Blog · English Literature · Julius Caesar · Playwright · Quotes · Shakespear

“To be, or not to be, that is the question” Quoting William Shakespeare

“ All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances,
And one man in his time plays many parts,”

“THE SEVEN AGES OF MAN”: A FIFTEENTH-CENTURY GERMAN WOODCUT, WITH THE “WHEEL OF FORTUNE” IN THE CENTER.”
Excerpt From: Jonathan Bate. “Soul of the Age”.

We all know the great playwright, however I have often wondered, who was the man behind some of the best works in English Literature.

“He was not of an age, but for all time!” So wrote Ben Jonson in the poem of praise published in the First Folio of collected plays. Was Shakespeare a life that lasted from 1564 to 1616 or was he also a sum total of all the body of words, ideas, characters and stage images that has remained alive for four centuries because of their endless capacity for renewal and adaptation through the work of succeeding generations of actors and spectators, appreciative readers, and creative artists in every conceivable medium.

Said Ralph Waldo Emerson, writing in nineteenth-century New England, Shakespeare was “inconceivably wise,” possessed of a brain so uniquely vast that no one can penetrate it. But at the same time, he was the incarnation of “a cause, a country, and an age.” It is this double quality that makes Shakespeare, in Emerson’s fine phrase, the representative poet.

A normal chronological sequence of his life may not only be depressingly reductive, it’s an information which is available on the net, which you, my readers can easily access. This is aptly put by George Bernard Shaw, a playwright and a critic — and a particularly acerbic critic of Shakespeare, discerned in the life when it is told in the traditional way:

“Everything we know about Shakespeare can be got into a half-hour sketch. He was a very civil gentleman who got round men of all classes; he was extremely susceptible to word-music and to graces of speech; he picked up all sorts of odds and ends from books and from the street talk of his day and welded them into his work … Add to this that he was, like all highly intelligent and conscientious people, business-like about money and appreciative of the value of respectability and the discomfort and discredit of Bohemianism; also that he stood on his social position and desired to have it affirmed by the grant of a coat of arms, and you have all we know of Shakespeare beyond what we gather from his plays.”

Image courtesy: The Telegraph

My tryst with Shakespear came at an early age when Shakespear’s plays were a part of our school curriculum. Julius Caesar was the first and a book which is embedded in my memory like a fossil in amber.

Why, man, he doth bestride the narrow world

Like a Colossus; and we petty men

Walk under his huge legs, and peep about

To find ourselves dishonourable graves.

Cassius (Act I, Scene II)

“The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves.” 

Cassius (Act I, Scene III)

“Cowards die many times before their deaths; 

The valiant never taste of death but once. 

Of all the wonders that I yet have heard, 

It seems to me most strange that men should fear; 

Seeing that death, a necessary end, 

Will come when it will come.” 

Caesar (Act II, Scene II)

“Men at some time are masters of their fates. The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves, that we are underlings.” 

Cassius (Act I, Scene II)

But I am constant as the Northern Star,

Of whose true fixed and resting quality

There is no fellow in the firmament.

Ceasar (Act 3, Scene 1)

As he was valiant, I honor him. But as he was ambitious, I slew him.

Brutus (Act 3, Scene 2)


“There is a tide in the affairs of men

Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune;

Omitted, all the voyage of their life

Is bound in shallows and in miseries.

On such a full sea are we now afloat;

And we must take the current when it serves,

Or lose our ventures.” 

Brutus (Act 4, Scene 3)

Not that I loved Caesar less, but that I loved Rome more.

Brutus (Act 3 Scene 2)

“His life was gentle; and the elements

So mixed in him, that Nature might stand up

And say to all the world, THIS WAS A MAN!” 

Mark Anthony (Act 5, Scene 5)

“Let me have men around me who art fat sleek headed men, and such as sleep a nights. Yond Cassius has a lean and hungry look. He thinks too much. Such men are dangerous.”

Julius Caesar (Act1, Scene 2)

“When beggars die there are no comets seen; the heavens themselves blaze forth the death of princes.”

Calpurnia (Act 2, Scene 2)

I could go on … …

“Barbara Everett writes in an acute essay on the problem of Shakespearean life-writing, “If his biography is to be found it has to be here, in the plays and poems, but never literally and never provably.”

I would like to know, some of your favourite quotes from Julius Caesar. Pease do share in the comments below.

Book Blog · Book Review · Inspiration · Malcolm Gladwell · Motivation · Pick of the Day · Productivity

Why the World loves an Underdog? David and Goliath~Underdogs, Misfits and the Art of Battling Giants by Malcolm Gladwell – Book Review

Explore the power of the underdog in Malcolm Gladwell’s dazzling examination of success, motivation, and the role of adversity in shaping our lives.

‘A global phenomenon… there is, it seems, no subject over which he cannot scatter some magic dust’ 

Observer
David slaying Goliath by Peter Paul Rubens: image courtesy Pixels

What’s it About?

