A Surreal Look At India: Interview with Art Photographer Prasad Dharmadhikari

Soaring for Dreams

Soaring for Dreams

I recently had the pleasure of conducting an Internet interview with Prasad Dharmadhikari, who resides in India.  This was a most enjoyable look at Prasad’s philosophical ideas about photography and art, and I am sure you will enjoy his amazing photographs, and also enjoy his quick mini-tutorial on how he uses the Photomerge capability of Photoshop.  We are exhibiting some of Prasad’s photos for you to see here, and there are also many more on his Redbubble site at:  http://www.redbubble.com/people/prasad.

Prasad, please tell me how and when did you first get into photography?
I started my journey into photography in September of 2007 by accident really. I was around with my mobile phone camera all the time till then. One day I decided to dive in headfirst and purchased a Cannon SLR Digital and have never looked back.

As I started working with DSLR in October, 2007, I came across Digital Photo Forum, while searching for photographic galleries on Google. Once I joined DPF (which no longer exists), my skills started getting sharpened. I really enjoyed being there in the amateur world, and one day my friend Rosalie Dale dropped me a mail inspiring me to join Redbubble (RB). Actually, it was reactivation of my dying account. At that time I said to Rosalie“ If DPF was a school then RB is like an university.” I worried with the high standard on RB and thought HOW could I match it???

One day, help came to my doorstep as one of the senior associates in my company supported to get me Photoshop CS3, otherwise it could have been only in my dreams.  After that, once again, I never turned back.

That’s a great story Prasad!  So, what provides you with the greatest artistic inspiration for your amazing photos?

God as a supreme power.  My India, my religion.  Rich, spiritual and age old culture of my nation, which makes us believe that India has potential to lead the world. Especially in modern times when we are losing human values.  Well, I feel photography is a modern form of art, and art in any form is a natural gift to human being. Those who are performing artists of any form of art really are blessed if they are following their passion. The level or depth of expression only depends upon “How close you are with yourself!”

One does have to learn the skills of their chosen art form, and practice is an important element in honing ones skills.  Most of what I know about photography I learn by passion, self learning, reading, and observing the work of others. I believe the world we see around us is full of potential, and one has to realize it. I used to think and still do, ‘HOW can I not do this work BEST!!’ This belief has lead me to this point in my work and although I still have an amazing road ahead, my attitude is to find more ways to bring what I see and feel at that moment of capture to the observer.

What kind of camera and lenses do you use? Also what, if any, tripod do you use? (Can you be specific about the models, etc?)

Camera: Canon EOS400D Digital
Lens line up: Canon EF -S 10 – 22 mm, Canon 18 – 55 mm, Canon 70 – 300 mm, Tamron AF 28 – 300mm A spherical IF MACRO.  Local made tripod.
Please tell me a little about your shooting scenarios, such as particular f-stops and shutter speeds, plus external filtration you use (if any), and other particular shooting scenarios you might use.

Basically, I shoot with an open frame of mind, as I see every subject as a potential. I always take every opportunity to shoot as fresh or new without having any previous bias with it.  Then I think about framing of the subject, I hate cropping images in Photoshop, so most of my photographs are framed while shooting.
Next is placing the subject in the frame. If I am not happy with a single shot I go for more, there is no limit till I satisfy myself.  It takes moving, bending, laying, climbing, following all possible ways before I end up with it. If your clothes don’t taste the soil then you are not a good photographer – it’s my thinking.  If someone questions me, I share some words.

Next level is correct exposure for me. In the early days I was shooting with Aperture Priority mode and later I started sharpening with Manual Mode, except for Bird photography where I prefer Shutter Priority mode. Most of the time I set film speed (ISO setting) at 100, except if there is poor light or I want something extra in the photograph.  Most of the time I follow thumb rule to use aperture setting at f11, f16, f22. But it’s not a rule for me. More important is understanding Depth of field.

I don’t currently have any filter line up. UV, IR and ND filters are on my wish list.  In my lens line up, Canon 10 – 22 mm EF – S is my favorite, which might be because I think of more space.
Please explain to us how you create your excellent Photomerge, or multi-image creations.

