Locked out of Instagram

This week started with a bang: I somehow got locked out of my Instagram account. The account itself still exists and you can view and like my photographs and — as I expect will start happening now — leave a tonne of spammy comments. The reason my account was flagged was likely because I posted from travel abroad, which already resulted in an e-mail seeking clarification about accessing the account from a previously unused location or something to that effect. Back in my country now (which probably got flagged as another major change in location, although that does not make much sense) I find that the e-mail associated with that account has been mysteriously deleted and access to my account revoked with only one possibility of restoration: contacting Instagram directly.

While a lot of people wrote to me saying that Instagram will restore access if I write to them, and that the system may have made a mistake flagging it, I would, myself, look at this as a good thing — not unlike William’s curfew, for any of you who have read Sellars and Yeats’ 1066 and all that, the classic satire: “Another very conquering law made by William I said that everyone had to go to bed at eight o’clock. This was called the Curfew and was a Good Thing in the end since it was the cause of Gray’s Energy in the country churchyard (at Stoke Penge).” Coming back to the present, I have decided not to contest the blockade and instead let the account rest, or even be scrapped if Instagram chooses.

Like always, there are two ways to look at everything. I could whine about losing my half-decade old Instagram account, or I could make it a good thing. One of the qualms I have had with Instagram, and Google+ before it, has been that they encourage photo sharing, full stop. I got into the entire Instagram/G+ bandwagon (the latter before it ballooned, when at beta, and when it was more promising than it sadly is today) solely because of love of photography. But I often disliked how, like the internet itself, these networks can quickly become more of dictators, and, instead of encouraging and developing one’s photography, they become machines harvesting content, regardless of its quality. In their defence, they never really set out to improve anyone’s photography, but I still find it interesting how offline, say an art gallery, also meant mainly for showcasing, can still help improve your work. I digress. In a splendid personification of human tendency to band with one’s own kind, with others who share our views, both of these networks have people who enjoy and promote select photographic styles, and it is far too easy to get caught up in that. 500px is another excellent example of this, or at least the most obvious one, with its streams rich in heavily photoshopped work bordering on or often even crossing into the unnatural. However, all this is fodder for another article that is currently in its final editing phase and which I intended to publish before the whole Instagram fiasco happened.

There is one problem with this entire setup, however: photography is my hobby after all and it makes little sense if I have no place in which to collect my final works. This was primarily what I used Instagram for; the social aspect was a tacky add-on as far as I am concerned. VSCO has a social feature that feels, quite literally, tacky, but it will do for now. What I do love about VSCO, as much as I detest their new app UI, is that there are rightly no concepts of likes, favourites and other absurd means of measuring one’s worth. (This should really be no surprise coming from someone like me who quit Facebook when everyone the trendy thing to do was join it — I have never been one for following trends anyway.) All said and done, and despite my complaints about VSCO earlier this month, I think we ought to pick our battles: between Instagram and VSCO, I pick VSCO without a second thought, so that makes it official. See you, Instagram. It was great while it lasted.

A day of pilgrimage, part II

The road was under construction all along, all 30km of it. The dilapidated Mysore Airport lay on one side, looking like it’s days were numbered, and the bleak sight was balanced only by the handful of lakes and green carpets of paddy that thankfully remained unharmed during the government’s infrastructure overhaul. In the last article we spent time around Mysore briefly and ended right when we left the city. Now we drive towards Nanjangud.

The road was supposed to have been laid out decades ago. If it had, at least a hundred accidents on this route could have been avoided. Everyone knew it was a dangerous road: some drowned in the “lake that is never full”1, while others passed in head-on collisions. Such news had, sadly, become so commonplace that it was no longer news.

A bridge across the Kabini.

A bridge across the Kabini.

The first interesting site en route is the 270-year-old Kabini railway bridge. By a subtle twist of words, this possibly becomes the oldest railway bridge in the world, having served since the start of the railways around 1825, and since long before that as a road bridge connecting Mysore city to nearby Nanjangud2. However, despite its “heritage structure” tag, the bridge is in a state of despair.

oldest railway bridge in the world

Thick, Gothic arches hold up the Kabini bridge. In the background is the new bridge and a human for scale.

With European-styled Gothic arches, the bridge was constructed by Dalvoy Devaraja3 and has no traceable official name. Most colloquially call it the “Kabini bridge” since it is built across the River Kabini. The British East India company’s emissary, the Reverend Schwartz, described the bridge in the early 1700s as “a strong bridge of substantial arches over the River Kapini, built by Dalvoy Devraja around 1735″.

A new broad gauge railroad now serves in place of the retired metre gauge.

The arches are substantial indeed: they are over 50 in number, each ten feet apart and eight feet thick. Strong as it was, it succumbed to weathering, catalysed by the government’s utter disregard towards its maintenance and by the 1980s was scheduled to be replaced with a new bridge. Characteristically4 the old bridge remained in use till as recently as 2007 by when the Indian Railways decided to lay broad gauge tracks (the old bridge carried metre gauge rails) and convert it into a tourist attraction. The last bit is yet to happen.