David and Goliath (2013) shares myriad stories of underdogs who won out against all odds. The book is about ordinary people who confront giants. By “giants”, the author means powerful opponents of all kinds~from armies and mighty warriors to disability, misfortune and oppression. Throwing out our traditional ideas of what it takes to be a success, it offers unconventional views on subjects such as downside of privilege, the benefits of learning disabilities, and how authorities should treat their citizens.

The MORAL OF THE Story

Goliath

“Am I a dog that you should come to me with sticks?”

Caravaggio’s David with the Head of Goliath: image courtesy Rick Steves’ Travel Blog

We all know the story of David, a shepherd-turned-musician that gained immense popularity after accepting a challenge from the giant Goliath, who asked champions of the Israelite army to fight him one-on-one. According to the tale, David killed the towering Goliath using only a staff, a sling, and five stones from a brook. After the crushing defeat, David later became king of Israel and Judah himself, and took over Jerusalem, reigning between 1010-970 BC.

So the story goes, but Gladwell thinks we all have it wrong, and opens his new book with a retelling of that story. We assume that the story is about the weak defeating the strong and the mighty. But the giant has his own set of vulnerabilities ! He is huge and grotesque, which makes him slow and clumsy. He was carrying over hundred pounds of armour. David, on the other hand is a slinger, who could be deadly from distances as great as 200 yards and was lethally accurate. As Gladwell says, Goliath had as much chance against David as a man with a sword would have had against someone armed with a .45 automatic handgun.

Who’s It For?

  • Anyone looking for motivation or inspiration in their lives
  • Behind the scene stories of well known events in history
  • Anyone interested in psychology, or crime and punishment

KEY IDEAS

But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for the Lord does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.”

1 Samuel 16:7

We think of underdog victories as improbable events: that’s why the story of David and Goliath has resonated so strongly all these years. However, according to the author, underdogs win all the time. Why, then, are we so shocked every time a David beats a Goliath? Why do we automatically assume that someone who is smaller or poorer or less skilled is necessarily at a disadvantage?

Image courtesy Wikipedia

One of the winning underdog, for example, was T. E. Lawrence (or, as he is better known, Lawrence of Arabia), who led the Arab revolt against the Turkish army occupying Arabia near the end of the First World War. The British were helping the Arabs in their uprising, and their goal was to destroy the long railroad the Turks had built running from Damascus deep into the Hejaz Desert.It was a daunting task. The Turks had a formidable modern army. Lawrence, by contrast, commanded an unruly band. But they were tough and they were mobile. Lawrence’s masterstroke was an assault unexpected by the Arabs. So the advantage that Turks had was a large army and weapons~which was a big advantage, but made them immobile. Meanwhile the Arabs had the endurance, intelligence, knowledge of the country, and courage.

The author points out, that for some reason, we all have a preconceived notion which defines what advantage is. The error we often make is to double-down on strength when we think that we need something more effective than what we’ve got. Yet past a certain point, extra-strength becomes self-defeating because it is too crude and inflexible. 

People who seem weak can turn out to be surprisingly strong. Don’t be a Goliath. Dare to be a David. Gladwell illustrates these lessons with a characteristically dizzying array of stories, the subjects of which range from high school girls’ basketball to child murder and the Holocaust.

Conclusion

Underdogs can overturn the odds and succeed by employing unconventional tactics . The simple moral is choose your weapons carefully. Through these stories, he explore two ideas. The first is that much of what we consider valuable in our world arises out of these kinds of lopsided conflicts, because the act of facing overwhelming odds produces greatness and beauty. And second, that we consistently get these kinds of conflicts wrong. We misread them. We misinterpret them. Giants are not what we think they are. The same qualities that appear to give them strength are often the sources of great weakness. 

About the Author

Malcolm Gladwell is the author of six New York Times bestsellers, including Talking to StrangersDavid and GoliathOutliersBlink, and The Tipping Point. He is also the co-founder of Pushkin Industries, an audio content company that produces the podcasts Revisionist History, which reconsiders things both overlooked and misunderstood, and Broken Record, where he, Rick Rubin, and Bruce Headlam interview musicians across a wide range of genres. Gladwell has been included in the TIME 100 Most Influential People list and touted as one of Foreign Policy‘s Top Global Thinkers.

Andy Warhol · Campbell's Soup Can · Pop Art

Andy Warhol and the Campbell’s Soup Can

Image courtesy Pinterest

All art ultimately illumines the culture in which it is created, even if that culture usually serves merely as a backdrop to the projection of some more ideal or alternative reality by the artist. But with so-called Pop Art, the very backdrop of mass-culture became the foreground subject of art itself. By magnifying the lack of taste and extreme vulgarity or kitsch that are inevitable by-products of an increasingly globalised mass-culture, artists have not only ironically drawn attention to that debasement of taste, but equally stressed their own detachment from it, as though to assert that they themselves are privileged beings who stand outside society and remain untainted by its corruptions.

In 1962, the year in which Pop Art was established as the latest major artistic movement, Andy Warhol began his transition from hand-painted to photo-transferred art with a groundbreaking series of works. While these pieces mimicked a mechanical method of production, they were in fact hand-painted. The set of works was called simply Campbell’s Soup Cans, and would become one of the most iconic, signature pieces of his career. Pioneering a variety of techniques, but principally by means of the visual isolation of imagery, its repetition and enforced similarity to printed images, and the use of garish colour to denote the visual garishness that is often encountered in mass culture, Andy Warhol threw much direct or indirect light upon modern  world-weariness, nihilism, materialism, political manipulation, economic exploitation, conspicuous consumption, media hero-worship, and the creation of artificially-induced needs and aspirations.

