It is yet another Ganesh Chaturti, and India, particularly the North and Central portions, sport a festive fervour, bordering a maddening sense of celebration. The various Ganpati idols and Ganesh mandals are a colourful treat to photographers, particularly around Maharashtra. While you brave the rains that invariably appear to bless the immersion and train your lenses on the festivities, we bring you a few tips on capturing this mega-event.
1. Find a vantage point
The Ganapati procession during Ganeshotsav is one of the most crowded festivals in India, and shooting the festivities from the ground can be a daunting task with the crowd cheering around. It is advisable to scout the path of procession and find a vantage point, preferably a building on the way, one that provides a clear view of the path below. On the day of procession, remember to be there well in advance and take your place and be prepared to spend a long day at the same position.
2.Choose lenses wisely
This is important if you are shooting with a DSLR. A telephoto lens is absolutely necessary during the procession to capture close-ups of the aarti and details of the idol. A medium telephoto zoom such as 70-200mm or 50-150mm equivalent would be ideal. Anything more would mostly require high shutter speeds to keep steady, which is usually impossible in these circumstances. For the crowd, you might also want a wide-angle lens such as a 17-40mm or a 12-24mm. If you are visiting the Ganesh mandals before the immersions, a normal lens or a standard zoom would be ideal, such as a 24-70mm.
3.Get to know your gear
Take some time to understand how your camera-lens combination behaves. Lenses produce the maximum sharpness at certain apertures, and it varies from piece to piece. Take some time to determine what f-numbers (aperture) provide the best, acceptable and worst sharpness. This is particularly important when capturing details of the idol.
4.Use Daylight White Balance
Shooting the mandals require you to capture the ambience around the idol. The mandals are usually illuminated in exotic lights. Using Auto White Balance will eliminate the dominant hue in the scene and render the image with a less attractive effect than what you see with your eyes. The trick is to use Daylight White Balance, which will keep all warm hues mostly intact. You may also want to shoot in RAW format so that fine-tuning White balance would be much easier in post-processing.
5.Capture the bright hues
Any festival in India is characterised by bright colours. To get the best out of your camera, choose your camera’s Picture Style (Canon) or Picture Control (Nikon) wisely. Vivid or Landscape setting will help to capture these vibrant colours well. You can even tweak the saturation, contrast, brightness and sharpness to your liking. For this, you need to practice a lot before settling for the final values.
6.Take care of your gear
Watch out for the crowd. Always keep in mind that you are carrying precious equipment. So when you are not shooting, keep the equipment shielded with your hands. We would advice against hanging your camera on the shoulder. Watch out for coloured powder and water being splashed. If the camera gets wet, wipe immediately. Avoid changing lenses in the middle of a crowd. In fact, it would be better to keep shooting with the same lens throughout unless you can find a quiet place far from the maddening crowd and change the lens, under the protection of your camera bag. If you are using a compact camera or smartphone, keep it fastened to your wrist so that it doesn’t slip. Always keep a dry microfibre cloth along with a cotton towel so that you can wipe off any water immediately. Do not forget to carry an umbrella since Ganesh festival is normally associated with rains. Again, when you reach home after the shooting session, make sure that you clean the equipment thoroughly and dry them using a dry cabinet or a dessicant such as silica gel.
The Ganesh Chaturti is only the beginning of a long festive season, and we are committed to bring you a few tips on every occasion. Happy shooting.