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EXPLORING INDIA : From Kaziranga to the Himalayas to the desert of Jaisalmer to the backwaters of Allepey to the sun baked coral beaches of Lakshadweep....A first hand account of exploring this beautiful country.



Thursday, April 26, 2007

Low cost air travel : Cheaper than Rajdhani

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I had to book ticket for my annual trip home in May. The search started with comparing fares and offers in three sites : Yatra.com, Cleartrip.com and MakeMyTrip.com. You get a fair idea of cheapest fair available. MakeMyTrip.com shows fares without taxes. Indiatimes.com is useless for this as their fare is highest. You can see and compare yourself.

The best offer was on Cleartrip.com. There was a 20% cash back on Air Sahara tickets if paid by SBI Credit Card. I grabbed it immediately as the tickets were costing me only Rs.2200/- a piece. The only catch is that I had booked tickets almost 60 days in advance, same as that of train.

Out of curiosity, I decided to check reservation availability in Rajdhani Express for the same day. To my surprise 3 AC was already into waiting list and 2 AC has hardly 5 seats left for the day I would be traveling. Now the surprise is that a 3AC ticket would cost Rs.1875/- and a 2AC would cost Rs.2600/-. Further you would be traveling for 28 hours at least. Why people are still traveling by train ? Is it ignorance! Or the liability of carrying tones of luggage for free creating problems for those who travel light.

Even though I had gone to many places from Delhi in last year or so, I somehow did not get an opportunity to fly low cost. Most of these trips being official, I could choose not to fly low cost. But last week I had to look for cheapest way to fly between Delhi and Guwahati. This time I found that Yatra.com had the best fare deal. With an assured 5% cash back on basic fare if paid by ICICI Credit Card, I got tickets @Rs.2650/- one way by IndiGo Airlines. It was cheaper than the IndiGo Airlines own site which was selling @ Rs.2724/-.

My experience of flying IndiGo was not much different than those from ones like Jet. Only difference was that no food or beverages or cooling towel were provided on your boarding. One does not really need those apparent luxuries. IndiGo provided free drinking water. The flights were on time. Aircrafts were new. IndiGo probably has the best buses for ground transfers. The JCBL designed Tata buses are bound to catch one’s attention.

These fares of Rs.2200/- or Rs.2700/- are against full fare of almost Rs.14000/-. Flying has really become cheap and affordable to almost everybody. A little of planning and research will ensure that you travel almost at the same price as that of train (at least Rajdhani) or even cheaper. I have seen that many people assume that Deccan is the cheapest airline. But this is not true. Both Air Sahara and IndiGo, or even Spicejets turns out to be cheaper in most cases. Many travelers have smarted. That is why I found that the IndiGo flights were full on both my inward and outward trips.

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posted by Rupankar Mahanta at 5:30 PM | 8 comments

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Thursday, April 05, 2007

From Travel Photography to Fashion Photography

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Amit, the young aspiring model got ready. The studio lights were switched on. Munish explained the lighting situations, like positioning of lights, shadows, no of lights to be used, etc. The group was further sub-divided into groups of two each. Everyone was to play photographer and assistant photographer in turns.

For many of us, including me, this was to be the first experience of photography under studio lights. We were left on our own to shoot. I set my camera to Av (Aperture priority) mode. My knowledge till then said that portraits are shot with large aperture for shallow DOF or throwing background out of focus to make the object stand out. Well that funda went through the window very fast. It turned out to be true only for Outdoor shots, not for indoor shots. I shoot the first photo at f/5.6. It was a horrible shot, good enough only to be kept as a memento. Soon someone more experienced pointed out that in indoor studio lighting situations Av mode does not work. So one has to override it and use M (Manual) mode instead. Good lesson 1.

However, lesson 1 imparted by the fellow learner also had a bad part to it. -- Keep shutter speed at 1/60 and aperture at f/8. Without applying much thought, I shot almost all 50 odd photos at that setting. The disappointment was huge, when photos were analyzed later with Munish. Most of them got unacceptably overexposed.

As the shoot progressed I picked up few new things. Like using a flash trigger (a blue tooth device) or the old flash sync chord. Even switching on and off the studio lights also requires certain knowledge like discharging the capacitors, model lamp, putting it on half or full, etc. The best part of it was probably to find out ourselves that the inbuilt camera flash is one of the most useless things for indoor shoots. They do not work with studio environment. These are good only for the purpose of using as a fill in light in daylight outdoor shots.

On the following weekend I got another chance to rectify my mistakes in another portfolio shoot. Equipped with comments from Munish, I did a self analysis of the earlier shots and made a list of what should have done or where I made glaring mistakes. It was a great improvement over last week. One of the shots of Gaurav, who also is a fellow student in Munish’s academy, is uploaded here. Other shots can be seen my flickr album. I tried a few things on this second assignment and took the photos across a range of settings so that I can analysis them further improvements.

Overall the experiences were very educating. Indoor photography turned out to be different kettle of fish altogether. One can learn basics of outdoor photography even by reading books, like I did. But one has to be associated with an experienced photographer to learn to handle lights. Getting to learn in studio situations was one of the reason why I joined Munish’s academy.

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posted by Rupankar Mahanta at 4:29 PM | 0 comments

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