First Pop Star of the Art World

Image Courtesy Pinterest

He was a legend in his own life time. Hardly anyones’s life has been covered by as much writing (and gossip) as Andy Warhol’s.There is a museum devoted to his work in his home- town of Pittsburgh. A foundation that bears his name distributes millions for worthwhile artistic endeavours. Shy, friendly and usually smiling, he some times gave an appearance of being aloof and and not being of the world.

Warhol’s images might initially appear to be rather simple. Yet because of that very simplicity they enjoy a high degree of immediate visual impact. Although hand-painted, the Soup Cans had the look of their industrially reproduced models. Warhol soon went further, applying the methods of mechanical re- production to painting, including later versions of the Soup Cans; he extended this industrial model of production to sculpture and the whole gamut of customarily “handmade” works of art, glorifying the banal artefacts of American consumer culture and its icons of celebrity. The Soup Cans, at first widely dismissed as the ultimate cynical gimmick, were soon recognized as the first shots of a total revolution in American culture.

Andy Warhol, the enigma

It’s too hard to look in the mirror, there’s nothing there.

Andy Warhol
American Pop artist Andy Warhol sits in front of several paintings in his ‘Endangered Species’ at his studio, the Factory, in Union Square, New York, New York, April 12, 1983. (Brownie Harris/Corbis/Getty Images)

This enigmatic quality, which made Warhol a celebrity, infused all his work with a kind of empty secret. It was there for others to interpret; the brilliantly terse aphorisms he coined about himself and his work, the interviews in which he claimed that other people did all his paintings for him, the exhibitionists he collected as a sort of protective gang around him, created a vast field of legend that steadily multiplied the value of everything he made.

In the book, Andy Warhol was a Hoarder~inside the minds of history’s great personalities by Claudia Kalb takes a peek into the psyche, that made Andy Warhol. Why did Andy Warhol fill hundreds of boxes with old postcards, medical bills, and pizza crusts?What drives creative genius and intellectual brilliance? And what lies beneath? Step inside and you are transported back into a rousing art world of the 1960s and 70s, encapsulated in Warhol’s innovative and rebellious work : The Campbell’s silk screens, the Brillobox installation, the “Silver Clouds” balloons, the silk screen of skulls and celebrities, the haunting self portraits with spiky hair, and the artist’s infamous “oxidation” works~ created in a museum describes by the Christie’s auction house as “copper metallic pigment and ruin on canvas.”

He was an accumulator of epic promotions. he loved to shop, and he did whenever or wherever he could ~five and dime stores, antique stores, hight~end galleries. Hoarding has existed for at least as long as Dante’s 14~century epic poem :The divine Comedy condemned hoarders to the fourth circle of hell, where they would spend eternity at war with the nemesis, the wasters. Today, many of us use the world to describe a bad habit that junks up our living room with magazine and our closets with shoes. Warhol’s cache was in a league of its own. What makes Warhol’s story so captivating is that he luxuriated in such divergent worlds~the upscale and the mundane and left behind a monumental mix of both.

In perhaps the most famous quote attributed to him, Warhol said ; “In future, everyone will be world famous for 15 minutes.” For Warhol and his stuff, 15 minutes turned out to be forever.

In The End

In the twentieth century, perhaps only Picasso left a comparably prodigious and variegated body of work.No one will ever get the final word on Andy Warhol. I considered him a brilliant provocateur, an artist of genius whose personality, as much as his art, exposed the vapid conformity, sexual repressiveness, and crass commercial values of American culture that prevailed during the 70s; like many, I read into Warhol’s ongoing enterprise a satirical contempt for the banality of that culture and its norms. That enterprise had, at first, a decidedly marginal character, appealed to a special kind of minority sensibility, and was valued precisely because of its “countercultural” insouciance. Yet whether the Soup Cans, and the staggering quantity of works that followed, signified contempt or reverence, love or loathing, a mixture of feelings or an absence of any feelings at all, could not be gleaned from the paintings themselves. And the artist had, by the time they were shown, perfected a laconic and distancing persona that confounded any definition and presented itself to the public as a glacial enigma.

Book Blog · Oscar Wilde · Quotes

Quoting Oscar Wilde

Image courtesy HistoryNet

“The best way to make children good is to make them happy.”

Oscar Wilde

I followed his advise. I got my daughter an ebook: ‘The Canterville Ghost, The Happy Prince and Other Stories.’ It worked like a charm, like it has for generations. Witty, inspiring and charismatic. Oscar Wilde is one of the greatest of English Literature. Today, his plays and stories are beloved around the world.But it was not always so. His afterlife has given him the legitimacy that life denied him.

