Kris G Hariharan: Maha Kumbh Mela, India


The Image

Photographer:
Kris G Hariharan

Location:
Maha Kumbh Mela, Allahabad, India.

Time / Date:
01: 49 PM / February 10, 2013

The Technical

Gear:
Camera Body: Canon 7D
Lens: Canon 70-200mm f/4L

Camera Settings:
Shutter Speed: 1/100
Aperture: f/16
ISO: 320
Focal Length: 70mm

The Story

Background: 

I have been documenting socio-cultural events and contemporary issues in India for some time now. It’s been a dream to document the Maha Kumbh Mela, the largest religious human gathering on the planet. The festival is sacred mass pilgrimage of sorts, which brings together millions of Indians to take the sacred dips at Sangam (convergence) – the holy confluence of sacred rivers such as Ganges, Yamuna and Mystical Saraswati. The faith is not limited to Hindu followers; several believers from across the world participate in this epic spiritual experience and indulge in one of the world’s oldest cultures. As part of the photographic journey, I was hoping to document a different paradigm of the story; an interesting perspective portraying international pilgrims and their journey to fathom Indian culture presented itself.

The Scene: 

After being miffed and exhausted by the never ending crowd, I wanted to explore the place around Sangam – the main bathing area. As expected, the entire locality was filled with thousands of people, covering every spot on the lane. With hardly any space to stand comfortably in, I decided to push myself out of the main area and move from the maddening crowd. I befriended a local, a motorist, who agreed to drop me at the nearest bridge, located approx. 2 miles from Sangam. Although the roads were blocked for security reasons, I persuaded my new friend to negotiate with the cops on duty to let us in. As soon as he dropped me off at the bridge; a breathtaking view of Sangam awaited me.

Gear: 

Contrary to the traditional mantra, I don’t always travel light. As Indian festivals involve long hours of continuous and tedious shooting, I want to travel light to avoid fatigue, but in the quest to make sure I have all the essential lenses in the focal length spectrum I end up carrying much. An event of such insane magnitude such as the Maha Kumbh Mela was sure to enervate me in the shortest possible time. But it always played on my mind that this may be a once in a life time opportunity to capture the event and therefore I carried two camera bodies – primarily Canon 7D. When it comes to portraitures, I believe that true emotions of subjects could be captured only getting close enough hence prefer a 50 mm prime lens. A good sturdy tripod always comes in handy, along with certain filters, remote triggers, spare batteries and Speedlight. I would suggest to store the camera and all its accessories in separate bags for easy access and safety while transportation.

Making the Shot:

On the main day of Maha Kumbh Mela at the Mela ground (Sangam), I walked many hours and miles braving extreme temperatures. Fortunately, I managed to discover certain vantage points on time around the venue, a few meters away from the waters. Although the aerial shot of the boat appears to be taken from air, it wasn’t. Locals can always be a great source of information. I had befriended a person, who was friendly enough to drive me to the nearest Bridge which was located approx. 2 miles away from the venue – mind you, this involved 2 miles of jam-packed roads, with people filling up all the visible spots on it, mimicking a certain bee comb laid out on asphalt. As photographing from air by drone or copters (Neither did I own) was an offense, hanging from the bridge seemed sensible. At a distance, I had spotted a white boat carrying foreign pilgrims, boating towards me slowly but steadily. As I had always loved shooting aerials, a great opportunity presented itself. Soon, the wait began. Meanwhile, shooting in manual for several years had its advantages. I had captured a couple of sample shots – correcting the metering values on a stray boat, which had passed a couple of times. The frame was composed well in advance as I learnt the trajectory of the incoming boat. With limited time say 2-3 seconds on hand, the boat passed a few hundred feet beneath me. However, it arrived, I nailed the trigger and it passed. It wasn’t until I reached my camp and viewed on the laptop, I knew that I had got my shot.

Editing & Processing:

On the main day of Maha Kumbh Mela at the Mela ground (Sangam), I walked many hours and miles braving extreme temperatures. Fortunately, I managed to discover certain vantage points on time around the venue, a few meters away from the waters. Although the aerial shot of the boat appears to be taken from air, it wasn’t. Locals can always be a great source of information. I had befriended a person, who was friendly enough to drive me to the nearest Bridge which was located approx. 2 miles away from the venue – mind you, this involved 2 miles of jam-packed roads, with people filling up all the visible spots on it, mimicking a certain bee comb laid out on asphalt. As photographing from air by drone or copters (Neither did I own) was an offense, hanging from the bridge seemed sensible. At a distance, I had spotted a white boat carrying foreign pilgrims, boating towards me slowly but steadily. As I had always loved shooting aerials, a great opportunity presented itself. Soon, the wait began. Meanwhile, shooting in manual for several years had its advantages. I had captured a couple of sample shots – correcting the metering values on a stray boat, which had passed a couple of times. The frame was composed well in advance as I learnt the trajectory of the incoming boat. With limited time say 2-3 seconds on hand, the boat passed a few hundred feet beneath me. However, it arrived, I nailed the trigger and it passed. It wasn’t until I reached my camp and viewed on the laptop, I knew that I had got my shot.

Looking Back:

This happens to be one of my favorite shots to date, a sort of reminder to myself to perform better, to go an extra mile to get THE SHOT. It has also taught me to move out of comfort zone to produce different images and angles to support the story.

Advice:

Technicality and Passion should be treated as two separate islands with an interconnecting bridge. A true photographer has to traverse between the two, capitalizing the merits of each and integrating the best of both worlds. Although technicalities are not mandatory, it definitely triggers creativity. Be assertive to photograph your passion – people, architecture, travel, landscape, wildlife or a mixture of two or more. In the process, get inspired from others and be your own critique. Be an artist and engage with like-minded people to brainstorm concepts. Don’t be afraid to try bizarre and insane ideas.

Inspiration:

There are numerous photographers and artists out there, who have inspired me throughout my career. Several masters such as James Nachtwey, Ralph Morse, and David Alan Harvey etc. have taught me the importance of composition and decisive moment over technicalities, natural lighting and narrative style over post production.


 

Kris Hariharan_Photographer_portrait

About the Photographer

Kris G Hariharan is an India based travel and documentary photographer currently living in Bangalore. His passion lies in exploring lesser known places, documenting the lives of people and multifarious cultures. Through his pictures he attempts to continuously highlight pertinent stories of social change, in a creative fashion. He loves to cook, teach photography, go on a hike, volunteer for a social cause and travel around the city by local bus. In the long run, he hopes to educate and inspire the collective conscience of millions to action, by setting up a School for Creative Photography.

Website: www.flickr.com/photos/krisghariharan/
Facebook: /kris.g.hariharan
Twitter: @KrisgHariharan


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