HOW TO BE A BETTER PHOTOG: THE PHOTO WALK

Photo by Andrew Tonn

Regardless of whether you are a seasoned professional, an avid amateur, or you just got your first camera last week, an excellent way to become a better photographer is to take photo-walks.  Walking, of and by itself: exploring a new city, a faraway island, a familiar old trail or a nearby neighborhood is one of life’s great pleasures with or without a camera. But this story is about photo walks and one walk in particular I took with my friend, the inimitable Sebastian John, one hot day over a year ago in Mumbai, India.  It was my last long walk in that city I called home for two years and similar to the first long walk I took by myself in Mumbai during the monsoon not long after we arrived. It was not quite as long as that watery hike, because Sebastian and I took our foray into Mumbai’s mad streets in the sweltering days just before the monsoon broke.  The heat in that time of year is very nearly hallucinatory. The temperature, combined with the crowds, humidity, smoke and noise, can only be completely appreciated by someone who has been there. Neither a thousand words nor a thousand photos can describe the reality of the streets of Mumbai.

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THE NIKKOR 20mm ƒ/2.8

Maya Shaman conducts rituals in the cemetery in Chichicastenango, Guatemala. Nikon D800, AF Nikkor 20mm f/2.8D

Go wide!  Go wider!!  Go as wide as you can without going too wide!!!  This is how I think about the 20mm lens and, to be specific, the classic 20mm f/2.8 Nikkor in both auto and manual focus.  In my long experience with this lens — I have used it in its MF and AF versions as one of my primary working optics since around 2000 — I have found it to be a special lens in particular and generally as wide an angle as one can get without entering the realm of special effects.  Lenses wider than 20mm can come in handy for unique perspectives and situations, but rarely for every day use.

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THE LEICA-M 90mm ƒ/4 ELMAR C

MONTERREY — I have shot tightly framed portraits of people since I began taking photos at age ten or eleven.  A certain style of naturalistic headshot, the subject fully aware and looking straight into the lens, has been a major element of my work for my entire photographic life.  I still have almost every negative I ever shot and though I hope I have learned a thing or two along the way, I am still rather happy with many of the portraits I took of my classmates, teachers, and family back in Junior High and High School.  

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THE VOIGTLANDER 15MM F/4.5 SUPER-HELIAR V1

Sometimes you should listen to the voices in your head and sometimes you shouldn’t. Do not run with scissors in traffic. Do not befriend Nigerian royalty. Do not shave your head and climb that bell-tower. But if the voices are telling you to hang onto a particular lens, that someday you’ll figure out what it’s good for, and that someday you’ll figure out how to use it correctly, then listen.  Continue reading “THE VOIGTLANDER 15MM F/4.5 SUPER-HELIAR V1”

5 DAYS IN KATHMANDU

Leica M Monochrome, 15mm f/4.5 Voigtlander Super Heliar, Temple steps, Durbar Square (Photo by Andrew Tonn ©

There were times when our two years in Mumbai seemed an eternity.  I knew the time would pass quickly, however, that every day, strange as it was, would crossfade into the next and that sooner, rather than later, we would be headed back to the airport, boarding a flight out, and that everything undone would most likely stay undone.

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I KNOW A GOOD TAILOR IN BOMBAY…

(Photo by Andrew Tonn)

The phone rings and the front desk says, “Hitesh the tailor is here.”

“Yes, please send him up.”
A few minutes later I open the door. Hitesh Chhabria is standing in the foyer with two bags and a black and red garment cover bearing the logo of his shop, the Immediate Boutique. We shake hands and I invite him in. He takes off his shoes and we talk for a moment about our days and life in Mumbai. Continue reading “I KNOW A GOOD TAILOR IN BOMBAY…”

VARANASI: IT IS THE BLACK HOURS BEFORE DAWN

(Photo, Andrew Tonn)

It is the black hours before dawn. The boat pushes out into the slow current. The ghats and towers of the ancient city are outlined with dim electric bulbs and small fires. Their glow creates a half circle of light over the river that fades into the black of the sky and the uninhabited sand-dunes of the other bank. It is quiet and I whisper to myself, “You are floating down the Ganges by the banks of Varanasi. You are here.” Continue reading “VARANASI: IT IS THE BLACK HOURS BEFORE DAWN”