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A beginners mind


Shō Shin. (初心) is a concept in Zen Buddhism meaning "beginner's mind".

“Shō Shin. (初心) is a concept in Zen Buddhism meaning “beginner’s mind”. It refers to having an attitude of openness, eagerness, and lack of preconceptions when studying a subject, even when studying at an advanced level, just as a beginner in that subject would.”

— https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shoshin

Shō Shin. See you over at my Instagram

Creatively speaking, when ego enters the mind of an artist, muse can no longer abide. For artists that create, the pureness of this state of being true to their art is next to none. To stay worthy and inspired in a world full of distractions and fake social hype - resetting the mind is a very cleansing process.

After long deliberation, today, I decided to delete all my Instagram photos collected over the past four years. Many frames, travel stories and life events. I have gained amazing friends through this channel and created beautiful memories. Here's hoping version 2 of my Instagram will be even stronger than ever.

It's a beautiful thing to embrace beginner's mind. My openness to people, their cultures, and curiosity has helped me develop friendships around the world. I keep learning, every day. I am grateful for your friendship and for you being a part of my Instagram journey.


April is my JPEG month

“Paint light and shadow with your camera. All you need is an artistic mind and a fearless spirit. When muse sees your intent it flirts with you. Embrace your rendezvous.”

— Amit Karmakar


Had a lovely catch up with my friend Sue yesterday who has been a Fujifilm shooter for a while and loves fashion, photography and architecture among many other things. Sue and I share lots of Fujifilm love and often talk about our photography ideas and challenges. On this particular meet something Sue mentioned really piqued my interest. It was about JPG shooting. The photography world is very divided when it comes to RAW and JPEG shooting. There are advantages on both sides. It really depends on what feels right for you.

I normally shoot JPG + RAW. Why? That extra insurance that if i shot a 'decisive moment' I can re-edit it later to perfection. The truth is:

  • there are a zillion 'decisive moments' happening everyday. Dan Winters wrote about this beautifully in his book 'Road to seeing'

  • there is no such things as perfection. Its a journey.

Most digital cameras produce high quality images and pack a lot of details even at high ISO. When we pixel peep, it is merely to affirm our own insecurities. A sharp and noise-free images doesn't equate to a 'better' image.

April is my JPEG month

I have consciously decided to shoot JPG all of April 2017. Maybe longer. Thank you Sue. Let the good times role. Less time on computers and less time on RAW file processing. Less time sorting out duplicates means more time left to shoot and enjoy life with your loved ones. How could that be wrong?

Things to remember:

  1. Sharp images are not necessarily better images (look at the masters of photography, the reverse might well be true)

  2. Images don't always have to be perfect. - perfection kills the soul

  3. Shadows and highlights don't always have to be recovered - what you don't see adds drama to the scene.

Make memories let creativity guide you. Don't be hung up on technicalities of photography.

 


My landscape photos in print shop

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http://www.23-north.format.com/exhibitions This body of work is a collection of moments from a project that took me across three island countries of New Zealand, Australia and Japan. It can also be viewed online at the contact sheet print shophttps://shop.contactsheet.com.au/collections/amit-karmakar

If you know someone that might be interested in Landscapes for their house/apartment or to buy it for a loved one - please get in touch with contact sheet gallery on: contact@contactsheet.com.au

Various sizing options are available. Art money loan is also available for installed payments. Thank you for your support.


Fujifilm x100F - review

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  Its official. I gave in to my Fujifilm lust after all that JonasAik, Patrick and Valérie kept posting. The photos looks really impressive for a quasi pocket sized camera with the the power of Acros simulation, substantial autofocus improvement over the X100T and and including skins tones in jpes. I bought it about three weeks back and was lucky to have got it within a day after it was released in Sydney. Very impressed playing with tiny monster even though I knew what to expect having read a lot of posts on it.

You can't really put this camera in a jeans pocket like the Ricoh GR2. But when you have such tremendous power in the palm of your hand its not something you should treat lightly. Wear it with a wrist band and go make memories.

I will share a few things that I love about this small beast and also some that I think could have been done better. That being said no camera is perfect. The key thing to remember is when you have so much control in such a tiny body it can easily get a little complicated too. Its strength can also also be its weakness in different scenarios. However, for an 'on the go' street/documentary or even a travel camera - Fuji you have raised the bar. Again!

