Exploring a Point of View

In the evening, a man sat, peacefully, performing yoga. The juxtaposition of his symbolic stance in front of the setting sun was what led me to shoot this photograph. Photograph/Raj Lalwani

In the evening, a man sat, peacefully, performing yoga. The juxtaposition of his symbolic stance in front of the setting sun was what led me to shoot this photograph. Photograph/Raj Lalwani

Raj Lalwani uses photography as a medium of documentation to explore the constantly evolving character of a place.

My Assignment

  • Description: A photographic study of a place and how its identity depends on the time of day, and people associated with the place.
  • Duration: One day.
  • Notes: The activity associated with a place shapes its personality. One can portray this by shooting pictures from the same vantage point, at different times of the day. It is possible to shoot great photographs even from a single spot.

The aspect of photography that I enjoy the most is documentation. A photograph documents a particular moment, and allows us to understand change. An old photograph of a familiar place helps us understand how the character of that place has changed. Similarly, if we shoot a particular place in the morning, and then shoot the same place six hours later, the variation in the two photographs helps us understand different aspects to the same place.

My Perspective
I believe that each place offers us thousands of photographic opportunities. Whether it is a beautiful promenade or a busy market place, the kind of photographs one can shoot are endless. This is because every place constantly changes, depending on the time of day, the subsequent light available and the people who throng the place.

The Process
In order to take this assignment further, I spent an entire day at the same place – opposite the Intercontinental Hotel, a particular spot on the Marine Drive promenade, Mumbai. All through the day, I strived to capture the various scenes I saw.

I chose Marine Drive because of a certain personal connect to the place. It is important to choose a place that you have an affinity towards and one that sees different kinds of activity. For instance, a promenade sees joggers, families, lovers, groups of friends and other interesting characters.

I shot photographs at regular intervals from early morning to evening. I also took regular breaks and walked around, exploring other areas near the spot I was shooting from. Some people may say that shooting photographs from the same vantage point is restricting. On the other hand, this assignment helps you develop a sense of patience. There are times that you would need to wait for those magic moments when all falls into place and all you need to do, is shoot.

My Equipment: While I used a Nikon D80 and a 18-135mm lens, one can do this assignment with any camera. It’s important to understand the scope of your equipment and make the most of what you have.

Tips to Get You Started

  • Choose a place that interests you: The more the activity associated with the place, the more photographic opportunities it will offer. Keep in mind that it should be feasible enough for you to spend a lot of time at the same place. Carrying a tripod is ideal, but you can manage without one if the place is too crowded.
  • Try to keep a particular object in the frame all the time:It may be the skyline, or a particular signboard or a shop. A constant factor always helps to connect the series, and portrays the variation in the photographs more effectively.
  • Never influence the environment yourself: Wait for things to happen. It is important to be as inconspicuous as possible. People may wonder why you are shooting for such a long time, but if you are not disturbing anyone, they will stop bothering.
  • Make the best use of your equipment:Use focal length effectively. Zooming in to a particular person or shooting the entire area wide can offer you different perspectives. Experiment with slow shutter speeds—blurs can effectively portray activity.
  • Selection process is as important as the shooting one: Choose 7-8 photographs that are as different as possible, and also strong compositions on their own. Do the selection process a day or two later so that you can dissociate yourself from the shoot and make an unbiased selection.
  • Alternatively, shoot over a longer period of time: Shoot the same frame at the same time, everyday. The variation in the photographs you will collect after a month or so, would tell a lovely story.

This article originally appeared in the December 2011 issue of Better Photography.

Tags: Composition, sun, yellow, vantage point, sunlight, documentation