Monday, 26 March 2007

Faces of the Ardh Kumbh Mela

Still at the Ardh Kumbh Mela in Allahabad we wandered the fair ground to interact with the many fascinating people there. And most people upon seeing my camera would insist on having their picture taken, so I managed to take countless portrait photos. Here are those I found the most fascinating. Unlike normal, I will not comment on the pictures, but rather let the faces talk for themselves.


traveller one said...

Oh ESben--- What a wonderful opportunity to take these marvelous portraits!!!!! They're astounding!

Alison said...

These are fantastic!

oreneta said... take the most spectacular photos....these are so beautiful and textured and rich and filled with the people's personalities... thank you.

oreneta said...

Esben, it's me again. I've been dwelling on your photos on and off all day, as well as considering the purchase of a digital camera. You obviously have some skill here. Off the top of your head, anything you would never buy, or would only buy? Words from the wise? Thanks, again for the images.

Esben said...

Thanks so much you guys (gals). I really love getting positive feedback :o)

@oreneta: Thanks for trusting me to advice you on your camera purchase. I am but a happy amateur with no formal training in photography whatsoever, but I will be happy to give the best advice I can. I believe Alison (who commented before you) is a professional photographer so perhaps she would like to weigh in also.

Let's start with what I am using. A Panasonic Lumix DMC FZ-50. This is a so called bridge camera meaning that it has many of the functions (and the size) of the really good expensive cameras, but comes in one single package meaning you don't have to worry about changing lenses and stuff like that (but of course that also reduces versatility). I found this was a good solution for me providing a good balance between quality on one side and price and convenience on the other.

The best I can advice you is to buy for your needs. There is no need to get a camera with all sorts of fancy options and handles if you're always going to keep it stuck on auto anyway. In that case a small compact camera such as the Canon IXUS or the Sony Cybershot series might do the trick for you. It is easy to carry around and takes reasonably good pictures, allowing you to just point and click.

However if you'd like to experiment a little bit with the manual settings and take high quality pictures, then a camera such as mine would be an excellent start. It allows you enough settings to take your pictures to the next level, but does save you the trouble of changing lenses and it is pretty competitively priced. It allows an amazing 12 times optical zoom and general produces beautiful pictures. On the downside it is much more bulky than the average person's compact travel camera these days, so it takes a bit more dedication.

I hope this helps you out a bit and that I didn't bore you too much. If you tell me a bit more about what level you are at and what you'd like to be able to do with your new camera (what kind of motives will you be taking, is zoom important, what are the pictures for, does it have to be very compact and easy to carry around, will you be taking photos in low light etc.), perhaps I can be even more specific in my advice.

oreneta said...

Oooo Esben, thank you sooo much. OK, I'll take any info I can get. I would like to be able to take GOOD photos, not point and click and hope for the best. If I want a crap camera I can snap a photo anywhere, I could probably just use a cell phone.

I am, obviously, not a pro, but I would like to be able to play around, especially now that there is digital. You don't have to pay for developing to see what would make a learning curve possible at all on my budget.

I don't mind carrying a camera that looks like a camera if I can get a decent picture out of it.

How do you know if it will talk to the computer? I know that is an incredibly stupid question, but there it is. Do they all talk to every computer? I'll talk to IBM too.


I guess I am saying, bring it on...blind me with science.

Esben said...

Alright, so you clearly have the ambitions to go beyond the classic ultra compact pocket cameras. Good. In that case I will simply go ahead and recommend the camera I have. Of all the so called bridge cameras it gets consistently some of the best reviews.

A few reasons why I love it:

- 12 times optical zoom is hard to beat for a fixed lens camera. It allows you to get close even to quite elusive wildlife.
- The camera has a very good image stabilization function preventing camera shake even at zoom closeups and in bad lighting.
- Since it has a fixed lens it is very easy to carry around you can just pull it out of your camera bag and instantly use it. It does a little bit of everything (macro,zoom, low light, action) pretty well straight out of the bag.
- Picture quality is great for a camera in this range.
- At a price of about EUR 500-600 it is pretty fairly priced. And since you don't need additional lenses there is not much extra stuff to spend more money on. You need in addition to what is in the camera packaged also an extra battery, a good camera bag, a lens cleaning kit, one or two memory cards (at least 2 GB) and perhaps a tripod if you'd like to do some serious night/low light photography. But none of those should be too expensive.

And about the computer compatibility - don't worry. As long as your computer comes with a USB plug you'll be fine (if not, then maybe it's time to get a new comp :oP). The camera plugs up via USB, and in the package you will get a CD with all the software you might need.