Here are a few of my observations.

What I love about the Fujifilm X100F

  1. I'm besotted with the x100F's Acros simulation. I have been since the X-Pro2 came out. But now to have this in a small handy on the go camera is so liberating. When you take wispy dark cloud, or a soulful portrait or candid street scene on the Acros R setting - its nothing short of magic. If you own this camera try the Acros simulation with R channel. You can add more drama if you use the G channel. R is my preferred setting for now. Do not add grain as Acros bring in its own grain with it. Its almost like shooting film all over again without having to shell out extra $$. Stunning work here Fujifilm for bringing this to the x100F.

  2. Image quality right out the box. SOOC(straight out of camera) jpegs are sharp and crisp from the get-go.. It has that Fujifilm X-Pro2 quality in a such a tiny sexy rangefinder looking body.

  3. Joystick - My AF is always locked to centre but I can quickly press unlock and move it just like the X-Pro2. Time saver! And helps metering light and subject in a jiffy.

  4. Autofocus is God sent! Big improvement on the x100T which was pretty good too for its time but the x100F raises the bar. Possibly the best compact camera out there today.

  5. The ISO/Shutter speed selector dial is identical to that of X-Pro2. This is so good! Huge time saver.

What could be better about the Fujifilm X100F

  1. I wish the AEL/AEF button was under the Q button on the right side just like the X-Pro. I don't use the Q button much and when I do it unnecessarily slows me down.

  2. Heavy - yes heavy on one side, the right side. Not a fan of this but i guess I'll have to get used to it.

  3. Battery compartment cover comes undone often. The batter doesn't fall out nor does the memory card but the plastic cover over the batter compartment is poorly designed. Its flaky at best.

Customise your settings, your way!

A few days into it Kevin Mullins from F16 posted a video on how he customises his camera. I tried it out for a week. Then went back to customise it further to how i like it. While you're there check out Kevin's family photos with the x100F. Love his work. If you are a JPG shooter you will get a lout out of Kevin's settings.

Conclusion

Its my everyday camera,  I'm in love with how it renders B/W tonal moods. I love the feel of the camera in my hand despite its slight bulkiness and one sided weight. It will NOT replace my X-Pro2 but it will often make me leave my X-Pro2 at home.

International Women's day

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  I'm a day late for the international Woman's day. 

Here's to the talented women unnamed, unrecognised, underpaid tirelessly standing up against injustice small or big. I'm sure it's easy to point fingers at developing nations and see the obvious gaps of corruption, gender inequality, poverty n disdain. But Australias poverty is of a different kind. The countries ongoing treatment of women, attitude towards the traditional owners of the land, domestic violence, marriage equality & treatment of refugees is something that history will not be kind about.

In 1984 sex discrimination law was passed for fair & equal treatment of women. Fast forward 33 years - we're on a hamster wheel! Ref: https://www.humanrights.gov.au/education/face-facts/face-facts-gender-equality

What makes a nation or city beautiful is it's people. We can do so much more by standing together as equals and lead by example.

Land of fair go, fair dinkum, mateship? Are we?

Fujifilm Lightroom preset

UPDATE: 26 Feb 2019. As of today this is no longer as a free download. Please use the link here to buy and download the preset for AU$10.00. Thank you.


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If you use a Fujifilm camera and use RAW files to shoot your image, your files will come up looking flatter when you import them in Lightroom. I have created the standard in-camera Fujifilm Presets for your RAW files. All Fujifilm cameras are set to Provia by default. If you use preset simlulations like Classic Chrome, PRO Neg Hi, PRO Neg StdProvia, Velvia or Acros(R/Y/G filters) in your camera all you have to do it apply the appropriate preset to your raw file in Lightroom. Download the Fujifilm Lightroom presets below. You can apply the required preset during import or while developing your images.

UPDATED: 20 March 2017 The download now contains addition Fujifilm profiles eg: PRO Neg Hi, PRO Neg Std & Acros(R/Y/G filters)

Purchase and download your in-camera Fujifilm lightroom presets.

Installing your Lightroom preset

To install, follow these steps sequentially:

  • Open Lightroom

  • Go to Develop mode (shortcut is ‘D’)

  • Under Presets module right click your mouse.

  • Click import and select your freshly downloaded presets from 23-NORTH.

