Friday, March 20, 2009

Lingaraj Temple- A Challenge to photogs...

A brief introduction:
Lingaraaj means 'the king of Lingas', 'Linga' or 'Lingam' being the symbol of Lord Shiva worship. The temple is more than 1000 years old, dating back in its present form to the last decade of the eleventh century, though there is evidence that parts of the temple have been there since sixth century AD as the temple has been emphasized in some of the seventh century Sanskrit texts. This is testimony to its sanctity and importance as a Shiva shrine.[1] By the time the Lingaraj temple was constructed, the Jagannath (form of Vishnu) cult had been growing, which historians believe is evidenced by the co-existence of Vishnu and Shiva worship at the temple.
The temple is traditionally believed, though without historical authentication, to be built by the Somavanshi king Jajati Keshari, in 11th century AD. Jajati Keshari had shifted his capital from Jajpur to Bhubaneswar which was referred to as Ekamra Kshetra in the Brahma Purana, an ancient scripture.
The Lingaraj temple stands majestically as the largest temple in Bhubaneswar. At 55 metres high, it dominates the landscape with 150 smaller shrines in its spacious courtyard and is surrounded by massive walls lavishly decorated with beautiful sculptures.

And now the challenge:
I have been trying to capture the various hues of Lingaraj Temple for sometime now. There is a ban on photography inside Lingaraj Temple and no authority other than the temple trust is authorised to allow photography inside the temple premises. And when my request was declined, my resolve doubled. And the lame excuse that was given (that there are many nude 3-D portraits inside the temple, which people shoot and that creates a bad name for the temple...awwww!!! Come on, this is our culture and we have as much right to the culture as these fellows are), my resolve trebled.

What I tried to overcome the problem:
I did at least 10 rounds around the boundary walls of the temple complex and ear-marked places, from where I will get clean shots of the temple. Post that, I started talking to the locals to give me access to the terraces of their buildings so that I get a closer view of the temple. Loaded with a 70-200 and 18-55, I started with these locations one by one.

This shot was taken from the third floor terrace of the Municipal hospital terrace on the west side. I was chased by the hospital ward boys for having reached the terrace(all entry doors to terrace were locked) and how I reached the terrace, u don't want to know.This is the southern side of the temple premises. I think this is the only shot of Lingaraj Temple in the world from this angle :-) Do u see that telecom tower on the right side-To take a good shot, I was thinking of scaling the tower and taking an aerial view. Couldn't succeed because of police protection that day. Next time, will try again...
Sneak view of Lingaraj Temple-South side

This was taken from the South-east terrace of a shopping complex building...
Lingaraj Temple- South-east corner

This shot was taken from the terrace of the Municipal hospital terrace on the west side.The whitish platform on the left side is the visitor's platform. This was built during Lord Curzon's time when he wanted to see whether the premises were used for mutiny!!! All the foreigners who want to see the temple use this place for viewing and photography.
Lingaraj Temple during sunset from West

One more from there..A tilt might be felt. The temple structure allowed this as the straightest frameTemple Lions facing North-Lingaraj Temple

This was taken from the visitor's gallery during the sunrise:

Sun-bathed Lingaraj Temple

And this was taken from far away on the opposite side of Bindusagar Lake...
Lingaraj Temple-1

I had a great time with the little escapades with the project. Hope u enjoyed it too.

Nati Binodini- a photo journey

Sometime back, I had the opportunity to shoot the play Nat Binodini at Rangashankara, Bangalore, India. Synopsis of the play is at the end of the blog.

This is one of the best plays that I had seen in recent times. The scenographer, Mr Nissar Allana, the Diro, Mrs Amal Allana, the cast and the crew had done a great job. Even though, I was watching the play through my glass, I was getting goosebumps at the presentation.

Some shots from there in chronology of Play, backstage, stage preparation...
4 women on stageThe stage
Entrance of Bengali Babu

Backstage: This is the part that I love...

Sonam Kalra:

Salima Raza:

Jayanto Das:
Nati Binodini- Mahashoy Jayanto Das

Natasha Rastogi (I am not sure here...)
Nati Binodini-Applying layers

Sonam Kalra setting up Sanjay Gautam
Nati Binodini-Applying lipstick

Amal Allana setting up Salima Raza as Amita Ailawadi looks on
Natti-Binodini-Director applying the finishing touches

Stage preparation: This was the unique thing about the play. Upon discussions with Mr Nissar Allana on the stage lights, he mentioned that he normally uses in excess of 120 lights and Rangashankara had the provision of only around 80 lights...
Ranga Shankara Stage preparation-3 for Nati BinodiniRanga Shankara Stage preparation-2 for Nati BinodiniRanga Shankara Stage preparation-1 for Nati Binodini

And the essence of Nati Binodini:
The Lotus

I had a great time doing this. Hope u liked the set too.

