Haridwar. City of God

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Religious Fervor

Haridwar. Setting Sun. The Hill

After we visited Rishikesh, Neelkanth and Kunjapuri, we went back to Haridwar. Haridwar, or the “Doorway to God”, if you take a literal translation of the name of the town. Some towns are built around religion and God, and Haridwar is one of these towns. Every aspect of the town focuses on sustaining religious fervor, and is home to pilgrims to come, visit, stay and move on to other destinations.

In the North Indian state of Uttaranchal, people undertake religious trip, or Yatra, known as the ‘Char Dham Yatra’, and the places covered in this are the towns of Gangotri, Yamunotri, Kedarnath and Badrinath. In the major Char Dham, tradition asks you to visit Badrinath, Dwarka, Puri and Rameswaram. They say that once you visit these four places, said to be places of the God Vishnu, you will attain ‘moksha’ or salvation.

Before I continue, allow me to translate. “Char” means Four; “Dham” means “Abode”, and “Yatra” means “Journey”. So, it is the journey (in this case, devotional) to the Four Abodes (of Vishnu).

Rajiv, The Cynic

I am more of a cynical person and don’t agree that you attain salvation by making religious trips, ringing bells, and feeling happy about this. But I if this comforts you and a sense of salvation, then I am at peace with your belief system. I have never been comfortable praying before proceeding to ruin the environment, or harm people.

Before I continue, I must pause and take a deep breath. If I don’t, I will only direct venom and spit towards the rising trend of religious intolerance in India. It’s unfortunate this is happening because all we are doing is to weaken society and wreak havoc on the young and future generations.

I’ve traveled to Haridwar many times on business, and a few times for the pleasure of making photographs. Over the years, the town has changed and yet nothing has changed. If you find my statement confusing, I don’t blame you.

The Central Core of The Town

Building by the River bathed by the rising sun in Haridwar.

The central core of the town has not changed over the years. On one side of the canal (the waters of the Ganges flow fast along this canal), you find the market and most religious institutions. This is also where hotels dot the town, as well as dharmsalas for poor pilgrims. Almost all the pilgrims who travel through and to the town are poor. They are damned in this life, so seek salvation in the next in their religious fervor. And why shouldn’t they? Life in India is difficult for most people and can be almost torture for the poor and downtrodden. In contrast, the rich enjoy a very comfortable life in India, with the poor as their minions.

There is a walking path on the other side of the river, and I prefer this part of the town. Priests hold a prayer ceremony every evening, in an area called “Har Ki Pauri”. People crowd the area, especially in the evening, and you may find someone picking your wallet with joy in their hearts!

There is a hill on either side of the town–the closer one being on the side where you have the market and the temples. And a temple sits on the top of each hill. I went up to one hilltop, but not into the temple. I avoid entering Hindu Temples because I find the priests to be avaricious and grasping. They don’t leave you alone and will rip the clothes off your back without hesitation.

We walked down, and this was splendid. I watched the sunset over the town, lighting it up, and casting a beautiful orange glow on the river. It is unfortunate but, few people pause and lose themselves in the sunset, or sit by the river and allow the power of the water to enter their souls.

The Outer Part of The Town

Then, there is a new outer area that has developed around the town. Here, you will find industries, industrial parks, and upscale hotels. Those who wander the modern parts of Haridwar avoid the core, ancient part of the town. They come in, do their business, pay a perfunctory visit to the Ganges, and dip their toes into the water to purify their souls. Then, they carry some water from the river back home for the religious ceremonies they conduct at home.

Haridwar is a cacophonous town, with religious music blaring through the calm of the morning and splitting the setting sun into a million pieces. The way pilgrims, priests and visitors muddy the waters with their offerings and soap suds does not match the religious fervor with which they pray. Since the Ganges purifies itself, as per belief, there is nothing for anyone to do to keep the water clean.

These are convenient beliefs because they absolve you of the responsibility of keeping the river clean. After all, if the river can do it, why should they?

For all my disdain about the religious practices in the town, the river, and the air, are beautiful. It won’t surprise me if this is the reason the first seekers stopped here, and said, ‘this place is good, and the spirit is strong.’


