Friday, May 27, 2016

Star Trails - Take 1

Last month, I had got the opportunity to try out Star Trails photography for the first time. As part of PPL(Pune Photography Lovers) group's monthly photowalk, I had travelled to Tikona Fort just on the outskirts of Pune. Our entire photography group had camped atop the Tikona Fort. While the experts went about capturing the star trails, first timers (like me and few others) to this genre setup our equipment, and attempted our photo captures after a good amout of quizzing people about all the steps to be followed.

It was a memorable experience to sleep under the millions of stars in the sky, the last time I did that was at my aunt's place when I was perhaps 12 or 13 years old.  The actual time duration when I was clicking pictures was about 2 hours in the middle of the night, I slept pre and post photoshoot, as I had a long day the following day. We had left from our respective homes by 2.30 PM-3.00PM, and reached the base of Tikona fort by 4.15 PM. After a quick snack break, we started the climb up to the fort. This fort is one of the smaller forts among all the forts of Maharashtra, and is said to be easier to climb than the others. Me being the lazy city dweller, I found even the climb to this fort to be a good enough challenge. Huffing and panting, by the time I reached up the summit, it was nearly 6PM and sunset photography enthusiasts were already clicking away to glory.  As we settled down, I was going about clicking some test shots, and by 7.15 PM dusk was over, and sky started turning dark. The good part about PPL group is the mix of photographers who land up at the photowalks, and you will always find people who are at your level. Using the confounded expressions on some the faces, I found some fellow shutterbugs who were new to this genre. 

As you climb up the small hillock, you would be blind if you did not notice the way the location for the fort has been selected, and the way in which the natural hill formation has been taken advantage of for security purposes. Along with me, my admiration for the Maratha warriors, especially for Shivaji Maharaj, also climbed up a few notches. There is a natural spring atop the fort which has clean potable water. I could observe that this fort as well had been built to provide all basic necessities to its residents, even in case of an enemy attack. 

This fort is a good overnight camping and picnic spot. I saw two other families bring snacks, bedsheets and tents and set up camp in the fort. It is a very small fort, so there is not much to see of the fort. But it is an excellent place to spend a good few hours while you empty your pent up thoughts and confusions to the skies and return back recharged.

On the whole, a new place, a new genre of photography, something new learnt, some good words exchange, some introspection done, some old memories refreshed, soon it was time to return back to realities. 

Here is my star trails picture, processed one month late - 


It is not much, this click doesn't have a circular start trail. But nevertheless, it is a reasonable start considering I am ZERO in post processing(necessity for star trails) and I am stubborn not to pay money or pirate a copy of photoshop.

So that's what I have been pottering around with. What have you been up to?

Monday, May 2, 2016

Honda Navi - Playing Dress Up?


So, I got a chance to check out this new odd looking bike from Honda. The looks of it got me
instantly excited. Upon enquiry, I learnt that it is a regular gear less scooter engine with a bike-y build. So reshape the activa, take away the closed boot space, and add a bike like headlight to it, and leave a gaping hole to accomodate some luggage, and you will get the Navi. They haven't even given it better wheels!! The TVS Wego has better alloy wheels (which makes a difference in the overall ride quality) than the Navi.

In the current version, I am disappointed and not tempted to go for a test ride. The only reason I would think of buying this vehicle would be to save about 5K-7K ruppees, and give myself a false impression of zooming about in a motorcycle.

That's the Honda Navi as of now. But I am hoping Honda has some interesting variations lined up in the pipeline for this platform. I remember seeing a video of a concept bike having a similar shape, somewhere on the social web. 

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Missing FriFotos and Photocontests - On the lookout

I have been missing #frifotos - the weekly photographic forum - it was shutdown in October last year.

I have been too pre-occupied with an upcoming wedding in the family, that my mind is just not able to focus on whipping up a blog post.

Nevertheless, I thought I will share a photo that best reflects my sentiment right now - Always be on the lookout for that one ideal opportunity, to be the best that you can be, to break free, to show the world who you really are!


Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Motivation and Goal Setting

This article is the next in the series of articles that record my notes and observations from the Valmiki Ramayana, as part of my participation in the “Read Ramayana” project.



The articles written so far in this series have barely scratched the surface of this epic. But like a modern day cricket match innings that starts with crackling sixes and fours, there is so much to infer and absorb even in the initial Sargas(Chapters) of this epic, that I can’t help but appreciate and write about even the punctuation marks used in these sections. Also, learning about the details of the enormous background of this epic story excites me a lot. So here is one more item that I thoroughly enjoyed while reading and re-reading Sarga 2 of the Bala Kaanda. And it is here that I couldn’t but help make a note of the conversation between Lord Brahma and Rishi Valmiki. There are three slokas, in particular, that caught my attention -
Na Tey Vaaganruta Kaavye Kaachidatra Bhavishyati |
Ramakathaa Punyaam Shlokbadhdhaam Manoramaam|| (1.2.35)
Yaavat Sthasyanti Girayassaritashcha mahitale |
Tavadraamaayanakatha Lokeshu Pracharishyati || (1.2.36)

YaavadRaamayanakatha TvatKruta Pracharishyati |
TaavadOOrdhvamadhashcha Tvam Mallokeshu Nivatsyasi || (1.2.37)

In this Sarga, these slokas come at a juncture when Valmiki is ruminating on the spontaneous poetic Sloka verse that came to him, and Brahma has come to meet Valmiki. The slokas quoted above are Brahma’s words.
For a moment, lets forget the names Brahma and Valmiki. The person in charge of creating and establishing this Universe, the SrishtiKarta is speaking to a hunter turned Rishi. He tells the Rishi to pen the life story of Rama.
So what is happening here? The assignment is clear - Rama’s life story, all the known and unknown parts of it need to be recorded. And Valmiki has been identified as the candidate fit & worthy of this task, and this is where Brahma shows, by example, how to set goals and motivations for the the person who you have identified as the right fit for the task at hand.
All said and done, when executed, this work will become Valmiki’s first literary work. For a scholarly writer about to pen his first major piece, SrishtiKarta Brahma sets incentives, while at the same time instilling confidence about his capability about the task at hand. And the sequence of these is to be appreciated as well -
First verse says “Nothing that is away from the truth will be a part of your writing”. Now, this is a literal translation from Sanskrit to English, which is how things are expressed in that language, but what really is being said here is (paraphrased in active voice) - “Valmiki, whatever you need to know (in terms of facts and data) to complete this work, you will get all of it, starting with the brief you got from Rishi Narad.  Please use your newly learnt skill of writing ‘sloka’ verses to put all of this in an enjoyable readable format.”
Second verse says “As long as mountains & rivers exist on this planet, the story of Ramayana will exist.” To paraphrase this in modern day language, “There is a guaranteed uptake for such a work. I can foresee this uptake will last for as long as mountains & rivers shall exist, i.e. till the human race (as we know it) will exist, and along with it, your name will be remembered for generations to come. 
And the final third verse(quoted above) says “ And as long as the Ramayana(written by you) prevails, you will reside in all the three worlds(Upper world, Nether world and Bramhaloka)”. This would paraphrase to “Yours will be an established name among all kinds of living beings in this universe.” Ramayana was written at at time when name and reputation was valued the way we value money today.
So essentially, starting from assuring his commitment for all requisite inputs for the assignment at hand to discussing the future of the assignment’s output to discussing the assignee’s personal growth in accomplishing the project, Brahma not only gets the point across to Valmiki, he also teaches us how to discuss projects and project goals with people that we want to work with. 
Motivation is one of the oft-quoted and oft-misused terms in today’s corporatized world. Everyone is looking to instill this in peers and sub-ordinates, when they themselves suffer from its deficiency. In such times, it helps to know that motivation will come in abundance from within an individual automatically when she is presented with appropriate inputs and relevant goals and outcomes to pursue, both at the task level and on a personal level.

Image Credit - http://leaderchat.org/2012/09/17/whats-your-motivation-at-work-3-questions-to-ask-yourself/

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Children, Happiness and Imagination

Only children can come up with some unique expressions, in the process of letting their imagination and creativity govern their thoughts.

