Lessons Learnt from 80Yrs

Here are some of the lessons from Blackstone’s Byron Wien in his first 80 years:

  1. Concentrate on finding a big idea that will make an impact on the people you want to influence.  The Ten Surprises, which I started doing in 1986, has been a defining product.  People all over the world are aware of it and identify me with it.  What they seem to like about it is that I put myself at risk by going on record with these events which I believe are probable and hold myself accountable at year-end.  If you want to be successful and live a long, stimulating life, keep yourself at risk intellectually all the time.
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Maate Malayadwaja – Carnatic Classical

One of the most iconic & classic rendition of this raaga/song. 
Lyrics:

pallavi
Mathe Malaya dhwaja pandya samjathe mathanga vadana guha
(mate – 5times)
anupallavi
Sathodari sankari Chamundeswari Chandrakaladhari Thaye Gowri
(mAtE – 5times)
Swara
da da ni da da ni da da ni da da ni pa ma
da da ni ri sa ni sa da ni sa da pa pa ma
da da ni ga ri ni ri sa ni da pa ni da ma
da da ma ga ma pa ma pa da da ni ni da ma
da da ri sa ni da ni da da ma da ni ma ni
da da sa sa pa da ni da da ma ga ri sa ni
da da pa da da ni da da sa da ni da
ma ga ri sa ni da ni sa ni ni da da pa ma

(repeat at speed)

Jathi
thAmthAm thakajoNu dadanida dimithika | tamtam kukuthari thajaNutha dapamama ||
dAdA nigarini risadhimi tharikita | jamjam thakitatha kukuthari Namthari ||
dAthathin ginathari jEkumada nithaka | Namthasa sathimitha thomthadi mithakita ||
dAdapa dAdatha rEkusa dArijam | magari sanidA nisanini dadapama ||
(repeat at speed)
SAhityA
Data sakala kala nipuna chathura
Data vividha matha samaya samarasa
Data sulabha hrudaya madhura vachana
Data sarasa ruchira tara swaralaya
Geetha sukada nija bhava rasikavara dhata
Mahisha suranada nalmadi srikrishna rajendra nadaya
Sada pore mahitha harikesa manohare sadaya
(repeat at speed)
(mate – repeat 1time)
charaNam
Shyame sakala bhuvana sarva bhoume sasi mandala madhyaga (repeat 5times)

MA,MA, pani dada papa magamapa MA,MA, nida MAsani dapadada

Shyame sakala bhuvana sarva bhoume sasi mandala madhyaga
nidanida dapapama PAPA nidapama gamaPA nidaMA sanidapa MAnida

Shyame sakala bhuvana sarva bhoume sasi mandala madhyaga
saSAsa nidanisa niDApa magamapa maMAma samagama pasanida NI (repeat 2times)
nidani padani mapadani gamapadani samagama padani samagari sasanida pada

Shyame sakala bhuvana sarva bhoume sasi mandala madhyaga

gani magamadani sama nigama sanima nidaga nigari dada rini sadani pada samagama nida nidamaga

(mAtE)

composed by Harikesavanallur Muthiah Bhagavathar

—————————————————

Meaning:
 
O Mother! You are the daughter of the Pandya king Malayadhwaja,
You are the lady with the face glowing green.
O Mother! You have the beauty of the moon.
You have the great expertise in all the arts,
You allow equal rights to all the creeds,
You are soft and sweet spoken,
You express affection in music and rhythm,
You inspire us with your beautiful and expressive song,
You have gained fame for killing the demon, Mahishasura,
You protect and care for Sri Krishna Rajendra, the Maharaja of Mysore,
Even pray to Siva and the mother Parvati.
Mother! You glow with the blue colour,
You care for the whole world,
You glow like a full moon.
——————————————————————–
Notes:

“Maate Malayadhwaja” is a prayer to the Hindu goddess Madurai Meenakshy Devi.