I edited the images using Luminar AI from Skylum. Luminar Neo is to be launched on the 17th of February. If you do use the link to explore it and buy it, then bully for you!


Kunjapuri. Blue & Gold

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The Golden Hour

Blue Hour in Kunjpuri

People make a lot of the blue and golden hour in the world of nature and landscape photography and, with good reason. When I wrote my last post about the small group of people sitting and Kunjapuri, immersed in the magic of the rising sun, I felt some of that magic. The power of dawn never leaves you, and something of it stays within you.

It is the mystical power of nature that you experience.

Years Back

Blue & Gold

Years back, when I as a child, I was religious. Back in those innocent days, I became friendly with a lady down the road. This lady had an enormous statue of the God, Krishna, in her living room and I often helped her dress the statue.

Later, when I entered my teens and discovered the world of Carlos Castaneda and Don Juan, I changed. When I changed, my views on religion changed and I explored some arcane aspects of the occult world.

Then I entered my twenties and discovered Shiva, who is the most fascinating of all the Indian Gods. My journey has been tortuous – from Shiva, to atheism, to animism with a hint of Shiva. Somewhere in this journey, I discovered the joys of the golden hour–and the blue.

I will not explain all the gory details, but I hope you get a slight hint of what I am talking about.

Blue & Gold

Gold

We arrived at Kunjapuri and climbed the infinite number of steps to the temple courtyard. The sky was dark, and the sky had a hint of blue. This is the blue hour before dawn, and life stirs. It is the turning of the earth, and mystical energy seems to fill the earth and the sky. At this moment, life seems to stand still in silence and everything appears to stand in homage to the turning of the day.

Then, the sun rose, and slowly we moved from the blue hour to the golden hour. The colors of the sky and the mountain transformed and changed; a new day began.

Magic and power exist, and if we are lucky, there are moments when we will experience this power.

If we allow ourselves to respect and love nature, then maybe we will stop destroying what we have. But we can only hope.


In Kunjapuri

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Beautiful Morning Light

The Kunjapuri Temple

The next place I want to write about is Kunjapuri, which is close to Rishikesh. My buddy and I drove up one morning to photograph the beautiful morning light. If memory serves, we left our hotel at 4 am, hired a taxi, and drove up the hill. Once we reached our destination, I discovered we had to climb almost one hundred steps to reach the temple courtyard to witness the sun’s first rays. 

I dislike waking up at 4 am, preferring to sleep in: a powerful force must motivate me to get out of bed. Therefore, when people told me that the sunrise at Neelkanth is worth the drive, I convinced my traveling friend to come along for the ride. 

We hired a taxi and drove up the winding path. When I think back, I don’t remember if we drove for 30 minutes or an hour. What I remember is that it seemed a long drive!

The Final Climb

Our friendly chaiwallah!

I was a corpulent person during my time in China. Compared to how I am today, I was fat in 2014 – even though I lost weight since I left China. So, when we reached Kunjapuri, I looked with considerable dismay up at the 100-odd steps we were to climb to reach the temple on the hill. 

Do you recall I wrote about my weight? I regret writing that, but I am committed to the truth or my version of it, anyway! My companion was overweight and unfit, and remains unchanged. Compared with him, I possessed the physique of an Olympian, but I am being unfair! After pausing and considering the task before us, we climbed. While I huffed and puffed, it seemed his heart was about to explode with the effort. 

The sound alarmed me, and I urged him to pause and have some chai at the little shop we passed on the way. We paused but kept the chai for later. Why, you may ask, since we both love chai: too much chai in the early hours of the morning can prompt a desire to pee, and we weren’t sure if the temple had any public toilets. 

When I look back at that climb, I remain convinced that only the prospect of the beautiful morning flight could have motivated me to climb up one hundred steep steps in the blue hour before dawn. 

Story of The Temple

I am a strange person because I had not explored the fame of the temple then and did not do so in the ensuing years. This is a beautiful and peaceful spot, despite its religious importance. Peace drives the energy you experience while at the temple area. Kunjapuri Temple is one of the 52 ‘shaktipeeth’ in India. Uttaranchal has 13 of them, and people have dedicated this temple to the Goddess Durga, even though they should have dedicated the spot to Sati. 

