I took out my new Samsung Note5 to shoot raw photographs

Biwi and I went for a monsoon trek in Goa yesterday and I thought of trying out my phone-camera capabilities in a real-world scenario. I got myself a new Samsung Note5 about two weeks ago. Those who want to know how many “megapixels” the phone-camera has, fuck off. Everyone else, yes, so what was I talking about? Phone-camera capabilities, right.

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I love the fact that this phone has the option to shoot photographs in DNG (equivalent of RAW mode that bigger cameras offer).

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The above photograph shows me trying out the phone-camera on the first day of receiving the phone. I showed this image to biwi today and the only thing that she had to say was – ‘how booby I look’. ‘You occupy just 20% of the frame’, I sighed.

For those who don’t know what shooting in DNG or RAW means, well, simply put, it captures a much wider range of exposures (and overall range of colours) in a single click (of course limited ultimately by what the camera’s digital sensor is capable of). Now this really is very important for most professional photographers – except may be those who work in the news industry and don’t have enough time to edit there images. Because only when you have a raw digital photograph, you can truly extract the colours and give all your images a consistent look, that pleases you. Trying doing the same with a Jpeg image is just a software gimmick (based on smart algorithms). A Jpeg file simply doesn’t have the extra information on colours and exposure (captured from reality) to rely upon. As an upside, a high resolution Jpeg image would only be around 4 to 5 Mb in size, compared to 25-35 Mb that a raw file will end up taking (or more – based on the camera type / resolution).

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A racing event started as Biwi, I and a few more trekkers waited for a bus (that would take us to the trekking start-point). I was so happy – I could begin testing my phone-camera capabilities even before the trek had commenced 🙂

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The starting point for the trek was about one and a half hours bus ride from Panjim. From there, it was a roughly two hours trek to a waterfall. There wasn’t much climbing involved – but the route was slippery at many places. And it kept raining for most part.

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A walk on a leaf is a delicate act! 😛

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All the images in this blog-post were copied from the phone to my laptop and then processed in LightRoom. Most were shot in DNG but not all. The picture above where biwi is posing in front of Santrem waterfall, was accidentally shot in Jpeg. It still is a good photograph but do you notice, compared to all the other images, it lacks that certain depth and richness and vividness of colours? If you don’t, you don’t have to shoot in DNG really! 🙂 And if you do, well, this is why having raw images is important!

Let me also talk about a small issue with Note5 that makes it very easy for you to miss storing raw images (happened a lot with me yesterday).

You can save raw picture files only when you shoot in a “Pro” mode that the default camera app offers. But “Pro” mode is not the default setting of the camera-app. You have to manually change the setting (it takes a single click though). The camera then retains the “Pro” but only as long as you don’t go for video. And this sucks. I was shooting few video clips too yesterday, using the default camera app. And every time I would go back to taking pictures after that, the “Pro” mode was deactivated – and that meant no raw files. 🙁 I didn’t realize this many a times – and ended up with several Jpeg only files 🙁 I hope that as I start using the phone-camera more often, my muscle memory grows and takes care of this issue (by making me automatically check the mode before shooting).

What is a monsoon trek without some slippages and falls? 🙂 By the way, the blur that you see in the above two images was unplanned (and though it works for these two, I lost many shots because of it). The learning is, you cannot rely upon the camera app’s default ISO and shutter speed settings (even in good light) to shoot action / fast moving stuff. This is probably more of an app issue though – or may be there is a sports mode (that I am yet to explore) that doesn’t let the shutter speed fall below say 1/200 seconds. Until then, I will stick to manually setting up my ISO and shutter speed the next time I go out shooting.

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So what are my concluding thoughts?

I think it’s a brilliant camera in the right hands. I already know it would not be very effective in low light – but the same goes for my GH4. From morning to early evening though – I don’t think I need to carry any additional camera for street photography (or when I am on a vacation). I shall try shooting with my phone more often now and see how my feelings evolve. What do you think of these photographs by the way? Still want to buy a DSLR to get better pictures? 😀

Misre & Misri visited us in Goa – a picture story

Last week, we hosted Misre, Misri and their cute little daughter (let me name her Pinga – will explain why later). By the way, I just checked the last time Misre got a mention on Vatsap.com – and oh my God, it was such a long time ago – the day I had killed him.  Anyway, let me come back to the present. Misre is alive and kicking of course.