——————————————————————-

 

Paneer Jalfrazi

Paneer Jalfrezi is an easy & tasty paneer dish that goes great with rumali roti & biryani. This will not take more than 20mins which for Indian cooking is fast food!

To keep it simple, follow the steps below:

  1. Take a non-stick pan, heat it, add a spoon full of butter and let it melt.
  2. Take a packet of Paneer, wash it and cut them into 1×1 inch cubes.
  3. Now add the paneer to the butter and let the paneer fry till they turn brown. Not fried but to make them firm.
  4. Now cut the following vegetables as big chunks and keep them aside – 1 onion, 1 bell pepper & 2 tomatoes. Keeping them big is key.
  5. Now take a deep/big pan and dry roast – 5 peppercorns, cumin seeds, fennel seeds, coriander seeds and 4-5 red chillies. Keep them aside to cool. After they cool, grind them for 10secs and take out half of the mixture. Finely grind the remaining mixture.
  6. Now in the same dish, add another spoon of butter and when it melts, add the vegetables and stir fry them rapidly. Now add the fine mixture to make sure it mixes with the vegetables. Add some salt to make sure it cooks faster.
  7. Now add the panner and on high flame, keep stir frying. You don’t need a lot of time here; you need the garnish to mix well.
  8. Turn off the flame and add the corse mixture on top, add some mint leaves and leave the curry covered for a few minutes before serving.

One difference between how I make this and what is traditionally made is the addition of tomato sauce. I don’t like it as it get too tangy and the paneer gets a tomato flavor & I like to retain the paneer flavor.

Mirchi ka Salan

Mirchi ka Salan is one of those dishes that you have to spend a ton of time making it and then it fades away as a side dish. But a biryani, especially a Hyderabadi biryani, without a really good salan is just a dinner incomplete.

Salan, either Mirchi or any other time needs time and patience. My order of making biryani dinner is to make the biryani first and set it up for 4hrs of slow cook & then start the salan. This will need about 2hrs.

To keep it simple, follow the steps below:

  1. Take a non-stick pan and heat it till its hot. Put the flame on a simmer and add a small cup of groundnuts. Roast them for 2mins till they become slightly brown and their skin starts coming off. Then add, using the same small cup as before, sesame seeds. Roast these for a minute. Now turn off the flame and add a small cup of grated coconut. Mix well and leave it on the pan for another 2-3 minutes. Now put them in a blender and let them cool.
  2. In the same non-stick pan, add a lot of oil. Heat the oil well and add a small spoonful of mustard seeds. When mustard seeds splutter add cumin seeds, red chillies, methi seeds. Let all of these cook for a bit.
  3.  Cut 1 big onion into small rings and add it to the mixture and let the onions sauté for a while. Onions don’t need to be brown but they need to get soggy. Now add salt, curry leaves and let the curry leave get soft.
  4. Now add a spoonful of ginger garlic paste cook till raw flavor is gone. Now add turmeric, red chilly powder, cumin powder, coriander powder. Mix all of this well.
  5. Now grind the groundnut, sesame & grated coconut mixture into a fine paste by adding water and add it to the frying ingredients. Add water till the mixture becomes really thin and has no lumps.
  6. Now comes the most important part. Put this on a slow flame, cover with a lid and leave it without touch for 60mins. No short cuts here, just leave it as it is. After 60mins and take a look. If you do not see oil separated out fully, leave it on for another 30mins. The whole taste rests on this step.
  7. Heat some oil in a different pan, slice big mirchi’s vertically; remove the seeds and fry them in the oil. The mirchi need not get deep fried but needs to be fried enough to hold shape.
  8. Slice mint and coriander leaves and add it to the simmering mixture. Now add 3-4 spoons of yogurt to this and mix well. At this point, the mixture may get thick. Add some water if needed. At this time, taste a little to check salt, spiciness. Add what is needed.
  9. Heat some oil, put a lemon sized serving of tamarind and squeeze the juice out.
  10. Add the tamarind juice to the simmering mixture and taste again.
  11. Now add the fried mirchi to the mixture, cover the lid and simmer for 10mins. This will get the mirchi to soak in the flavors.
  12. Serve along with biryani.

