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. Continue reading

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. Continue reading

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. Continue reading

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. Continue reading


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.

Continue reading

Initial thoughts on Ello

I have been spending some time on Ello recently and I have generally liked it. Being invite-only and beta at the moment, Ello still needs some sculpting, but so far the developers and designers, Paul Budnitz, Berger & Föhr, and Mode Set, who are, as they describe themselves, seven well-known artists and programmers, have done a great job.

Right from the start, Ello has a somewhat informal yet encouraging feel to it — despite the predominantly, nigh fully, black and white design. In brief, Ello is gunning to be what social networks should have been all this while: an ad-free, content-rich social platform which does not thrive on selling user data.

I joined Ello right at the start of 2015 and have no plans of leaving. Ello is something I had been looking for all this while, both in terms of design ideas/usage and community. But that does not mean Ello is perfect; there are quite a few things that could do with improvement. Continue reading

Review: Pro HDR X for iOS 8

Dynamic range has always been the Achilles’ heel of smartphone photography. It is the one aspect where dSLRs shine and simply cannot be outdone by our phones. (There also used to be auto-focusing on this list, but with phase detection AF on iPhone 6 Plus, Apple has raised the bar really high.)

Among several additions to iOS 8 comes burst mode capability — click and hold for several shots in quick succession. My iPhone 6 Plus shoots 10 frames per second which is almost twice the speed of my Nikon D600, which shoots 5.5 frames per second. Of course, the fact that the sensor is bigger, more memory needs to be written and other such factors come into play here.

The biggest advantage of this burst mode feature means making HDR (High Dynamic Range) photos with iPhones is no longer a software-only affair spewing out fake HDR/grunge images, but actual multiple bracketed exposures combined into one HDR photo. Continue reading

Photography manifesto

Around this time last year I had presented to you my 50-point blogging manifesto. It signaled a change in my approach to blogging and almost a year later now, I am convinced it helped me and I am happy I followed it.

However, I have increasingly come to feel that my photography needs such a set of beliefs in black-and-white — hence this piece. But this is nowhere near as long as my blogging manifesto, but whether you are a photographer yourself or not — so long as art appeals to you — you might find this an interesting read. Continue reading

Get started: the Quick Lightroom Guide

I know that everybody reading this article is either armed with a bunch of photos and a digital camera or is soon going to be. So I will get to the specifics really fast; but organisation dictates that we first clarify two things: the target of this article (i.e. what you will be able to do after reading this), and the scope of this article.

If you have the software already, fire it up and follow this Lightroom guide; if not, you could read it and return to it once you do have Lightroom. Lastly, some of the advanced stuff mentioned here may not be possible on older versions of Lightroom (before 5) but the basics definitely are. You can always skip the target/scope section if you wish.

Before we begin

1. After reading this Lightroom guide you will be able to…

Take a proper photograph you have shot in your camera and ornament it to better suit your vision.

More importantly, you will not be able to make bad photographs you shot magically look better. After all, photography is still inside your camera. But generally, you will be able to make your photos look more refined — like adding a second coat of paint.

My suggestion is that you always shoot RAW, not jpg, because — Lightroom or not — jpg limits what you can do while RAW gives you a lot more control and latitude over how your images turn out.

2. The scope of this article

Firstly, I will be talking about making a photograph in post (i.e. Continue reading

Mobile photography, part 3: my return to mobile photography

My joy knows no bounds today because my camera phone (whose wrecked lens glass I wrote about a week or so ago) was finally repaired. Samsung’s customer service was a tad slow in mailing the part (“We don’t get many with that phone here” the man at the service desk told me) but once it arrived, fixing it was easy and lasted as long as a stroll around the nearby bookstore.

The daredevil that I am, I made my first (somewhat) proper photograph as I waited at a traffic signal on the way back:

The weather was gloomy so I cautiously decided to stay at home, but a little later into the evening, as the weather got brighter (or at least as bright as it could just before the sun set), I went for a pretty long walk and made several more photographs.



First of all, I was just glad to have a working camera. But just as important was making sure it worked perfectly, just as well as — if not better than — before it cracked. The exposure, focus and the whole shebang was spot on, and I was in a race against time to make photographs before darkness set in and noise conquered my screen.


In pitch darkness: this is no dSLR, but you cannot deny it is very impressive


In case you are looking for part one and two of this collection of short reports on mobile photography (and if you want to see more photographs), you will not find them labelled as parts but as Mobile photography and dedicated cameras: where do they lie? Continue reading

When necessity breeds good photographs

Voltaire said, “nothing would be more tiresome than eating and drinking if God had not made them a pleasure as well as a necessity”; but let me spare you a Voltaire lesson. I have not blogged for a short while now, but I am content because I am keeping in tune with my promise of slow blogging.

Having made very few photographs this past month, thanks to tight schedules, I had been (rather fortunately) forced to invest time mostly in making photographs with my phone until this happened:


I have no idea exactly how it happened, but I am waiting, right now, for Samsung to ship in a replacement glass (and — although unlikely — a lens, if it turns out that is damaged too). For the curious, this has thrown off exposure, focus and white balance, and it costs a fortune, so try not to wreck your camera.

Back to Voltaire now: I was reminded of this quote on the very last day of a short travel around my hometown. I never intended to go, but I did, solely because I wanted to (a) get out of the stuffy city air to clear my mind, and (b) make photographs. Mostly the second part.

That meant my time would be futile should I return without making photographs at all. Very surprisingly, I never made photographs until the last day and then I realised what I was facing was not a choice but a necessity. I had to make photographs to justify traveling for so long, and, like food and water, I realised photography is a necessity but also a pleasure. Continue reading

Photographic grittiness: justifying what we leave out of the frame

This is one of those Ah, I’ve figured it out! moments you get when you think you stumbled upon the key to a secret treasure. Only, there are so many of them that this becomes just another I think this is how it’s done… maybe? moments.

It is alright if you followed none of that, because that flowed unchecked from the back of my mind. But I think what I have come to realise in framing a photograph today will cause me to make a pretty huge turn in my photographic endeavours.

Oftentimes I am guilty (as I am sure you are too) of leaving out certain things from my frame for whatever reason. But I think only about 60% of the time or thereabouts we do this for a real cause: composition, light, the whole assortment of technical reasons.

And then, the rest of the time, we leave it out because we just do not like it. A hanging wire, a cracked wall, a broken pane, a stray leaf, and the list can go on. These have come to be subconscious decisions of cleanliness rather than aesthetic. A cracked wall, many of us believe, will somehow wreck out photograph; that it will somehow make our photograph look like it stemmed from a poorer locale. The same with a broken window pane, for instance.

What I notice about many people shooting a country like India, is that they attempt to make it look better than it is. Indeed there are parts of the country’s urban belts that are no less modern, high in tech or global than a so-called first-world metropolis. Continue reading