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Misre, Misri, Pinga and biwi (left to right of photograph)

We took them to Miramar beach the first evening. We are lazy of course. You would agree if you knew where we live (hint: very close to Miramar beach 😀 ).

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Misre evaluates his journey of being a father.
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Why is papa so dumb, wonders Pinga. :P
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It was Misri’s birthday the next day. Misre would also celebrate his, few days later. Somewhere in between, while at a beach, I asked biwi to take a new profile picture of mine. I look like I just had sex on the beach and am pretty happy about how it went but don’t want to show that on my face. Or may be I just look like I am not sure what to do when I am supposed to pose.

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Pinga puts on her slippers to go out and celerbate mumma's birthday in a restaurant.
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The family takes a quick walk after the celebation is over.
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One evening, Pinga shows me how I look when I am clicking pictures.
PS: yes, that is what I use my cycle for, these days :D

Thanks to Misre and Misri, I finally went and saw from close quarters, the mini swimming pool that we have in our building. I got back with some amazing father daughter moments, I must admit. I didn’t swim of course. The pool is too small to swim properly. Also, I am very lazy. Wait, did I mention that already?

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Pinga, shocked to her core, moments after daddy dipped her inside the pool without any warning.
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Raising a child requires many skills.

As days passed, biwi and I decided not to be so lazy and go to some beach far from home. It was Misre’s birthday.

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Biwi on the left, Misri and Misre in the centre and a random couple on the right (of the photograph).
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Pinga's reaction on seeing Jon Snow return to life. :P

I think this is the right time in the picture story to explain why I have named Misre’s and Misri’s daughter Pinga. Soon after she landed in Goa, Pinga became her favourite song. She made us (and her parents) play the video a million times. Galla Goodiyan was her equivalent favourite too, but it would be awkward to call her Galla Goodiyan. 😀 So Pinga it is.

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Misri and biwi do a little dancing as a live band performs in a restaurant where we are to celebrate Misre's birthday. Misre is busy looking after Pinga. I am busy taking pictures.
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And thus ends the picture story. Misre, Misri and Pinga flew back to Chennai yesterday. To compensate for Pinga’s absence, biwi and I have started talking to each other the way she would talk to us – “will you play with me Amrit?” and things like that.

Po – the rockstar

Life is getting happening. Slowly and steadily. All thanks to Goa. Here, people don’t bond with you based on how rich or how poor you are. What matters here is how interesting you are. And Goa is full of interesting people. I might not have data to prove it, but I would like to believe that the interesting-pople-density in the urban regions of the state (interesting people per sq. km) should be highest in India.

Today in this post, let me talk about Po – the rockstar. Po is a mallu who grew up in Goa to become a dentist. He specializes in children. ‘Not many children these days – all thanks to the population-control efforts. Not too good for business’, he told me once as we chit-chatted at my place.

‘What a lovely view, man’, he expressed with excited eyes and a genuinely happy smile as he entered my flat and saw through the big window in the hall. Everyone has the same reaction when they enter this flat. Including me, especially when I return to Goa after few days staying in different cities  Both MRP and I had finalized this flat because of the lovely view. It truly makes you feel you are living in a country-side without really living too far from any basic facility that a regular city has to offer. Irony is, the owner of this flat works in Mumbai in the very same company that I left to take up photography! She has two houses in Goa and she lives in a fucked up city called Mumbai. Like so many others. I once debated for a long long time, over cups of tea, with her and her dad (when they were here in their Goa flat) on whether it is a good or useless thing to keep living in a city just so you can upgrade your 1 bhk to a 2bhk and a hatchback to a sedan; and if you are in Mumbai, so you can keep moving southwards as and when you can afford to? Nobody won of course. You don’t debate on these topics to win anyway. You just take them up because otherwise it’s too boring to have tea with people you have not met or known often.

Coming back to Po, well he is one of them who chose to stay in Goa itself (instead of moving out for better opportunity or a better job). Business may be bad alright, but it’s not so bad that he can’t survive or drive around in his i20 and hang out with friends. I met him first in a pool party that biwi and her dancer friends had organized at a lovely resort, no too far from where we stay. He saw me shooting with two cameras and using all kinds of equipments and got curious.

‘Are you a professional’? He came up to me and thus started our conversation. And once he understood what I did, he asked me if I could shoot a video of him performing in an upcoming Independence Day concert titled ‘Gods of Goa’. Po was apparently one of the guitar Gods Goa had. When I would see him perform some days later, I would so totally agree to whoever came up with that title for him. He is a rockstar. What a performance that was.