Sambar – Andhra Home Style

Sambar in our house is always made the same way. Non-complicated; non restaurant style but something that is light and good with rice/idly & dosa.

To keep it simple, follow the following steps:

  1. Take a palm full or toor dal, add water & pressure cook the dal. Make sure it is done well.
  2. Cut vegetables first. The technique of Sambar is that there should be more water and it should not be like a gravy. For this, use very few vegetables so that its wet. Cut 2 okra, 1 onion, 1 tomato, 1 brinjal & 1/5th of bottle gourd. If you have large green chillies, cut one. Cut all vegetables into huge pieces – not small.
  3. Heat some water in a small cup; take a lemon sized portion of tamarind; wash it and leave it in the hot water.
  4. Take a huge vessel and pour 4-5 tbs of oil. You will need a little more oil in this step. Heat the oil and when its hot add in the following order – Urad Dal, Channa Dal, Cumin & Mustard seeds. Let these turn golden brown. Lower the flame and now add dhaniya (1tbsp) and just 4 pepper corns. After they cook for a minute, add 4 red chillies and shut down the flame. Remove this onto a plate & let this cool. Leave excess oil in this vessel.
  5. In the same vessel, with the same excess oil, put in all of the vegetables, a few curry leaves and fry them. Fry for a while to make them mushy.
  6. After 10mins, squeeze the tamarind juice & without any pulp, pour the tamarind juice into the vegetables. Mix well.
  7. Now add 2 big glasses of water & let it come to boil.
  8. Now add the cooked dal and let it simmer for 10-15mins till everything mixes in well.
  9. Add salt as desired and add 1 tbsp of haldi powder.
  10. Lower the flame & when you are done simmering the mixture and 5mins before you are done; grind the tadka mixture very fine; add it to the vessel.
  11. After 5mins, remove the Sambar.

Vegetable Dum Biryani – Simple Style

In my series of mastering the various biryani styles from all over India, here is a recipe for a quick 1hr preparation.

To make it simple, follow the steps in order.

  1. Soak Rice first. Plan rice to masala ration. Make sure you keep rice to masala ration of 2:1. When rice is flavorful, the masala will become secondary.
  2. Heat a small quantity of oil. Make sure the oil is hot. Chop onions finely when the oil is heating. Mix the onions with corn flour and in small batches, fry the onions. The goal here is to fry them and keep them aside so that they become dry and crunchy.
  3. Marinate – Sour Yogurt, Salt, Red Pepper, Turmeric, Whole Masala & Bombay Dum Biryani Masala, Oil.
  4. In a 1:2 ratio, grind ginger & garlic to form a coarse paste. Add into the marinate above.
  5. Chop Vegetables in a slightly bigger fashion.
    • Mushrooms
    • Carrot
    • Potato
    • Green Beans.
    • Cauliflower
  6. Chop greens – Mint and Coriander. Make sure there are no thick stalks. Keep aside.
  7. Add in the chopped vegetables to the marinate; add in half of the mint and coriander and keep it aside for 30mins.
  8. Boil water. When boiling, cook rice up to 75%. Add in some salt and oil.
  9. Take a deep, big pan, put some oil and garnish the marinate+vegetables.
  10. Pour rice on vegetables.
  11. High Heat for 5 mins and low heat for 15mins with close lid.

Happy Cooking!

The Revenant

Disturbing, gruesome, hard to digest. Revenant as a visual experience is a tough watch.

But for what its worth, once you sit through the movie, there are questions that you ask yourself. Can we, the modern 21st century humans can deal with lack of material comforts and technology. Do we have what it takes to survive the elements and have a hunger to live. Maybe its unfair considering the advances we have made but makes you wonder if a story like this, how much ever  fictionalized, could have ever happened a couple of centuries back.

Tom Hardy was phenomenal and is lost in the character.  He does not stand out as someone who needs to be felt for or thought about even though the performance is stellar.

