My friend Babu and Bharatanayam Arangetram

Babu and dance picture taken with Pentax K20D and Pentax DA* 50-135mm f/2.81/30 sec, f/3.5, 115mm, iso 640, 0 Ev, hand-held

Photos taken with Pentax K20D and
Pentax DA* 50-135mm f/2.8 and
Pentax FA 77mm f/1.8 limited

I met Babu in the shooting of a Bharatanayam Arangetram and Babu is the Director
Keerthana School of Indian Music & Fine Arts. Babu has a wonderful voice that I can't describe it in words, you have to be at the audience to experience his wonder of his songs. He has his own website with clips of his wonderful work in Babu Music. He also has great expression often felt in his deep voice and it is my pleasure to have met him in the dance. I am sure he has a fan base and I learn from him that he has an interest in finding a job on a permanent base in the US. I surely hope that I can meet him again.

Babu and dance picture taken with Pentax K20D and Pentax DA* 50-135mm f/2.8The photo shooting of my first Bharatanayam Arangetram was the most difficult shooting that I have ever performed. I lack the photog experience. The lighting is good for the artistic image but difficult as there are times that high ISO 1600 and wide open f/2.8 still had problem to get enough lighting for the scene. Though I was exhausted and spent two days in the shooting and 16+ hours of photo editing afterward. I was not aware of the fact that my volunteering job of the photo shooting of my co-worker's friend actually took away two weekends of my family time and many editing hours in between. I spent many late nights after work to go through the rehearsal and formal pictures. It was my most excruciating editing job on over 2000 pictures taken in 2 separate days of the event: rehearsal on Thursday and formal dance on Saturday.

I love the challenge in learning to take pictures in a staged performance with difficult and constantly changing lighting while the song and the themes in the dance change from one stage to another. In hindsights, I should have spent time to find out the time commitment. Had the family informed me about the time engagement, I would have walked away from the gruesome tasks of 2000+ pictures. Was it my stupidity that make all this resentment in my heart after the shooting. And was it the family that tried to exploit my enthusiasm for free photo service. Babu and dance picture taken with Pentax K20D and Pentax DA* 50-135mm f/2.8I think both are involved. I walked away from the shooting relieved as I did the best that I could as an amateur for the family but I felt bitter as the family really took advantage of me for saving the cost involved in their 2 days photo shooting for their daughter. I got no one to blame but myself to let my enthusiasm in photo learning opportunity to let others looking for free photography service to take full advantage of me
  • The family mentioned no time commitment of 5 hours of shooting in each of the two long days of shooting. Perhaps, they didn't want me to know what I signed up for. I would have walked away had they mentioned about the long hours.
  • In the formal dance, they gave me an Volunteer badge instead of the Photographer badge that I thought I rightly deserved. This is little thing that didn't bother me as I did volunteer for the service but it showed that they might have little respect to the profession of photography. I did not check on the professional that they hired for the formal video production and I would bet they had different treatment as an hired professional.
  • My name and my service was not even mentioned once. I was honored in the last catch all phrase of thank you to all "volunteers" in the dance. That was no biggie too but it would have made my free service to be honorable and respectful.
  • I was not given a bottle of water for my service in the rehearsal. Babu and dance picture taken with Pentax K20D and Pentax DA* 50-135mm f/2.8 In the formal, one of the five musicians actually offered me a bottle of their water when I asked them during intermission at backstage where I photoed the backstage lighting as well as candid photos for the musicians.
  • I was finally offered dinner on the formal dance. I earned my right for the restful dinner as I finally took my camera down and placed them on a table while shoveling the food to fill the void. I took more guest pictures when I was asked to take more pictures with their guests after the gruesome photo shooting for the reception, introduction, formal dance backstage intermissions and ending ceremony. My mind and physical body was somewhere else in Mars and I couldn't remember the day and the exact location of my presence when I took my dinner sitting next to Babu and the three other musicians in the event.