I told Po, I would shoot him for free. ‘It’s always good to shoot non-wedding events once in a while, just for the fun of it’, I explained my generosity. He was more than glad. I met him next in Verna for his performance. Where he killed it. He was the only solo guy out there (others who played that night, did so in bands while Po played pre-recorded accompanying music on his laptop). I don’t think I have ever seen anyone play as fast as that, live.

A few days later, he was seeing some of his patients (kids of course) close to where I stay. So after he was done, he came over to my place to catch up. We saw his video together on my imac. He quite liked the way the audio quality sounded and went gaga over the clarity of the video. ‘You have some awesome equipments man’, he was thrilled. And then over beer, he shared a bit of his life. The first five years of his MBBS life where spent in Tamil Nadu and then the next three years of specialization in Punjab. ‘I would go rafting to Rishikesh about 10 times a year, mostly with my Punjabi (ex) girl-friend. We did so for three years. Yes, we went for rafting 30 times in those three years’, he had a story to tell.

‘So as you drive from Haridwar to Rishikesh, you see this giant Hindu funeral field on the left. Where you also often see some sadhu type guys sitting there, not talking to themselves, not doing anything, but just sitting and sitting. I always wondered what they did. I once asked the driver driving us to Rishikesh. He told me they where Aghoris who ate human flesh (the reason they sat in funeral fields) and that I should avoid even seeing them in the eyes because they have supernatural powers and fuck one up if one messes with them.

Do they really eat human meat? Shit, the instant I heard that I was like I want to try that as well. I shared this with my girl-friend and she totally freaked out. So I didn’t try anything then but I knew I had to give it a shot. And once, I came to Haridwar without her. This time I left the taxi at the funeral pyre itself, instead of going to Rishikesh. I then waited there for some Aghori to approach me and start talking. It didn’t feel alright to go to them myself. So I waited. And wait. It took four hours for the ice to be broken when one of the Aghories signalled to me about what I was dong there. I poised as a tourist from Kerala who was generally excited to see people like him. And then we started talking and stuff. It took me quite some time to come to the point. After about an hour, I casually asked, ‘so what do you guys eat’? And in the course of that conversation, he did say that they ate human meat once in a while. And then I asked him if I could try that? That question totally changed his attitude. From being friendly, he was now very serious and not so approving. He said that was not possible, that only Aghoris were supposed to eat human flesh and that I shouldn’t be asking for such favours. Well, so I left. But I know I will give it a try again if I happen to go to Haridwar next’, Po was hopeful.

‘You could have first put some joint with the Aghoris and then tried asking for human meat’, I suggested. ‘Yeah, may be’, Po wondered. And then he narrated me another interesting story.

‘I was living in with my girl friend and one morning I was in the kitchen trying to cut a piece of frozen sausage. Accidentally I chopped off a part of my finger. Shit, would I ever get to play guitar again, I wondered. The cut was that bad yes. Once lot of tissues were rolled over the bleeding finger and the bleeding stopped somewhat, I thought well let’s go and get the cooking job done anyway. So I took up this knife. And I saw my detached finer tip stuck on the knife. Human flesh. Fuck the Aghories, I am cooking this now.’

So he cooked his own finger-part and ate it. ‘It was soft, just like chicken’, he explained the taste as he looked at his finger with gleaming eyes. The finger looked alright. ‘Thankfully, it grew back, the chopped part and as you see I still play guitar’.

After becoming a doctor he came to Goa and started focussing on playing guitar. He was soon playing at couple of five star hotels where they paid him anywhere between 4k to 7k per evening. ‘The money was good and because these hotel folks go for six month contracts, it was consistent as well. But then I realized I didn’t want to play in front of people who didn’t care about music that much. They were busy eating and drinking. I would rather play for the kind of audience that you saw on the Independence Day concert. Folks who love rock and metal and are passionate. So I quit the hotel scene. I still make some money from guitar but only once in a while when some studio needs me to record a small part.’

The same evening, Po took me to mee another friend of his, one of his best friends who told me Po’s talent was getting wasted. ‘If only he had been playing in bigger bands, it would not only bring him more recognition but also elevate the level of the bands that took him’, Po’s friend sighed. And then we laughed over few dogs trying to fuck a bitch. And then I had to leave because MRP was unable to find the house keys that I had dropped inside our car. It took us quite some time to find the keys but finally we did. On that note, may be Goa is my key to enter into a new world full of people with interesting stories. Bring it on I say!