Maybe you want to go even further and try your luck with a DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) camera. This is code for a camera with removable lenses, meaning you attach a new lens for each specific job. For instance you might have a special lens for ultra zoom (which can get you well over the 12 times optical zoom that I have) a special lens for ultra macro (extreme closeup of small things, such as tiny insect or a small flower) and special lenses for this and that. Typically you'd then carry around 3-4 different lenses with you. This is the solution that professional photographers and very serious amateurs go for. The advantages of doing this is:

- Superior picture quality. Obviously when you have a lens designed only for one specific purpose, then it can do a much better job than an all-round lens.
- More functions and more versatility. Sometimes a DSLR will not just take better pictures but even perform things that a non-DSLR won't be able to do at all. However such functions tend to be for the very advanced user.

The drawbacks are:
- Inconvenience. More bulky. More accesories to carry. Risk of getting dust into your camera when changing lenses.
- More expensive. A decent starter DSLR such as the Canon EOS-350 will cost EUR 50-100 more than my panasonic. But for that you will only get a fairly cheap, limited-range lens with it. If the DSLR is to make any sense you need to supplement your camera with a range of lenses which could easily cost as much as the camera itself did - or more.

So what do you think? What sounds like the solution for you so far? Any other questions?

oreneta said...

Thank you thank you thank you...I will probably aim at a camera like yours....I would like an SLR a lot, but I frankly don't want to haul around lenses...and at this point, very low in the learning curve, I would probably be wasting my money and confusing myself.

I will look into getting one. I wonder if they are much cheaper in the States. I may be able to get a friend to buy one and ship it....

I'll do some more homework, and I may get back to you, but I will probably aim at yours...

The computer, an IBM thinkpad T23, so it should cope.

traveller one said...

Hey Esben- I'm glad I could send a few people your way! Portraits like these should not be missed.

As for the camera advice-- I am a digital camera junkie and have quite a collection of them! At the moment I am using a Panasonic Lumix as well but one step down from yours- the DMC-TZI. It has a good 10X optical zoom and the image stabilisation feature which is very useful! I often wonder why digital cameras even have ANY digital zoom- the quality is horrible- why not take it out of the cameras completely and give more optical zoom? Anyhow, this is my second LUMIX and I really like it. I have also had a few Sony's but the quality of photography seems not so good (to my eyes). I even still have the first SONY digital camera where you used FLOPPY DISKS! I am looking at the Digital SLR's now and am finding them hard to resist- hehe!

Keep up the amazing work!

Esben said...


I think you are making the right call. A DSLR is probably a bit of an overkill for someone who is just getting to learn about all the technical aspects of photography. A bridge camera on the other hand is very good because it gives you plenty of manual settings to play with, but still in a very user friendly way. If you haven't already then figuring out the importance of aperture, shutter speed and ISO and the relationship between them is a good place to start. Once you can manipulate those in manual settings for the effect you desire you have already taken a big step up in controlling the outcome of your pictures. If it sounds like gibberish then I'd be happy to explain what all that means. But if you are way ahead of me here, then sorry :o)


Yes, I am also getting increasingly tempted by all those delicious DSLRs out there. For me it's not so much about convenience really. I would be willing to carry around a lot of extra gear to take my pictures to the next level. It's more en economic issue. As a student money is limited and good lenses are expensive. Anyway I just bought my FZ-50 6 months ago, so I'm still enjoying how much more I can do with that, than with my previous Canon Ixus 55 (I still keep it for those occasions where I need a camera that will fit in my pocket - dinner parties for instance).

And you are right about digital zoom. It is an utterly useless feature, whose main purpose seems to be to confuse technically illiterate buyers into thinking that they get more zoom than what is actually the case. Of course they should just give more optical zoom as you say, but the problem is that that requires a more sophisticated and expensive lens, where as digital zoom is just a simple, cheap software installation.

Britt-Arnhild said...

These portraits are great. You should do something with them.

Esben said...

Thank you Britt-Arnhild. But I think other than putting my photos out here for everyone to see, I'm not going to do anything else with them. Wouldn't have the first clue what to do :oP

Kat said...

Hi there, very impressive photos, thanks for sharing! I was in India recently for 5 weeks, but have always felt uncomfortable getting that close to people as if intruding on their space. I also find that some people like to pose, and that's not what I'm looking for. I suppose that's why I'm a journalist/writer, trained as an observer, and not a photojournalist...a profession in which you show great potential. I hope you share more of your work. :)

Kat said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Esben said...

Hi Kat and thanks for your comment. In other parts of the world it could be harder getting close to people, but in India it's actually easy. More often than not the problem is getting away once I start taking pictures. People simply don't stop asking for more and more pictures.

I am of course just a happy amateur who has never done a photography course in his life, so photography is probably destined to be a hobby rather than a career. But I will continue do publish my pictures here on this blog. I'm months behind so I already have enough material to fill on well into the future. Hope you come back here again once in a while.

P.S. Who do you write for and what kind of pieces do you do?