THE GATEWAY OF INDIA

Week #3 of my 52 week project and at 5:00am on a Sunday morning I’m thinking, do I go now or at night. Early morning glow or light trails at night – Was the question! Going by the weather pattern, I was half suspecting that it’ll be foggy and misty early morning. I had one shot in mind, that I had been wanting to make of the Gateway of India, and as I thought about it I pressed on. The thing is on weekend evenings these places get pretty packed with tourists and I wanted minimal distraction in my frames. With this thought I got up, got ready and headed out to south Mumbai.

Sunrise was predicted for 7:15 AM and as I got nearer to my destination, I saw day breaking through the windows of the suburban train. I got off at the CST station and caught a cab to get to the Gateway of India – its a 20 minute drive from the station to the memorial. The first thing I did after entering was start scouting for a spot for my shots. Various permutations and combinations of composition ran through my head as I headed out towards the left most point of the memorial. I finally settled in one spot, took out my camera and looked through the viewfinder to meter the scene. To start with I was reading at about 1/5th of a second at f/8.0 – I wanted the depth of field, also wanted the polarizer on (I’ve discussed reasons why one should use a polarizer in my earlier posts) and I didn’t want to push the ISO too much. Even though the D800E is quite capable of handling higher ISOs, but I just didn’t want to take a chance (although I did forego this rule later in the day – more on that later in the post); therefore there were two options in front of me – I either setup a tripod and take a shot, or wait for the scene to light up adequately to give me a decent shutter speed for handholding – I chose the former! I just couldn’t miss the golden glow of the rising sun falling on the Hotel Taj – any later and I would’ve lost this beautiful light.

Now going by past experience, I’ve been mostly asked by security folks to not setup a tripod at public places and I was fearing more so after the 26/11 attacks on Mumbai. Nevertheless, I quickly setup my tripod, set the camera on it, checked pitch and roll, composition and pressed the shutter button. This is the shot I got.

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I quickly changed orientation to portrait mode and pressed the shutter button. Here is the shot I got:

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Once I took these two shots I shifted my position, walked across to the other side and now turned the camera towards the Gateway of India. The sun was now higher in the horizon and had this lovely golden glow to the foreground. As the sun was rising behind the monument, I had a situation where the foreground was lit nicely, however the monument facing me was not so well lit. I changed my settings from the usual Aperture Priority mode to Manual and metered for the centre of the frame. I switched from matrix metering to centre weighted average (as the monument was in the centre of my frame). This way the camera exposed for the foreground and sky, while leaving latitude for lifting shadows in post – processing. While today’s digital cameras offer a very wide dynamic range and its easier, more than before, to push-pull RAW files, its best to ensure the overall scene is more closer to what you really saw, rather then something that looks like one of those cliche HDR images; although some photographers like that look. Here is the shot I got in this setup:

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Switching back to a landscape orientation, I took another shot, this time including the sun in the frame. I wanted to capture the lovely golden sun-rays falling on the stone set pavement in front of the monument.

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With this shot taken, I looked towards my right and saw a huge gathering of pigeons. People came in to feed these pigeons and the birds were gathered there by the hundreds. I walked out of the barricade and to the side of the monument, where the bird man was feeding the pigeons. I held up my camera to my eye and took a few shots. Although my shutter speed was good enough for hand-holding, it wasn’t good enough to capture the action of flying pigeons, which were appearing as smudged streaks in the frame. You see those smudged streaks in the top picture to the right of the frame – those are pigeons flying around, however due to the slower shutter speed, they appear as smudged streaks. This is when I decided to forego my thought of not increasing my ISO. I increased ISO to 400, which gave me a 1/250th of a second shutter speed – good enough to capture the pigeons in action. Although I shot quite a few frames as soon as there was some action amongst the birds, but the shot below is the one that I liked the best and is my favourite.

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With this shot, I was content with what I had achieved. I caught a cab, returned to the train station to take the train back home. I know this is a short blog, I don’t have any setup shots in this post, because of two reasons primarily – a) I didn’t have time to do that – I had to make sure I get my shots before I was asked to fold up the tripod, and b) Its not so different from what I have already mentioned in my earlier posts.

I hope you enjoyed reading this experience of mine and looking at the pictures. Please do-not use any of these pictures in any form or manner without an explicit permission from me. Please write to debabrata.ray@gmail.com in case you would like to use these pictures in any way, or in case you would like a fine-art print of any of these pictures.

Thanks for reading through and good-bye! See you next week! Ciao!

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