A Bit of History

Wilde was one of London’s most popular playwrights in the early 1890’s. Wilde is still as popular as ever today amongst academics and students alike. Oscar Fingal O’Flahertie Wills Wilde was born in Dublin in 1854, the son of an eminent eye~surgeon and a nationalist poetess who wrote under the pseudonym of ‘Speranza’. He went to Trinity College , Dublin and despite winning a first prize for poetry, Wilde failed to obtain an Oxford fellowship, and was forced to earn a living by lecturing and writing for periodicals. After his marriage to Constance Lloyd in 1884, he tried to establish himself as a writer, but with little initial success.

However, his three volume of short fiction, The Happy Prince, Lord Arthur Savile’s Crime and A House of Pomegranates, together with his only novel, The Picture of Dorian Grey, gradually won him a reputation as a modern writer with an original talent, a reputation confirmed and enhanced by the phenomenal success of his Society Comedies ~ Lady Windermere’s Fan, A Woman of No Importance, An Ideal Husband and the Importance of Being Earnest, all performed on the West End stage between 1892 and 1895.

And now quoting Mr. Wilde

“A man’s face is his autobiography. A woman’s face is her work of fiction.”

 “All women become like their mothers. That is their tragedy. No man does. That’s his.”

“Deceiving others. That is what the world calls a romance.”

“Experience is simply the name we give our mistakes.”

“When the gods wish to punish us they answer our prayers.”

“Romance should never begin with sentiment. It should begin with science and end with a settlement.”

“There is a luxury in self-reproach. When we blame ourselves we feel no one else has a right to blame us.”

 “Men marry because they are tired; women, because they are curious; both are disappointed.”

“A dreamer is one who can only find his way by moonlight, and his punishment is that he sees the dawn before the rest of the world.”

“One should always be in love. That is the reason one should never marry.”

 “The only thing to do with good advice is to pass it on. It is never of any use to oneself.”

 “The one charm about marriage is that it makes a life of deception absolutely necessary for both parties.”

“Pessimist: One who, when he has the choice of two evils, chooses both.”

“It is better to have a permanent income than to be fascinating.”

 “A poet can survive everything but a misprint.”

“Some cause happiness wherever they go; others whenever they go.”

“I choose my friends for their good looks, my acquaintances for their good characters, and my enemies for their intellects. A man cannot be too careful in the choice of his enemies.”

“The old believe everything, the middle-aged suspect everything, the young know everything.”

“No woman should ever be quite accurate about her age. It looks so calculating.”

“One can survive everything, nowadays, except death, and live down everything except a good reputation.”

“I have the simplest tastes. I am always satisfied with the best.

The public has an insatiable curiosity to know everything, except what is worth knowing.

THE END

Success, however, was shot lived. In 1891 Wilde had met and fallen in love with Lord Alfred Douglas. In 1895, with his success as a dramatist was at its hight, Wilde brought an unsuccessful libel action against Douglas’s father, and lost the case and two trials later was sentenced to two year imprisonment for acts of gross indecency. As a result of this experience he wrote The Ballard of Reading Goal. he was released from prison in 1897 and went into an immediate self ~ imposed exile. He died in Paris in ignominy in 1900.

Black and White · Camera · Landscape Photography · Photography Blog · Productivity · Tips

Landscape Photography: A League of its Own

‘Zigi, Cyprus: a quintessential and a picturesque fishing Village.’ Mono conversion in Photoshop with additional levels and sharpening adjustments were made.

Last post, I discussed the genera of black and white photography and as I was prepping for my next blog I realised, why not continue the thread and share some of my own black and white work and also discuss landscape photography. For many people new to the world of photography, one of the easiest and most accessible area first explored with a new camera is the great outdoors. One doesn’t need a ton of gear or a fancy studio set up ! There is plenty of available natural light, which according to my own experience is the best kind. So put on your best walking shoes and on a beautiful spring morning equipped with your camera, let’s begin our adventure. But before you do, why not take a quick look at our essential photography tips.

Although there is no right or wrong to shooting landscape, there are a few tips that can elevate your shot and have them stand out against the general background noise of countless dull photos.Landscape are an excellent subject to convert into black and white. Look at the work of Ansel Adams and his iconic black-and-white landscape images which helped establish photography among the fine arts.

Landscape Photography Tips

  1. Research your location
Photo by Vojta Kovau0159u00edk on Pexels.com

Take time to research your shooting location if you have not been there. Google Earth and google street view are good options. Not all information that comes up may be useful but some images of other photographers may pop up and that will give you a heads~up as to whether it is an easy or difficult place to reach. There may be tips concerning local regulations and best places to photograph~ so do your research before you hit the rubber !

2. Use appropriate app

Image courtsey Sunset Magazine

There are apps available that can tell you where the sun will be at any point on a given day. These apps can overlay information on a map of your given destination, showing where the sun will rise and set. This is good to know information as you can work out the best time to shoot . Shooting near sunset is a good idea especially black and white photography as shadows are long and contrasts are high. There is also the possibility of dramatic silhouette. Sun Seekers for IOS and Sun Surveyor for Android are a good options.

