Archive for category South India

A first look: India’s 62nd National Basketball Championship

Happy New Year. All my best wishes for 2012.
If you know me or follow this blog you may be surprised to see photographs from India’s National Basketball Championship recently held in Chennai posted below. More often than not I am photographing religious festivals and god(s) so basketball may seem like a huge change of subject…unless of course you happen to be a basketball fan. Haha.

I’ll leave you to decide for yourself whether or not a basketball game is a religious experience and if the players are worthy of god status but I will tell you that my time at the tourrnament in Chennai ranks right up there with the Kumbh Mela and other favorite all-time India adventures.

I am partially writing this post in response to photographers just starting out who have told me they don’t know what kind of photographer to be…a sports photographer, a wedding photographer, a travel photographer, etc. Sure, in business you sometimes need to have an area of specialization, to market yourself to a particular audience. However, in photography (as in life) it’s easy to become limited by putting a label on who and what we are and then adjusting our behavior to fit the label. What I am finding is that the more I let go of labels in both photography and life the more easily I find myself in amazing situations that I could never have imagined or figured out. “Follow your heart” may be a cliché but it’s a far better cliché  than copying what all the other people in your genre are doing.

Here’s how it worked for me…(the short version.) Before leaving America I developed an interest in and started researching basketball programs for underprivileged kids in India…which led me to JD Walsh and somehow thru twitter to Karan Madhok aka Hoopistani who mentioned the National Basketball Championship when he heard I was planning to be in the Chennai area.

Once I got there what made it a great experience, what gave it depth were the people I met. This is almost always true in India. I don’t come here because it’s exotic or colorful, I come here because I LOVE the people. Nothing beats their kindness and warmth.

The first game I watched was an evening game held outdoors. The players asked me to join them on their “bench” (a row of plastic chairs.) The next night when my rickshaw driver didn’t show up the incredibly talented Punjab team point guard, Talwinder “TJ” Sahi called him for me and posed for photos while we waited for the driver to arrive. Once I got to know TJ and his life story (which is worthy of a movie…please let me know if you have any connections) my perspective changed. I started to view the tournament thru the eyes of TJ and the Punjab team and when they won the Championship for the first time in 12 years I was right in the middle of the celebration. Camera or no camera there is no place on earth I would have rather been than at that Championship game and victory celebration….which again makes my point to just live and enjoy life with the camera, rather than going around trying to find things to take pictures of that fit in with who you think you are as a photographer.

Here are a few images from the Championship game and victory celebration. I will soon post more from this tournament and will continue to follow the story of basketball in India.

TJ Sahi and fans watch highlights on the monitor after the Punjab team wins their semi-final game

Time out during the final game of 62nd National Basketball Championships in Chennai, India

The Punjab team celebrates their victory at the 62nd National Basketball Championships in Chennai, India

The celebration continues for the Punjab team.

The sweet taste of victory.


Flexibility and balance

Flexibility and balance sounds like the name of a yoga class but actually I’m writing about my thinking process while planning my next trip.

First of all…where to go? India of course, no surprise there. Some of my friends have been around the world several times while I’ve continued to go back to the same place each year. What can I say? I’m hooked. I wish I had the time and money to see and do it all but if I can only go away for a few weeks there’s nowhere I’d rather be than India. It’s home. Photographically, returning to the same place challenges me to see in a new way, to go deeper. Also there are long term projects I like to continue working on and new ones to start. For balance I’ll try to add in a spot or two that I’ve never visited along with my favorites.

Next…when to go? After talking with the airlines I discovered my favorite (most direct) routes were either fully booked or filling fast since I am looking to travel during November/December, a peak time. Hearing this I quickly reserved my tickets. Now I have no flexibility to change my travel dates because the plane tickets have stiff penalties but I can be flexible with my time while in India.

I like to prepare in advance, have some ideas of what I think I’d like to do but be able to change course at any moment. If something interesting comes along I want to be able to be as spontaneous as possible. I also like to move at my own pace when shooting. If I find myself in a sweet spot the last thing I want to do is leave. Flexibility is the great opportunity one has when traveling alone. There are many advantages to traveling with friends or a group but I usually prefer to travel on my own.

For those of you considering travel, whether for photography or other reasons…Do you prefer to visit new places or return to ones you’ve been before? Do you like to make plans or keep yourself open and see what shows up? Do you like to travel alone or with others? I’d love to hear your comments. Safe travels to all!

Here are a group of photos taken in and around Indian temples.

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Streets of South India

My Hindi language tapes have just arrived in the mail.  After an unforgettable week at the Kumbh Mela I’m planning on spending more time in North India where it’s more commonly spoken, so I’m going to get started on Lesson One in a few minutes.

Until now most of my 13 visits to India have been spent in South India. All of India is amazing but South India has a special place in my heart. I could go on and on as to why but here’s one reason…the food. Nothing on earth beats a South Indian breakfast. Idlis, Sambar, Pongal, Upma and Dosas are examples of what’s on the breakfast menu along with fresh Coconut, Tomato and Mint chutneys. Delicious!

Below is some of what I saw in January on the streets of South India. I like to make these photos as “close up and complicated” as possible, to quote the mantra given to me by a great photographer, teacher and friend Norman Mauskopf. I’m looking to include as much information as possible without cluttering the frame. That may mean using limited depth of field or just moving a step or two to position the key elements where I want them. Often I will set up the shot and then wait for someone to walk or drive into the frame, adding another dimension to the story. Street photography often reminds me of a juggling act. My thought process goes something like this…  “Here comes a lady in a great sari that’s perfect for the background.” “Hurry, the main subject is leaving.” “Oh no, get that arm out of the way.” “A cow is walking thru…great.”  It can be challenging but also extremely rewarding when all the elements come together. I’ve heard stories of photographers who spend an entire day in one spot waiting for their shot. Talk about patience and dedication.

To get multi layered photographs it helps to be in a place that’s filled with action. I’m interested in knowing…what are your favorite spots for street photography?   Phir Milenge. (See you later.)