Apply on the RAW Fujifilm files to see the image change. It will look exactly as it did inside your camera. Enjoy.

A view of the RAW image with 23-NORTH Velvia preset applied on the left. And on the right we have the same images with no preset applied.

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Black & White titillation

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  When I shoot in black and white (which is mostly)... I kinda miss colour a bit. But then I start to see everything that could have been a great colour composition and frame, just like Alex Webb or Jesse Marlow's frames to name a few. No seriously! Drat! I sigh. But with B/W I feel the sassiness - the intense POETRY that truly only good B/W brings! (debatable I know) I'm in LOVE with the world again... in B/W ha! When I don't give in to my muse for colour she knocks on my door. Persistent! Loud! And then she screams in my head:

Hey, you ARE missing out!

In all that inner turmoil, I succumb. I switch.

But it only takes me a few days to feel how much I miss the wispy poetic B/W frames. I miss the B/W titillation. I miss that arousal that tones bring. I say bye bye Alex Webb and Trent Parke. I'm back to square one.

Do you feel that way? It's ok if you do, or if you don't.

I'm shamelessly happy to admit I go through this almost every day. :)

Happy Friday everyone.

Street photographers photographing the homeless

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Photographing the homeless

Every city and town have homeless people. Sad that it is but that's just the new reality we all live in given rising costs and low affordability worldwide. They have fallen on hard times, are homeless with very little to no money, little clothing or protection from the elements. They are probably at their very lowest point in life. As a photographer, do you think it is ethical to photograph the homeless?

Exploiting poverty for your personal gain

As fellow human beings with far more favourable conditions to the homeless, instead of showing kindness toward these men & women a lot of photographers(particularly street photographers) exploit their situation discreetly. Some, of course, have a chat and offer help. But those are far and few between. The internet has millions of these exploitatory images. Even somewhat conscientious photographers don't bat an eyelid to this unethical etiquette.

If you are a street photographer and you shoot the helpless people living hand to mouth I have two questions for you:

  • are you that desperate for a shot that you couldn't do better than to rob a frame of the homeless man who has no place to go and no money to earn. Their helplessness, squalor and state of despair goad you to shoot without any moral dilemma?

  • are you are so lacking in faculty and courage that you cannot approach people and rather settle for the victims who are voiceless and timid. You shoot the meek to avoid confrontation?

Are you one of them? No, really, are you one of those photographers? You then go home,  process and post your photos letting the world know how terrific a photographer you are! In my opinion, if you are out on the streets having the urge to photography a homeless soul to further your portfolio - that's not really photography. The more fitting word is -- you lack respect for others, you are just another opportunist.

If however, you are photographing the homeless for a reason, there is a project you are working on, I do hope you approach them for permission and help them out with some money, food or shelter.

How is photographing the downtrodden to further your portfolio a moral thing to do? All you do is take from them their discomposure, their bashful state, their humility to gain more personal popularity in your photography.

  • What are you contributing to the world in doing so?

  • What are you contributing to these homeless people?

If you are a street photographer, you ought to know better than this.

Have I done it?

Sadly yes. I have probably done this two or three times and it didn't feel right and I do regret it.

I have an aversion to looking at other people's work who do this unashamed day after day. In Sydney alone, a number of photographers - wait! Scratch that… a big number of  STREET PHOTOGRAPHERS shoot the homeless to further their portfolio. This is a very common activity worldwide too.  This kind of exploitative photography is demeaning to everyone. And it speaks loads about you as a photographer. It embodies objectification.

The rule is simple, when in doubt, stop and ask a question in your head. Reverse the situation and ask yourself - would you be party to this? By all means, capture the truth but be gentle and respectful of the less fortunate. It is not that difficult to be kind to fellow human beings!

Ladakh - Prabuddha Das Gupta

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We had no common language. She spoke no Hindi or English and I spoke no Tibetian or Ladakhi. But the communication we had, just by touch and through our eyes, was more real, more significant than the communication I've had with many people with whom I have shared a long-term relationship. We held hands, I took her pcitures, she blessed me and I left with tears in my eyes and a few photographs of her face against the luminous desert sky...

Buddhist boy in Ranbirpura, about 20 kms from Leh, pictured in black and white

I've just finished reading "Ladakh" by Prabuddha Das Gupta for the second time. An engrossing book on the landscapes and people of Indian top eastern end. Having grown up close to the foothills of the northeastern parts of India myself I feel a sense of nostalgia with Prabuddha's work.