Babu and dance picture taken with Pentax K20D and Pentax DA* 50-135mm f/2.8When I finally finished the editing and upload of rough count of 600 pictures to flickr, I felt relieved as I did my volunteer job well for the family but I was totally resentful with the service and the family whom I had no relation other than acquaintance through a co-worker's son 1st first birthday in which I helped out with photography. That was an hour of my time and my co-worker provided all the thirst quenching water and great food in the party. I was thinking that the volunteering work was a matter of another birthday event, I could do it and I could make new friends with this unknown but seemingly friendly and well educated Indian family. Was I so wrong in my expectation?

Babu and dance picture taken with Pentax K20D and Pentax DA* 50-135mm f/2.8
My enthusiasm in helping people taking pictures for free has caused me an important lesson to learn. I went to the rehearsal, two days before the formal dance at 3:30pm on a Thursday in Palo Alto near Middlefield and San Antonio Road. I was invited to the rehearsal to practice the shooting. I eagerly agreed to it as I didn't want my inexperience to hamper the pictures of the family important and once in a lifetime dance graduation of their daughter. The ceremony of Bharatanayam Arangetram was an important and sacred event in the family. They hired separate professional video grapher as well as stage lighting and music crews on the formal dance. I returned home that Thursday night with 390 pictures on the rehearsal at 10:00pm as I took dinner in Taco Bell at 8:45pm. I slept past 2:30pm on early Friday morning finishing the upload of rehearsal photo set. The theater was at least 40 miles from my home. I was not offered even a single bottle of water. I was essentially starving throughout the 5+ hours of rehearsal practice while the dancer and the musician practiced in the theater well prepared with snack and water. I was not told anything about a 5+ hour long rehearsal and I could not have anticipated the long event but I was also occupied in studying the lighting, my hunger and thirst were second nature. No biggie and I was delighted and excited to see the Taco Bell before highway 101 entrance when I left. That $2.79 spicy crunchy wrap was the best that I have ever had.

Babu and dance picture taken with Pentax K20D and Pentax DA* 50-135mm f/2.8I wasn't upset on Thursday as my mind was more focused in getting the best of the rehearsal shots to the family to show that I qualified for the task and their trust. I was relieved that my practice run was smoother than expected. Come Saturday, I was more prepared with extra slack and started the day with McDonald Ice Mocha. I loved the large drink from McDonald that it lasted through 3/4 of the dance for me. I was aware that the family really misinformed me on the shooting time required. I was totally naive in not knowing anything about the dance of 5 hours of shooting in each day. And I was not aware that the performance alone was 3 hour stretch in the dance with a 15 minutes intermission. Unlike the rehearsal, I was offered with snack like the rest of the guests in intermission and I finally earned my South Indian dinner after 10 hours of shooting in two separate days and the previous 4+ hours of editing for the rehearsal on Thursday night. In total honesty, I liked the dinner but I was so freaking tired anything would smell and taste like a feast from heaven. In the dinner, I met new friends and relatives of the family.

I have many Indian friends and colleagues who are great people with kindness, honesty, well education and best of all consideration for others not of the same ethnic background. This incidence has revealed a different face that I unfortunately have learned the hard way. After the Bharatanayam Arangetram, I was contacted by one of the relatives of the Indian family on a Friday afternoon with a quick next day photo service request. The gentleman and I work in the same company and he requested my assistance to photo service on the next day on an half marathon on behalf of an Eye Hospital donation in India. It was meant for a charity service and the event started early at 7:00am on Saturday with a 30 mile driving distance from my home. I normally will jump at a great opportunity to help and learn and donate my time for a good charity purpose. There was no way in my slightest imagination that I would be ready to find the shooting spots on a half marathon trail stretching in miles in the Shoreline park of Mountain View. Let alone the very little information and time for me to get informed from this gentlemen about the exact location of the shooting. I did not hesitate for a moment and said no to the urgent request as I was resentful with what I was about done at the time with all the 2000+ picture editing and selection for the Bharatanayam Arangetram event.

