Always look back

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A long time ago, I heard a photographer quip that whenever you are standing at a sunrise photo-op, jostling for space amongst entangled tripod legs, with a horde of Nikons and Canons pointed at the obvious, always look back. While the crowd continues to busily snap away, you may end up getting a very different perspective.

Being as underprepared and pressed for time as I was for possible photo ops in Rome, I was curious as  to what Tiber Island would look like at dusk nestled bang center in the flowing waters of River Tiber. For the first 2 days of our stay in Rome, I created quite a ruckus of not having been to the waterfront and trying to capture what might turn out to be a fabulous set of reflections from the island into the river.

After a grueling Vatican trip, when we finally arrives on Ponte Garibaldi perfectly timed around sunset, I was completely disappointed by the non-aesthetic blob of landmass that stood unappealingly and unapologetically against the waters of the Tiber. Disappointed, we were about to walk away in a rush to capture the sunset from another vantage point, when I decided to cross the bridge and look on the other side.

I was rewarded with this fabulous view of St. Peter’s Basilica against the setting sun, and the Lungo il Tevere (Along the Tiber) festival in full swing along the left bank of the river.

The case for a little weight

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The best guidebooks on Europe stress traveling light as the only way to enjoy Europe. Add to that two kids in Brownian motion, and you get the 11th Commandment – thou shalt pack less in thy backpack.

Even so, I ended up packing two camera bodies (the 50D and the 6D) and a whole variety of lenses, including the metal-barreled canon (not Canon) -weight Canon L 70-200 f/2.8 and lugging it all across Italy. In the train ride from La Spezia to Manarola in Cinque Terre, only two backpacks were taken for the night stay – one full of clothes, toiletries, cosmetics; and the other packed with camera gear. But the load sharing was getting to be a problem, so reluctantly, very reluctantly, I decided to dump the 50D and the L lens back at the train station in the car in La Spezia, and proceed with (shudder) just one body. It was just one night – what could go wrong.

Murphy strikes as predictably as the unpredictable.

As we sat gazing at the fiery sunset against the cascading houses off the Manarola harbor, I heard a blunt thunck, and saw my Tamron 10-20 on the ancient stone floor. Fearing the worst, I pick it up and check for rattling parts – glass or otherwise – inside the lens. None – phew! Barely any dents or scratches on the surface too – wonderful! I slap it on the 6D, and I get a dreaded Cannot recognize lens.

Furious cleaning, shaking, resetting – nothing. Searching the entire web for possible causes, while the sun sank lower – nothing.

Resigned to my fate, I attach the 28-70, sit on the stone floor with my tabletop tripod, and snap away these normal-focal-length images of the glowing town in the deep blue colors of dusk in silence. Wishing I would have carried the second body to try out the lens on the 50D and get better, more expansive views of the sunset – but had to make do with what I got – which turned out pretty good.

A different kind of night-life

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“India lives in several centuries at the same time” (Arundhuti Roy), and nowhere is this more evident than in larger cities such as Calcutta. Some parts of the “old” India still manage to provide the simple pleasures of life – like this roadside animal show which pulls characters and images from famous Bollywood movies and maps them to the animal counterparts. With interest in these roadside shows drifting towards the comforts of a plastic-pony-merry-go-round ride in an air-conditioned environment, it is becoming harder for such vendors to provide even basic up-keep for their bread-earning pets.

Not just another one – turns three

August 3rd, 2008, 11:30 p.m.: A baby boy, just born a couple of hours ago, was fed well and sent to the baby nursery in the hope of catching some sleep, when the exhausted parents heard a knock at their door. The baby was back in merely 10 minutes with a pacifier stuck in his mouth and the nurse claiming that the baby was too fussy and was disturbing the other children in the nursery. That was our Anchana Vanchana Pumpillow, christened by his then, 3 1/2 year old sister Anika – shortened to Pumpy – as known to all his dear ones. Yesterday, he turned three.