As expected, this is a Leonardo DiCaprio show. Does he deserve an Oscar for this performance – maybe or maybe not – but the suffering to make this movie and the determination to showcase the braving of elements deserves our applause. IMHO, he should have been given an award a long time back and I am wondering if he had one; would this movie have a different dimension to it; maybe we would have gotten to see the side of story that was less about suffering and more about the return from death – the revenant. And maybe, just maybe, Alejandro Inarritu would have directed a movie with a little more to it than just human ability to survive for revenge.

The Hateful Eight

And the 8th film does not disappoint as well. A story that can be summarized in one line but the whole 2.5hrs does justice to what all needs to take place to serve revenge cold!

A director whose filmography I go tend to go back to on those nights when you cannot sleep, the hateful eight adds a type of screen-writing edge that made me want to immediately re-watch the film to make sure I get to experience the intensity for a couple of more hrs.

And that it is 70mm is just the icing on the cake.

Loving Work!

Simple checklist of why I love the work I do:

  1. I am truly passionate about the work. I really believe in it and I love it!
  2. I get to take on work that I like, work when I like and generally control all aspects of my life (with & without work)
  3. I don’t have to worry about un-necessary stuff. Meetings, events, politics.
  4. I get paid very well for the work I do and the talent I possess.
  5. I have a good life, all things considering!

Walking!

So simple, yet so difficult.

In the last 3days, I have walked closed to 15miles. That’s all I did. Just walked 4 times in the last 3 days, 45mins on the treadmill – resisting the urge to run or lift waits or think about routines. Just walk.

Its boring! It feels idiotic but mostly, it feels useless. It feels like I am wasting my time and it feels like I could be getting so much value doing something else.

But…

For once I want to give this a shot. 3miles everyday for a month. I will read fiction or non-fiction and not think about if its adding value or not but just showing up and doing it right and doing it everyday! Small steps, simple progress forward; continuous improvements. That’s what I tell my clients anyways…

Home Buying: Lessons and Experiences

Saw a house we fell in love with in the middle of May; had the lowest offer among the bidders but a letter to do with FC Barcelona and FC Liverpool did the trick, went through ups and downs of inspections, contingencies, appraisals and about 12days past supposed closing date, signed the papers. Keys in hand and some celebration. Home Ownership, phew!

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Mandolin Shrinivas – Rest in Music

Call it the bane of living away from what affects one’s heart a lot. 4 months late; just found out about the passing of Mandolin Shrinivas last September (thanks to this dedication by Amit Trivedi).

My first recollection of hearing Shrinivas was during the Sunday 10AM Doordarshan’s Spirit of Unity Concerts from Madras Telugu Academy in early 90’s mostly with Shankar Mahadevan & a lot of young kids. The first I saw him live was during Remember Shakti’s winter India tour where they performed at Hyderabad’s Taramati Baradri sometime in 02/03.

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40 Reasons for a man to dress well

Not that there are dearth of reasons for a man to dress well but this I think is a great list as to why you want to look your best. As a consultant, I pride on looking my best(different from being good looking 😉 at all times so that people who work with me have the confidence that I will do my best at all times as well. So here it goes; some wise words!

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You will be missed Mr. Robin Williams

RobinWilliamsMagnum

There’s three things in this world that you need: Respect for all kinds of life, a nice bowel movement on a regular basis, and a navy blazer.”— Robin Williams, The Fisher King

You have given a whole lot of us, 100’s of hrs of joy and an insight into how to look at life in a slanted way. We will miss your humor, your ability to perform non-stop and the thought that what is outside is not what is inside.

Rest in peace you crazy genius!

Gameday 3: ManU (0) vs. Liverpool (1)

Wonderful start to the season continues. Fantastic game by Liverpool even tough we just about held on with a lucky early goal.

Cautious optimism, yes but three 1-0 wins with each game having 60mins of defending and not crumbling shows something. In this game especially, we did not lose the formation in the second half where we had meagre possession but the fact that there was just one shot on goal proves how well the back 4 are working and this without Kolo Toure.

