A Touch of Drama

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A Statue. Between Fantasy and Reality

Dramatic Statue. Clouds. Birds. Rome

Do you like dramatic images? Do you like a touch of drama? An image which seems unrealistic, and sits on the border of fantasy and reality? If you examine many of your images with a critical eye, you may find some of them are good, but seem a little flat.

I confess sometimes–often–my images disappoint me. When I examine them, I think something is missing. A unique feel, a little of magic, a little of drama, and some oomph. I know we often use that last word, oomph, when we refer to buxom women. Contrast this image of someone with a lot of energy, with someone who is flat.

If I mistake not, you get what I mean. Anyway, I’ve said many times that I visited Rome in August 2008 and wandered around the city in the middle of summer. When I walked around during this trip I understood why many travel writers team up with photographers. It is difficult to gather notes in the field, conduct informal interviews and take photographs all together. We can accomplish the task, even though it may appear difficult.

Some Old Images

Dramatic Statue. Clouds. Birds. Rome

Therefore, when I look at my images, I realize I cannot identify the locations of many of the images. Neither can I identify them. Yes, this is a problem, but that’s the way it is.

When, a few weeks back, I edited some of the old images of my Roman Holiday; I created some images that lay on the edge of fantasy and reality. I had to create a sense of drama.

Now, I realize I have been talking a lot about Luminar AI, and the reason I have been doing this is that I consider Luminar AI to be a fantastic tool for consumers and prosumers.

Luminar AI is a template driven software, and a template is just a preset. When I am editing with Lightroom, or Photoshop I hardly use presets and actions. Once upon a time I was busy loading up presets and actions, but not now. In fact, I am deleting most of what I have. The only ones I intend to keep are those which allow me to replicate an instamatic effect.

Why Did I Use Luminar AI?

When I use the templates in Luminar AI, I find them useful, because they enable me to create a template at the start of the process. I edit this, and then copy the settings across similar images, which makes it easier to process many images fast. This process also enables me to achieve a consistent atmosphere across a bunch of images.

I wanted to create a touch of drama in these images. The ultimate images had to tread a balance between fantasy and reality.

The statues demanded this, so this was my starting point. Next, I chose a template which heightened the contrast and added a touch of brilliance to the image. Last, I replaced the sky and added some birds.

While this approach works for this image, it does not work for every image. In the next few weeks, I will show you another image where sky replacement would have been an absolute disaster.

For now, enjoy these images. What is your opinion of them?

Full Disclosure: I have inserted my affiliate links here. But, Luminar Neo is going to be launched this winter, and we are now in the last days of the Black Friday Sale

The Painted Men.

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The Painted Men in a World of Rising Inequality

Painted Man. Black. Rome

August 2008. Yes, that is when I was in Rome. It’s been a long time, and now the dates come back to me. Now, when I gaze back, I remember I was heading to Europe for an interview with DSM, N.V. of the Netherlands. DSM was to be my last corporate job, and I still have mixed feelings about the company. If there is one positive thing I want to say about the company regarding this post, it is that my career in DSM directed my conscious thought to the rising levels of inequality in the world.

But it was August 2008, and the sub-prime crisis had not yet kicked us between the legs. In fact, when I went for the final interview, my chairperson told me that the company had enough money to invest in my country, and that it was cash rich.

Everything changed by the 1st of November, when I joined the company. Suddenly, we stopped talking about how much cash we possessed. Our story changed, and we began talking about cash management being the first order of business.

The Painted Men

Painted Man. White. Rome

When I walked the streets of Rome, I noticed the Painted Men, as I like to call them now, standing or sitting, on the streets of Rome. A singer called Steve McDonald sang a song called The Painted Men, about the Picts. I hope he does not mind me borrowing the title of his excellent song.

I regarded these painted men as an oddity, and nothing more. If you want to consider me to be an insensitive chap, be my guest. A few years later, my bosses booted me out of DSM (and my corporate career); and I returned to photography.

This is when I resumed street photography but, in contrast with my earlier approach, I now began striking up conversations with people on the street. Over the course of these conversations, I realized they are all generally decent folk, struggling to survive.

But, with rising levels of inequality in the world, I find people are becoming increasingly frustrated and angry.

After Covid. A Reappraisal

Painted Man. Gold

Then, we have gone through Covid-19. In fact, we will never be free of the disease. Apart from the lingering health issues that come with Covid, it has exacerbated inequality. We were already living in a world of rising inequality, and the situation has become worse. Many have lost their jobs and, despite the doles that some governments have handed out, life is going to be tough.

We are approaching the end of 2021, but when I pulled these images out of the attic, I looked at them through fresh eyes. Questions welled up inside me and refused to be quelled.

  • What conditions prompted these men to find such a tough way to make money. If you examine the images, you may well ask yourself how they held themselves in those positions for such a long period. What happened when they needed to take a lunch or toilet break? How did they manage the boredom, the tourists, the thirst?
  • What happened to them after the sub-prime crisis?
  • Further, what happened to them during, and post, Covid-19?

Suddenly, these men I photographed long ago transformed themselves from being curiosities to men who desperately wanted to earn money.

When you look back at your images, something may often tempt you to re-interpret them. Or to re-edit them in with a fresh approach.

All I can recommend is that you do this exercise from time to time, because this practice will help your growth as a photographer, and human being.

Full disclosure. 

I edited the image using Luminar AI. But, Luminar Neo is now in it’s last stage of the prelaunch. There is a Black Friday sale on till the 29th November. If you want to explore it, clock the button on the right.

Rome. Day 1. More Buildings

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Some More Buildings!