3. Always be prepared

Photo by Andrew Neel on Pexels.com

Make sure you dress for the condition you are shooting in. Travel light as possible, and a purchase of a good quality rucksack or a rough terrain camera bag will stand you in good stead for your journey. Make sure to carry extra batteries and back up camera in case you are planning a long day trip, not to forget that you tell someone you’r out there and have a phone with you all times.

4. Visualise the shots

Photo by jasmin chew on Pexels.com

Take time to actually look around the landscape you are in, before taking any photos. Scan your surrounding and try and visualise where the best shots can be taken from. Sometimes it is a good idea to scout the location a day before you shoot, just walking through the landscape, taking note of the best positions, angles and viewpoint for future reference. Keep in mind the key requirement that the image needs to be converted to black and white. Form, composition, light and texture will define your shot when seen in black and white.

5. The Magic hour

Zigi Village, Cyprus at the time of sunset. Removing the color gives you the chance to absorb the details in the sky and rock.
Nikon D7200~35mm~f:2.8 ISO 100

In photography the golden hour is a common terminology. For gorgeous landscape shoot at sunrise and for an hour or so after that, or at sunset and a hour or so before it sets.The light has luminous quality and the shadows are long and shows off the counters of the land, which is ideal for black and white images. The sky is bright with various hues and if you catch a sunrise or subset with an interesting set of cloud formation, and more texture and details, the better the mono image. Watch your local weather forecast for a better shoot.

6. The Blue hour light

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

People also refer to the “Blue Hour”, which is the twilight period you experience at the end of the day when the sun is below the horizon, but its influence can be seen in the sky.This light is idle for cityscape where you can capture the city lights against a deep blue, inky sky. You need to be aware, though, the window of opportunity is relatively small before the sun sinks and renders the sky black.It usually last 45 minutes after sunset and before sunrise.

7. Stable with a Tripod

Photo by Matheus Bertelli on Pexels.com

A tripod is a must for a landscape photography. You may be working in low light conditions and a handheld shots are not going to be sharp. You may also want long exposure time to render water soft and misty, or show clouds moving for added drama.An effect that works very well in black and white images. there are plenty of strong, lightweight tripod to choose from, and is a good investment.Couple a cable release with it and you are taking big step in reducing any unwanted camera shake and vibration.

8. Shoot RAW

Salt Lake~ Cyprus

Try and shoot RAW and get out of the habit of shooting jpeg.If you want the best from your shots, you need to switch to RAW format. As the name suggests, is the uncompressed, unprocessed image data straight from the camera sensor. The files are much bigger than jpeg, but give you much latitude when it comes to processing the final image. Details lost in the shadows in the original shot can be revealed through processing. You can also enhance the image contrast, tonal quality and exposure.

9. Use Filters

Photo by Rachel Claire on Pexels.com

Think about investing in filters. A circular polarised is a useful one. It can boost the contrast in a blue sky and white clouds which is useful when converting to mono. Just be aware that polarisers work best when the sun is behind you, or at least over your shoulder. If you are serious about landscape photography, probably the single best one you could purchase is a natural density graduated filter. If you are shooting a scene that has a lot of variation in the tonal values between the land and the bright sky, the ND grads will help stop the sky from burning up.

10. Long Distance Shot

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Landscape does not always have to be the widest lens. Some time a long focal length is great at picking up distance detail which a wide~angel lens cannot. Zoom lenses are also a great way to zoom in and out, allowing you to crop your shot and alter the composition without having to move long distance. Lenses in the 24mm~105mm range are a good intermediate wide~angle zooms which gives you lot of framing choice. It is not uncommon to use 70mm~200mm lens as well. Don’t forget to shoot in portrait orientation too~experiment.

11. Framing and composition

Zigi Village ~ Cyprus. The curve of the line along the boats and the sky make for an interesting composition.

Composition is a very subjective thing. What looks good to one eye may not be same for another.If nothing else, keep the “rule of third”as your main composition tool, along with leading lines to draw you into the shot.Imagine that your frame is split into lines of third, both vertical and horizontal.Placing an object of interest in one of the points where these lines intersect means you are creating interest and also balance to your shot.Not to say, that rules can’t be broken. Don’t be afraid to experiment.

12. Mirror Lock up

When you are set up and ready to shoot, consider the stability of the tripod.Even the sturdiest tripod can shake in the wind or soft soil. In addition, the movement of the camera’s mirror flipping up and down with each shot can also create vibration that can effect the shot’s sharpness.If you set your camera for mirror lock~up, it will flip the mirror out of the way long before the shutter opens up to take the shot, giving time for any vibration to cease. Couple this with cable realise or a remote trigger to fire the camera without you needing to touch it.

13. Don’t fear the Histogram

Image Courtesy Purple 11

Most cameras today have the option to display the histogram of the image you capture. A histogram is the graphic representation of the total value in the shot and how they are distributed. If the graph is bunched at the far left, then your shot is underexposed and you risk the loss of lot of details to shadow area. If it is sliding to the right hand side, then your image is over exposed and the details will be lost in highlight area. The more dynamic range you can capture in colour, the more scope you have when you do the conversion in black and white.

