12 September 2020

No shortcuts to 'The Point of Best Capture'

Today, anyone with a smartphone is a photographer. Anyone who has Snapseed can make photographs look good. And even if you know nothing of Photoshop, you could still fiddle around and chisel off rough edges, so to speak. You could use any one of the many apps available to highlight, circle and pretty much do whatever you want it to do.

Takes the fun out of photography, some might say but others would say such things have made it more interesting.

I’ve known photographers and their stories amaze me. Their work is instructive. And sometimes they teach, without seeming to do so, as is the usual way of those who have mastered their art.  

So, a week or so ago, I was playing with the mobile phone. I was thinking of frames, angles and light probably displaying amateurishness that was too painful for a good photographer to bear. Tharindu Amunugama was kind. He noticed that I was using the zoom function on the phone.

‘Don’t do that. Get closer. Let your feet do the zooming.’

And so I did just that. ‘Zoom’ was duly retired. And I recalled photographs and photographers. I recalled a poet and an epic poem too.

Adisham Bungalow in Haputale is an impressive piece of architecture, in rain or sun, on a clear day or covered in mist. If you google ‘Adisham’ you’ll get lots of pictures, the vast majority of which would be of the entire house or at least most of it. None of them capture 'Adisham' the way two photographs that Tharindu took  when we visited the place about a month ago.

The first, a closeup. A ‘rock-framed’ set of windows. It spoke of a different era, solidity and a design incorporating ‘roughness.’ The second was a view through a window. It captured a side of the building, arches, a courtyard and a piece of sky that gave a sense of dimensions. The colors or rather configuration of colors, were exquisite.

I hadn’t noticed any of that. I just saw a pretty building, a half-way nice garden and some old furniture. I took in the view. And then it rained. I took in the rain too. All good. I didn’t notice the windows. Saw, but didn’t see.

And I remembered a particular photograph taken at Rangiri Dambulla in an album that contained lots of them. It stood out on account of detail, color, lighting and the architecture of the composition. He had zoom-walked.

And I remembered a photograph taken by the legendary Nihal Fernando. An ancient stupa marked by the bludgeoning of element and time. I remember seeing it at the exhibition titled ‘Eloquence in Stone.’ There was a cloud formation which mimicked the shape of the stupa. I believe this was noted by Sinharaja Thammita-Delgota who I believe wrote the captions for the photographs (later turned into a book by the same name). I remembered Uncle Nihal telling me almost twenty years ago that sometimes you have to wait for hours and hours for the right light. Maybe he waited on this occasion too. Maybe he noticed the movement of clouds and extrapolated the possible cloud formation. Maybe he was lucky in terms of light. The angle, however, was not about luck but design.

I remembered Mahagama Sekera’s ‘Prabuddha’ too and something I wrote about 11 years ago in an article titled ‘Beauty is the number 14 and it lasts for 72 hours.'

‘Prabuddha is at the Ruwanweliseya. It is evening. The evening star is clear in the sky.  Prabuddha walks around the maluwa until he finds that one spot where gaze, pinnacle and star intersect. Writes Prabuddha: ‘deepena thama dansina!’  What is more beautiful now, the artifact, the history symbolized and embedded in it, the evening star, Sekera’s exceptional eye and tender gaze or the intersection of these things?  I am not sure, but Sekara’s juxtaposition was certainly illuminating.’

Prabuddha walked. Sekera made him walk. Maybe this is because Sekera walked. Nihal Fernando walked all over this country long before the dawn of easy-click photography. Tharindu walks even though easy-click is literally at his fingertips.

They’ve walked long enough and in so many directions that they probably know there are no shortcuts to ‘best capture,’ be it in photography or anything else. They wonder. They wander. And therefore they've mastered 'focus,' I feel.

They take wonderful pictures, using their feet.  

Other articles in the series 'In Passing...':  [published in the 'Daily News']  
Eyes that watch the world and cannot be forgotten   Let's start with the credits, shall we? 
The 'We' that 'I' forgot 
'Duwapang Askey,' screamed a legend, almost 40 years ago
Dances with daughters
Reflections on shameless writing

Is the old house still standing?
 Magic doesn't make its way into the classifieds

Small is beautiful and is a consolation  
Distance is a product of the will
Akalanka Athukorala, at 13+ alre
ady a hurricane hunter
Did the mountain move, and if so why?
Ever been out of Colombo?
Anya Raux educated me about Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis (JIA)
Wicky's Story You can always go to GOAT Mountain
Let's learn the art of embracing damage
Kandy Lake is lined with poetry
There's never a 'right moment' for love
A love note to an unknown address in Los Ange
A dusk song for Rasika
How about creating some history?
How far away are the faraway places?
There ARE good people!
Re-placing people in the story of schooldays  
When we stop, we can begin to learn
Routine and pattern can checkmate poetry

Janani Amanda Umandi threw a b'day party for her father 
Sriyani and her serendipity shop
Forget constellations and the names of oceans
Where's your 'One, Galle Face'?

Maps as wrapping paper, roads as ribbons
Yasaratne, the gentle giant of Divulgane  
Katharagama and Athara Maga
Victories are made by assists
Lost and found between weaver and weave
The Dhammapada and word-intricacies
S.A. Dissanayake taught children to walk in the clouds
White is a color we forget too often  
The most beautiful road is yet to meet a cartographer