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Game Day 1: Stoke (0) v. Liverpool (1)

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Another season, great expectations and a promise to return the club to the heights that they truly belong at. All optimism aside, its not going to be a easy season and we are not going to win the league and all we should look forward to is to play some good possession football, make no mistakes and look for some luck to push up to the top 4.

If the stoke game is anything to go by – the passing was excellent in spurts in the first half. We put up 15-20 pass clutches 2 or 3 times and one of them led to a goal. But if we are truly going to be in the running for top 4, we need that all important second goal in the first half and not give away the ball cheaply. And Agger style mistakes are what we really need to avoid.

We will loose on the road to the likes on Man U, Man City & Chelsea and we will drop points on those winter nights at Villa or Sunderland but if we can close out Anfield games with 2 goal margins and then keep the ball and not make mistakes in our half; the points are only ours to loose. Big clubs do this well and they do this consistently and a 2 goal lead will shield us against the mistakes that are bound to be made. We are a Big Club!

Good start; scrappy at times but good start.

Raghu Dixit: Addicted

Heard him live a few weeks back in SF and have been addicted to his songs ever since. Nothing fancy about the writing but the sound is uniquely Indian; something I have not heard in a while.

Watch him sing some of the Kannada songs, makes you wish there were more of this kind of performers out there.

Sensible Financial Advice

This has to be the most simple financial advice I have come across in a long while. By Scott Adams:

  1. Make a will
  2. Pay off your credit cards
  3. Get term life insurance if you have a family to support
  4. Fund your 401k to the maximum
  5. Fund your IRA to the maximum
  6. Buy a house if you want to live in a house and can afford it
  7. Put six months worth of expenses in a money-market account
  8. Take whatever money is left over and invest 70% in a stock index fund and 30% in a bond fund through any discount broker and never touch it until retirement
  9. If any of this confuses you, or you have something special going on (retirement, college planning, tax issues), hire a fee-based financial planner, not one who charges a percentage of your portfolio

 

If I had to add to add something from an Indian POV to the above –

  1. By a small piece of real estate in India. Comparing population to area, land will always appreciate there.
  2. Don’t buy a fancy german car before buying a house. The market is cheaper now to buy a house than an expensive car.
  3. Don’t travel to places where you will have to take your kids or parents alone or with your spouse. You will have to do it again and it will be expensive. Rule out Europe, LA, Orlando or DC.
  4. If you still have something left over, buy a vacation door/cabin in Tahoe or LA or Hawaii. They are at the rock bottom now and rent is always more than mortgage.
  5. My only don’t: Stay away from a house in US till you know you will settle here. The closing and selling costs are not what you think they are.

Thoughts by Chanakya

1) “Learn from the mistakes of others… you can’t live long enough to make them all yourselves!!”

2)”A person should not be too honest. Straight trees are cut first and Honest people are screwed first.”

3)”Even if a snake is not poisonous, it should pretend to be venomous.”

4)”There is some self-interest behind every friendship. There is no friendship without self-interests. This is a bitter truth.”

5)” Before you start some work, always ask yourself three questions – Why am I doing it, What the results might be and Will I be successful. Only when you think deeply and find satisfactory answers to these questions, go ahead.”

6)”As soon as the fear approaches near, attack and destroy it.”

7)”The world’s biggest power is the youth and beauty of a woman.”

8)”Once you start a working on something, don’t be afraid of failure and don’t abandon it. People who work sincerely are the happiest.”

9)”The fragrance of flowers spreads only in the direction of the wind. But the goodness of a person spreads in all direction.”

10)”God is not present in idols. Your feelings are your god. The soul is your temple.”

11) “A man is great by deeds, not by birth.”

12) “Never make friends with people who are above or below you in status. Such friendships will never give you any happiness.”

13) “Treat your kid like a darling for the first five years. For the next five years, scold them. By the time they turn sixteen, treat them like a friend. Your grown up children are your best friends.”