Final thoughts

Always review your shots after you take them. It can be very disheartening to take what you think is a wonderful shot, only to get home , process the shot and see that it is out of focus or badly framed. Use the camera LCD screen to zoom into the shot and check them for sharpness and detail, and confirm the composition is looking as you had imagined. Bear in mind that not all cameras show you 100% of the frame in the optical or electronic view~finder, so reviewing the image on the LCD screen or on~screen is very important.

Black and White · Camera · Natural Light · Photography · Tips

Top Black and White Photography Tips:What I Wish I Had Know

Photo by Jou00e3o Cabral on Pexels.com

I first started photography with a single minded dedication around 8 years back. I started with a entry level starters kit, a Nikkon D3500. I had just enrolled in a photography course and a DSLR camera was going to be my lens to the world. At that time I knew nothing about photography, using the camera, post production ,and finishing prints.Black and White photography always had a special place in my hear, however the course did not dive much onto the nitty gritties of monochrome photography.

There are plenty of things I wish I had learned sooner than I did, a few things I wish I had done differently, and plenty of thoughts and opinions I had back then that have completely changed.  For those of you who are just starting out in the realm of monochrome, I hope that by sharing a few of the tips that I wish I had known sooner in the learning process, it can help accelerate your learning curve to a speed a bit faster than my own. 

ESSENTIAL TIPS FOR BETTER BLACK AND WHITE IMAGES

  1. Shoot in Color and in Raw
Photo by Anete Lusina on Pexels.com

Today, the cameras have a lot of creative functions that give you the option to capture your image in black and white at the outset. Doing this may actually result in loss of tonal range. It you shoot in colour and especially in Raw format, you will be capturing the full range of tonality that your camera’s sensor can see. This is a much better starting point than an in~camera mono image. Most cameras can capture photos in two different file types.  In short, RAW files are larger than JPEG and take up more space on your hard drive, but they provide you with unparalleled freedom to edit your photo non-destructively, meaning that you can do what you want to it without risking a loss in image quality.

2. Keep your ISO low

Photo by Lu00ea Minh on Pexels.com

The lower the ISO, the less grainy the image will be. If it means using a tripod instead of hand holding in case of slower shutter speed, then that is a good thing. Too often the camera ISO will be left on auto, pushing up ISO speed to make sure there is no camera shake. The downside is that high ISO equals higher noise in your image, which will only be exacerbated by post~production stage.

3. The BEST CONDITION FOR SHOOT

Photo by eberhard grossgasteiger on Pexels.com

Truth be told, there aren’t necessarily any best condition to shoot black and white. Some mono shooters actually prefer to take their shots on an overcast and generally dark days. The low contrast seem to be a draw for these photographers. Certainly, a grey cloudy sky can be made to look very moody and dramatic, as opposite to a blue sky. A lot of it comes down to your personal preference and mono conversion technique.

4. LIGHTING IN YOUR SCENE

Photo by Tomas Anunziata on Pexels.com

Your image can stand or fall on the quality of light in the scene. It is generally held that midday sunlight knocks details flat and creative process is more limited. For landscape particularly, the first light of the morning or the last light of the evening is much more dramatic and prized. Light glancing across the land picks up details, throws long dramatic shadows and enhances contrasts. You can use this light for mood and dram that is absent when the sun is at its zenith.

5. CONSIDER YOUR SUBJECT

Photo by Sanaan Mazhar on Pexels.com

Trying to think in black and white~that is to say, trying to visualise the scene in front of you with all its colours absent ~ is a good skill to try and develop. The question you have to ask your self is that whether the resulting image will improve by being in black and white, or whether colour would be the best option. Not every image will work in black and white. Sometimes the removal of colour can also remove the differentiation between objects that could easily be distinguished were they in colour.

6. COMPOSE YOURSELF

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The basic rules that apply to colour photography also apply to black and white. The rule of thirds, golden ratio, leading lines, framing and viewpoints are all well established guidelines that can make even the simplest scene stronger with some care and attention given to the composition of the final shot. Now, having said that, sometimes rules can be broken. If you find your scene not compliant with the rules, but aesthetically pleasing, no harm in going for it.

7. Look for shapes and forms

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In black and white particularly, shape and form become very important to the success of the image. Converting to black and white means you can no longer rely on colours in the scene to define or differentiate your subject from the environment. You need to be able to take the shapes, lines and forms available in the shot, and use them as the method by which the image is given an obvious focal point or point of interest.

8. Emerging Patterns

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The shift from colour to black and white often revels details that might otherwise have been hidden under the clock of colour. Colourful items in a shot can be distracting, as we’ve already mentioned, sometimes to the point of masking very interesting but perhaps subtle patterns that can only be appreciated once striped off its colour.

9. TEXTURE ADDS INTEREST

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Can you imagine how flat and featureless our world would be without texture? Keep in mind when you shoot for black and white. A mono image and texture are inexplicably linked, and part of the overall success of an image depends on the elements that can show the depth, dimensions, and contrast. Textured objects reflect light in interesting ways and draw the viewer’s eye into the scene

10. COLOUR your image

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Black and white images do not need to be in just one tone. Consider a duotone image where shades of black and white is replaced by two other colours. Sepia toning is one of the main staples of a black and white image. There is also the cyanotype or the split toning technique. All these results can be very exciting.

