Gold Dust

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

“Travel is wishing for one more bite of whatever that just was” - Nick Miller

That’s exactly what I feel after having visited Pushkar for the second time. As a travel photographer, I believe, only way to justify a place one visits, is by revisiting it over and over again. This theory has proven right on many instances, at least in my case and the recent encounter of Pushkar, just happened to prove it right all over again. 

Very first visit to any place, I believe, leaves one speechless. It overwhelms the photographer with its offering, thereby shadowing the photographers thought process to create. In my case, my revisits have always yielded me better results, be it Ladakh or Kashmir, Taj Mahal or Pushkar. 

An astonishing 30,000 camels converge in the tiny desert town of Pushkar, Rajasthan, for the annual Pushkar Fair. The sand dunes appear dotted with camels as far as the eyes can see and the population of Pushkar swells to over 300,000 people, with an inflow of pilgrims, camel traders, tourists and never to forget, photographers. The camels are shaved, dressed, paraded, entered into beauty contests, raced, made to dance, and traded. A huge carnival is held, with an array of musicians, magicians, dancers, acrobats, snake charmers and carousel rides to entertain the crowd.

It's said, travel isn’t all about smiles and sunsets but in case of Pushkar, it sure is. Pushkar literally goes haywire with its sunrise and sunset. Magical light wraps the vast desertscape thereby presenting a beautiful canvas for photographer to paint upon, which simply put, is a treat for a photographers eye.

The series of images presented here aren’t editing-on-steroids but this is exactly how it was.

So, how do you shoot such backlit images ? There are many rules stated all over the internet over this topic. Shoot in manual mode, use the lens hood, spot metering, avoid open sky, stand in shade and more. Though all of those points are valid, in my case, I did exact opposite of all that’s stated in the “text book”.

I shoot aperture priority any time of the day (period), I lost my lens hood in the very first hour in Pushkar (sad), I use matrix metering for all my shoots (apart from close up portraits), there was no way to avoid open sky and good luck finding shade in the barren desert.

Basically, shooting backlit images is no rocket science.

A. Get the sun at the edge of your frame, almost kicking it out, that gives you beautiful flares and most importantly avoids the blown out highlights.


B. Flares may interfere with focusing, which can be avoided by focus and recompose method. As you focus, avoid the sun completely from your frame, thereby reducing the flares to nil. Once focus is achieved on your subject, lock the focus and recompose the image with sun back at the edge of the frame, thereby throwing in those magical flares yet again.


C. Shoot wide open aperture, which presents you with those dreamy soft flares.

D. Overexpose a tiny bit. Since I shoot aperture priority, +1 Ev suffices my need.


E.  Enjoy the process. It could be frustrating at times to shoot backlit images as it presents enough challenges. Keep shooting and you begin to enjoy the process.


If you are even remotely interested in photography, make sure you make a trip to Pushkar. It's a ritual photographers shouldn't miss. 

Gears Used : Nikon D4s and Nikkor 70-200. 

More soon...

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  1. Wow!!! Awesome backlit shots and very useful learning tips too. Let more stories to come. :)


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