How to photograph Hindu Deities

Discussion in 'Ethics and Philosophy' started by Mainecoonmaniac, Jul 28, 2011.

  1. Mainecoonmaniac

    Mainecoonmaniac Subscriber

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  2. Diapositivo

    Diapositivo Subscriber

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    I'm not very convinced. The article says:

    It involved set and prop builders, makeup artists, painters, carpenters and jewelry experts. And when everything was finally in place, Sharma captured the scene with a large-format film camera.


    I am respectfully skeptical. The lotus has a lighting which IMHO does not match with the shade just behind the left knee of Lakshmi (deity which was always transliterated like that, why Laxmi now? Or even worse laxmi? Any transliteration works the same?). Besides that, finding a model with four arms must have been quite a problem. And the coins do not project a shade and are quite evidently pasted on the scene, especially the coin on Lakshmi's hand, or the coins on the lower leaves of the lotus. I think you can go on forever.

    There's a lot of collage in this work which is perfectly fine (and inescapable the day she'll portray Ganesh) but I don't understand why this absurd claiming that all the scene is recreated at once. It seems to me that it's many pieces worked one by one and then glued together. You can do this with entirely analogue means, or you can do it with hybrid means, digital post-production. Nothing wrong with that, at all. I would avoid marketing BS though. If it's a collage, say it's a collage.

    The diffident person inside me says it's digital post-production as it would be quite boring and difficult to do a stack of several frames: the third and fourth arms, Lakshmi, the lotus, the coins make for at least four frames, supposing you get all the coins right in one frame.

    If I'm wrong, please do enlighten me, I would like to actually be wrong on this bad thought.
     
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  3. Mike Crawford

    Mike Crawford Member

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    They look painterly, but no computers were used.[/QUOTE]

    Doesn't say in the article if computers were or were not used. Looks like it was easily shot in camera though maybe the coins were an addition. Four armed models are a piece of cake. I'm so stupid that in small publicity shots I saw on line for Wim Wenders new film on Pina Bausch, I assumed the muscular dancer was just that. A very strong ballerina with biceps like Stallone. Seeing the shot in more detail or the scene in the film made it all a bit more apparent.
    http://www.list.co.uk/article/33442-wim-wenders-dance-documentary-pina/

    Great film but not sure the 3D was essential.
     
  4. Diapositivo

    Diapositivo Subscriber

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    Mike, I agree the four arms could be done traditionally, actually nice shot you linked :smile:, but the Indian stuff it's all too strange. Besides the anomalous coins, the photographer should have used very many light sources so as to create this "unreal" light effect.

    For instance, the vase is lit with a "flat", frontal light source, slightly from above, which doesn't reach the inner arm of the model, not to mention the black hole behind it (on the other side, you see the cyan background, on this side you see a suspect black hole, but that could be, maybe, the belt falling from behind the shoulder, not that I believe that). Was the light source so clear cut to end at the vase edge? Was the front light which lightens the trunk of the deity so clear cut not to shed any light under her armpit?

    There is no shadow under the nose, but there are shadows over the eyes (in the orbits) and under the chin.

    The belly is in full light, but the lower right arm (to our left) is strangely in shade. The coin a few centimetres in front of the arm is in full light.

    The entire edge of contact between deity and vase is in a circular dark shade, while 1 cm in front you have a very bright light on the red tissue. I tell you, that vase is quite suspect :wink:

    The shades are most suspect, in general. That strong light over the big lotus petal tips is not coherent with the rest of the scene.

    I can pretend to believe that the white edge on the small lotus flowers (in the third and fourth hands) is actually on the object and is not supposed to be created by a light effect (like on the big lotus). But the big lotus is shown on us in another picture, and it has no white tips, that's a light effect (real or virtual).

    On the elephants, the typical digital highlights clipping was very well simulated on film :wink:

    It all seems to me a clear example of unrealistic "photoshopping". I would rate probabilities this stuff is heavily manipulated above 90%.
     
  5. Worker 11811

    Worker 11811 Member

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    The coins could be dummied up with Spider Wire then jangled to create the illusion of movement, moments before the shutter is released.
    (Spider Wire is very thin Kevlar thread, thinner than monofilament fishing line and virtually invisible at a distance. Magicians use it to make things appear to float in midair.)

    The arms can be faked using a telephoto lens to compress perspective. I think compression of perspective would be appropriate for such a surreal photograph, anyway.

    I agree with the others. The lighting looks fake. The overall image is flat but the elephants are blown out and shadows are absent where they should be but present where they should not be.

    Seems to me that this is a bad job of digitizing film or else it's a digi-pic... still done badly.

