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abhijit sengupta
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Monica Bellucci by Norman Jean Roy for Vanity Fair Spain's February 2013
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Before Y0u Speak Think.
#Quote   #Think  

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Revisiting Sites and Past Work with a New Perspective
In the field when I revisit sites I've been to before I'll sometimes see something new about the scene, perhaps different weather or a different season which I'd like to have in my portfolio.  Often, however, I find myself dismissing a site I've been to before... been there, done that... no need to fill up disk drives with redundant, near-duplicates of previous captures. 

Lately though I've been re-capturing some shots I took only 3-4 years ago.  My latest camera, the Canon 5D Mark III, has more than double the resolution of the Canon 40D I was shooting with in 2008, it has more dynamic range, and less noise, particularly in underexposed areas.  Buying a more expensive camera won't improve your attention tot he most important aspects of photography such as composition, but there are some potential benefits to being able to shoot in lower light, capture a greater range of light with more subtle color transitions, and being able to print in larger sizes.

The other problem with my 2008 images was the processing approach I embraced back then. HDR was becoming a popular fad, and it could produce catchy images which could get attention with other photographers and some image buyers.  There was a major downside though, one described well in Tom Till's recent article "Digital Pitfalls: A Cautionary Tale" in Outdoor Photographer Magazine:
"My conclusion, a few months later, is that I had wandered down a dangerous path. My innocent desires to imitate the colors of Velvia, to make a lifeless RAW file more interesting and to fix contrast problems with HDR were clearly failures, and I began to look at what I had done in a new light. As I viewed some images, I often said to myself, "What was I thinking?" I began to compare myself to an addict who had become enthralled with digital color and couldn't be satisfied until I had sometimes grossly overdone things. Just realizing this and seeing the beautiful subtle colors I had buried was enough to help me come to terms with my problem. "

I could really identify with that when I read it in 2012.  I had already come to the same conclusion about my own work.  Too often I was revisiting old work I had produced using HDR techniques and concluded "What was I thinking?"  Of course the next logical question is, "And why didn't I notice this before?"  Tom's article offered one possible explanation: "A friend of mine mentioned a syndrome familiar to painters where, after years of looking at colors, an artist can become desensitized to them."  Musicians can lose their hearing from being exposed to loud noise, can our ability to assess the state of our photography become affected by overexposure to exaggerated color?

Fortunately there was a path out of my madness.  Photoshop seemed like a similar trap, designed to help graphic artists manipulate and combine color images. The newer Adobe Lightroom software however was designed from the ground up to efficiently process photographs, with more of a focus on fine tuning adjustments than heavy-handed manipulations.

None of this is to say that there's anything inherently wrong with HDR, I do still use it some small percentage of the time, and I've gone out of my way to explain why there are some valid uses for it in articles on my blog.  I simply pay attention to not letting it become an addiction to flashy results.  It can be a useful tool, but I don't want HDR to dominate my approach, affect my judgement, or limit my audience.  

So back to the original topic of revisiting places, when I do return to places now, it's with a camera with greater dynamic range and a more successful workflow, with less of a need to use extreme post-processing to produce useful results.   

Here's a link to +Tom Till's article:
Digital Pitfalls: A Cautionary Tale

Here's another Outdoor Photographer Magazine article on the subject by Bill Hatcher:
Keeping It Real, Or Calling It Art