Now is the correct moment to enquire: what is a ‘Shaktipeeth’? A shaktipeeth is a mystical power center, and the origins may seem quite gory. You can read the entire article here, but this summary should suffice. 

The God Brahma’s son was called Daksha. He performed ceremonies aimed at getting Shakti as his daughter, Sati. Sati/ Shakti was Shiva’s wife, and when he performed the ceremony, he invited everyone except the divine couple, Sati and Shiva. Despite his protestations, Sati attended the ceremony and her father insulted her and Shiva. This then prompted her protest, and she immolated herself. 

Disconsolate, Shiva changed into his destructive aspect and chopped off Dakhsha’s head. Next, he danced the Tandava Nritya (Dance), the dance of death, rebirth, the cycle of time. This alarmed the Gods because they could not tame Shiva. To distract him, Vishnu (the second God of the Hindu Trinity) used one of his celestial weapons (the Sudarshan Chakra) and cut Sati’s body into 52 pieces, which fell at different spots in India.

Each spot is a ShaktiPeeth, or Place of Energy.

 The Calm of The Beautiful Morning Light.

I didn’t know the story, and it did not matter, as I stood in the temple courtyard and gazed at the sun’s journey over the mountain horizon. The temple is about 1,650 meters above sea level, and the blue hour turned into the golden hour.

Very few people visited the temple that morning, and the small group stood – or sat – and allowed the sun’s energy to flow through us. That is the best thing to do: enjoy nature without disturbing it with our cacophony. 

My Editing Tools

I edited these images using Lightroom Classic and then in Photoshop. I edited one or two images in Luminar. When I edited the images of the two ladies (in Photoshop), I reduced the saturation in their faces. Not doing so would have made the images incredibly garish, and I wished to avoid this. 


I Have a Question

Even though I often sound like a frog, shall I record a video in which I edit an image? Let me know in the comments below!


In Rishikesh. 2

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Peace on Earth

Sunset from the Lakshman Jhula. Rishikesh

The Ganges River flowing between the hills, and the sunset, has always created magic in Rishikesh. I have always experienced calm when I have sat by the water at dusk. I’ve spent evenings sitting by the riverside, as the sun goes down, creating magic in the sky. This is when I experience the peace on earth, and all is well with the world. Sometimes, I sit by the water, ignoring the camera, enjoying the play of nature. 

But we live in the real world, and peace does not always spread its wings and wave its magic wand to make all our problems disappear. As I write this, I also realize we must take these moments of calm whenever we can. Sometimes, it feels as though we are stealing these moments of peace, and I ask myself the question, ‘Why not?’

Thich Nhat Hanh died on the 22nd of January, and he is a Vietnamese Buddhist monk who popularized the concept of mindfulness. Even though some Western practitioners believe mindfulness originated with the Buddhists, mindfulness is not an exclusive Buddhist preserve. We can argue and quibble, but every religion, region, and philosophy recommend mindful behavior. 

So, when I sit by the banks of the Ganges, I realize there is peace on earth, and I am tapping into some ancient mystical spirit. 

This Man

One with Nature

I remember this man. I remember him standing by the side of the River Ganges with the sun dipping over the horizon. He stood and swung his rope rhythmically, lost in the moment. I follow an animist belief system and was immersed in his activities. I was only conscious of the peace on earth. 

At that moment, as other people sat watching him, or the river, or the sun, I knew everything under the sky was in tune. Yes, I understand this line is from Pink Floyd, but it fits here. 

When you are sitting without making a sound, in moments like this, everything fits together. And he stood, waving that rope in the air, swirling it round and round and round. When I look back at that evening, I remember hearing nothing but the sound of the river and the evening breeze.

I Was Not Always This Way

Now the time has come to make a confession. Much though I’d like to say that I’ve always been like this, I know it would be a lie. There was a time when I was a hard-charging executive, with no time for anything but business. 

