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On the Streets of Varanasi

Along the banks of the historical Ganges River lies Varanasi, one of the oldest continually inhabited cities in the world. It is located in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh and is considered to be one of the holiest centres for Hinduism. 

Image source: Wiki Media

Image source: Wiki Media

This unique city is made up of stark contrasts — from death and birth, to indulgence and spirituality. Its vigorous spirit has been the source of inspiration for many people who have set foot in the city, not just travellers, but also artists who were influenced by Varanasi.

Bollywood fans might recognise Varanasi’s many stairs and alleys from various films, such as Neeraj Ghaywan's Masaan. The movie traces the lives and eccentricities of its characters that thrive within the ancient city, which is still just as complex and ever changing. Varanasi’s many dualities haven’t just inspired famous movies, as Indian-inspired games also crop up on celebrated gaming communities with European digital portal Slingo being a great example, hosting titles such as Nirvana and Bollywood Story. These games capture starkly different, yet equally captivating facets of life in the city. But no matter how pop culture tries to do it justice, it pales in comparison to the arresting, chaotic beauty of Varanasi in the flesh. That alone makes it worth the visit, but for photographers, this provides a wealth of opportunities to capture the rich local culture. The entire region is full of colour and eccentricity, so you won’t run out of sights to point your lens at.

Image source: Pixabay

Image source: Pixabay

Go down the ghats during sunrise

On your way down to the holy river, you’ll find a series of stairs called ghats. In Varanasi, there are roughly 100 of them around, with each having its own name, history, and purpose. If you head towards the ghats about an hour before sunrise, you’ll be treated to a surreal view of the sun peaking from the waters and slowly bathing the landscape in light. It also happens to be the quietest time in the city, with fewer crowds. But of course, witnessing rituals of life and death are a different experience to be had altogether, so watch out for them but make sure to document them respectfully should you choose to take photos. 

Image source: Pixabay

Image source: Pixabay

Explore the Gali

Another unique attraction in Varanasi is their Gali, an extremely narrow alley usually lined with vendors and people passing by. Though you might have to elbow your way through during busy hours, you’ll enjoy the play of light beams and shadows on your walk.

Image source: Wiki Media

Image source: Wiki Media

Make the most of the background noise

Some photographers prefer clean and clutter-free backdrops for their photos, but that’s a bit of a rarity in the constantly bustling metropolis that is Varanasi. Don’t worry though because whatever goes on in the background can only add more colour and life to your shots. Traveling Family Blog notes that Varanasi is not for the faint-hearted. It can get chaotic, but it’s all part of the city's signature vibrancy. When capturing the dynamic Varanasi environment, fix your aperture settings so everything is kept in focus, despite all the movement. Everywhere, you’ll find street cows, street vendors, children, and so much more that will fill up your frames.

Image source: Pixabay

Image source: Pixabay

Visit during festival season

For an even more rewarding trip, you can visit Varanasi during a festival such as Dev Deepawali, also known as the Festival of Lights. It happens every year during the month of November, with thousands of devotees coming together to immerse themselves in the holy Ganges. Most surreal is when they offer lit-up lamps to the Ganga — an act they call Deepdaan. Every single step of the ghats lights up as the sun goes down, which makes for a truly majestic sight.

Image source: Wiki Feed

Image source: Wiki Feed

This was a guest blog written by Gabriella Esposito, a freelance writer. If you are interested in writing a guest blog or other forms of collaboration please send an email to: geraintrowlandphotography@gmail.com. More of my travel photography can be found on my website, my Instagram, my Facebook Page and my Flickr account.

Travel Portraits by Geraint Rowland

During my travels I often capture people around the world in a candid manner in their natural environment.  As my confidence has grown and my photographic skills have improved I have begun taking more portrait photographs.  These are often what are called 'environmental portraits', a portrait taken in the subject's usual environment and which normally include the surroundings as well as the person.  More recently I have also started taking 'head shot' style portraits, a tighter cropped image where the focus is on the persons face only.  For my head shots I normally ask the person for their permission first.  Click through the slideshow below to view some of my travel portraits:

With the majority of travel portraits above I asked for permission for the image to be taken. Often in touristy areas you are required or asked to pay for such portraits as was the case in Cusco, Peru, and Havana, Cuba.  The image of the Mexican girl in the Day of the Dead makeup and the final image of the Bolivian lady were the exceptions as both were caught candidly.  The beauty of head shots and or tightly cropped portraits is that you minimise the clutter in the background of the image.