With the girls in front. ©Rajiv Chopra

There were some pretty cool buildings in Rome, though I don’t think I straightened this one out. I waited for a long time, for the crowds to disappear, but that did not happen. Finally, I felt that the two girls in the front presented me with an interesting compositional element. I like the V-Shape of the building, with the streets bordering it on both sides. I must confess: I used Luminar AI’s sky replacement tool to change the sky. I chose this sky because the clouds seemed to almost kiss the side of the building.


This Building

The V & The Kiss. ©Rajiv Chopra

In the image above, you may see that the cloud almost caresses the side of the building all along its length. The roads seem to mirror the shape of the building, as well as the clouds. Honestly, I don’t remember which template I started with, but I can always check. Luminar AI, as I have mentioned, is superb for consumers, travel bloggers, and those who are editing many images. I have not yet used it much for portraits, but I like what I have seen so far.

You may ask why I chose the template that I used. When I looked back at many old images, I was not very happy with the straight manner of my earlier edits. Some were, frankly, quite over the top as well. Since then, I have changed my approach to editing images. I take my time over a few images and work them through. Sometimes, I just throw away the edits and return to the image after many months.

But, when I started on my travel work, I wanted to create an atmosphere. The advantage of the templates in “Luminar AI”, is that they enable me to adopt a consistent approach without too much thinking.

I use Photoshop for all my street, landscape, nature, and monochrome photography.

So, what do you think of the images you see above?


Sky Replacement

Image from Unsplash.Com

I didn’t shoot the image that you see here. It is a beautiful image. Skies and clouds have a significant impact on an image. The quality of the sky can make or break an image. In Delhi, for instance, we have so much smog that for much of the year we have a dull, blue-white sky. As a result, the image that we get is dull and flat. Not only do clouds help to light up a sky, but they also cast shadows that add depth to an image.

Yet, when you are replacing skies, you are treading on an ethical line, and it’s easy to fall off into the Jaws of Hell. There are two risks that I see, apart from other issues that may crop up.

  1. It’s easy to become lazy. Instead of doing your research prior to a trip, you tell yourself that it’s all good. You can just replace the sky.
  2. It’s easy to become lazy. Instead of waking up early, or waiting for the best light, you head back to your computer. More than half the joy in photography, is in the planning and the waiting. It is in the anticipation.
  3. You become boring. Everyone, after all, is buying the same skies. I am pagan/animist in my belief system and I believe that Nature created an infinite variety of moods.

So, you should only use Sky Replacement as an exception, and not as a rule. But, I will come back to the ethical dilemma later in a future post.


In Rome Day 1. Some Buildings

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Some Buildings In Rome

The Deep Blue Sky ©Rajiv Chopra

I went to Rome in August 2008. Yeah, a very long time ago. Since then, I’ve changed my outlook on photography, and have been through my own meandering journey. At some point in the last several years, I decided that, because I do some travel photography, I can shoot interiors. Similarly, since I do street photography, I decided I can do portrait photography. Over time, a few hard lessons came home to me, and they should have been obvious from the start: stick to your strengths. Or, if you put it another way, stick to your knitting. Not that I knit, but you get the idea.


Rome is hot in the summer months, and it was scorching in August. Many people shake their heads in confusion when I tell them that I have a rather low tolerance to heat.

“Oh, but you are Indian”, they say. “You must be able to tolerate heat”. It’s almost as though there is a law in the land that states that all Indians – we brown-faced folk – must be able to tolerate heat. Well, I love the cold. Yes. I love the cold, and I want everyone to remember that.


Back to Rome. Yeah, I was there for 5 days in August 2008, and I just wandered around the old town, periodically collapsing in the shade. The old buildings did strike me, and I realized that the old Asterix comics were not totally off the mark. How old are they? I really don’t know. Maybe, they go back to the time of Nero and Caesar. Who knows?

The colors are warm and reflect the afternoon sun well. Do you see the birds in the image above? I added them in, using Luminar AI.

Talking About the Buildings

I liked the warm red of this building. Sadly, I didn’t enter any of the buildings. Don’t ask me why: maybe, I thought it would be rude to do so. Anyway, as a tourist, it is sometimes worth standing outside the building, and asking yourself if there are any ghosts inside, or what stories lay buried inside the walls.

This is not idle speculation. It’s always good form to stand there, in front of a structure, and allow yourself a moment of thought. What are the stories? It’s a little like a history lesson that you don’t appreciate until you are much older. When I looked at the windows, the one thought that struck me, was they the homes didn’t seem to allow for much cross ventilation. These days, when global warming is the rage of the day, and heat stress is increasing, it should give you food for thought.

Enough Babble

Late afternoon. ©Rajiv Chopra

It was late afternoon when I took this image. The shadows had lengthened and cast a melancholy light on the buildings. For me, it was a reminder that I needed some chai, but the Romans don’t drink chai.

However, it’s worth looking at images 2 and 3. You may notice that there are some subtle changes in the hue and saturation. Please bear in mind that I applied exactly the same editing parameters to both images. If there is a change in color, it is due to the time of day. Light plays a significant role in our images. Always follow the light.


Disclosure: I edited these images using Luminar AI, which is superb for consumers and travel photographers. Skylum is launching Luminar Neo this winter. Check it out.

You may ask me if I have gone away from Photoshop? No. I use it all the time.


Rome. Long Ago

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A Window. Broken Glass

Long Time. Long Time Ago

It’s been a long time since I have been here. A very long time indeed. Where have I been? I wonder. Anyway, this time around, I am going to be back for a while, with some images from Rome. All taken a long time ago. Those were the days when my hair was shorter and blacker. I’d also say that in those days, my girth was considerably greater than it is today.

When I look back, through the broken window, at my old images, I ask: what the hell was I doing?


Incidentally, I edited this image using Luminar AI. I have been sneaky enough to add in my affiliate link. Shame on me.


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