The north-eastern plains of India are still relatively warm in the winter months. During this time the foothills of Himalayas were completed frozen over and locked from all forms of life. A lot of the people from the neighbouring countries, particularly from the hills and valleys of the Karakoram ranges take shelter in the relatively warmer climate of India.

This temporary but mass exodus is an annual ritual for most people that live within a day's journey to the Himalayan ranges. During winter we'd await their arrival in our cities and towns and see them set up life on the go!

Life on the go

We would get to see a lot of Bhutanese and Nepalese people come down to India during the colder months. They would set up shops in parks and street corners and sell their goodies, making a living from it. Life is hard for them and these hardships seem to make them such endearing people. They never stop smiling, are polite and have good business acumen. The hardships of life taught them to be grateful and agile.

Imagine having to pack up your life and move for three months with your loved ones every year. With no definitive place or destination in mind. All you know is you have to go to survive the bitter chills of the mountain air.

As a kid, I did notice how different their kids looked to most of my friends, how they always smiled and waved at me. I loved their facial features and how they have mystified quizzical eyes that seem to ask a lot of questions. I remember having many a chat with mum about why they visit India and then disappear.

Some of them found jobs and would stay back for good. But a majority of them were and I guess still are transient travellers exploring the tepid plains of India when the icy cold winds stop everything in their tracks.

Prabuddha’s Ladakh story taps into my childhood memories. When I look through his imagery it takes me back to my alma mater! It evokes nostalgia on every page and frame!

The Mountain calleth

There are quite a few striking frames in the Ladakh series. I'm equally blown away by Prabuddha's diction, his conflicts, his semblance of life and love for the stoic mountains. The parallels he draws from his own life to relate the desolate yet connected world in the high altitudes of Tibet.

The photographer's devotion to turning himself around from portrait photography to capturing moments of the wide sweeping mountain plains and the hardships of life recreated him and gave him a new lease on life. In the western world where we have so much and yet want more — this book draws a clear message through his imagery. In his own words.

For the Ladakhi, the entire philosophy and practice of life is based on the connectedness and unity of all things, big and small. Nothing has an existance of its own. Everything is inextricably linked. The land, the elements, the fauna that roams the valleys, men and women, body and spirit...

Two striking images

There are many stunning black and white frames in Ladakh series but two of these are absolutely adorable and I felt a connection deeper than normal. These are:

  1. Muslim shepherd near Kargil. The first indication that we were leaving the domain of the Buddha and entering that of Islam

  2. Sumdo village, on the way to Tso-Mo-Riri. As we stopped to rest this little girl came up to the jeep window. There was neither curiosity nor hostility in her gaze, just the calm detachment of an observer.

"High on India's northern frontier, at the edge of Tibet, lies Ladakh, a desert wilderness that is the final stronghold of Tibetan Buddhism. Sparsely populated, it is a place of extremes of climate and inhospitable terrain, but it is also one of spellbinding beauty. Prabuddha Das Gupta, one of India's finest photographers, first went to Ladakh in 1995 and has since returned eight times, in thrall to the magnificence of its landscape and its compassionate, serene people.

In this book, he allows his camera to range over forbidding views of snow and stone, expanses of sand furrowed by the wind, mysterious conjunctions of water and earth and endless vistas of sky and cloud. The photographs also reflect the vitality, dignity and calm of the exceptional people who inhabit this vast and empty landscape. together they depict an unforgettable portrait of this ancient and enigmatic land..."

Kindness is a choice

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Kindness is a choice

“One day you will understand that kindness is harder than cleverness.

Smart is a gift, but kindness is a choice.”

-- Jeff Bezos

The kindness on this lady's face is beyond words for me. I approached her and asked to make a portrait. We kept talking for a bit as I kept shooting. She was sitting on a bench in the Strand Arcade in Sydney. As we both got a little more comfortable during our discourse on life I got a little closer and kneeled down and took this photo.

There are so many beautiful emotions in this photos for me. It is one of my favourites frames of 2016 because I feel I've captured her soul. There is so much love, sorrow, hope, despair, kindness and benevolence in her face. I felt double rewarded when Eric Kim said it was one of my best photos during our assignment in class.