All of the portraits were taken using a Canon 5D (Mark 2 or 4) and the majority were with the Canon 50mm 1.4.  Other lenses used were the Canon 85mm 1.8 and the Sigma Art Lens 135mm 1.8.  All of the images were taken using natural light and without the use of a flash.  The images were often taken with a shallow depth of field to create a pleasing background and draw attention to the persons face.  Images of people from around the world fascinate me, I think that they tell you more about a place than a landscape ever can.  In the future I want to focus more on portraits and improve my skills in this area of photography.  

More of my travel photography can be found on my websiteInstagramFacebook Page and my Flickr account.  If you would like any more information about any of my images please send an email to: geraintrowlandphotography@gmail.com.

A Frame within a Frame: A useful composition technique in photography.

What is a 'Frame within a Frame'?

In photography, a frame within a frame is when the photographer uses something within the scene in front of them to frame the main subject.  Therefore a second frame is created within the image hence: a frame within a frame.  This compositional technique can improve your image in several ways: Firstly it draws attention to the subject helping to isolate it from any distraction and clutter within the image.  Secondly it can add depth and layers to an otherwise flat and boring image.  Finally a frame within a frame can create mystery and intrigue within a photo resulting in the viewer exploring the picture for longer.  Click through the slideshow below to view some of my travel images which use the 'frame within a frame' method of composition:

Why should you use a 'Frame within a Frame'?

Composition is one of the most important aspects of photography.  Correct composition can transform an ordinary scene into a great picture.  Unlike certain elements of photography such as lighting, no technical knowledge is required for successful composition.  Finally, anyone with a camera can take images using this technique.  Regardless of price, make or model, anyone with a camera or mobile phone can go and try today.

Opportunities for Framing

Opportunities for framing a scene are endless but often go unnoticed.  For example, nature often provides a vast number of natural frames such as trees, clouds or flowers.  In addition there are many man made objects which can be used equally well.  These can include: windows, archways, bridges, buildings and so on.  The more of this kind of image you take, the more potential you will see in everyday situations.  In the slide show above, framing examples have included: modern art in Havana, car window frames in West Africa, a boat in Peru, shadows in a street shot in Cuba, bananas at a market stall in Lima, and an archway of a palace in Madrid.  Wedding, travel, and street photographers all regularly take photos using this compositional method of a frame within a frame.  

More of my travel photography can be found on my websiteInstagramFacebook Page and my Flickr account.  If you are interested in purchasing any prints, or are interested in collaborating please send me an email at: geraintrowlandphotography@gmail.com.  

Panning Photography by Geraint Rowland

What is panning?  Panning is a technique used when photographing moving subjects.  The basic idea behind panning photography is that you pan your camera along in time with the moving subject.  Once perfected it can produce images with a relatively sharp subject and a blurred background.  This blurring of the background adds to the overall feeling of speed and movement and can be used effectively with any fast moving subject such as cars, animals, cyclists etc.  Click through the slideshow below for some panning photography examples that I have taken on my travels:

How to master the photographic technique of panning

Panning photography requires a lot of practice and often some luck.  For successful panning your camera should follow the subject's movement whilst matching it's speed and direction. Panning is easiest with subjects that are moving in a relatively straight line so that you can predict where they will be moving to.  A recent famous example of this is the photo of Usian Bolt winning the 100 metre race at the Rio 2016 Olympics.  The photographer talks about taking the photo here.  

Some tips for taking successful panning photographs:

Use a slow shutter speed.  Experiment depending on the light and speed of the subject but start with 1/60 or lower.  Bear in mind that the faster your shutter speed the easier it will be to keep the subject crisp.  The faster the subject, the more difficult it will be to pan, meaning cyclists and skateboarders will be easier to pan than motorcycles and racing cars.

Track your subject.  Follow the subject before during and after the shot in a smooth and continuous motion.

Set the Shooting mode to Continuous.  This will allow for more opportunity to capture the best moment as well as minimising camera shake from pressing the shutter.

Choose an interesting background.  Although the background will be blurred it will form an important part of the photo so choose a background that is interesting and colourful.

Keep your camera as stable as possible.  Due to the slower shutter speed there is an increased chance of motion blur.  I recommend using the viewfinder as opposed to an LCD screen when panning. 

Practice makes perfect.  As with everything in photography, practice is required.  Try panning with different moving subjects and in different locations until you master this difficult technique.  I had some time recently to give the technique a revisit in Havana with all of its colourful vintage cars.

More of my travel photography can be found on my website, my Instagram, and my Flickr account.  If you are interested in purchasing any prints, using an image online or would like further information please send me an email at: geraintrowlandphotography@gmail.com.