14) “Books are as useful to a stupid person as a mirror is useful to a blind person.”

15) “Education is the Best Friend. An Educated Person is Respected Everywhere. Education beats the Beauty and the Youth.”

League of two

Game day 1 in la liga and the score lines read a 6-0 win for Madrid and a 5-0 win for Barca. And there are 37 game days left. Begs to be asked, what’s the point of the spanish league anymore?

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Yes there is hope that one of these teams will slip up once or twice and there is a chance for one of the better teams like Valencia to make an impact but when you see Villareal who has qualified for Champions League concede 5 goals, why would you even bother to watch? 6 goals for Messi already this year so is it all about better 53 that he made last year? Or for Ronaldo to break 40 goals again?

The la liga money allocation is a joke at best. Yes, the top two teams bring in the most audience but there surely an audience for other teams too? Last year Athletic Madrid had Aguero and Forlan, now one is in City and the other is about to leave for Italy. To keep afloat, if the teams have to sell there star players, why would you even bother? And the strike was about players compensation when surely the club owners need to be one to strike to maintain some semblance of competition alive in the league. There is an urgent need to hand these clubs proceeds from TV revenues otherwise there is a real chance that the league may shrink as the years progress.

This is really bad for the game when the only competitive match this year will not take place till december when Madrid and Barca meet and till then the only reason you tune in is to watch Barcelona display its passing brilliance or Madrid to show their striking powers. Thank god for EPL on television!

Senna, The Movie.

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I never knew Senna except for the fact that Michael Schumacher kept getting compared to him a lot. Bogus. There is no comparison.

During my early introduction to Formula 1, I kept hearing about this legend who was a wizard on wet tracks and a genuinely good guy who jumped off his car mid-way during a race and helped a fellow injured driver.  Problem with Star Sports in the late 90’s was Formula 1 was mostly live and hardly had any footage of era’s gone by. And with Ferrari winning and all (including my bias), whenever I would hear of Senna being the greatest, I always thought it was these McLaren-ites mouthing-off as most of them could not have seen anything more than a montage here and there.

The movie I thought did a good job to refrain from attaching too many adjectives to Senna like the best, the greatest, the fastest which was refreshing, a change from many of the tribute films that are out there. The limited presentation of his life in and outside the sport can only be attributed to the fact that there was a lack of material as the whole fim is either from home videos or tv footage. For that kind of editing and writing, Asif Kapadia & Manish Pandey – hat’s off. I can only imagine how many months these guys must have sat before hours and hours of raw footage!

I left the film feeling bad that I did not get a chance to see this guy live in action. Probably those were really amazing days when there was much less perfection and cars did blow up all the time and there was a chance for other teams/drivers to catch up. Or I could be wrong and this era maybe really one of the best. Look at 2010. 5 Wins for Alonso and Vettel and 4 points is all that separates the two.

That Senna was loved and a genuinely good guy is beyond question. That he helped a lot of poor, needy people in his home country is without question. But isn’t that a matter of chance/fate? Is MS less deserving just because he cannot help a lot of poor people in Germany? Is it for Alonso in spain?

Nevertheless, decent watch. More racing action would have been good. Awesome to see Ron Dennis and Frank Williams speaking so highly of Senna.

Beautiful Games, Dirty Games, Worrying Games

So both of the football teams I support had 2 games so far and the feelings are mixed all around. Madrid played an amazing first game with an intensity that Barca could only break by 2 lucky breaks and flashes of genius. Second game Barca realized who they are and played amazing football only  to go down disgracefully off-field.

What were you thinking Jose? Pep is right when he says the images speak for themselves. Get off your high horse and find a way to beat them otherwise just be graceful in your lose and praise your opponents. Barca is no small team and you are making Madrid even smaller by making great players behave like arrogant kids. And all this before the season is yet to start!