Here are some of my own musings on post-processing using HDR:
Photography Travels 2008
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Her hair was up in a ponytail
Her favorite dress tied with a bow
Today was Daddy's Day at school
And she couldn't wait to go.
But her mommy tried to tell her,
That she probably should stay home.
Why the kids might not understand,
If she went to school alone.
But she was not afraid;
She knew just what to say.
What to tell her classmates
Of why he wasn't there today.
But still her mother worried,
For her to face this day alone.
And that was why once again,
She tried to keep her daughter home.
But the little girl went to school,
Eager to tell them all.
About a dad she never sees,
A dad who never calls.
There were daddies along the wall in back,
For everyone to meet
Children squirming impatently,
Anxious in their seats.
One by one the teacher called,
Each student from the class.
To introduce their daddy,
As seconds slowly passed.
At last the teacher called her name,
Every child turned to stare.
Each of them was searching,
For a man who wasn't there.
"Where's her daddy at?"
She heard a boy call out.
"She probably doesn't have one"
Another student dared to shout.
And from somewhere near the back,
She heard a daddy say,
"Looks like another deadbeat dad,
Too busy to waste his day."
The words did not offened her,
As she smiled up at her mom.
And looked back at her teacher,
Who told her to go on.
And with hands behind her back,
Slowly she began to speak.
And out from the mouth of a child,
Came words incredibly unique.
"My daddy couldn't be here,
Because he lives so far away.
But I know he wishes he could be,
Since this is such a special day.
And though you cannot meet him,
I wanted you to know.
All about my daddy,
And how much he loves me so.
He loved to tell me stories
He taught me to ride my bike.
He surprised me with pink roses,
And taught me to fly a kite.
We used to share fudge sundaes,
and ice cream in a cone.
And though you cannot see him,
I'm not standing here alone.
Cause my daddy's always with me
Even though we are apart.
I know because he told me,
He'll forever be in my heart."
With that, her little hand reached up,
and lay across her chest.
Feeling her own heartbeat,
Beneath her favorite dress.
And from somewhere in the crowd of dads,
Her mother stood in tears.
Proudly watching her daughter,
Who was wise beyond her years.
For she stood up for the love
Of a man not in her life.
Doing what was best for her,
Doing what was right.
And when she dropped her hand back down,
Staring straight into the crowd.
She finished with a voice so soft,
But its message clear and loud.
"I love my daddy very much,
He's my shining star.
And if he could he'd be here,
But heaven's just too far.
You see he was a fireman
And died just this past year.
When airplanes hit the towers
And taught Americans to fear.
But sometimes when I close my eyes,
It's like he never went away."
And then she closes her eyes,
And saw him there that day.
And to her mother's amazement,
She witnessed with surprise.
A room full of daddies and children,
All starting to close their eyes.
Who knows what they say before them,
Who knows what they felt inside.
Perhaps for merely a second,
They saw him at her side.
"I know you're with me Daddy."
To the silence she called out.
And what happened next made believers,
Of those once filled with doubt.
Not one in that room could explain it,
For each of their eyes had been closed.
But there on the desk beside her,
Was a fragrant long-stemmed pink rose.
And a child was blessed, if only for a moment,
By the love of her shining bright star.
And given the gift of believing,
That heaven is never too far.

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Ruling Islamists, Under Attack, Reject Blame for Tunisia’s Woes

Ruling Islamists, Under Attack, Reject Blame for Tunisia’s Woes
TUNIS — Facing public anger and internal divisions after the assassination of an opposition leader, Tunisia’s largest Islamist party, which leads a governing coalition, blamed the news media, secular elites and the remnants of the old government for its troubles.

As Tunisians fretted about the specter of political violence, the party, Ennahda, did not seem to look inward. It strongly condemned the assassination, but did not see any blame for the anger in its own actions. But others did.

Its implacable critics renewed their charge that the killing was the result of Ennahda’s conservative religious agenda. Others, including supporters of the group, said the movement’s own missteps since coming to power contributed to the public outburst after the politician Chokri Belaid was gunned down last week. The group had lost confidence, some said, by focusing on power rather than on governing.

As tens of thousands took to the streets last week and Tunisia’s divisions were laid bare, many waited to see how Ennahda would respond. Would it reach out to find common ground with some of its critics, or would it retreat to its base of support? The challenge resonates here and in Egypt, where the Muslim Brotherhood is facing even harsher questions about its rule.

Ennahda’s leader, Rachid al-Ghannouchi, dismissed the criticism, saying that the movement remained popular and that a majority of Tunisians were not afraid of his group. “Just a tiny part of the aristocracy,” he said.