I had listened to Donovan’s song, “Slow Down World”, but it didn’t make sense to me, except for a theoretical pleasure in the lyrics. Then, I discovered Thich Nhat Hanh, and his books, “The Miracle of Mindfulness” and “Peace is Every Step”. 

These days, this makes increasing sense to me. 

A Note on The Edits.

I edited these images first in Lightroom Classic. I am not given to using templates and presets and avoid them unless the image demands it. These days, I apply a linear profile to the images in Lightroom, and then work from this point. When I do this, the image looks lifeless and at first, something appears to be wrong. However, when you edit the images, then you realize that the linear profiles give you tremendous flexibility and power. 

After this, I took the images into Photoshop, and applied the final edits and finishing touches. If you are interested in linear profiles, go to Tony Kuyper’s website, and check them out. You will find him at https://goodlight.us

My Camera & My Chai

My Camera & My Chai

It is on this trip that I conceived of the “My Camera & My Chai” series of blog posts.


In Rishikesh. 1

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The City Of Yoga

I used to travel to Rishikesh many years back when I was in consumer sales, and we always regarded Rishikesh as a backwater town. We never stayed in Rishikesh but used to stay in a hotel in Haridwar and travel to Rishikesh, and back to Haridwar. Apart from this, we did not hold Rishikesh in good esteem for the food. In the years that have passed since then, it has transformed itself into being, a city of yoga. When in Rishikesh, I spend considerable time by the banks of the Ganges, not always on my belly!

When I first traveled to Rishikesh, I didn’t notice any foreigners – if they were wandering in Rishikesh; the numbers were too low for them to be visible. Now, they are all over the place and, I’d say that many of them are more local than the locals. You will find them practicing yoga; doing strange exercises at various parts of the town; sitting in the German Bakery holding forth on Hindu philosophy with a serious mien; squatting next to cows, or in some awful restaurants, and even getting their ears cleaned.

What Else Will You Find?

You will also find them sitting at the banks of the Ganges, at the various Ashrams, like the famous Parmarth Ashram, listening to the grand evening prayer. The Parmarth Ashram has an annual yoga festival, which I have never attended. Neither do I intend to do so, because hotel prices skyrocket during this time. 

Yoga centers dot this city of yoga and posters of yoga practitioners in various contorted poses provide a passerby enough opportunity to wonder if they ever undo the knots!

Most of these foreigners live in Rishikesh for several months in the year, and they are often more welcome at restaurants than we Indian citizens are. This is reverse discrimination, and we Indians are good at this. 

The Beatles & Donovan

A temple and the bridge. The Ganges

The Beatles and Donovan visited this city of yoga many years ago, and some believe that it is here, under the starry skies and in a psychedelic mood, Donovan composed his song, “The Hurdy Gurdy Man”

What You Won’t Find

Wonderful restaurants. Restaurants are awful, but then you don’t visit for the food. You visit for the river, the evening breeze, and the chance to walk along the two suspension bridges – one known as Lakshman Jhula, and the other known as Ram Jhula. Ram and Lakshman are the two brothers in the Ramayana. These days, hardcore right-wing Hindus chant “Jai Shri Ram” and call for Muslim genocide. I doubt Ram approves of genocide being carried out in his name, or even people calling for genocide. 

The word “Jhula” means “swing”, no doubt inspired because the bridges sway when people walk on them. The Ram Jhula, the bigger one, is downstream. Chief Engineer P.H. Tillard supervised the construction of the bridge, which was built between 1927 and 1929. Since those days, we have added one billion people to our country’s population, and Mr Tillard’s ghost will be proud to know his bridge has survived all these years. 

If you sit at one of the German bakeries, you can gaze down at the Lakshman Jhula while sipping their lemon-ginger tea and eating some of their baked product. It’s good to sit there by the open windows, look down at the bridge and river, and listen to people pontificate on the eternal soul of India. 

This city of yoga is calm and peaceful, and I get most of my peace from the beautiful river that flows through the town.

The Edits

I used Luminar AI

to edit these images. I started with the templates suggested by the software and refined the edits thereafter. After I had finished editing a particular image, I copied the edits to other images that had a similar style or atmosphere. The reason I did this was to achieve a consistent style collection of images. Try it one day!  