NB: For ones who want more details on Nati Binodini...
Nati Binodini- A synopsis

Adapted from: Aamar Katha by Binodini
Performed by: Theatre and Television Associates, New Delhi
Produced by: Theatre and Television Associates, New Delhi
Director: Amal Allana
Hindi, 100 minutes

Binodini’s was a remarkable life. Born into a family of ‘kept’ women, she was, in fact, only the fifth woman in Bengal to take up acting as a profession in the mid-19th century. Under the tutelage of the famous manager Girish Ghosh of the Bengal Theatre, Binodini rose to be a star, widely acclaimed for the sheer range of characters she portrayed. Aamar Katha, Binodini’s autobiography, written long after she quit the stage, provides a riveting account of the personal turmoil and conflict the actress experienced in her encounters with Bhadralok society.

The play opens with the old Binodini questioning the meaning of her existence, as one who has been cast aside, not only by society, but by God Himself. She asks the older Girish Ghosh, seated in a wheelchair, to listen to the story of her life. Only then would he understand her loss of Faith.

In her production of Nati Binodini, Amal Allana pieces together a tale in a form and style that is liquid and sensory. Scenes move seamlessly from past to presently and vice versa, deriving a sequencing pattern that is based on ‘emotional memory’ – rather than hard fact or chronological order. The character of Binodini is played by, sometimes one, sometimes two and sometimes chorally by five women. The roles switch from actress to actress in the blink of an eye. The performance begins to either float above reality, or at times, becomes rooted in authentic fact. This connection between reality and illusion echoes the very character of Binodini.

The sets of the play lend themselves beautifully to such a presentation. The projection of locales from the period coupled with a shimmering floor and evocative lighting create a cinematic effect that transport the audience into the past in which Binodini re-lives her memory. The play’s music, drawn from authentic sources, includes original tunes and lyrics of theatre music of the times.

Cast: Salima Raza, Swaroopa Ghosh, Jayanto Das, Natasha Rastogi, Sonam Kalra, Amita Ailawadi and Sanjay Gautam
Crew: Nissar Allana, Amal Allana, Devajit Bandyopadhyay, Kabir Singh and Preeti Vasudevan

More details of review here:

UB Towers, Bangalore- An evening

Sometime back, when I was browsing through the portals on photography in Bangalore, I came across a shot of the UB Towers, taken by Vinayak Das. He is a noted photog based in Bangalore and keeps travelling around.

In fact, the UB towers, built to match the Empire State Building, is a travesty. And, he had made a very ordinary looking building look great. Somewhere inside, I wanted to better that shot, why I don't know. My attempts started...I found out that the best time to make this building pretty would be an evening. And finally, I made this:
The Fountainhead

Let me tell u the trick and the process...use the advice at your own risk:
This place is the 4th floor of the UB towers. When u enter, the security would ask u abt where u want to go. Say- Rajdhani. This is the restaurant in the 4th floor of the to building near the UB main tower. Go up the MLCP to the second floor. Park. Climb up the stairs or the lift to go to the 4th floor. There u would see the fountains...Photography is not allowed since this is a private property...but wait for some one to click a few shots from their PnS.The purple lights in the top of the towers don't light up all the time. Wait for the same. Then, u discreetly set up the cam and the glasses. When the security comes in, say u want to shoot the children with the fountains...he would resist...say that u would like to request the supervisor. He would radio his supervisor. Supervisor takes around seven minutes to reach because he would have to come from the top floor of the UB city towers where they have the security NOC. Now shoot for seven minutes. Scoot before he reaches the scene, if u have a canon or switch the Card which shows only the fountains. If u have a Nikon, hide the UB towers photos. Only fountains are allowed. Have ur family along with u to build up a sympathy story Other methods from my side have failed. One more point: if u are Bong or Bihari, it may help because the guards are from Bengal or Bihar. Use a Wide angle because anything above 130 mm wouldn't be able to accomodate the building as a whole. u can also see the Vidhana Soudha from here...but be careful.

While attempting this strategy, I also made a set of the fountains...

An finally a Collage:
Colours of a beautiful evening

I had a great evening that day. Hope u too liked my escapade ;-)

Barn Owls diaries

We stayed at a flat called Palm Tree Place in Victoria Layout, Bangalore, India for around 18 months. One of the highlights of that place was that a broken cove in the next building was visible from our balcony. The blue rock pegions used to use this place during the day to hide from the raptors. Even though, they were quite a nuisance, but believe me, they were too much fun most of the times. Interestingly one fine morning, I saw a Barn owl perched in one of the coves. I had never seen such a bird before in real life. I was thrilled. I started to observe them very closely. And, my happiness knew no bounds when I discovered that there were two of them and they were nesting.