    To me a surreal scene as this would either need to have soft focus all over or be razor sharp. I see neither. That kind of blows the illusion for me.
     
  6. zsas

    zsas Member

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    I once saw some kind of website called Error Level Analysis that does, as it explains: "Error level analysis can help you work out if a photo has been digitally altered".

    I had the error level analyzer do what I quoted above from their site by linking to the NPR photo and then have it analyze it.

    Below are the results. I have no idea how to read them....anyone ever done this before? I once was reading a blog where someone was convinced a photo was altered and he/she fed the image into the error level analyzer and made some conclusion. I find it like looking at Hubble's images...


    http://errorlevelanalysis.com/permalink/84ea729/

    So the image could very well be 100% un-altered or altered...I am making no judgment nor do I make any claim that the above site is the end all be all of finding out if something has been altered or not.

    To compare the above, I tried an experiment, I found a photo that was used in a Photo$hop free online tutorial website and analyzed it. The blur was added in post, here are its results....
    http://errorlevelanalysis.com/permalink/06ad8b7/

    Ultimately, I dont really conclude anything...heck a straight negative scan of mine I did below and it makes no sense to me....

    http://errorlevelanalysis.com/permalink/7c57034/
     
  7. ntenny

    ntenny Member

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    I'm not sure the error level analyzer can prove anything, simply because we don't know how much digital postprocessing may have happened to the image in prep for the NPR article, apart from anything done or not done by the photographer herself.

    She does talk about film in terms of "chasing perfection in one image", which suggests (but doesn't actually say) no stacking.

    Lots of light sources, certainly, but I don't find the lighting as anomalous as some others have said. To me it looks like the dominant light source is in the upper left foreground (accounting for the shadow under the model's right arm, the circular shadow of the vase, and the shadow of the nose), and I don't immediately see anything that's obviously inconsistent with that. I'm not a lighting expert or anything, mind.

    -NT
     
  8. KanFotog

    KanFotog Member

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    First of all, thank you for posting this. Friday is the day of Lakshmi, and hence, wealth. Today is also my pay day so imagine how pleasantly surprised I was seeing this early in the morning.

    When I first saw the title, I thought the OP wanted to know the rules etc. on shooting in temples here. Oh well...

    I won't go into the technical details because I know zilch compared to what's already been discussed.

    That said, the photographer wanted to evokoe the experience of a Hindu temple. For me, it didn't work.
    Mainly because I think the model is too aware of the setup in which she's placed and that shows on her face. I think this expression is less 'karuna' and more 'what is all this around me?'

    Gods in Hinduism are both present in their surroundings and at the same time detached from them. Like a lotus which grows in the marsh and yet floats above it.

    "I saw spiritual paintings and sculptures of deities everywhere ... but never a photograph..."

    'Knowing' that they're looking at a photograph of a woman in costume sort of prevents the devotees from seeing her as Lakshmi the goddess.
    When it's a painting, it's easy to believe that the painter has either imagined or had a 'vision' of the goddess. On a spiritual level that makes more sense to me.

    Moreover, her statement is not entirely correct. Hindus believe kids are a form of God and often you'll see kids dressed as various kinds of Gods.

    Cheers,
    Som
     
  9. markbarendt

    markbarendt Subscriber

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    I can see where this all can be done in one frame nicely.

    With regard to the coins we need to remember that we only have to deal with 2D perspective.

    With regard to the "fake" lighting, this is a studio set, almost anything is possible and it is fake by definition. There could be any number of lights in play many of those could be highly focused.

    The intent wasn't to create something that mimicked reality.
     
  10. c6h6o3

    c6h6o3 Member

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    Nice photograph, no matter how it was done, but I can't help wishing that it were tack sharp from corner to corner. Surely with so much lighting she could've arranged for that. Another 2 stops down is all it would've taken.
     
  11. markbarendt

    markbarendt Subscriber

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    She was specifically trying to get a painterly effect.
     
  12. Worker 11811

    Worker 11811 Member

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    With lighting and effects aside, I think the image should either be very soft or very sharp to the point of hyper realism. It should be soft and mystic or it should be so sharp you could shave with it. If it was my decision, I would have gone for super sharp.

    Like Som says, it has to evoke the feeling of having a vision or seeing an illusion. It has to be simultaneously real and unreal.
    If you have ever had one of those moments of emotional and spiritual clarity where you feel like you can see every, minute detail of everything around you all at the same time, this is the kind of hyper reality I'm talking about. I think that is what Som is talking about when he says that the image of the diety is simultaneously inside the image and outside the image.