Captured during a recent photowalk -


Wednesday, January 6, 2016

HMT - Soon to be history - I grabbed a tiny slice of that history

Hindustan Machine Tools, aka HMT is a state owned manufacturing company that primarily manufactures industrial machines and tools, tractors and watches. The millenial generation, i.e the generation of people born after 1996, may not associate much with this name, but for everyone who belongs to the generations before that, just the mention of the name HMT will bring back nostalgia as this was one of the first indigineous watch making company in India. Not only that, they went on to make India's first Day date watch, including models with the day mentioned in Hindi, India's first braille watch, among others.

The central government recently has decided to close down five sick public sector companies, of which three are HMT units - HMT Bearing, HMT Watches and HMT Chinar watches. As per this news report, this is based on the 14th Finance Commission's recommendation that government-owned loss making companies in non-strategic sectors can be considered for closure.

So what about it you may ask. Well being a part of the pre-millenial generation, I really did not want to miss the chance to snatch a tiny slice of this piece of history. So I went ahead and got myself an HMT watch! I have never had one, so that was one more argument in favour of the decision to go ahead and buy the watch.

I was surprised to find that HMT Watches has reasonably good website and has an online ordering system as well! Yes the website does not look as snazzy as some other e-commerce websites are, but nevertheless, I was able to browse through the product catalog smoothly, and the payment process went through fine. Being a government enterprise, I was sceptical about order fulfillment, and was mentally bracing for cold response regarding order updates. But much to my surprise, my very own HMT watch is in my hands today 3 days post placing my order!!

Very happy to own this piece of history!!
Here are some pictures:-








Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Photos and Photo Albums - Memories that last forever - aided by ZoomIn

Call me old school, but inspite of being a part of today's digital era, I still cannot replace that warm fuzzy feeling I get when flipping through a photo album in my hand.With every other service going online, this service of printing out photographs is also now available online. I have been using ZoomIn.com for about 3 years now and have been mighty satisfied with their print quality.

I would like to share a review of my experience with ZoomIn

ZoomIn offers a variety of photo printing solutions .
a) You can get your photos printed, like we used to do in the 90s. This is the basic service they offer. To do this, you upload your photographs to their site. These photographs can be organized into albums. Once uploaded and ready, you can order your prints from the site.

You can go for printing the entire album. Or select specific clicks within one album and order prints only for those.
You can even bump up the copies of prints for specific photos in an album - i.e. Say in a 20 image album of an event, you want extra copies of only that group photo that you took with everyone, you can do that too.
You can opt for one out 3 photo finishes - Matte, Glossy, Metallic.
Size options available are 4x6,5x7,6x6,6x8 (in inches) and so on. The largest photo print you can order is 16x20. If you are looking for a photo print bigger than that, you can look at the Poster printing service on ZoomIn. Otherwise for sizes bigger that 16x20, you will have to fall back to your nearby photo studio.
Other than this you can specify if you want a border on your print, if the photo can be cropped to fit the print size you are ordering or not, and if you are allowing any automatic color corrections for contrast or not.
Cost for minimum size is Rs.6 per print for 4x6(Smallest size) and  Rs. 525 for the largest size of 16x20.

b) Alternatively, you can opt for photo based products. Currently ZoomIn offers PhotoBooks, Photo Canvases, Posters, Calendars, Mugs, Magnets, and Framed Prints. I have ordered multiple photobooks, and posters from them in the last two years, and all of them have come out very well.

Latest item I ordered from them about two months ago was a ZigZag Mini Pocket album with photos from a recent family function. It is compact enough to keep in your handbag!

I have found ZoomIn to be very innovative with their product line, and there is always something new to look for in their product offering. Currently there is an offer going on for all photobooks ordered till December 20.



Over and above this, you can also get Rs100 off on your first order by using the code 'EclecticRant' when you signup for the first time!!

As the year draws to a close, I am sure many of you are recollecting memories from the year gone by, and I hope this post helps you to cherish your memories better!

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