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Now Liverpool is a whole other story. The first 30mins of the Sunderland game got my hopes up! Maybe we can get the 19th this year but there was still something missing in the mid-field. May be Gerrad, maybe Carol and Suarez need time to speak the same language but Daglish has work to do.

And today in the Arsenal game, the kinks came to the forefront. Against a team like Arsenal which probably is going to have the worse season in a decade, we could not keep possession in the mid-field. The right wing was being closed off again and again and we just seem to get the ball holed up there. A crappy win but a win! Hopefully it will get better.

Now time to sing “You will never walk alone”.

Don’t Shoot!

Nice presentation of how street photography should be. At a public place, you should be able to shoot what you like as long as you respect other’s privacy when requested. The “other’s” being the imperative.

Something along the lines of buildings not being “others”!

Photography Goals

Why do I take pictures or make images?

This is a really tough question to answer honestly so here it goes:

  • Initially when I could finally afford a camera myself, the process for making/taking pictures was for peer validation. I guess most of us start of that way but at some point it slowly wore-off. Facebook made the validation part really easy!
  • Secondly, it was to show a particular snooty set of peers that I could be in a location of choice a take a picture the way I see it as opposed to the way the greats before me have seen it in the same spot. Turned out that the greats before me had an eye for seeing something interesting and looking the other way was not a really bright idea!
  • Lastly, I conceded that no matter what I shoot or how I shoot it, I cannot be any other photographer out there. Realizing this took me a better part of 3yrs on the photographic journey!

So at this stage, my photography goal boils down to this – Self satisfaction to make images that best capture what I see at the moment I am taking the shot. That’s it and nothing else should matter.

I believe that my skill in taking pictures has increased exponentially from the time I started off and currently I shoot at a decent rate often and create images that I like more than what my average was about an year back. I am advanced in most of technicalities of photography and excluding any studio setting, any nature setting (which I tend to prefer) in natural light, I believe I can take quality pictures that can be enlarged to a decent size if needed. And that I stopped chasing gear anymore personally gives me  confidence that I have grasped the importance of light and shooting as opposed to gear and advanced/intricate settings.

So here are my goals:

  • Shoot as often as possible and decrease the number of shots per session gradually to a point where I click only of what I feel I absolutely want to keep forever.
  • Fine tune my kit to optimize for what I shoot best – Nature and Panorama’s as opposed to people and situations that I believe I am not good at.
  • Have a collection of 50images over a decent period of time (say 3 years) that I can put up for enlargement and share with anyone who is interested.

Wish me luck!

Engine Blow-up’s

Watching the Hungarian GP, was just thinking that there are no more of those amazing engine blow-up’s anymore due to amazing engine technology these days and then goes Nick Heidfeld’s car up in flames reminiscent of those old days… enjoying F1 again, wet weather, fire, MSC leading briefly!

On Le Tour and the Lord’s Test

“When he gets a four off a thick edge, you assume he meant to steer the ball between second and fourth slip” – Stephen Fay @ Independent on Sachin Tendulkar.

I don’t watch a lot of cricket these days so in the world of self anointed patriots & pundits, I have no credentials to speak of Dravid’s ton yesterday or about what I hope to be a thrilling day of India’s batting. But can I say it was soothing to watch test cricket after a long time and that it is at lords with India on the ropes is even better. We will fight back and the prospect of watching Dravid, Laxman & Sachin partner for a day to take the match away from England is enough to wake me up at 3AM and relax in front of a live feed.

Plus its great to listen to Harsha Bogle doing what he does best. His prediction on twitter was spot on with he giving India 130overs to bat and the declaration coming right around that time. Plus he taking on Saurav behind the mike while watch Dravid and Laxman bat is as close we will get to hearing gentleman’s cameradrie.

Cadel Evens wins the tour this year. Congratulations for a deserving win and also to the Schelck brothers to take 2nd & 3rd. No mean achievement this, the fight up Alp’du Hez was really grueling. Sad to see Contador finish 5th but I think winning the Giro just took away that little bit out of him. He will be back next year but I am sure Andy Schleck will be right up there to challenge him.