    I would really like to see the first or second generation of the image. I think the NPR site has compressed, adjusted or otherwise adulterated that image in order to display it on their website. I think too many website designers lack an understanding of photography, digital or traditional, and many of them are incapable of doing anything better than putting up flashy graphics and using tricks to gussy up a page. We need more website designers who have good knowledge of "image making" who can put up a true representation of a picture when it is artistically necessary.

    In this case, where they are sort of bragging that the image was produced on film, I think it is artistically necessary to produce a true representation of the original, film image. If that representation fails, the image fails but I suppose my previous criticisms hinge on this.

    The image could be a good one but the website might not be displaying it well. If that's the case, my criticisms go out the window.
     
  13. Diapositivo

    Diapositivo Subscriber

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    The Error Level Analysis mentioned wouldn't help if the manipulation isn't made using several images, each saved a different amount of times, and each saved as JPEG every time. If you save images as TIFF for instance there is no kind of deterioration between each time you save it.

    The very basic difference between painting and photography is that the idea of depth of field is unknown to painting. Take this famous portrait of a woman on a balcony:

    http://www.theartwolf.com/imagenestAW/Leonardo_Mona_Lisa.jpg

    the model is in focus just as the background is in perfect focus. There is no idea of an out-of-focus background. You can have mist or haze in the background, but never "out of focus" background. This is something that mankind discovered with photography.

    The photographer of the picture posted in the original post claims she wants to reach a painterly effect, and somehow duplicate in a picture the typical devotional painting that adorns houses and temples, but she fails at rule n.1, which is that in paintings all is in focus by definition.

    So we have a picture which is supposed to look like a painting, but it shows an out-of-focus background, and some clipped highlights, and IMV obvious signs of post-production manipulations. In a word, it sucks from beginning to end. If the premises were different, I think it would suck just the same, but that's just my opinion. But the premises being what they are, I think it really stinks.

    It's true that the original photographer never asked for my opinion, (or wouldn't care) but frankly, there too much bullstuff in the article to like the photographic outcome.

    One feels like being malign and suspect the photographer doesn't even know that with a LF camera she can actually have all in focus without even closing the aperture that much. Or that she was posing with a LF camera as a marketing expedient, but did the work with a digital camera, to save postprocessing time. :devil:
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jul 29, 2011
  14. KanFotog

    KanFotog Member

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    Randy,

    In the interest of clarity [lest people mistake me for a good photo critic :wink: ]
    What I meant by my comment is that in Hindu philosophy, Gods are detached from their surrounding, and definitely never bogged down by it.

    For instance, Lakshmi may be sitting in a lotus, coins spilling out of her hands but hey, she's a Goddess. You won't expect her to be curious or confused by all that.

    Vishnu, her husband is a God who is described as living in Kshir Sagar (Ocean of Milk) lying on top of a multi-headed serpent with a lotus growing out of his navel on which sits Brahma (the creator).

    Now if you see a painting of this scene, Vishnu is least aware or bothered about the whole surrounding. Even his gaze is set in infinity with a serene expression.
    That is what I meant by being both present and detached from their surroundings.

    http://lh4.ggpht.com/_-QCFUFzE_C8/S1SozeHO61I/AAAAAAAAGoI/GqFVJ7aavm0/Lord_Vishnu[5].jpg

    If that expression can be brought out of a model in a similar scene the image would work for me because then I'd be looking at Vishnu not some model posing like Vishnu.

    This is similar to a sports mascot I believe. If you know the person under the outfit, the effect of the mascot is somewhat ruined.

    Cheers,
    Som
     
  15. Mike Crawford

    Mike Crawford Member

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  16. markbarendt

    markbarendt Subscriber

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    Diapositivo,

    There are lots of arty things that I find nothing in also. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and you are entitled to your opinion.

    I think though that with the following statement you are stretching things a bit.

    What I mean by that is that painters are unrestricted in where they can place detail (have things sharp/in focus) and where they don't (where things are out of focus/hold fuzzy detail).

    The brush strokes in Mona Lisa's sky may be sharp, but that doesn't mean each stroke holds detail of a higher scale than good bokeh that supplies context to a portrait.

    There are times that I'm jealous of painting for that ability.

    Large format cameras do have the ability to manipulate the plane of sharp focus and with creative composition and posing/placement in the scene.

    http://www.apug.org/forums/groups/tonopah-nevada-picture24937-jury.html

    In this shot done a few years ago, Per up front, and Chauncey in back are selectively in focus, at happy accident and a fun lesson.

    Actually, as with my example above, aperture is still in charge of DOF. My shot has a very narrow/shallow DOF.

