Taj Mahal Mosque

Enhancing the already present splendor of the Taj Mahal is a building that stands on the western side of it, a Mosque made up of red sandstone. The mosque and a mirror image of the mosque, a guest house that stands on the opposite side of it, together provide a perfect symmetrical balance to the architecture whole of Taj Mahal.

The interiors host an elegantly designed floor that is made up of a material that appears to be velvet red in shade and is in the shape of clearly defined prayer mats, 569 prayer mats in total. The interiors of the mosque are inscribed with delicate calligraphy citing the name Allah and quotations from scriptures (taken from Sura 91, The Sun, taken from the Quran). However, the main feature of the mosque that distinguishes it from the opposite structure of the guest house is the presence of Mihrab and Minbar.

Additionally, there lies a small stone enclosed space of 19 ft by 6.5 ft, which had served as a temporary grave where the remains of Mumtaz Mahal were kept for some time when they were first brought to Agra, until they finally found an eternal place of rest inside the beautiful mausoleum built in her memory.

Also, the exteriors of the mosque, crypt and cenotaphs carry pietra dura decoration of a fabulous unexcelled elegance. The name of Allah and verses from the Holy Qur’an has been used copiously all over the mosque. And the pool in front of the mosque functions as the place for ablution before the prayer.

(Paraphrased from https://www.tajmahal.org.uk/mosque.html)

My Personal Favourites and Why.

#3

Some people cast a long shadow

Working a full-time job, it is often difficult to go out and take photos, so one has to make do with what’s available. I’ve taken hundreds of photos from my office on the 12th floor close to Liverpool Street. This photo is from that series which I call, ‘From the 12th floor’.

One of the reasons I love this photo is because its title came before the photo. I was watching the curious long shadows being made on the wet surface and thought it was peculiar and interesting. The picture however, could only work if the long shadows were contrasted with normal shadows so I had to wait for the right moment where both were being cast at the same time and the rest of the frame was relatively clutter free.

I tried zoom outs and zoom ins but this particular focal length seemed to work best.

 

 

HDR Tutorial

What is HDR

HDR stands for High Dynamic Range photography.

Since the human eye can perceive a greater dynamic range than is possible with a camera, HDR is a technique to create a photo that can show a greater range of light than would be possible with a single photograph.

– Human Eye   :       24   f-stops

– DSLR’s  :                 5 – 10   f-stops

– Film Camera  :     8 -12   f-stops

HDR photography is an attempt to capture this greater dynamic range by taking several exposures at different brightness levels and then combining them together.

So these three photographs,

-2 ev (underexposed)
normal exposure
+2 ev (overexposed)

can be combined into this.

HDR

The HDR Photo as can be seen has a lot more dynamic range compared to the single normal exposure. The darker and lighter parts of the photo have a lot more detail.

What you need

1. Camera in (A)perture priority or (M)anual mode – so the depth of field does not change while taking the photos.

Aperture Priority Mode

2. Bracketing turned on to 3, 5 or 7 shots – depending on the light.

3. Lowest possible ISO – HDR photos can get very noisy on conversion.

4. Tripod – for the reasons above.

5. Preferably shoot RAW – but this is not essential.

6. Adobe Photoshop or Photomatix Pro or any other software which allows you to combine images to produce an HDR.

My personal preference is Photomatix, a superb software which is easy to use and produces exceptional results.

 

 

 

How Photomatix Works:

Take 3 to 5 photos of a scene in Aperture priority mode such that the photos together gather all the details in the darkest places as well as the lightest places in a scene.

Open all the photos in Photomatix. Make sure the ‘Align photos’ and ‘Crop aligned’ options are checked. ‘Reduce noise and chromatic aberrations’ should also be checked.

Experiment with the settings to find what works best for you.

Press OK, let the software do its magic and you see an initial tone mapped image.

There are lots of different options and combinations to play with but I personally prefer either the ‘Balanced’ or ‘Neutral’ options for a realistic look in Photomatix 5.

Click Process and your image is ready.

As a final step, I usually apply some sharpening and tonality changes in Photoshop to get to a final image.

Single Shot HDR:

You can create an HDR from a single shot too. Open the photograph in Adobe Camera Raw, and using the exposure slider create 3 or 5 different files with different exposure settings. Then just proceed as you would to create a normal HDR.

Bad HDR – What to Avoid:

1. Avoid Halos

There is a clear halo around the CN Tower and other buildings.

2. Avoid dirty unnatural appearance

3. Avoid overly black clouds

Some Good HDR:

My Personal Favourites and Why.

#2.

The Shard and the Moon.