I cannot believe that my little crying critter who would not let me have an ounce of sleep for ten straight months, the troubler for whom I was at the verge of taking sleep assistance lessons, is such a big boy now. My precious has been bestowed with the most priceless gift – unsurpassed curiosity. Cars don’t seem to interest him, wrenches and hammers are a strict no no. Even his favorite colors don’t fall into strictly two-three buckets of blue or orange – black seems to interest him as it is the color of the night and the color of deep space. No type of flashy Fisher Price toy seems enough to capture my baby’s fancy, he prefers keeping himself busy with hands on science and with gadgetry found commonly in his mom’s kitchen. He not only knows the meaning of a vortex, at 3, but can make one right in your own kitchen sink. He also knows that a glass full of water can act as a magnifying glass; running water can permeate through a strainer but not through a tumbler owing to the size of the holes in it; that Mercury is the smallest planet – not Pluto as that’s just a dwarf; contemplates that we cannot stand on Saturn and Jupiter as they are all  gas and if we would try doing it we would simply fall deeper and deeper; cockroaches and not just bats and owls are nocturnal as he saw them in our own backyard late at night feeling for food. Phew!

He might be unusual in his ways and might have given me all the gray hair, the worry lines, the wrinkles and the temper tantrums, but above all he has given me the sweetest smile and joy a mother can ask for. You never fail to amaze me! Love you – my Pumpillow. Happy Birthday!

Finding Nemo

With our recent membership and therefore multiple back to back visits to the California Academy of Sciences in the company of his marine-life savvy sister and mother, Viraj is getting quite well educated and aware of the ocean world that surrounds us. While his sister and his dad sit for the strictly-above-four-years-of-age planetarium shows, he and his Mama quietly observe the stunning and expansive Australian coral reef world that the Academy has so beautifully recreated.

The Australian Great Barrier coral reef has an abundant wonderfully-colorful fish, some common examples being the anemone clown fish and the strikingly blue tang fish – more famously known as Nemo and Dory, courtesy Pixar Corporation. Viraj can’t be blamed for being an ardent Nemo fan. He has also dared to watch some parts of the kid movie, though he finishes the entire movie in just 15 minutes as we forward most of the parts – believe me, Finding Nemo has it’s haunting moments if you try to see it via a two year old’s mind.

Early today morning, he came to me and requested that I find his plush toy Nemo. After handing him his latest fascination, I thought of showing him a few images of Nemo on Google. With the brightest twinkle in his eyes and a smile that is unmatched, he saw quite a few images, and then suddenly pointed to a thumbnail with a lot of concern. I clicked on the photograph and was horrified to see the image.

Viraj asked meekly – “What happened to Nemo?” and I sadly replied, “They found Nemo!”

A blushing memory from my Pensieve

While flipping bbc.com to read more about the triumphant killing of Osama Bin Laden, I stumbled upon a news snippet about “Royals on honeymoon”. The news was obviously about Prince Williams and his beloved, but it also somehow included a photograph of Prince Charles and Princess Diana walking hand in hand in a beautiful meadow somewhere in Scotland.

I could not help myself from straying away into my thoughts after reading this news bit. The craze for the British monarchy and the Royals might be too absurd to fathom and may result in a total failure in understanding all the hoopla behind them, but I have a secret confession to make.  They hold quite sacred a spot in my heart. It all started thirty years ago, sometime in July, 1981. I was merely 5 years old, but the memory is so vivid and etched in every fiber of my being! My parents, my brother and I happened to have witnessed the grandest, the most talked about and eventually, the saddest of all weddings – the one between Prince Charles and Lady Diana.

My Dad’s company’s headquarters were in London and we timed our visit to coincide with this once-in-a-lifetime event. My fascination and admiration for lady Diana was unmatched. We would be walking down the narrow streets of London and at every corner curio shop, trinkets of all kinds were adorned with the would-be Royal couple. I had purchased a flag, a button, a brooch, a bag and countless other what-nots to express my fascination with the Lady. I can clearly remember how wildly the crowds were roaring at the event – tens of thousands of people, people like us, had gathered to witness the august couple. My brother’s hand wrapped in my mum’s palm, and I perched in my Dad’s arms was our strict posture as my Mom recalls, stressing the fearful possibility that if we wouldn’t have been connected this way we could have been lost in the crowds maybe forever! I vividly remember when the newly weds took their horse and buggy ride passing in front of us, and feeling that Princess Diana waved back directly at me!

Diana always has been and will always be, the most elegant fashion icon for me.