At Neelkanth

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Picture-Postcard Images

Rishikesh

The last post I wrote had an unforgivable error. I mentioned I went to the banks of the Ganges, or Ganga, after going to Kankhal when, in fact, drove there after visiting the Neelkanth Temple. Yes, I was at this temple on the hill and made some picture-postcard images while I was visiting the place. 

There is nothing wrong with picture-postcard images, and I’d like to say that this is fine if it is not your main style of photography. But this is a snobbish statement, and unacceptable. It’s critical to acknowledge that not everyone takes the time to edit images till they resemble nothing on Earth. 

Neelkanth

Neelkanth Temple

If you gaze down at Rishikesh from above, you notice that the Ganges River bisects the town. When you look towards the hills, you notice one road on the left side of the river, which I have nicknamed “The Left Road”. The other side has “The Right Road”. Not that the Left Road is the wrong road, but I assume you get what I mean. 

Most hotels are on The Left Road, but to reach Neelkanth, you must cross a bridge beyond, or at the border of the town. 

Once you cross this road, you turn left and climb up the hill.

About The Temple

The Neelkanth Temple has is dedicated to Shiva, also known as The Destroyer. This appellation does not do Shiva justice, as he is the most multi-faceted and fascinating God in the Hindu pantheon of gods. 

The meaning of Neelkanth is The Blue Throated One. This place, legends say, is where Shiva drank the poison that floated up when the Gods and Demons churned the ‘oceans’ to get – or find – ‘amrit’ or the nectar of immortality. A poisonous froth rose to the top (akin to slag, in steelmaking!), which Shiva drank. When he had consumed the poison, his throat turned blue. 

It’s a different matter that, after co-operating with the Demons to get the nectar, the Gods then ticked the Demons and kept the drink for themselves! Gods were not perfect. Neither were they immortal and had to drink the nectar to attain immortality. 

Our Trip

We drove up the 32 km to the temple and then walked around.  

I found the temple exterior to be a bit too colorful for my preference, but everyone has their own taste. The interior was dirty, and I ended up walking around almost on my toes. I remember the walking path being wet, and I hate the idea of wearing wet socks that encase dirty, mucky feet. 

We walked around with our cameras slung around our necks. Priests don’t allow you to photograph anything inside a temple because you are not allowed – in their words – to photograph God. I’ve always wondered at this because you are gaping at a statue, and this is a man-made thing. Still, I have found it advisable not to argue with them, because they can be rather abusive. In fact, they are creative and filled with passion when they abuse. 

Apart from this, you will find cops hanging around the most famous temples, and they are zealous guardians of the Gods. Since those days, we Indians have become increasingly intolerant, and we have many right-wing groups who are always ready to defend the honor of Hindu Gods. 

I was more interested in the ‘bhajia and chai’ at the local restaurant. The closest description I can give of a ‘bhajjia’ is that it is a sort of fritter. A bhajji is potato, onion, or green chili coated with gram flour and deep-fried. We have many kinds of bhajjia and pakora, and regional spices determine the flavor of the bhajjia. You find egg or chicken in pakoras, but not in bhajjia!

I gaped at people ringing the temple bell, and then we left on our return journey to Rishikesh. Ringing the temple bell is almost mandatory because the sound marks your attendance at the temple and sends your prayer and attendance report up to God.

Editing

Ring out, temple bell!

I edited these images using Luminar AI. It is an excellent tool for consumers, prosumers of people who have many images to edit. The software suggests templates, or presets, as a starting point, and you are free to ignore these suggestions if you like! Skylum is launching Luminar Neo, and the final ( I think it is final) presale sale is live!

I got the smiley from https://icons8.com


By The Ganges

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It’s Good to Reminisce

The Ganges River

Over the next weeks, I am going to reminisce, like an old fuddy-duddy chap, about a trip I made to Haridwar and Rishikesh in March-April 2014. Damn, my hair was blacker in those days! But some people tell me that the ‘salt & pepper’ hair I sport nowadays is sexy. I don’t know, because I don’t see any young, nubile girl falling head over heels in love with me!

