Sometimes, you need to admit you’re in need of desperate help. This is one of those times. When on the road for a long period of time, shooting as many pictures as I have, you can lose track and certainly objectivity of the pictures you have shot. I can make a reasonable estimate on which pictures are good and which are even better, but picking out just one black and white photo out of all the pictures I have taken during my trip, is a task that comes near to the impossible. Still this is what I need to do, so I ask you… Help me.
You can check the pictures at my Flickr page and leave a comment and a description of your favorite here on the blog. Thank you so much!
Most of the time when traveling, I find myself going from city to town and back to a city again. Sometimes I almost forget there’s more than that. When I hired a little motor bike and just cruised out of the town Pushkar, I noticed everything changed. Landscape, there’s no surprise, but also the contact with the people I met along the way.
There was no hassle, asking for money or trying to sell me anything anymore. People were open and friendly, inviting and very photo genetic. I wrote a blog a while ago, about sending a private driver back home and taking the bus between destinations. I’m still very happy i did, but after a day driving around on my little moped, I guess next time I’ll be traveling with a drivers license for a motorbike. That way I can buy myself a cheap motor and travel the country on my own. Bringing only my small Leica kit - same as I have with me now - and some necessities like underware, there will be no trouble with luggage and it will bring me at places I’ll otherwise won’t see.
So, at least I have found my reason to stay traveling and go back to beautiful India again and again! ;-)
If you like to see these pictures and some more in higher resolution, check my Flickr account
As the albums on my Flickr page and my facebook are starting to become a bit abundant, I decided to start selecting a bit stricter. Also I decided to delete some of the pictures in my facebook albums. Not that they are bad, but some others are just a better and in the end you only want to keep the best.
For me it’s one of the hardest things to do: “killing your darlings”. Especially because they are not only my darlings, they are also part of my journey. Of course I don’t throw them away, But in the end nobody wants to relive the hours and hours you spend behind a projector at your grandparents. And nobody really wants to see the wedding book with 750 pictures of your uncle dancing the cha cha cha or your nephew spoiling tomato soup on his mini smoking. Most of the time 50 pictures is enough, after that, attention most of the time decreases rapidly. Often less is more, so choices must me made.
What makes me decide which picture stays in and which one goes, is hard to tell. Most of the time it’s a gut feeling. It’s easy to select the ones that have to stay in for sure. The diamonds. Thing is; if I only leave those, I’ll end up posting maybe 5 pictures out of all (not each) albums. I’d like to think I’m my most critical judge. So after selecting these I go on.
I try to look at the balance in my story. I can have ten women sitting in their door opening, but I only need one. Again everything is just a gut feeling. Which woman gives me the feeling I can’t leave her out. Because of the way she looks, or her colorful sari or the beautiful woodwork of the doorposts. Looking at the light, composition, technique is another way to get rid of some of my babies. Even though sometimes it’s the one that breaks all the rules that stays in. Just because the “feel” is right.
In the end it’s all just a matter of taste. Which ones do I like the most? Which ones give me the uncontrollable urge to show them to the rest of the world? Which ones do I think people like to talk about? Which ones do I think tell the story?
Luckily, here I can make a separation again. Here on my blog, I tell you how I work and what problems I encounter. I show you some of the shots that either clarify my story or some that I just think you should really see. At my facebook page, I now show you the ones that I really think are good. This differs from time to time. I add pictures and I take some of. Same goes for my website, only on my facebook, I also give you updates about the trip, some behind the scene photos and every now and again a link that I think you should check. On my Flickr account I post a lot more. This is the place where people tend to go to browse pictures, just like they browse youtube for videos. So make your pick, or check them all… Hope you like what you see!
Sitting in a car heading for Rajasthan, I had the feeling that I had made a wrong decision. It’s a great way to travel through Rajasthan -the part of India I’m traveling now - but it’s just not me. I need to be amongst the people.
Not exactly sure what it was that made me feel this way I endured a little bit longer. I don’t mind changing my mind all of a sudden, but I do want to know why I change it. It wasn’t the driver. Even though his English was very poor, he was very polite and he had no problem taking me wherever I wanted. This was the reason I took the car in the first place. The idea of not planning a train ahead, being able to stop at every location on my way sounded very appealing and practical for my photography. A flat tire even gave me a sudden feel of adventure, although it was solved quickly.