The Srikanteshwara temple in Nanjangud

Lying on the banks of the Kabini (historically also called the “Kapila” river), the famous Shiva temple is known as the “Dakshina Kāshi”, signifying its equivalence to Varanasi, another popular Shivate centre of worship in North India. The deity’s name in Kannada, Nanjundæshwara, is a reference to the story of how Shiva (Ēshwara) saved the earth by swallowing poison (nanju) — one of my favourite mythological stories as a kid.

Inside the 11th century temple

Built in parts by several dynasties from the Chola kings to the Vijayanagar kings to Tippu Sultan to the Wodeyars, the temple is huge. What I like best about it, though, is that it is extremely calm and one can spend hours inside and not even realise it. It is never calm, however, during the famous jāthré, the annual community festival, which sees tens of thousands of devotees throng the temple.

An important attraction during the festivities is the chariot procession, known as the Rathayāthra. This has been a central part of Hindu culture since ages and nowhere is it done with more splendour and pride than in Mysore5. In fact, Mysore’s tryst with mythology goes deeper: the throne at Mysore palace is believed to belong to the Pandavas. It came from the Pandavas in Hastinapur, UP, to the Vijayanagar empire and then to capital city of Mysore where it now resides.

One of the smaller chariots at Nanjangud

The chariot festival, called the Dodda Jāthré, sees the Gauthama Ratha accompanied by four others making a circle of the temple amidst a sea of devotees. There are near-stampede situations which have been controlled fairly well in the past. It is not the Gauthama Ratha (which carries the main deity, Shiva) that moves first however; tradition dictates that the right to lead belongs to the Ganapathi Ratha, followed by Shiva, Pārvathi, Subramanya and Chandikéshwara in that order. I saw none of this on my trip. The festivities had already taken place a few weeks ago.

nanjangud temple

Devotees sitting along the circumambulatory

Inside the mandapa — the porch leading from the doorway (gopuram) to the sanctum sanctorum (garb gruha) — is often filled with devotees spending a calm evening. There is often a surprisingly cool breeze even inside the temple walls, made cooler by the low specific heat capacity of the stone structures. How it still stands strong is inspiring to me every time I visit every single archeological temple (the ones at Aiholé near Dharwad are among my favourites).

This often reminds me of the old joke —

Q: What’s the difference between roads made now and those made in Roman times?
A: Roads made in Roman times have lasted until the present day.

A flower seller outside the temple

The day was memorable. As a plaque in my grandfather’s home puts it, a day is not wasted if you made a memory. You can view these and more photographs on my Flickr. All photographs were made on my iPhone 6S. This also ends the two-part series on a day-long pilgrimage around Mysore and makes space for other travel articles coming later this month, mostly because I love to travel, and, as St Augustine of Hippo put it, “The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.”

Review — VSCO 4.4.1 for iOS and Android

 

Around three years ago, a new photography app hit the App Store. Called VSCo Cam, the app came from Visual Supply Company, makers of film emulation presets for Lightroom, ACR, Aperture etc. It was never meant to compete against Instagram, but that is how a lot of people saw it. (Some probably still call it the anti–Instagram.)

Today, with the recently released 4.4.1 version and renamed simply VSCO, the app stands as arguably the best filter for iPhone, but is really a full–powered editing suite and manual camera. Most use it in conjunction with all their mobile photography needs, not merely as an Instagram competitor. And with nearly a hundred million uses, #vscocam is Instagram’s most popular hashtag today. Competitor Snapseed has four million,  Afterlight has three.

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Photographic sharpness: an obsession

I somehow came across an article by Connor McClure where he talked about how far too many people blindly use VSCO filters to process their photographs and call it a day. What he said about VSCO is true (and is something I strongly believe in myself) — they are a convenience, and not much more than trends; and trends pass on. McClure says it best: “They are trendsetters, and I don’t believe in latching too tightly on to trends.”

In addition to filters in general (not to target VSCO, whose filters I use rarely, but do use nonetheless) there is another misdirection I feel we ought to address in today’s photography scene: mindless obsession over sharpness.

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Picturelife

Recently I decided it was time (after three years) to backup my mobile phone photographs. I only started taking mobile photography seriously after getting my Note 3 and that enthusiasm swelled with my iPhone 6 Plus. In all I had about 1,300 photographs made since I got my iPhone — just the photographs I wanted to save, the total number of photographs is greater. And I looked around for an ideal backup and storage solution with which I could maintain my photographs.

The first option a lot of people suggested to me was Loom, but that is not available where I live. (Loom happens to be US-only.) And then there was Everpix — was — which was free and shut down as fast as it became popular. In all honesty, Everpix was an excellent solution, but faced the biggest problem with cloud storage solutions: they shut down, mostly because they run out of money trying to give storage free. Lesson: never opt for free cloud storage.

Then I tried Picturelife about three months ago and still love it for a lot of reasons. Some readers asked me to talk about my experience with the product and how I went about moving my photographs to the cloud, so this is it.

Update: After this article was published and discussed around the web, Picturelife got in touch with me and offered a generous 20GB of additional free storage for life. Thank you. And here’s to Picturelife for being one of the top cloud storage solutions for all of us.

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