Anyway, that’s the way life goes sometimes.

This was one of the last trips I made with my good buddy, and I won’t reveal his name. Let’s just use his initials–AK.

We took a train to Haridwar, in the hill state of Uttarakhand. From there, we hired a taxi to Rishikesh. Even though I don’t remember the name of the hotel we stayed at, a few things that stand out in my memory. One, they served excellent food. In fact, they served the best food in the town. Second, we got eggs for breakfast, unusual in this vegetarian town. Last a, a gorgeous woman also stayed at the hotel. It was sad we didn’t get to say hello to her.

It’s fun to reminisce once in a while.

Walking Down to The River

On this occasion, we drove up to a temple village called Kankhal to visit the Shiva temple. I will write about this later. On the way back, we stopped at the bridge to head back to our side of Rishikesh. Then, since both AK and I love our chai at roadside restaurants, we stopped at the corner of the road.

Since I am more curious than AK, I walked down the rough patch of land alongside the restaurant, down some slippery slopes to the banks of the Ganges.

This is the point, or zone, where the Ganges River meets the plains, and it flows fast. The water is beautiful, as Mother Nature intended. The water flows fast, and the riverbed is rocky, so it is not a good idea to slide into the water like some sort of modern-day Superman!

There is no beach, so I lay down on the rocks, and hooked the toes of my shoes into the nooks in some rocks. Then, I decided (despite my extreme atheism) that God must exist and that He/She/It will not let me slide headfirst into the water.

It’s good to reminisce about the past, but every time I do, the nature of my thoughts change. These days, for instance, I often think about climate change, the environment, global warming, learning and social justice.

While we all change and hopefully mature, sometimes, I am not sure.

I can’t in all honesty claim to have matured. But I have changed and seem to come to peace with my future direction. However, the past and memories of our earlier ‘status’ haunts us more than we like to admit.

When I photographed this image, it was close to mid-day, not considered the best time of the day to create photographs. Still, I liked the light: I felt both the light and the water to be pristine. From this point, people pollute the river with increasing enthusiasm and, by the time the water reaches the water, it does not keep much of the original energy and purity.

Old Images

The Ganges River

Age brings some additional benefits, and as I look back on my old images, I edit them differently compared to the past. I use dodge and burn tools often, and I find these easier to use than some of the more esoteric tricks in Photoshop.

When I edited these images, I wanted to create a more vibrant image than I had created in the past.

Since I was lying face down, and hoping I don’t slide in, I finished the image by sharpening it in Topaz Sharpen AI. This is a fabulous tool. Even though it does not come cheap, Sharpen AI is good. For those interested, click my affiliate link, and use my coupon code–RAJIVENHANCE–for an additional discount.

The sharpening model I used here was the ‘out of focus’ model, to ensure that I sharpened the rocks and water close to me.

Yes, it is good to reminisce, but it’s better if you can improve your work continually.


The Map.

Some of you may desire to see a map of the place. Here goes!

I want to go up to Paonta Sahib Gurudwara in 2023. I don’t think the virus will give me permission this year.


Choices. Money. Direction

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What Interests You?

Choices. These make your project. Or break it.

I intend this to be the last lecture I am delivering on projects. But, I may be lying. Let’s see. You may refer to my previous posts here and here and here! And, here! This is a lot of here’s. Anyway, when I did my “Seven Cities” project with the Photography Society of America, the starting point was to list down all the things that interest you. This is the starting point. What interests you? What are you passionate about?

Once you make this list, you can then refine it. I started shooting with film many years back, and have kept my interest in film. Apart from my Olympus OM-2n and Nikon F-75, which people now consider vintage, I have a Zeiss and Voigtlander, both from the 1950s. Additionally, I have an Ensign Selfix camera, made in 1933. I own a few more film cameras.

I had done a course on the history of photography. Also, travelling to the hills was impractical. Delhi is an old city, with rich history. It is a city built upon the ruins of previous ones and has been sacked, plundered and bloodied through its history. Yet, like the proverbial phoenix, it always rises proud and strong from the ashes to renew itself.

When I added up everything, I focused on the Seven Cities of Delhi.

