertoramas, I find, it works better the other way round. Giving correct exposures to both the images ensure that foreground as well as the background is well exposed. By applying layer masks, both foreground was well as the background can be seen as neatly exposed in the final image. This negates the need of the graduated neutral density filters, exposure bracketing, HDR etc. The widest FOV from the L10 is that of a 35mm lens. Still, I find stitching two images is sufficient for most of the times. Additionally, it gives me that magical square format.

The Foreground shot

The Background shot

Once home, I open these two images in a freeware Microsoft ICE (Yes, you are reading Freeware and Microsoft in the same line!). ICE stands for Image Compose Editor. Simply opening the images in ICE is enough. They get stitched by default. ICE has three menus: Stitch, Crop and Export. Various kinds of camera motions are considered by the software when the images are opened. It chooses the one it finds the best. Sometimes, if I wish to change the perspective, I feed in Rotating Motion. This lets me change the Projection (distortion and the perspective). Once the images get stitched, I rarely have to crop the images as they were fore planned. Then I do post processing in the form of enhancing the levels, curves, colour balance, hue and saturation. If there are any blown out highlights, I increase the levels of Black of the White colour in the Selective Colouring. Sometimes, I use the gradient tool to get the graduated neutral density filter effect.

Both images opened in Microsoft ICE.

Final Image after post processing
A few more Vertoramas:


Torna again
Sometimes, we can go the other way round. Take horizontal panoramas keeping the camera vertical. This again gives a massive resolution to the image and also gives it more height.

An example of a panorama taken from multiple images in horizontal orientation
To give justice to vertoramas, you need to print them really big. Atleast 18"x18" (or whatever the aspect ratio is) + border + frame and put it high on display. The reason is there is tremndous amount of data captured in the image and it will simply go unnoticed. Don't worry about printing at 300dpi. I've printed a few at 150dpi and they look pretty cool. One of the most appreciated photo at my father's office is a 8x12" frame of Naukuchiatal taken by a 2 MP cellphone. Resolution, sharpness the matter the most only on internet forums. For a landscape its the light, the colours and the composition which matters period. You might notice that my images are a little extra saturated. The reason is the prints I have made till now have lacked saturation. Hence I increase it in the image so that the prints do fine.
My landscape photography is evolving rapidly. I shall further experiment with many other techniques to get the images I want. For now atleast, Vertorama provides me a great hand to capture the Sahyadri.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Side Effects of Photography and the rehabilitation process

NOTE: The side effects I'll be highlighting are exclusive of the miniscule bank balance that photographers usually have.
I started photography in May 2007, when I received my 1st camera: Sony Ericsson W810i Camera phone featuring a solid 2 MP camera. Before that, I used to lot of extra-curricular activities like trekking, going outdoors for camps, trails; reading fantasies, fiction etc; playing mandolin, listening/searching for new genres of music; playing volleyball, watching good movies, spending time with my friends and spending special time with special friends. And of course, the day before the exams used to be spent studying. SLowly slowly, things started changing as I got more hooked on to photography. It began with liking the photos, then searching for better cameras, finding shops, finding better shops, reading reviews, reading about the photographers, watching photographs, learning photoshops, participating in the forums, asking queries, answering queries, teaching photography to a few, getting paid :) and lastly taking photos, segregating them, editing the good ones, posting them on the web, receiving C n C. And finally writing about the entire experience. I'm not talking about the blog alone. I'm on my 7th notebook (dedicated to photography) at present!
Well, since a few days, I've become increasingly conscious that I am spending way too much time on photography than what is needed to create good looking pictures. This realization is especially bitter coz at present I don't own a camera!!! I use a friend's Olympus 570uz and a superb Nikon L10 (donated by a friend). All of a sudden I realized what I was missing..Since then, I've been trying to make up for the loss. I've decided to trek the Sahyadri in such a way that would give maximum output. So I've started trekking with a few friends. Visited Kaas Plateau, Purander, Torna aand Harishchandragad. I try to document as much of the nature as I can. I've gotten hold of really handy instruments like GPS, water quality test kit, clinometer campass to document the geology and hydrogeology of the area (I'm not that good at this, but kaam ho jata hai). Then I try to observe and document the odonates and the butterflies, birds, wildflowers, the trees and also the socio-economic and cultural scence. This way, I make maximum use of time, place and myself! I hope someday I can put these treks together into a series of papers or something of that sort.
As I decided to review my old hobbies, I started by reading Congo and and later on, His Dark Material trilogy. Both are fantastic. While Congo is full of suspense, I have to admit that it didn't surprise me. I kind of expected shocks at every page, if not at every line. After all, it is a Michael Chrichton book. It does shock you ( It has to!). But what sets him apart from others is the way he reason things, people, situations and of course the concepts. A true genius. I plan to write exclusively about him some other time, so this will do for now. The other one I read, His Dark Materials, is a trilogy consisting of Northern Lights, The Subtle Knife and The Amber Spyglass. Again, a work of a genius. I would have ridiculed even God if he had said I would like a fantasy tale more than LOTR. But well, His Dark Materials, I find, is better (This is debatable, UMMV-Ur milage mey vary). It is fast, interesting and keeps you focussed. THe best part I liked about the trilogy is, again, the way it has been written. Pullman is a master at describing feelings. Especially of the little ones (Harry Potter, suddenly, seems so grown up! even in the 1st book!!). You feel so much involved with the characters. YOu actually start believing in them. Though it is a fantasy and has plenty of adventures, it has a love story which I loved the most. You will cry buckets before you keep this book back to the shelf. This is possible only if that child inside you is still alive. Else you'll find this, like everything else around you, childish. Oh one more thing: These books (HDM) are out and out against christanity. THe God is a villain here. Strangly, it is said the story was inspired by Milton's Paradise Lost. The Title has been taken from the same.
Now, there is apile of books to be read on my desk. On top lies The Hitchhiker's Guide to the galaxy. I've seen and like the movie. The book, however, can wait. I've dug out the Man Eaters of Kumaon. I don't remember how many times I've read it. Every time is a new experience. Just finished reading the story of Robin, Corbett's dog. I shall write more about the book later on.
One weekend was spent on Tarantino movies. Reservior dogs, Pulp Fiction and Kill Bill 1 and 2. Of course I had seen them before. But to get the feel (and to pass the time), I decided to watch them at a stretch. I'll write more about movies later.
I've decided to take music seriously. Till now, I've been trying hard to learn mandolin on my own. I play considerably well too. But I struggle with just too many things. finding rhythem, tuning (GDAE for western and p'sa'p'sa' for Indian..How I wish to play all genres with GDAE!), notes (its all guesswork here!), left hand technique (This is the left handed equivalent of the Right hand technique), tremolo, crosspicking, trying to listen to Bluegrass (even dreaming of playing it is difficult!) etc etc etc.. Now I've decided to stop this Eklayvagiri. A friend just gave me a contact of some mandolin teacher. Hopefully, he'll guide me from here on..
Apart from all these activities, I increased my social attendance. I'v met interesting people. Rightly guessed the sun signs of a few (they always get freaked out, don't they?). Such solutions, by default came with less time being spent on photography. In fact there were days when I didn't even think of camera!
Bottomline: While trying to get out of an addiction, don't give a damn to that addiction. Instead, give more importance/prominance to the alternatives. They, surely are equally interesting. And addictive.