11. DODGE AND BURN

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Just relying on a simple desaturated image is not exploring the potential of black and white photography. The tonal quality of an image can be enhanced by a few simple adjustments to brightness and contrast. By using dodge (lightening) and burn (darkening) techniques in specific area of your image, can work wonders in improving the overall quality of the image.

12. Consider HDR

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‘HDR’ stands for High Dynamic Range. The term originates in photography, and refers to a technique to heighten a picture’s dynamic range – the contrast between the brightest whites and the darkest blacks.Usually two or three stops apart, these LDR’s when fused together, capture more light data in a scene than a single shot. Perfect for scenes with lots of texture that you can bring out in the conversion stage of your workflow.

13. Watch the Skies

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Be aware the grey overcast can produce some spectacular moody shots. However, watch out for skies that are one single tone of grey with no cloud formation showing. When converted, this will make for a fairly boring looking sky with no texture or point of interest.

14. Shoot as often and learn

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Guess, it all boils down to the fact that you have to be out there and shoot. The more you shoot, the wider the range of subject you experience, and the greater the variety of lighting conditions you encounter. This will all help to train your eye and your brain to “see” that perfect black and white image through a sea of colour. Experiment and have fun.

Social media is the go-to way for most people to get their work out into the world, and for good reason.  Platforms like Facebook and Instagram give everyone the ability to get their work in front of thousands of people that would never see it otherwise.  However, consistently posting on social media and replying to those interacting with you can be a part-time job in itself, and for most photographers, the benefits are rarely proportional.  If you want your photos to be seen in a meaningful way (as opposed to most on the internet who will scroll past it within literally two seconds), network the old fashion way.  Join camera clubs, reach out to other photographers, and meet with prospective clients.

15. SEEK INSPIRATION

Image by Sally Mann on Pinterest

Take time to familiarise yourself not only with the work of some of the greats of black and white photographers, but also your contemporaries. Flickr, the image sharing website, is a great place to gain inspiration and see what other photographers are doing. Also look at images by yesteryear photographers like Ansel Adams, Man Ray, Richard Avedon , Michael Kenna, Fan Ho and Sally Mann to name a few.

Final Thoughts

Discover through trial and error the great potential of black and white photography. It takes time to develop a knack for seeing through the clutter of colors. I am still learning and by no means even close to perfection and the list is far from a comprehensive, but hopeful it will bring you a little closer in honing your skills as a black and white photographer, and every insight may be able to give budding photographers what they need to continue to progress.

Bill Gates · Book Blog · Book Review · nonfiction

5 Books recommended by Bill Gates during lockdown year, 2020

Every year, Bill Gates comes out with his personal reading recommendations. He focuses on a certain number of books each time, providing a brief overview of why each one has stood out for him.Most of the books that he recommends are deeply informative and not all are easy read. Starting in 2014, he even began recording short videos to go with his book recommendations.

WHAT ARE BILL GATES’S BOOK RECOMMENDATIONS?

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For the year just gone by, which had no semblance to reality, somehow still feels more like a bad dream than reality~ here are five books which Bill Gates recommends, as most of us have some time in hand to read. It is an impressive list, consisting largely of nonfiction. Science and technology, medicine, business, economics, education, international development, sociology, history, biography, memoir—name it, and chances are there is at least one book in the genre.

Well the list is not perfect, especially if you are someone not into the genre of nonfiction, there are notably fewer choices in this list for you. However, take a look, chances are that there may be some book that may grab your attention. As for me, the book ” The Spy and the Traitors” by Ben Macintyre was a total a nail-biter of a read!

  1. The Spy and the Traitor: The Greatest Espionage Story of the Cold War by Ben Macintyre
Image Courtesy Amazon.com

Considering that this book belongs to a nonfiction genre, it has all the elements of a thrilling Cold War-era tale of Oleg Gordievsky, the Russian whose secret work helped hasten the collapse of the Soviet Union.Bill Gates points out that though it may be hard for most of us to remember the Cold War era~ the Soviet Union was once viewed as a better system in a certain moral sense than the West. What makes the book so interesting is the complexity of the plot which is just as good as a spy novel and yet it is a true story.

2. Breath from Salt: A Deadly Genetic Disease, a New Era in Science, and the Patients and Families Who Changed Medicine Forever by Bijal P. Trivedi

Image Amazon.com

Cystic fibrosis was once a mysterious disease that killed infants and children. Now it could be the key to healing millions with genetic diseases of every type—from Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s to diabetes and sickle cell anemia. The books is all about: What is this disease to tracking these kids and how to keep them alive ? It’s a book about hope for children suffering from this genetic disease. If the kids are started on the drug at a young age, chances are that they will live a normal life.

3. Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World by David Epstein

Image Amazon.com

The book explores the idea that should you just do one thing very well or a broad set of things. Plenty of experts argue that anyone who wants to develop a skill, play an instrument, or lead their field should start early, focus intensely, and rack up as many hours of deliberate practice as possible. But the author tries to make a case that over specialisation in general, can actually make you less effective. Generalists often find their path late, and they juggle many interests rather than focusing on one. They’re also more creative, more agile, and able to make connections their more specialized peers can’t see.