It is against my policy to disturb nesting birds. So, I used to observe them by hiding behind the curtains. The pegions were also having some interesting times with the Owl family growing up.

I managed to get a few shots of the family when they were slightly grown-up and I felt it was okay to sneak up to take those shots.

Some of them, I post for all of you.
Goodmorning sunshine and mmuaaanh :-)
Love me tender

Ah!!!I am sleepy...

Its been a hard night's work and I have been working like an owl- Sorry Beatles ;-)
Its been a hard nightz life

And this is how the pegions were amused...reminds me of living in flats...
Bangalore Flats
Life in a metro-new neighbours
Life in a metro

And finally the family photo :-)
4 Owls

Hope u liked it as much I liked making it :-)

Some more details on Barn owls, just in case you are more interested, is as follows:
Scientists believe that the barn owl originated as a dweller in high clay cliffs of Europe and this may be one reason why the birds prefer the vertical walls of manmade structures even over trees. There may be other advantages in "owning" a barn, particularly in the winter. Long periods of heavy snow can result in high mortalities in barn owl populations since their prey is too far beneath the snow to catch. But a barn may provide an available supply of rodents during these periods, allowing the resident barn owls to survive.
Highly successful, the barn owl spread through all the known continents, and morphed into 35 subspecies, some of them confined to single island chains. The two best known races are the Barn Owl of Europe, Tyto alba alba, and the North American Barn Owl, Tyto alba pratincola.

Barn owls share a number of traits with other owls: large eyes, well-developed facial disks, soft feathering for silent flight, cervical bones that allow the head to turn 180 degrees, and four sharply clawed toes, one of which can be turned forward or backward.Barn owls are medium sized owls, standing approximately 10 to 12 inches high, and though they look like they weigh significantly more, they usually weigh about a pound (454 grams).Although female barn owls tend to have darker plumage and males tend to be whiter, this is only a generality and not a surefire way of determining sex.Although the barn owl can not see in total darkness, it can still fly very well in darkness so dim that a human could not navigate. They can hear so well that they can hunt with high accuracy in total darkness by homing in on the footsteps and nibbling sounds that rodents make. Some researchers believe that they can actually tell what type and size of rodent they are hearing.The reason that barn owls bob and weave their heads is to gain depth perceptionAlthough they are most noted for their high-pitched scream, barn owls produce a number of sounds: from the hen and young “snoring” in the nest to chirps, twitters, and tongue clicks—some used for bonding, begging for food, mating rituals, and danger warnings.BEHAVIOR
They tend to habitually perch in the same spot—usually in the same area they breed, and are known to remain quite still.When they do not perch inside buildings, they most often use thickly grown evergreens and, despite their pale plumage, are exceedingly difficult to spot.They tend to be less territorial than other raptors, and numerous instances of communal nesting have been recorded, one of the most notable when over 30 birds were found living in an abandoned steel mill in Utah. They most often hunt at dusk, midnight, and dawn, but in times of hunger may hunt in broad daylight.They will often kill more than they can eat and stockpile food for later.Barn owls produce about two pellets per day. These are the indigestible parts—the fur and bones of the animals they eat, compressed into an oblong shape in their cropIn some areas of the world, barn owls prey primarily on bats, birds, insects, and lizards, and have been seen successfully hauling fish from lakes and streams.
Although they are strongly associated with nesting in barns, these owls also will use hollow trees, and in the western United States will nest in gullies and have even been known to hollow out a bank with their feet.Eggs are dull white and elliptical, and are usually laid at two to three days intervals. Clutch size is often large for a raptor—up to 13 eggs have been found in one nest, and 11 chicks in another. Three to seven is more common. Eggs take between 29 and 34 days to hatch.The eyes of the chicks remain closed for about 12 days.The young take approximately 8 weeks to fledge.Quills emerge at around 13 days.At 28 days, the tail feathers emerge and the iris turns from yellow to brown.By 35 days, the birds begin to wander around the nest; the eldest may peer out of the entrance hole.The young begin to wander from the nest between 5 and 8 weeks old, but generally can not fly well until their 8th week.Once fledged, young barn owls suffer a high mortality—studies have consistently shown between 60 and 80 percent perish in their first year. Fledglings in the northern United States tend to disperse wide and far before the winter—some birds travel over a thousand miles, and the predominant direction is south. In the spring, some birds show a tendency to return toward their natal area. Barn owls can reproduce in their first year. STATUS IN THE UNITED STATES
In North America, the barn owl inhabits almost every state. Prior to European settlement, barn owls were rare in the northern states, but as the forests were cleared for farmland, the barn owl became a common frequenter of barns and farmlands. Since the 1950's, barn owl populations have declined in many northern states. This is due to a variety of factors including the destruction of grasslands and wetlands, the replacement of wooden barns by metal barns, and the practice by modern farmers to do away with hedgerows and wild areas on their farms.Now, many states are attempting to bring back their grasslands and wetlands, and the barn owl may very well start recovering in these areas. The erection of nest boxes is an important part of barn owl conservation efforts.