Nevertheless, the anger amounted to a humbling setback for Ennahda, which had been in the vanguard of Islamists seeking political power after the Arab uprisings two years ago and had held up its record of building political consensus as a model. After decades of being jailed, or forced underground or into exile by authoritarian leaders, the Islamist groups’ rise to power in Egypt and Tunisia has been swift. So has the reckoning on their rule.

“They thought that governing would be easy,” said Abou Yaareb Marzouki, a philosophy professor who is close to Ennahda. “And they imagined that through governance, they will reject forced modernism,” he said, referring to what he called a policy of westernization under colonial rulers and authoritarian governments. But Ennahda and the Brotherhood had swung too far in the opposite direction, he suggested, imposing “forced easternization.”

Since the uprising against President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali two years ago, Ennahda has insisted that whatever the results of elections, it would rule with others and had no intention of imposing a conservative religious agenda. After winning a plurality in Tunisia’s first elections, the party formed a coalition with the center left.

Facing challenges that would test any government, the coalition became noted for its incompetence, failing to dent the economic crisis or reform institutions.

Ennahda was accused of coddling ultraconservatives, known as Salafis, some of whom have been tied to a string of violent episodes.

The blame intensified after the killing of Mr. Belaid, who had received death threats for his criticisms of Islamists. At his funeral on Friday, tens of thousands of mourners directed their anger at Ennahda and Mr. Ghannouchi, blaming them for fostering extremism and taunting the leader with an incendiary chant: “Slaughterer.”

Intensifying the pressure on Ennahda, the prime minister, Hamadi Jebali — a top Ennahda leader — defied his colleagues by calling for the Islamist-led cabinet to replaced by technocrats with no political affiliations. Ennahda said it was still considering whether to accept the proposal to reconstitute the government, which many people believe could quiet some of the anger.

In an interview on Saturday, Mr. Ghannouchi said Tunisia’s difficulties could be “contained,” saying he was not worried that the country would devolve into violence. “The Tunisian people are known for being peaceful,” he said.

He said he was surprised at the accusations against Ennahda, which understood that its success in governing depended on stability. “These kinds of things happen in revolutions,” he said, speaking of the assassination. He avoided Mr. Belaid’s funeral to “avoid tensions,” he said, but was clearly stung by the chants against him, which he called part of a demonization campaign.

Mr. Ghannouchi said the party remained “open and accepting,” and said most people were not preoccupied with ideological conflict but with concerns like food and medicine. He blamed a “French model of secularism” for conflicts in Tunisia, and insisted that no more than 20 percent of Tunisians were opposed to Islamist rule. “The rest are against radical secularism,” he said.

Khalil al-Anani, a scholar of Middle East Studies at Durham University in England, said the Islamists shared a misconception that by securing electoral victories, they were free to act as they wished. “They replicate the policies of authoritarian regimes, and underestimate the weight of secular and liberal forces.” And they did not understand how the uprisings had changed the structures of power. “No one can claim the authority of the street in the Arab world,” he said.

Abdulbasset Belhassan, the president of the Tunis-based Arab Institute for Human Rights, said the Islamists “are facing a strategic choice — between keeping an ideological approach based on their old legacy, or entering a new era based on human rights and democracy.” “They should take a historical decision,” he said. “The revolution was not made by one party.”

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What a good guy

A waiter in Houston put his job on the line and is receiving praise after he told a table he was unwilling to serve them. 
The waiter, Michael Garcia, was waiting on a family of regulars who have a 5-yr old child (Milo) with down syndrome. Another family he was serving made comments about the noises the child was making so he moved the annoyed party to another table. 

The waiter then overheard "special needs children need to be special somewhere else," from the table. That's when he informed them he would be unable to serve them. They left the restaurant. 

Share this if you agree that Michael Garcia has become a hero for standing up for this little boy!

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