Salud, Google Plus!

Here’s to really hoping G+ takes off. Accepted that both are really different and in the coming months, Facebook’s newly acquired design team will throw some amazing design at us but if Google can unveil API’s and App’s quickly and can retain speed after the millions join in, then I don’t see why Facebook can see the sunset. G+ interface is awesome and the circles approach may just be the best thing social out there but some things we need really soon:

  • Allow me to modify/add/remove circles after posting stuff.
  • Give me an alpha G+ URL – plus.google.com/ravikalaga instead of one of the trillion’th number id.
  • Apps & API’s – Faster!  And yes, ability to see email in my Google bar on the top!
I like the suggestion that Google is from the valley so they will be broder adoption unlike Facebook which was primarily a university pastime, hoping this is true!

Lens, Lens, Lens

So what forms a full range lens kit for an amateur photgrapher? Just like another other answer you would get for a photography question, it depends on you and that is the only true answer. That said, to cover for most of the occasions that  you shoot, the following is how the breakdown works for me.

  • Wide Angle (10 – 24mm)
  • Normal (24 – 70mm)
  • Tele Photo (70-200mm)

Now if you are a Nikon shooter and have about 8K of spare cash lying around then all you have to do is to go to B&H website and order the Nikon’s holy-trinity and you would be done but then most can’t so you need to balance your needs vs. your wants.

Let’s look at the most common amateur photographer shooting occasions:

  1. Weekend Camper/Hiker/Tourist Landscape, Cityscape, Nature Photography
  2. Indoor Parties, Kids Birthday’s and a day/night on town fast shooting
  3. The once/twice a year wildlife/birds/product photography

To cover for the above situations, you will need a really good Wide-Angle preferably and short zoom, a decent fast prime for night time photography and depending upon how much you shoot a solid telephoto. That should cover it for you. So for a Nikon mount in the consumer/amateur photography range, let’s look at the options:

Wide-Angle:

Wide-Angle does not mean wide breadth wise. It is not taking huge pictures like fitting a whole building into the frame. Wide-Angle refers to how much depth of field you can gain in a frame. But be careful with these lens, there are tough to handle and you will not get good pictures without getting a hang of it. Read this article bythom to understand what I mean.

For Nikon mount, the options are pretty limited here. You have –

  • 10-24mm Nikon f3.5 (Expensive, bulky, solid pictures)
  • Sigma 10-20 f3.5 or f/4-5.5 (Affordable, Light)
  • Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 (Fast, Prime-like, limited zoom range)

Each of them have their own issues but I like the Sigma best and at a street price of $450, it won’t break your bank.

Normal:

This refers to the kit lens range that come with most DSLR bodies. You have various combinations but the most popular and affordable is the 18-55mm and if you have one, never loose it as it servers 80% of your needs. Compared to popular misconception I had for a long time, 18MM on DX is actually Wide and this lens at $199 does an amazing job. Other options are the 16-85mm but the zoom magnification will impact picture quality. More on that later.

Telephoto:

This is the category where you make or break your budget. My ideal lens in this range is what I call the beast, the 70-200mm VRII. Hands down, this is the best lens I have ever shot with and it is the best out there that money can buy. But at $2300, it will put a whole in your pocket so save up for it.

 

Remember: Never buy a lens which is more than a 3X zoom ratio.

What this means is stick to lens where your widest to the narrowest is in the range of 3times. As lens arrangement & construction is difficult outside the 3x range, image quality will suffer outside of this range. Don’t get a 55-300, you will start hating your pictures. Stick to standard ranges like 55-200 or 24-70mm.

The 50-200mm is barely sufficient and useless unless you have a good tripod and a remote which are a hassle for regular photography. My suggestion in this zoom range is use any lens till you can afford to buy the beast and you will be content ever after!

Lens is where you will invest the most over your photography life time so choose wisely. But make a list of things you need and only buy a few. There are way too many hassles like the weight and bags so for amateur photography, the fewer the better.