Pelican Diaries @ Lalbagh Botanical Garden, Bangalore, India

Sometime back, I was taking my morning walk in the Lalbagh Botanical Gardens at Bangalore, India. There is a lake towards the south-western gate of the Park. And in this lake, there were a couple of Spot-billed Pelicans. They were so pretty that I stopped for a while to just watch them. Their scientific name is Pelecanus philippensis and the blue spots that u see on their funny beaks is almost like finger-prints of humans. Incidentally, they visit Bangalore every winter and flock all those water bodies which have good number of fish. Interestingly, the Bangalore Municipality has leased out lakes to private parties for fish culture commercially. This abundance of fish attracts the Pelicans. More details at the end of this blog...

I was so taken by the gimmicks of the pelicans that the next day morning, I was there with my cam and glass.

Some of the shots I made there...

What is happening here is this: There is this little bridge over the lake for people to cross over. Some people stand on the bridge and drop in biscuits, flour, etc to feed the fish. This, I was told, relieves them of some sins !!! Now, the fish get attracted by the food and the Pelicans get attracted by the fish.


Apparently, in playful mood...

Okie, lets strategise to fish together...muaaanh...

There, I spot some fish...

Let's go...

Follow me love...

There, good that u caught up...

Well done, mate...but just don't splash on me so much...
Honey-u splashing

Some other hues:



Hope u enjoyed the series as much I did making it...:-)

NB: I was astounded by seeing soooo many pelicans around bangalore and obviously the enthused photogs love the birds So I was doing a bit of research on why so many of these birds are cropping up...Saw this in one of the posts on web. FYI. Happy Pelicanning
*****If you are visiting Hebbal Lake, you could spot flocks of white skimming low over the surface: it’s the season for winged beauties to visit city lakes, and the spotbilled pelicans are here to nest.Ornithologists and nature lovers are delighted — the flocks are growing in number, and at last count, a record number of 237 pelicans were spotted at the lake.In North Bangalore, one can spot pelicans at the lakes of Yelahanka, Jakkur, Hebbal and in South Bangalore, at Madiwala, Agara and Mavathur, Kanakapura Road. A majority of these lakes are leased out to private parties, and the commercial fishing there attracts the pelicans in large numbers. In 2005, at least 225 pelicans were spotted at Yelemallappa Chetty tank along Old Madras Road.There is also a steady increase in the number of pelicans in the state. Over the years, the nesting population has doubled — from 200 in 1995 to the present 400. Ornithologists point out that this increase in number is due to good nesting grounds in Mysore, Mandya district, Kokkare Bellur, and at Ranganathittu. In Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, there are 21 breeding colonies, and their numbers have risen from less than 4,000 to around 6,000.Bird expert S Subramanya says good community-based conservation work by NGOs in the region, coupled with improved protection of breeding sites, has led to an increase in its number. In the 1920s, more than a million spot-billed pelicans were believed to exist in South and South-East Asia. But by the 1990s, the number had dropped to fewer than 12,000 birds, and the species was listed as vulnerable. The decline was largely caused by conversion of wetlands and loss of nesting sites.Ornithologist M B Krishna says that due to ongoing habitat loss and human disturbances, the spot-billed pelican’s numbers have been on the decline. They are also disturbed by the steady movement of boats.*****

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Butterflies in action

I have been recently to the Banerghatta National Park with family. Out of all the stuff that has been designed there, only two things made my day

1. Butterfly Park: This place was heavenly.There was small stream with pretty fish. u could actually hear the trickling water. And there were butterflies all over...of various families...of different colours...of different sizes and designs. The park is dome-shaped and there was light trickling down from the glass roof.

One shot from there:

For Photogs: I was a bit surprised that my 40D was able to get this bokeh with a 70-200. I had never been able to create the bokeh so silky smooth and so, was pleasantly surprised. guess, I am discovering my glass every day :-)

2. The second thing was the Jungle Lodges Hillview restaurant. This is a good restaurant and just about 100 mtrs from the butterfly park. For INR 200.00, one can have sumptuous buffet of both veg and non-veg food there. The taste is good too. We all hogged-what with all the sagari in a rickety grilled van and all the trekking that happened.

Overall, the day was well-spent.