I think it was the fact that everything was going smooth. To smooth. He took me from city to city, hotel to hotel. The hotels were good, even though they had weddings going on with loud music, had good restaurants and great rooms. The driver used B routes so there was plenty to see during our long drives. It was perfect and easy.
I think my decision is best compared with the Leica I’m working with. The driver and his fancy hotels were like my old Nikons on program mode. Everything was great, effortless and without trouble. But if I compare the pictures I took with my DSLR while traveling, they tend to have a lack of story. They are good photos but they miss some sort of depth.
If I read back the blogs about the time I started with the Leica M9 in Cuba, I struggled. But it’s that struggle that made the journey. It’s the cursing and the discomfort that makes me want to see and learn more. My first trip in India was a 37 hour bus-ride to Kashmere and I remember vividly how things looked, smelt and how I was feeling at the time. Now, nearly 2 months later, it has been one of the best parts of my trip. Maybe not photography wise , but definitely when it comes down to traveling India. Of course I did take some pictures in the towns that the car had dropped me. This is something I can do where ever I am, and independent of how I got there. A few I’ve posted here and the rest is on my fb page or at my Flickr page. I even grabbed the Leica M9 a couple of times instead of the Monochrom. Not because I was doubting, like I did before, but because I like to change things up every now and again.
After two days in the car, I send the driver back to Delhi and booked myself on a train from Bikaner to Jodpur. Instead of traveling through Radjashan in a car for the upcoming two weeks, I’ll be struggling and cursing while booking train-tickets. There will be families cramped up against me in a bus, little children that follow me around through the streets and beggars asking me for money. And I’m looking forward to it!
I’ve been traveling India now for about one and a half month. I’ve seen a lot and there’s many more to come. On the program are Amritsar, city of the golden temple, Rajasthan with it’s blue city Johdpur and its pink city Jaipur, countless colored saris and the endless yellow sands of the dessert. The white sandy beaches of the Andaman Islands are still a place I want to see and there is so many many more.
The crazy thing is, I’m going to show you all these places without color, as I have totally fallen in love with the Leica Monochrom. There were some times I wanted to grab the M9 again, sometimes I even did… but even most of those pictures I ended up converting in Silver Efex Pro. To me the lack of color, takes away the distraction of just that same color. All is suddenly stripped down to emotion, movement, light and energy. Yes color is one of the most obvious in India, but what is left when you take away the most obvious ends up to be often a lot more interesting.
The fact that the Monochrom is so very defined in its dynamic range - specially in blacks - and that it is amazing in sharpness, makes this camera an absolute treat to work with. Because of the high ISO possibilities, combined with the Summicron 35mm it’s pretty much all I need to carry around, no flash needed.
I guess I’ve made the change I wanted to make, from DSLR to rangefinder. I now cary a small bag, light on my shoulder. It replaces the heavy load of 2.8 zoom lenses and 2 pro Nikon bodies. A bag that would easily top 10 kg. But I’ve taken it one step further. One step closer to, what to me has become the very basic of photography: One camera, one lens and a monochrome image. I feel lucky and grateful. I can roam the world, looking at it’s beauty and capture this in exactly the way I observe it. In its naked, vulnerable, most honest way. To me that’s in black & white… in Monochrom.
I’ve been asked why I only take photographs of the slums and poor people and not of the richer part of India and the people who indulge in luxury. I’ve not only been asked here, but on facebook and Flickr as well. I even got asked so many times, that I thought it would be a wise idea to write a blog about it.
First I need to explain in this matter, that I don’t make this journey on an assignment. It’s my own trip, no rules, no expectations, nothing. I’m not earning any money with it, I pay everything my self - therefor I travel light and cheap - and I really like it this way. I like walking planet earth without having to go any where, without having to arrange things, to be honest… without even thinking to much. If I had to judge my own pictures, those are the best as well… the ones that I wasn’t really thinking, but I was just roaming the streets, seeing whatever I would see. Sometimes it’s hard to do it this way… Most of the time I do my best not to think of a budget, on how long I can last this way. Most of the time this works out really well… sometimes the “real world” kicks in and I do worry for a day or two.
Anyway, back to the story I wanted to tell. Why slums and poor people and not the rich in India. There are a few reasons for that.
