Waiting for that Perfect Picture

As a word of explanation, I once spent two months living in a little village in Maragalakanda, close to Moneragala back in 2004. My purpose, living there without electricity or running water, was to study bird diversity in an agroforestry scheme for my MSc. This was when the photography bug first bit so there are some tales worth telling and some photos worth showing, though the latter were for the most part taken with a dinky Canon G3. For more of the Moneragala Chronicles click here.

“A perfect picture, where the whole world holds its breath” 

That line from the Match by Romesh Gunasekera has been one of my favourite quotes on photography, despite it being not from a real photographer. For me however it holds the line holds a looking-glass quality of an ideal that can never really be achieved in the real world. There is no perfect picture, all pictures have good and bad and there are too many subjects in the world and stories to be told with photography for there to be a perfect picture. But I still like the quote.

The photography bug most definitely bit me for the first time in Moneragala. While it had been on my radar before and I was intensely interested in it, it was in Moneragala that I first had the access to a reasonably good digital camera and subject matter that really pulled me into photography. As I had to use the camera for my everyday research, I also had the opportunity to use it for extra-curricular activities so to speak. That may not have been the most inspired way of getting into photography but at least it worked.

From my trip there were two photographs that I look back fondly on, mostly because it was the first time I thought coherently and clearly about the most essential components of a photograph, the composition and the exposure together with a healthy dose of patience that was required for both shots.

The first picture was probably the easier of the two. It was in a dank, smelly pool of water that I noticed an ethereally beautiful Lotus flower blooming out of the muck. Crawling into the thicket that surrounded the flower, the light just didn’t seem right. I wanted to show the brilliance of the flower contrasted with its dark surroundings. I figured the light coming straight down through the thicket would be the best option. Thus I spent the next couple of hours to the vast amusement of Nuwan, my assistant, crawling in and out of the thicket to get the lighting just right. In the end I lucked out as the flower still had water droplets on it that reflected the play of the direct light down on it which made the image, at least for me, sparkle. Exposing for the flower also meant its surroundings were largely dark, which was perfect for me.

Nil Mahanel

The second picture I am ridiculously fond of is this Chocolate Soldier whom I had to chase (in a very discreet manner) for around 30 minutes to find the exact spot to take a shot with a balanced exposure. Most of the spots it landed in were either too dark or too light, since this was midday in a small patch of forest. Even when it did land in the right location, the careful stalking I had to engage in was not good enough to keep it there until I got the image. Finally everything came together, the butterfly alighted in an area where the light was diffused just enough to give the image a soft light that really brought out the butterfly’s colours and provided definition to the image.

on the forest floor

The bug bit (not the butterfly of course) and these two learning experiences were the first of many where I was acutely conscious of what went into getting an image that worked. Of course I’m still on this learning curve and foresee being on it for some time to come.


Kirigalpoththa said...

Both are super photos. But I rate second one bit higher as it is quite difficult to get a still image of a butterfly.

aufidius said...

Nice shots mate!

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Dominic Sansoni said...

Chocolate Soldier is just brilliant!

Gallicissa said...

Great to hear another Moeragala Chronical. Thanks for revealing the behind-the-scene details of those two shots, which I find very interesting. That floral capture is absolutely stunning! Your efforts have paid off well. I am not often motivated to shoot flowers, though I am trying to change that. I guess the hunter in me urges me to shoot animate subjects :)

Dev Wijewardane said...

Both are great shots. It's hard to pick a fav!

Chavie said...

Beautiful shots! The one of the lotus with the light shining off the water droplets is amazing! :)

Offthebeatentrack said...

KG - True, but I still find those stationary items quite challenging also, especially when thinking of lighting and composition.

aufidius/u4j10 & Dom - thanks for the comments and dropping by!

Gallicissa - Thanks for the comment, yeah I tend to focus on the moving wildlife as well, trying to slow down and smell the flowers so to speak:)

Dev & Chavie - thanks!

Sri Lanka Holiday Travel said...

Even we like both of them too.great job