Ganga Angel

Ganga Angel, Dashashwamedh Ghat, The Ganges River, Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh, India
I don’t photograph people all that often. Landscapes, abstracts, architecture. I like to work with compositional forms, with textures, with the play of light, looking at things that stay still for the camera, for my eye. Thinking on it now, there’s a deep level of intimacy in my approach to the subject as I circle and study it, taking numerous test shots while seeking just the right frame, just the right POV.

It’s an intense study of subject I don’t feel comfortable exploring with people. I tell myself, “I’m getting too much in someone’s face,” but I know it’s just as much putting them in my face. The subject has eyes, and a mind, and both are looking right back at me. Too intimate!

I’m only mildly more comfortable with the kind of ambush street photography I do shoot from time to time. People are, after all, fascinating, especially the people from different cultures or circumstances than my own. The past few travels, it’s something I’ve pushed myself to pursue. It’s a thought which crossed my mind earlier this morning, just out of the blue: I need to take more photographs of people.

Then, just a little later, I learn that WordPress is ending its Weekly Photo Challenge, which saddens me. In the years since starting Pix to Words, WPC provided nearly weekly inspiration, often resulting in multiple submissions. Other challenges and prompts have inspired Pix To Words as well, but WPC’s consistency and longevity make it unique for me.

This week’s edition, All-Time Favorites, will be the final challenge. A perfect way to end the run, albeit a bit daunting to pick one favourite from 40+ years of photography and a catalog in the tens of thousands of images.

But it really didn’t take that long. After a mental retracing through the exquisite landscapes of Australia, the American Southwest, SE Asia and China, with a brief stopover in abstracts and architecture, two or three photographs of people stand out, and one in particular captures a perfect moment in time.

I am reminded. People make the most compelling subjects. Thank you, again, WordPress, for the learning opportunity this challenge has provided.

Photographing places and things and abstractions, I can take my time and setup for the perfect moment. With people, the perfect moments come and go, especially candid moments like this one. As a photographer, you are either present in that moment — along with good fortune and technique– and get a workable frame, or you are not, and the moment is missed. Lost to naught but a rapidly fading memory.

It’s kinda funny, given how many hours of my life I’ve spent setting up just the right frame and light and moment for a photograph. In this digital age, I’ll often shoot dozens of variations for a single subject, sometimes hundreds (and still not always get a decent shot, btw). I had much less than a minute to shoot the best photograph I’ve ever taken. Go figure.

One night on the Ganges River in Varanasi, India, On a row boat leaving the nightly Aarti ceremony at Dashashwamedh Ghat. There were over a hundred frames on my Fujifilm X-T2 shot just at the Aarti, of the priests performing the ceremony and of the spectators. We’d left a little early, and the ceremony continued in the background. The camera was still in hand, but I wasn’t really looking for any more shots when I noticed a woman holding a candle in a boat we were passing. It was the right camera with the right lens. My phone or a point-and-shoot wouldn’t have done it. In the 22 seconds provided by serendipity, managed to rattle off 8 frames, hand held, at night, from a moving boat, the key light no more than a candle.

Of those 8 frames, one was very under exposed, another well out of focus, and in two others the woman was all or partly obscured by her companions. Of 8 shutter releases, just four workable frames. There were two distinct moments captured in those frames, with entirely different feels. But three frames were subtle variations on this divine moment. I’ve tried a several different crops and edits over the last year and a bit with each of those three captures. Wider frames include one or two companions in the boat with her. Two frames feature her alone, without the distraction of her companions. Of all of them, this featured photo is my favourite — and I’ve reworked it a bit for the occasion, giving just enough river and boats in the background to provide context, yet still all about her, the candle and a divine moment captured. It’s arguably the best photograph I’ve ever created. It’s definitely my favourite.

I feel very fortunate to have captured such a perfect moment with this photograph.

Here are a few other captures and frames from that 22 second moment, each a moment of its own. Does your favourite differ from mine?

Ganga Angel
Dashashwamedh Ghat
On the Ganges River
Uttar Pradesh, India

Taken during travels, 2017

Mittens and Buttes, Monument Valley Navajo Park, Arizona, United States of America
Challenge #141 ~ Three

Oh, and just a btw: for those of you now looking for a new weekly photo prompt, I host a creativity challenge every Sunday called “Pic and a Word Challenge“. This week’s challenge #141 is Three and features this photograph of Mittens and Buttes at Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park in Utah. (Yeah, a landscape … Surprise! Surprise! πŸ˜‰ ) Please do join us. =)