First of all; I’m lazy. For me to photograph the rich people, I have to go out of my normal way. I have to look them up, often go to places that cost me money, and than try hard to get into conversation with people I think might be interesting. If I do get in this conversation, I have to convince them to let me take pictures.This isn’t really my expertise. And I therefor don’t really go to these places… Sometimes it can be nice. Once in a while - most of the time on invite - I like to go there… I even really like days and evenings like this. But that is only once in a while. At home, in the Netherlands, I occasionally get these invites. I get asked to photograph these kind of situations. I’ve even blogged about this in the past. When I do get there, I love it. I feel like a little kid looking at a movie from a distance. I can fit in, but don’t really feel part of it. Now traveling through India it’s the other way around. If I want pictures like this, I have to search for these places. I have to put in an effort. I have to ask if I can please take pictures during an event or at somebody’s house. I just don’t really feel the urge to have these pictures.
Second: The slums I can roam… I can walk around through the streets, see what happens. People come up to me, talk to me, offer me chai and often don’t mind me taking their picture. Interaction is instant and almost every time pleasant. Even if they don’t want me to take their picture, we have a laugh and a chat. I have to say, having a small camera instead of the big SLR does help here. Any way, this is different with richer people, specially the real rich ones. They live in bigger houses. Often these houses are behind fences and many times there even is a guard. They are just not that easy to approach. Here I immediately refer back to my first point… I’m lazy. I don’t really want, and certainly I don’t need, to go through all this trouble. It’s not that I’m doing this project on how all different communities in India live… I’m just sharing my journey with you and therefor the things that I see and find interesting. Things that happen without me doing anything to cause it.. other than saying yes every now and again.
Third: The few times I did try to go out of my way and document the working class - for example the Dabba Wallahs - or a real rich Indian person, things get complicated right away. I need to pay money or suddenly I am very limited in the time I get. Most of the time I’m all of a sudden not dealing with the person I want to photograph, but with three or four other people as well… who all want money. I’m not saying this is wrong or right, bad or good… I don’t really have an opinion on this, other than that I don’t want the hassle. And there’s the simple fact that I don’t really want to spend this money. Don’t get me wrong… If I really like to experience whatever they ask me the money for… I’m happy to pay for it. (As long as it’s asked in a respectful manner). Only this doesn’t happen that often. I don’t really HAVE to experience anything. When it’s there, it’s there… if not, no problem!
So there, I have tried to explain it. I’m not posting my pictures because I want to give you a full view of India. I’m showing my pictures not because I have a higher cause or a story to tell. The only story I’m showing you is the world that I see during my journey and the way I show you is through the lens of my camera. I hope you like it!
Yesterday I took an metro to the old city of Delhi. This is an adventure on its own. Queues are formed carefully before the train arrives. Then, when it stops, everybody wants to go in at the same time. Nobody cares that people have to go out as well, it’s like to tidal waves clashing right in front of you. The only way to overcome is to just let the mass take you.
In old Delhi I visited the red fort and the biggest mosque in Asia. But what I liked most was wonder through the litle dark and busy streets after sunset. To me this is where the Monochrom comes to life in the best way. During the day, dust in the air and the high light, make for somewhat dull photos. After dark, contrasts are high and street live is at its peak. As the camera has no problem with high ISO, it’s a joy to work with.
Back at my hotel room, I started working on the photos and just as I was planning to go to sleep a wedding started to party, right underneath my window. I should have known as I had seen the marching band earlier that evening… but I didn’t know they would choose my little street, of the main road, to have a party… So I guess it will take another night to get rid of my jet-lag.
Of course by now you know where you can find some more pictures ;-)
A short blog about the start of, what’s going to be, a very interesting 4 months with my Leica Monochrom in India. I left the Netherlands very early in the morning with snow. A great feeling, knowing I was heading for 20+ degrees. I flew via Munich and Doha in Qatar.
At Doha airport I had to wait for five hours. So I watched a movie but of course I also played a little bit with the Monochrome, as it’s going to be a new challenge to try out this beauty in a colorful country as they say India is going to be.
Arriving at Delhi airport I expected an ocean of people, but it was actually pretty quiet. Although as soon as my taxi set course for Old Delhi, we encountered traffic jams, as I have never seen. This combined with my taxi driver on a death wish, made sure my jetlag will kick in at the end of the day as adrenaline is still filling my veins.