Your Starting Point

Directions. This is when you start to execute

When you find out what interests you, then you have your starting point.

From there onwards, you will begin making choices. It’s possible you may make some of these choices at the beginning, or some during the project. A few ‘projects’ are retrospective.

For example, when I moved around North India, I found myself intrigued by the designs of old doors in some of the small towns I visited. In contrast, many modern doors, with their machined uniformity, are boring and without character.

I have put a portfolio together, and am working on a min-publication. Since I desired to stay with a vintage look, and didn’t want to spend hours simulating vintage looks, I used Exposure 6, which is a superb bit of software. Or, you can use DXOs ‘Film Pack6’ software.

We’ve all suffered for two years, and many of us have become poorer. We need to pull ourselves together and move on, realizing that the world has changed forever.

This is one reason I am going to edit a bunch of street images, under the working title, “My Fellow Indian”.

Money, Money, Money!

Money

I want to return to the hills and mountains, but this costs money. Apart from other travel costs, I will have to change my car and buy a 4-wheel drive. This, apart from my consuming desire to photograph my fellow citizens in Delhi, compels me to shift my future landscape work to 2023.

It will also give me the time to explore which part of the mountains I want to explore. It is vital to focus.

Before I go, I want to emphasize the point I made about money. When you plan your projects, be they retrospective or prospective, make a budget. Do this at the beginning. It will constrain your choices, unless you are as rich as someone like Jeff Bezos. But remember: he started in a small basement like space.

Once you decide on what interests you, you will set your direction. From there, you will make choices, and money will influence these choices.

Finally, when you put all the elements of the plan in place, you can prepare your project chart. Then you may have fun with your project!


I used Envato’s resources for some of the images, and Canva to make the visuals. I’d like to thank the photographers at Unsplash for the images in the last banner: Connor Hall, Anne Nygard, Quinten Braem, and “Visual Stores – Micheil”.


Planning The Project

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A Good Project Plan

Project Plans

I wrote about how I am screwed, and I also wrote about projects and the importance of making a good project plan. A good project plan is a guide and helps you understand what steps you must take to achieve the result you want.

It also helps you identify the steps that depend on other steps. In management jargon, we call them dependencies. I don’t know if this is an actual word, but management folk love using jargon.

Complex Project Plans

The Gantt

When you are planning a large project, this is critical. Now may just be the right moment to give an example from my corporate days. We had bought a large company, and this was a global project. In our parlance, we refer to ‘Day Zero’ as the day you sign the deal.

From here onwards, each country’s organization must complete all regulatory and other work, gain all approvals, before you can merge the two teams together, and start working together. We refer to this event as ‘Day One’. It can take several months between Day Zero and Day One. You can imagine that reaching Day One without undue delays and heart attacks, you need a good project plan. In fact, I’d go further and say you need an excellent plan!

Now, if you don’t get product regulatory approval, you cannot implement supply chain plans. Therefore, the implementation of supply chain plans is contingent on getting product regulatory approval and are a dependency.

This sort of project is quite complex, and people across departments and countries work together to make everything work perfectly. Not only must you know the timelines and dependencies, but you must also know who is responsible for which part of the project.

Gantt Charts

Gantts for different time periods

How do you track the progress of a project? Well, most organizations use a ‘Gantt Chart’ and use complex software like Microsoft Projects. You can make Gantt Charts for several years, one year, a quarter, a month, a week, or a day. Each is a subset of the other, and this depends on the length and complexity of a project.

Now, at this moment, you may believe that the process is confusing, but don’t worry! When in doubt, remember, hope is not that far away!

You Need A Simple Process to Make a Good Project Plan!

Conceptualize the project. Simplicity

Do you, as an author or photographer, need such a complex process? No. However, you can still use the principles and apply them to your own project. A good project plan need not be complex, but it must do the job.

For instance, if you are working on a photography project, which you want to publish, you may find that planning the book is a critical early step in the project. If you don’t do this, you will not shoot and edit the images to fit the final size of the publication.

Then, you must ask yourself if you are going to self-publish or search for a publisher. Will you use formats that services like Blurb provide, or will you take the time to learn a program like Adobe InDesign or Affinity Publisher?

