Friday, July 08, 2011

Rajan Parrikar strives to document the changing world of his youth through his photography

California musician and photographer Rajan Parrikar was raised on the west coast of India in what is now the state of Goa. "We arose every morning to a serene landscape serenaded by bird songs. Today, Goa's environment is under assault. For the past 5 years, I have been deeply involved both in documenting the rich cultural and natural assets of what was once a unique sanctuary, and in recording the destruction of the region's environment and its rapid slide into the urban ugliness and chaos that characterizes today's India. The image at the top of this story, for example, was the result of a recent effort to record a classic Goan sunrise with all its essential ingredients: water, foliage, sky, and above all, the refreshing quietude.

"From past experience, I knew the hamlet of Siolim would offer just the right setting. It was a cool February morning and the low-hanging mist added to the scene. As luck would have it, a moored fishing vessel provided the foreground interest. The only problem was the the top of the fence ringing the bridge was higher than the height of my tripod. So I mounted a Singh-Ray 2-stop Reverse ND Grad filter on my Zeiss ZE 50mm f/2 Makro Planar lens and took this shot while hand holding my Canon 5D Mark II above the fence and adjusting the filter's transition line by trial-and-error. The results were wonderful!

"Iceland is another ongoing photographic interest of mine. I have researched its landscape, history, and people extensively, which has greatly benefited my ability to understand what's most important for me to photograph. I am particularly fond of this image made in the south of Iceland at the historic farm of Hlíðarendi. As soon as the skies lit up at sundown on this particular evening, I already had my Singh-Ray 3-stop Reverse ND Grad on my Canon TS-E 45mm lens. A favorite attribute of the reverse filters is their soft transition which makes it possible to recover objects passing through the transition line. Without the Reverse ND Grad, it would have been nearly impossible to adequately convey the rich drama of this marvelous autumn evening.

"Dettifoss in northern Iceland is said to be the most powerful waterfall in Europe. On this summer morning, the lighting conditions were terrible for landscape photography (think sun, glare, scattered high clouds), not at all like the type of image I had envisioned. I learned quickly when in Iceland that the only certainty about the weather is that it won’t be what I want it to be. I finally managed to tease out the character of this thundering behemoth, thanks to the Singh-Ray Vari-ND filter on my Canon TS-E 24mm lens that allowed me to lengthen my exposure times until I achieved the dynamic water profile I was visualizing.

"This final photograph was taken in Goa's capital city of Panjim -- the city where I grew up. It shows the Church of Our Lady of Immaculate Conception at dawn. Photographing the Church early in the morning or at night is a challenge because the artificial lighting blows out the features of the façade directly in front of the lights and the resulting dynamic range of the scene exceeds the capabilities of today’s camera sensors. Although a GND filter is not what comes to mind for an architectural subject, I decided to experiment using my Singh-Ray 2-stop Reverse ND Grad to hold back the brightest band within the frame. I was pleased with the final output.

"Singh-Ray filters are a vital part of my photographic workflow. I carry with me the full complement of neutral density filters, graduated and solid, as well as the Vari-ND filter. Although various post-processing techniques are now available to stretch the dynamic range, the thrill experienced in the field on scoring a near-perfect capture with an ND Grad can never be duplicated in the digital darkroom. There is much to be said for getting the tonal range close to what is seen by the eye within a single exposure."

You can see more examples of Rajan's photography by visiting his website and blog.

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