Well, I am not a Photoshop expert. I am still learning it.  Photomerge is something I learned fairly recently.  Earlier, it was only in my dreams.  I use very basic or simple technique.  Following is the process flow:
1. Open Photoshop and the images you want to work for Photomerge.
2. Press Ctrl+N. It opens a new or transparent layer.
3. Adjust the setting like Name, Presets, Width, Height, Resolution, Background contents, Color profile and Pixel aspect ratio as required for you. I select:
Name – name of the image
Presets – Custom (Which can be saved later)
Width – 3888 pixels
Height – 2592 pixels
Resolution – 300 or as required.
Color Mode – RGB, 16 bit
Background contents – Transparent
Color Profile – sRGB IEC61966-2.1
4. Hit OK and a transparent layer opens.
5. Press Ctrl+Tab and you move in different image windows opened earlier. Select the background image you want to work on.
6. Press Ctrl+A to select the image then press Ctrl+C which copies the image then press Ctrl+Tab to switch over to the transparent layer.
7. Press Ctrl+V to paste selected background image.
8. Repeat the procedure with other images which will get added on as layers on top of the background image.
9. You can extract the specific subject against the transparent layer and paste it as or on a layer on the background image.
10. Once this exercise is over, just play with the blending modes, opacity and fill options, until you get a desirable result. You can use Levels, Curves, Hue and Saturation, Selective color, and Channel Mixer options to balance the quality of the image.
Prasad, thank you so much for sharing your informative mini-tutorial on Photomerge with us!

If there was no limit on your budget for photography equipment, what would you buy (include name brands and models, etc.)?

I believe, the best artist is the one who, achieves the best results with minimal or low end equipments or efforts. My friend Dennis Gay (www.redbubble.com/people/inport) on Redbubble, I adore for it. You should know how to use your equipment best, rather than start using the best equipment and get poor results. Art is a work of patience and sustenance. It practically ‘kills’ a person, but who master the technique rules. It’s true in every part of life.

There is no limit for my wish list, it’s just add on. But, if there is a second chance then I think of Canon EOS 1D Mark III or Hasselblad with their compatible lens line ups. Photoshop CS4 is also in my wish list.
What, in your opinion, do you think has contributed to making your photos so clear and beautiful?

Thinking and learning!  I don’t stop until I satisfy myself.  You are the best judge for your work, and no one can see it better than you from your eyes…this is my belief, and I stick to it.  It comes from the way you think about yourself and art. I believe culture, value, morale, passion and learning are the basics of human endeavor in any part of life. I feel fortunate myself that the world around me has enriched my life with it, and I’m proud of it.   I always think “Be honest,” and “Know thyself” before I press the shutter.  Because art appears on the canvas of the soul, and the mind just captures the reflection.

As far as technique, I process my photographs with Photomatix, for HDR and Photoshop CS3 for enhancement. I am not a Photoshop expert or learned PS in any school. I am learning the basics of art and implementing it in my everyday life.  I believe photography is no more different than other art forms:  It uses space, light, color and other basic elements, just the medium of expression is film or digital, rest is explained.
Do you have any favorite photography books, and also favorite photographers?

Not as such any favorite book, as I believe books can help you as a guide on your way. You are the one who have to follow the path. If you go by only books it may bias your natural thinking. It is better to learn the principles and then bend or break them. Then it becomes real fun, and you see how the world turns, twists, and dances around you.  Sincerely, as beginner my favorite book is the Camera manual which comes with the pack. It helps you learn basics.  I read it by heart in my early days.  For keen readers, I’ll recommend “Photography” by Lee Frost in the Teach Yourself series (www.teachyourself.co.uk).
What is your profession outside of photography?

I had completed my education in Surface Coating Technology, as an Engineer in paint or color technology.  I am working as a Dye Manager in an auto component MNC in India. I have 14 years of industrial exposure with different technologies and ‘skied my highs’ as a technologist.  I applied the same principles discussed in my professional career as in photography.

Passion and Excellence in my professional career fruited as art in photography in my life. One might wonder with it “Why not? How achievement in one field can fruit in other field?”  My belief is different. I feel that when human performance reaches to the level of excellence, it breaks out as an art. The form may vary from person to person, but the depth of expression depends on the skill of how the performing artist makes the observer speechless. It happens when you are very close with yourself.
Thank you so much Prasad, it has been a pleasure to learn about you and your ideas with regard to the art of photography!

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