    Camera "Movements" control the plane of sharp focus allowing more open apertures but it still requires stopping down. In a landscape shot the "plane" is tilted to lay flat across the ground, in my shot the plane was twisted along a vertical axis.

    Had I stopped down more I could have included the rest of the subjects, right and left of the plane, "in focus".

    Regardless these are simply artistic choices with technical skills.

    With regard posing with the LF camera as a marketing gimmick, I'm cool with that. I brag about the equipment I use when my photos hang publicly. I want people to know they aren't push-button copies.
     
  17. Diapositivo

    Diapositivo Subscriber

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    Mark, what I mean is that you never see "out of focus" details in a painting. You can see details which are not detailed, but they are not out-of-focus. The effect is different from bokeh. If you take the Lakshmi image, the elephants are definitely near the goddess and definitely out-of-focus, and so are the flowers in the background. Besides, the flowers project a clear shadow over the background.

    In the kind of religious illustration that the photographer wants to reproduce the cyan background is actually the sky, and the goddess is actually floating in the sky, no shadow is supposed to be there. The elephants in said Indian illustrations would be as detailed as the goddess. But I accept they might be less detailed. Out-of-focus is a different thing. (Overexposed as they are is even worse).

    This kind of illustration is not by chance made by illustration (in every religion). A photographic rendering of, let's say, the martyrdom of Saint Sebastian would not just be quite complicated to stage, but would lose all the saintity to just look like a sadistic scene. Not to mention Saint Lawrence's "traditional" martyrdom (the smoke!), or Saint Paul's, who was decapitated, imagine the blood springing high. A Mary floating in the clouds is not easy to reproduce in photography and frankly it would be less interesting "devotionally speaking" because it would not suggest an ideal entity, but just a well-faked reality in the better of hypothesis. Hollywood matter.

    I don't personally like the work of this photographer for the way it is realized. I also personally think it's a strange endeavour in itself, (realization apart). An illustration comes out much better when it is illustrated.

    Imagine something reproducing photographically the illustrations of Gustave Doré for the Divine Comedy. After all the fuss, would you manage to like it?

    Illustrations are never realistic. Krishna (or Shiva? Moment of confusion) is represented with a blue skin to hint to his divine, celestial nature. If you take a model and paint him blue, you just see a blue man, you don't see Shiva. You get out of the "illustrative fiction", go down to the realm of portrait, and it all doesn't work any more.
     
  18. zsas

    zsas Member

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    Adding image to thread so we can read the critiques without having to toggle to a different screen...

    [​IMG]
     
  19. M. Lointain

    M. Lointain Member

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    I don't know why she is insisting on making these "straight". Her other work is pretty heavily manipulated. (http://kopeikingallery.com/artists/view/manjari-sharma) Take a look at the "Water" images. In this example image there are all kinds of problems that could have been solved in the computer. The expression on the models face is bizarre, the arms are missing above the elbows, the hand is partially obscured which closes off the body among other things. To me this image is a flop but I guarantee that she will get the money and people will be making a big deal about them since she is backed by a heavy-hitter gallery. That is how it works folks.

    It basically looks like she is trying to cash in on her somewhat recent success with large expensive prints and wants others to pay for the production.
     
  20. c6h6o3

    c6h6o3 Member

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    Rendering parts of the image out of focus does not make it painterly. Quite the opposite, in fact, it brands it as a photograph.
     
  21. markbarendt

    markbarendt Subscriber

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    I'm really surprised here.

    Somebody tries to do something fun and interesting, very publicly using analog tools & methods, very much in the spirit of APUG's mission, and you nay-sayers pick it apart and bad mouth the attempt.

    What's up with that?
     
  22. jnanian

    jnanian Advertiser Advertiser

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    THANK YOU !
     
  23. Diapositivo

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    It's just that I don't look at photography with a digital-analogue bias. I can like something digital, and I can dislike something analogue. Besides, the work of this photographer looks "quite digital" to me. Also in her portfolio you can clearly see the burned highlights that are the distinctive mark of bad digital practice (or awful analogue practice).

    If film was used, and highlights were nor burned, you wouldn't have them burned with decent scanning technique. If it is burned, it's because it is burned in the original, be it analogue or digital.

    By the same token, I wouldn't financially contribute to her project even if I were a Hindu (and up to a certain extent I do am), because religion is no reason to contribute to a project I don't like. It seems to me that she's trying to create a niche-market for her work in the Hindu religious market, coupled with possibly good gallery connections and a good sense of marketing, exploiting the ability of the web to give you a day of fame if you say some idiocy with enough conviction :wink:. The problem is that her work is mediocre IMHV both in itself, and in relation to its "premises".

    The only thing I like, is the model.

    Fabrizio