If you believe that time is money, then you must factor all this into your plans.

First, ask yourself some questions such as the two below:

1. What project ideas do you have? Put them onto sticky notes, as you see in the image.

2. Similarly, identify the major steps of the project and put them onto sticky notes.

Once you perform basic steps like this, you can arrange these notes along rough timelines, and list down the detailed steps relevant to each note. Then, put the plan down in a comprehensible manner.

Finally, what software will you use? You can use something as simple as Excel, or even pen and paper!

Make it simple, but make it work. That’s all you need to know. Make a good project plan, but choose the format that works for you.


I used images from Envato to make the visuals, and I used Canva to make the final designs.


I am Screwed

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Plan The Project!

Planning a Project

I am screwed. Yes. I am quite screwed. Several years back, I had done a project I called “The Seven Cities of Delhi”. Looking back, I remember I didn’t plan the project properly, so I was far over the time limit and the ultimate execution was sub-optimal.

All this, I know, does not tell you why I am screwed, but bear with me, and I will come to that in the end.

I shot the major structures of the Seven Cities of Delhi and had adapted a distinct style of editing for each. As I had done this project after completing a course on the “History of Photography” with the Photography Society of America, I simulated different vintage styles for each city.

The Seven Cities    

Delhi is an old city, and the first inhabitants came here over 5,000 years ago. The Ridge, the Aravalli Forest, and the Yamuna River gave them the perfect place to set up the first settlements, and they did. However, if you read Hindu mythology, you know that the Pandava Brothers founded Delhi and called it Indraprastha. There are shades of Vedic mythology in this, as Indra was the main God of the Aryan time.

There are several theories about how Delhi got its name, but I won’t go into those here.

It is in the 7th or 8th century that the Rajput Kings set up their capital, which became the first city of Delhi. Successive emperors set up their own capitals, which became the successive cities of Delhi. The seventh was Shahjahanabad or the City of Shah Jahan. There is the 8th city if you call Lutyens Delhi, a city.

We also call Shahjahanabad ‘The Walled City’, or ‘Old Delhi’. But, truth be told, New Delhi rests on the ruins of the older parts of Delhi.

The kings set up the first cities along the Aravalli Forest, and the later kings set up their capitals along the Yamuna River. But if the old kings and queens were to visit Delhi today, they’d cry. The Aravalli Forests have disappeared (almost), and the Yamuna River is a bog.

The Project

When I look back, I realize I didn’t plan the project well. I underestimate the time I needed to write the book, plan the publication, and edit the images.

I did a lot of research to figure out how to simulate these old techniques. In certain cases, I was tempted to use Topaz Labs B&W Effects but refrained from the temptation. Sadly, I had to use some actions for one or two specific techniques, but sometimes you don’t have a choice.

On Being Screwed 

In the last few weeks, I thought of re-editing some images, completely re-writing the book, and publishing it in a better format. This would have taken me a few months.

Much to my utter dismay, I discovered that the disc and the backup disc that housed the images had both collapsed. Maybe the SARS-CoV-2 virus (the original or one of the various mutants) attacked them.

When I discovered this, I wanted to sit down and cry. But my flat may have become flooded with my tears, so I controlled myself like a man!

Now, I have two choices:

· To recover the data. I may need to do this, anyway.

· Shoot all the cities again and go through the entire process again.

On 2022

Doors. ©Rajiv Chopra

When I wrote of my plans for 2022, I had not factored in the collapsing discs.

Man proposes, and Coronavirus disposes, they say. Not God, not God.

Except for the realization I may waste a lot of time and energy, it may not be a bad idea to shoot the images again.

If I plan the project well, and I mean if I do a professional job of the planning process, I can take some more time and shoot everything with a pinhole camera. What do you think?

Shall I adopt the pinhole approach? When contrasted with a digital approach, this could be interesting. But it will take more time.

What do you think?

Meanwhile, I will work on, and finish my project, “Doors”.


Incidentally, I got the image for the main banner from Envato. And yes, I have embedded my affiliate link in the word! Envato is a fantastic resource.


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