 
This photo of the Shard is a personal favourite because it took quite a bit of effort and patience to get right. I was walking around Central London looking for photo opportunities late at night and wanted to involve the bright and beautiful moon in a composition. With the London weather being what it is, these opportunities are not all that common.
The moon was at a great angle for this particular composition but it still took me some time to find the exact spot where I was far enough from the Shard to be able to zoom in so that the moon could be made as large as possible.
The exposure had to be for the moon because it was by far the brightest object in the sky (hence 1/60s) but the focus had to be on the Shard so that the architecture was sharp enough. I knew the Shard would be dark in the original out of the camera RAW file, but this could be later adjusted in Photoshop. The ISO had to be kept low because these night shots can get horribly noisy when you start to extract detail from them.
I took 28 shots in all, progressively exposing more and more for the details in the moon at the expense of the Shard, then chose the one which had the moon just right. Using the Dodge Tool, I later brought out the details in the Shard.

My Personal Favourites and Why.

#1.

Elizabeth Tower, Big Ben and the Westminster Bridge.

There are likely very few buildings that have been photographed more than the Elizabeth Tower and Big Ben. The problem with photographing iconic structures is that unless your photo has something different to recommend it, it’s probably been done about a billion times before.

Long exposures are one way of distinguishing a photo. Amateur’s usually don’t carry tripods and crisp night shots can set the better photo apart from the hastily taken tourist shot.

The other way to distinguish a shot is by using High Dynamic Range (HDR) photography. I personally find that night shots are served better by HDR than day shots, as long as the HDR remains subtle and doesn’t make the photo look artificial.

This shot is one of my personal favourites because in this particular case the HDR allows the best of both worlds. The details of Elizabeth Tower are nicely shown, the time on the face of Big Ben can be clearly read while the fine details of Westminster Bridge (on the outside and underneath) can also be seen.

The long exposures also blur the water and the sky which makes for a pleasing effect, and as a bonus result in the coloured reflection of the tower in the water.

 

It’s not the camera, it’s YOU!

The advent of the ubiquitous DSLR has meant that more and more people assume that they can become better photographers by buying better equipment. Recently I got to hear the following gem, ‘Obviously your photos are better than my hubby’s because you’ve got a professional camera, while he just has a cheap DSLR!”. This great piece of deduction was matched with another one, this one coming from the equally knowledgeable hubby himself, ‘Oh, but your pictures are photoshopped.’ No shit, Sherlock!

 

In the age of instant gratification and 10 second attention spans, the old adages, unfortunately, still hold true. Said Euclid to Ptolemy, ‘There is no royal road to geometry’, nor I’m afraid to any other kind of knowledge. You cannot Google search yourself into being a good photographer.

 

Let me first address the equipment fallacy. While it is true that a person off the street in a Ford Ka would not be able to beat a Sebastian Vettel in his ~$8 million 2017 spec F1 car, the thing is that this person off the street wouldn’t be able to beat Vettel even if they WERE given an F1 car. More importantly, they wouldn’t be able to beat Vettel if both were driving the crappy little Ford either. That is because Vettel is knowledgeable about what he is doing (he may actually also be more talented, but that is by and by.) When they both get into a corner and the Ford understeers, Vettel will know how to limit the understeer and use it to his advantage, the non-professional won’t even know that the Ford is understeering or what understeer means. It’s the same with photography. When Mr. Hubby, potentially great photographer, posted a photo of an overexposed scene from a lovely European city, he didn’t know that in a digital camera overexposure is the worst thing you can do because no amount of post-processing can recover that detail. With digital you almost always underexpose.

 

The other thing that gets my goat every time is when people with little or no knowledge of photography start a conversation with, ‘do you use photoshop?’ or the even better, ‘Oh, but these are photoshopped’. This tells me several things about the person, most of them unprintable, but prime amongst them again, is that they have little or no knowledge.

 

No knowledge of how photos are made, no knowledge of the history of photography and no knowledge of what post-processing can and cannot achieve.

 

Post-processing is as old as photography itself. A nearly iconic portrait of Abraham Lincoln, from 1860, is a composite of Lincoln’s head and the Southern politician John Calhoun’s body. The greatest landscape photographer of all time, Ansel Adams, was a master manipulator in the dark room. The point being, as long as a photographer doesn’t claim that a picture is untouched, there is nothing wrong with image-manipulation. The photographer is an artist with a vision and uses all the tools available to them to realize that vision. Most photographers shoot Raw and try to keep the in-camera settings as neutral as possible. The job of the camera is to gather the maximum amount of detail from a scene and the photographer can then decide which part of that light needs to be emphasized to what degree to achieve their vision. What is imperative to understand is that no amount of post-processing work can make a great photo out of a bad one.

 

Those over blown highlights, Mr. Hubby, are lost forever, I’m afraid.