In the hotel room, witch is quite good, I could calm a bit down writing this first blog. Although I do have to find a way to upgrade my adobe lightroom as it does not yet support the Monochrom. So these pictures just had a quick tweak in Photoshop Raw converter.
I’ll keep you all posted!
PS, Lightroom problem is already solved!
Next day a trip to the wine cooperation was planned. An overview on how the wine is made and bottled, and a round trip through the wine cellars where the barrels are kept. Taking pictures here again was a challenge using high ISO. Also the barrels itself were excellent support. Using the selftimer at 2 sec, it gave me the ability to still make some nice shots in the pretty dark cellars.
Leica M9 with summicron 35mm at f3.4 - 1/15sec - ISO 1000
Leica M9 with summicron 35mm at f2.0 - 1/15sec - ISO 1000
Leica M9 with summicron 35mm at f3.4 - 1/15sec - ISO 1000
Leica M9 with summicron 35mm at f2.4 - 1/15sec - ISO 1000
Leica M9 with summicron 35mm at f11 - 1/250sec - ISO 200
After this round trip we would go on to Antugnac, a village nearby with 324 inhabitants. This day there would be around 40.000, celebrating the end of carnaval, witch takes2 months here. Everywhere people drink wine, celebrate, eat, make music and have fun.
I didn’t take a tripod with me to shoot the fireworks at the end of the day (didn’t want to carry it around and besides by that time I probably would shake to much to even mess that up). Still, during the day I again experienced that I was looking at my work differently because of the Leica. I am more aware of the time I need to take a picture. Also I feel I have more patience waiting for the right moment to take just that one shot. Next to that people are generally less intimidated by this camera, compared to my D3 or D3X. And most of all, specially during these kind of events, I don’t walk around with a 10 KG shoulder bag in a hurdle of drunk people. I travel light, I’m developing a different view, challenging my skills and I’m able to deliver huge resolution pictures… I love this camera.
Leica M9 with summicron 35 mm at f4.8 - 1/250 sec - ISO 200
Leica M9 with summicron 35 mm at f2.4 - 1/350 sec - ISO 200
Leica M9 with summicron 35 mm at f2.4 - 1/500 sec - ISO 200
Leica M9 with summicron 75 mm at f4.8 - 1/500 sec - ISO 400
For all the pictures taken this trip you can keep checking here
So, as I said… it would be an intense weekend with a very busy schedule. In total there were about 50 quest in the Dutch group, visiting Toques et Clochers. To give a raw idea of the program:
Friday we had a wine tasting organized by Cuno van ‘t Hoff. Tasting wines that came straight from the barrels, witch is actually a complete different experience - and taste - than a normal tasting would be. The event was a tasting of wines witch would be auctioned the next day in Limoux. This is done as a benefit for local restoration of the church clock-tours (Clochers) in villages in the neighborhood. The tasting was organized in 2 michelin star restaurant “Le Parc” so naturally it was followed by a beautifull diner in that same restaurant.
Because the tasting was done inside the restaurant where light conditions were pretty tough, I pushed the Leica to 800 ISO. As I know now, doing that, I have to make sure my histogram stays on the right side (whites) to make sure I have as little noise as possible. This to make sure that the pictures wouldn’t differ to much with the pictures taken outside in between tasting (because of the beautiful weather I had to switch back to ISO 200). Even though inside I shot at ISO 800, I was still shooting at 1/15th or 1/30th of a second.
For more pictures of this day you can check here.
Leica M9 with summicron 75mm at f2.8 - 1/2000sec - ISO 200
Leica M9 with summicron 75mm at f4.0 - 1/4000sec - ISO 200
Leica M9 with summicron 75mm at f3.4 - 1/2000sec - ISO 200
Leica M9 with summicron 75mm at f2.8 - 1/90sec - ISO 400 (near open door)
Leica M9 with summicron 35mm at f3.4 - 1/60sec - ISO 800
Leica M9 with summicron 75mm at f2.8 - 1/90sec - ISO 800
Leica M9 with summicron 35mm at f2.4 - 1/30sec - ISO 800
Leica M9 with summicron 75mm at f2.8 - 1/90sec - ISO 800