Blessed are those who get to romance with a caring and heart-warming life-partner and a hobby which one pursues with passion. If two good things could have happened in my life, its that I got married to a wonderful person (my wife) and I am blessed to do photography. Both these have brought so much of positive change in my life that I look at everything around me with so much of humbleness and positivity now. Though, I was not a bad stone either, but certainly a wild and uncut, may be. I am lucky! My freedom to travel is icing on the cake!
For the first time, when camera fascinated me in 1978, it was Click Bunny II, lent to me by my late Chacha (uncle). Basically, to photograph a nasty flood in and around Ambala Cantt. I had never experienced any camera or floods before that day. This young lad (me) with camera around neck roamed around like a budding boastful press photographer and did some photos. But this experience of the day ignited a new flame in me and I have never let it die till now. Though, my photography which has spanned over three decades to boast of, had long hibernation periods and had hit dead ends many times, somehow my love for it never faded, and that’s why I resurrected it every time. I pursued it even in the battlefield as an Indian Peace Keeping soldier in Sri Lanka 1987-89, though no action was captured; I was more keen on wildlife and nature.
Next free booster dose was delivered when a very dear friend Ashok Bhatia, whom I had met by chance at one of the lathe-machine workshops, handed over a Yashica (twin lens reflex) camera. This camera had a very strange size of film roll 127, a bit smaller than Agfa 120. The emulsion was very delicate, which could get scratched in `developer’s tray’ itself while it was taking `U’ bath for processing and then fixing in `hypo’. Anyway, I used it for the first time on a college trip to Anandpur Sahab, Bhakra Dam and Chandigarh. To my own amazement and that of my friend, results were very encouraging. For I got a very brief training of five minutes before my departure for the tour, to dabble with the camera.
My first SLR camera was Pentax K1000, a wonderful camera built like a tank. It was a hundred percent mechanical camera, maximum luxury of `automation’ was a very basic built-in exposure meter. I had also used Yashica Electro 35 for few months, a wonderful camera of those days. I could not explore photography much while being in the army (busy years as young officer) and also film was a big deterrent, processing film and printing were a time consuming, expensive and cumbersome process. In August 2000, Ms Mary Barber, our family friend got me Canon EOS 3, a wonderful film camera. It did help me excavate my photography but could not carry it far, as the same old two deterrents film plus post processing and not many photographers were willing to share info; it was before the advent of Internet. Trust me, learning photography was an uphill task in those days; only a very lucky could become successful. In my opinion only those who had plenty of money to spare or who got paid by others to blow films (press photographers, family run business of a studio, etc.). Not the way we can do now with digital and internet!
Advent of digital cameras, made hard core photographers frown and resented it openly, saying it will never be able to match the output of film. To the amazement of everyone, we started seeing the press photographers with very bulky digital cameras, using it almost everyday. Everyone was curious to know about these new beastly machines, damn expensive to buy one in those days of its infancy.
It was not that late when digital cameras got refined so fast that in Jan 2004, I got my Canon PowerShot G5, which is still going strong and delivering good photographs. This fired my photography further. And after I met Mr K Koshy (DGP Vigilance of Haryana), weekend outdoors became ritual and it was the start point of a new journey with photography. This tiny camera was under estimated by me, like most have done with non-DSLRs. When I explored it further, it showed me a new world waiting for me. We both got very religious about our weekend outdoors and moved ahead very fast, gave immense pleasure, tasted ecstasy through hobby. In the mean time, Canon did an explosion by introducing a digital SLR – EOS D30, which could fit into anyone’s a bit bigger pocket. On 23rd Jan 2006, I also landed up in Palika Bazar with a bundle of currency notes and I bought my Canon 20D, my first DSLR. I drove straight to Agra! Not to mental asylum though, Agra is known for one other than Taj Mahal. Just to be around the Taj Mahal. As we had an invitation from an army friend to be at Agra.
After I explored a new level of photographic world through the eyepiece of this new camera and this placed me at a cross-roads to decide either buy cheap lenses or go for pro, as I knew the basic lenses had serious limitations and I always have belly fire to explore to the maximum depth I can. Here I would like to share that after a certain point one needs the best possible equipment if one wants to set out on an exploratory trip on any subject. As you all know buying pro lenses is not cheap. I contemplated over this issue for few weeks and after consulting some professional photographer friends, I decided to take a plunge. The fire just did not let me be at peace and it burnt all the hurdles which came on the way. Though, some of these friends had really discouraged me. I never pondered over the issue too much and moved ahead like a soldier, not thinking too much about the consequences or the outcome of this decision.
I have another asset with me which has brought me this far, I take advice from anyone and everyone I come across who is worthy of giving advice, but I do my own assessment of all the inputs and based on that I make my own decisions and sometimes totally against the advice I got. As we say on the army – Bash on regardless! Never curse your decisions later if something goes wrong; NASA, TATA, Reliance, Mercedes, to mention few who have also failed in many fields as they took wrong decisions, so don’t curse yours if something doesn’t live up to your expectations.
When I look back this long journey as a photographer which I had with Light and Soldiers, I am glad that I did not give up, though took rest when the conditions were not conducive, resumed journey quite a few times. Last four years I have not done serious photography. Here I would like to say that don’t ever pursue hobby by compulsions, I mean by saying that I have to do it. This is the point where it may start developing some disorders. And that’s not good for yourself and people around you.
It never worried me whether I shall recover my investment of money back, which I did for pro equipment. I never launched myself as a professional or a commercial photographer. I pursue photography almost like a pro but only for the happiness of my soul, first. If any photograph gets sold, it does make me happy. And I negotiate very hard to get the best price one can think as amateur photographer. When I share the info with my photographer friends, they wonder how I manage to extract such a superb remuneration. Somehow, I have developed a knack to negotiate for good price and works well most of the times.
Let me emphasize here that earning money from your hobby is no sin. But then don’t run after money, don’t do it only for the sake of money. You must pursue it to the best of your abilities and resources, but don’t pursue a hobby for the sake of name, fame and money. Once you pursue it with passionately all these are going to happen. Worrying about that part consumes away lots of your resource and energy and that distracts your focus, that affects the quality of your output.
My Canon 20D put my small pocket on fire! As it made me very serious about photography and always hungry to buy more and more equipment, not as a disorder but only to excel and enjoy the best results; the decision which I shall never ever regret, rather always enjoy. Because this short journey (five and half years, at the time of writing this blog) of serious photography has added quite significant dimensions to my personality, in terms of thinking, vision, perception, behaviour, etc. It has transformed me into a stable man, got me so close to the real life in real. It has given me lots of patience, honed my eye for quality and detail, made me a more caring gentleman. And it also enhanced my observation capability in day to day life, added a third dimension to vision. Now I respect life, my country, my culture and of others, all religions and people far more than what I used to.
Now, I must conclude by expressing my special gratitude to the Almighty that He blessed me with such a wonderful wife, friends, parents and everyone who touched my life and to support my photography the most. My father and wife have always encouraged me to buy the best I can afford or need to perform better. I have never been questioned about my expensive trips anywhere. And she also got rewarded for her contribution many times and always. We were gifted a wonderful trip of 15 days to Egypt as a barter for a photography assignment. We both could not ask for anything better.
We enjoy shooting flowers, snakes and soldiers together!
Now, photography has gifted me Taurus – our new motorhome which we are sharing with the passionate and spirited through our Photo Expeditions.