Babu and dance picture taken with Pentax K20D and Pentax DA* 50-135mm f/2.8More free photography requests kept coming. One included shooting many Hindu Gods in their temple after certain activity where each Hindu family placed their Gods' symbolic figures for display. I said no right at the moment of request as I have conflict of religion belief in Jesus Christ. I did comply with two photo services from Indian colleagues as they were meant for an important functions of two different groups in my company -- Women In Tech and Indian Heritage Day in 2009. I helped out the two requests and declined the rest as I was simply exhausted and resentful to my enthusiasm in helping others with my amateur photo skills

Babu and dance picture taken with Pentax K20D and Pentax DA* 50-135mm f/2.8
Please ask me not for photo service again unless I have a good reason with interest or that my family approves my time spent for the service. And I have made it known in my contact page that I no longer offer free photography service. I am tired with the requests and I can not give a reason to justify the complaint from my family. I surely have met the people that I was perhaps not meant to help but I did what I could in helping them saving cost from a true professional service.

Babu and dance picture taken with Pentax K20D and Pentax DA* 50-135mm f/2.8
When the family asked me for a free DVD delivered to their home. I finally said NO and I explained my resentment to them. But out of my courtesy of service and that it is an important event to their family, I allow them to print as many pictures as they desire from my Flickr account.

Babu and dance picture taken with Pentax K20D and Pentax DA* 50-135mm f/2.8
But for my good friend Babu and the other three great musicians who did not ask me to work for their pictures, I let them download all of their photos and they are not the client who requested my presence and service. I hope that I can clear my mind with resentment and move on to another chapter where I learn to say no for a reason and learn to gather information so as to arrive at an informed decision in saying yes to a service.


internet marketing services said... @ September 24, 2009 at 3:35:00 AM PDT

amazing images! sharp and vivid. i love it!

Hin Man said... @ September 24, 2009 at 4:17:00 AM PDT

Thank you for the visit and comment. I wish the ending story is as nice as the pictures. I wish I could have ended the chapter with a feeling of great accomplishment along with a good friendship made upon the family of the dancer.

It is quite the opposite if you read my feelings in the story. Babu and the other three other just got most of their images in the formal dance. I felt great in that regard as I did make new good friends from India.

It will take a bit more time for me to heal from the bad impressions and resentment on volunteering my time that seem so wasteful without a morally justified reason for a family not considerate of my well beings. I look for consolation as well as resolve in the near future. I salvage the feelings and take it positively in knowing that I have learnt important lesson and I will say NO when asked again.

nekuromanseru said... @ September 24, 2009 at 10:52:00 AM PDT


can you share tips regarding taking a shot during this concert? I'm little bit confuse, how do you took those picture without flash and limited amount of light..

BTW, i like all B/W pictures in this article..superb!

Anonymous said... @ September 25, 2009 at 5:17:00 PM PDT

Well, good luck getting hired in the future after your potential customers see this.

Somanna said... @ September 28, 2009 at 1:43:00 PM PDT

I remember seeing your first few photos from this and really enjoyed the shots, esp. since I am from southern India. It is unfortunate to read about the treatment you received from the family and that it has taken away from your enjoyment/fondness in looking back.
I agree with you in that you had to draw the line somewhere, even if it were free. Time with family is just as valuable. And any potential customer should know to treat their vendor with respect, and if they don't see that then you don't need their business (and vice versa).

Anonymous said... @ October 1, 2009 at 11:03:00 AM PDT

I have just re-read this account. I hope you can smile about the experience, now. The photos are really wonderful.

Anonymous said... @ November 4, 2009 at 5:42:00 AM PST

nekuromanseru -- the answer to your question resides in the article. Hin man shot mostly in 2.8 and with the ISO at 1600.

Anonymous I am surprised by your comments. Hin man worked for free (a dinner doesn't count as compensation) over the course of two days at the location, had long commutes, and spent more time editing on a project that was misrepresented from the get go.

The whole point is he is not for hire for FREE. His time and expertise are worth something. Most people don't mistreat professionals -- videographers, photographers, band members, etc.

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