4. The Splendid and the Vile: A Saga of Churchill, Family, and Defiance During the Blitz by Erik Larson

Image Amazon.com

This a a brilliant and fast paced, a history book can get, according to Gates. On Winston Churchill’s first day as prime minister, Adolf Hitler invaded Holland and Belgium. Poland and Czechoslovakia had already fallen, and the Dunkirk evacuation was just two weeks away. For the next twelve months, Hitler would wage a relentless bombing campaign, killing 45,000 Britons. It was up to Churchill to hold his country together and persuade President Franklin Roosevelt that Britain was a worthy ally–and willing to fight to the end.

5. The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Color blindness by Michelle Alexander

Image Amazon.com

The author writes, how low~income people and particularly black people get into a cycle where males are often locked behind bars or have been labeled felons for life. Although Jim Crow laws have been wiped off the books, an astounding percentage of the African American community remains trapped in a subordinate status–much like their grandparents before them.The judicial system and its harshness to a great extent is responsible for creating this terrible situation.

Chances are that there might be at least one read that will grab your attention. So go ahead and choose your pick. Happy Reading !

P.S. Do drop in a line if any of the above mentioned book you have already read or planning to read in future.

Book Blog · Book Review · Charles Duhigg · Non Fiction · Self~Help

Be Smarter, Leaner, Faster: The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg

I don’t know about you, but this habit of snacking has to stop and thanks to this book, I have the perfect solution to my dilemma or gluttony !

Define Habit

They are the choices that all of us deliberately make at some point, and then stop thinking about but continue doing, often every day. At one point we consciously decide how much to eat, how often to have a drink or when to go for a jog. Then we stopped making a choice, and the behaviour became automatic. It’s a natural consequence of our neurology. And by understanding how it happens, you can rebuild those patterns in whichever way you choose.

More than 40% of the actions people perform each day weren’t actual decision, but habits.

Duke University research, 2006

Practical Example : Step 1

As I have already mentioned I above, this insatiable habit of snacking. Come late afternoon and I am on the prowl~the refrigerator, the pantry~ nothing is beyond my reach. Think I’ll just have one cookie or a couple of potato chips?

Not if there’s a bag of either in the kitchen. ” Self~discipline is overrated and undependable.” Tim Ferris

Not only it is unhealthy, I soon realised that the pounds were adding on. Charles says that the first thing we do is that we start by diagnosing and changing this behavior. By figuring out the habit loop.And the first step is to identify the routine ~ as in my case the routine is the most obvious aspect: it’s the behaviour you want to change . I get up from my desk in the afternoon, walk up to my pantry or fridge and eat handful of nuts or chips ~ which is never limited to one handful !

Image Courtesy Milestone Fitness

So now we do some brainstorming

  • Whats the cue?
  • Is it hunger?
  • or boredom?
  • a sugar low or fatigue?

And What’s the reward

  • The snack itself?
  • The change of scenery?
  • Temporary distraction?
  • Craving for sweet\sugar?

Step 2

Rewards are powerful beacuse they satisfy craving. But we are often not conscious of the craving that drives the behaviour. To find out which craving are driving a particular habit, it’s useful to experiment with different rewards. This require some patience as it may take a few days or a week. I started experimenting ~ everytime I feel the urge to walk up to the pantry, I change my course and go to my precocious eleven years old, who does’t approve of my sudden appearance, or the days when she banned me totally, I went for an early walk outside. I also tried substituting junk food or as Tim Ferris would call the “domino food” with healthy alternative like carrot or an apple. You get the idea. The point is to test different hypothesis to determine which craving is driving the routine. Keep experimenting and jot down three things that come to your mind. They can be emotions, random thoughts, reflection on how you feel. Then set an alarm on your watch for 15 minutes. When it goes off, ask yourself~ do you still feel the urge to snack? Once you figure the routine and the reward, what remains is identifying the cue.

STEP 3: Isolate the cue

Charles says that the reason why its so hard to identify the cue that triggers our habits because there are too many information bombarding us as our behaviour unfolds. What I realised that the cue in my case was an urge to get a snack at a certain time of the day. It wasn’t the hunger but a temporary distraction that I was craving~ the kind that comes from gossiping with friends.

STEP 4: HAVE A PLAN

Once you figure the habit loop~you’ve identified the reward driving your behaviour, the cue triggering it, and the routine itself~you can begin to shift the behaviour. Now all I do is call a friend and chat for ten minutes. It didn’t work immediately but as I worked towards it ~abided by my plan ~ I forced myself at times to call a friend ~mostly my mum, I found that I ended my day feeling better.

Conclusion

When I see a CUE, I will do ROUTINE in order to get a REWARD.

To re~engineer that formula, we need to begin making choices again. And the easiest way to do this is to have a plan. Psychologists call it ” implementation intention”

All our life, so far as it has definite form, is but a mass of habits.

William James

Most of the choice we make each day may feel like the product of well considered decision making, but they’re not. They’re habits.

Image Courtesy Pinterest