For me, photography is all about being passionate about the art form and stubborn about getting the results you imagined. So despite the unprecedented once-in-a-century circumstance of the pandemic and the physical distancing, I did not let photography take a back seat. On days of strict lockdown, I spent hours studying theories, reading books on various techniques and sweeping through hundreds of pictures taken by the great masters of the trade. And when the lockdown relaxed, I regularly went out with my new Nikkor 50mm 1.8 prime lens and put all the theories I learnt to practice.
Portrait photography was a genre that preoccupied my conscience the most, and I focussed a lot of time and energy on upskilling myself in this. For that, I arranged and went out for many portrait shoots over the spring and summer of 2020. These shoots, along with my theoretical brainstorming, helped me shift gears in my photography techniques and offered me a life-altering experience. I followed my usual natural style of accentuating my subject through light and shadow play and tried to freeze the moment. Not only did I try to freeze the moment, but I tried to elongate that moment in my pictures. Natural lighting made it more tricky and even unpredictable at times, but the challenge was well accepted.
Overall, these portraits provided me with an artistic and philosophical release from the caging boundations of a rapidly changing and unpredictable world. It helped me pen down a poem of sorts through shutter clicks (or at least I think so). I am not sure whether these portraits collectively give a poetic or any philosophical direction to my art in any way, but it definitely made me think deeper about the practice of my art and the path that I want to follow in the years ahead keeping portraits as one of the key genres of learning and exploration.
The late winter afternoon photoshoot under a dim Sun continued with I and Elena attempting to experiment and take full advantage of the natural setting of Wienerberg Park. We walked around amongst the dead foliage, broken twigs, felled tree trunks and the skeleton-like woods. We tried a combination of headshots, chest level, waist level and some full-body portrait shots. I found myself gaining confidence and even being able to guide her before composing a shot. Elena’s occasional tip, not only for our ongoing shoot but also on the theories and philosophies behind photography, proved vital in this shoot. Also, she provided me with some million-dollar post-production tips, which worked wonders in the actual post-production process later.
Harmonising with Elena’s belief in nature’s healing power and the pulse of life that emanates from it, I tried to integrate the natural elements around us. I followed her playful body movements and made sure that I got enough sunlight just on the right spot of her facial profile. Her jewellery accessories and the twigs and grass combined to make a beautiful collage, thereby creating wondrous stories through the snapshots.
The shoot with Elena was not only a fun-filled portrait model shoot, but it was a seminal learning experience for my photographic journey. It was not merely a dialogue that I shared with her in the shoot but more like a Sohbet-an enlightened discourse. The Sohbet, captured in my lens, pulsated the healing power of Mother Nature even in the middle of a dry winter landscape.
The shoot continued with NX taking advantage of the grand old castle with her playful poses, making a beautiful juxtaposition, keeping in line with my recurrent efforts to control light and shade and capture their intersection points.
And as with my other shoots this summer, I pushed boundaries and made it more provocative and edgy. I was impressed by the NX’s maturity in manoeuvring between different styles of shots.
We moved to a wooded area near the castle, and I increased the exposure while taking some shots. In the post-production. I tried to create a vignette effect to highlight NX and the dirt path in the woods. And as we were wrapping our shoot, the rains came pouring down, and we had to rush back to the bus stop, leaving behind us a fun-filled afternoon at the majestic Liechtenstein castle.
My model, NX, was an enthusiastic young and ambitious actress. She was confident and thorough in her interactions with the camera. She displayed an unusual calm and elegance during the shoot and was sure that she would move her body to get the perfect shot.
My work, as the photographer, became relatively easy owed to NX’s expertise. However, a rainy early summer afternoon by the Danube made it harder to shoot. The incessant drizzling and my good for nothing umbrella tested my patience and my shooting skills with practically one hand.
In this photograph, I asked her to lie down on one of the big rocks on the Danube banks and arch backwards while looking directly at the lens. This was one of the perfect shots of the day-I had the right aperture settings; I got the right frame and to top it off , my model had an elegant pose on the rocks in her beautiful reptile print one-piece bikini.
Ever since coming to Europe a few years back, I always wished to do a photo shoot in a vineyard; and finally a few days back, I got the opportunity to do so in the vineyards of the Kahlenberg region in Vienna. I, along with my model Giovanna, trekked down a few dozen meters from the hill to the more flattened lush green slopes. Situated at an elevation on the northern edges of the city, the vineyards provided with a breathtaking panorama of the city and the Danube basin beyond it.
The golden hour evening light had just set in and it created the perfect blend of natural contrast and light intensity for the shoot. I started with some normal portrait shots and then moved on to taking some perspective portraits to accommodate the rows of grape climbers in the plantation. I proceeded to take some beauty shots with the grapes and creepers in my composition. However, as the grapes were just in fruition, I did not get the exact shot I was looking for. Nonetheless, these shots highlighted Giovanna’s expressions quite successfully. We continued our descend through the plantation in search of better locations. We found some country streets meandering through woods and dissected by small streams where we took shots in a beautiful scarf draped top which gave the pictures an added edge and, gave depth to the bodily spirit of the model.
Wrapping up with shots amidst the panoramic background of the city, the photo shoot ended with my learning of controlling light and shade in rapidly changing light conditions from the vineyards to the woods. As we were also interrupted with bad light on account of large black clouds passing through, this lesson in quick adaptation on my prime lens was a valuable lesson. Tired from the shoot as I walked down to the bus stop, the smell of barbecues from the nearby farmhouses was also a lesson that I need to carry some food to long photo shoots in adventurous locations to not find myself satisfying my appetite with the just the smell of barbecue sauce on grilled meat.
It was a sultry July summer afternoon when I took the bus to Vienna’s edge in the nearby woods. With my model NX, I walked through the picture-perfect hamlet and reached the 12th-century Liechtenstein castle for a summer-themed fashion shoot.
This small but grand castle and its grounds provided us with an ideal location for a portrait shoot. The Sun was playing hide and seek with the clouds, and the sudden burst of calm wind added the much-needed flavour to the shoot.
As always, I geared my 50mm prime lens for the shoot and clicked away, following NX’s peppy lead in her summer dress.
The shoot with TM was long and exhaustive that summer afternoon. After an hour of shooting, as we decided to take some snaps in one-piece lingerie. We tried different shots against the wall, and none seemed to do justice to the lingerie.
We moved on to back shots and ended up with some really artistic ones. The heels gave the lingerie a formal appeal. The moment I asked to keep her hands on the wall and slightly lift one of the heels, the picture took a new dimension. Though the light was quite splattered, I could manage a reasonably good shot, contrasting the skin tone and the lingerie.
When my model, TM, insisted on using the plant as a prop, I was sceptical about how we could use it in our composition. I was in two minds about including the pot at the base of the plant. So, I asked TM for ideas, and she took the lead in the experimentation. We took a dozen shots and sat down to finalise on a couple of them.
We ended up selecting this picture as I felt that drooping of the leaves from the left contemplated her pose and gave depth to her expression. The way she played around with her skirt, harmonised with her pose in general. It pushed the boundaries of her sensuality, igniting a flame of curiosity in the viewer’s mind.