Photographing The Serenity Of St. Thomas Mount, India
If ever you go to Chennai (formerly known as Madras) in Southern India you should make your way to St. Thomas Mount on the outskirts of town.
It’s a great place from which to escape the touts and taxi drivers that continually hassle solo tourists in so many of India’s larger cities.
St. Thomas was one of the Apostle’s of Christ. Also known as the Doubting Thomas, St. Thomas traveled to India to spread the teachings of Jesus beyond what was then Roman occupied Palestine.
St. Thomas was killed on a hill nearby St. Thomas Mount, for which he was later declared a martyr.
The peak of this pretty mount, reached by either a single road or after a climb up 160 steps, features a lovely church (St. Thomas Mount National Shrine) and a children’s home run by Catholic nuns.
It was important for me to visit St. Thomas Mount as my mother, Mary Guy, through a charity she created and funded, supported the kindergarten for many years from the 1960’s onwards.
I was really pleased that the nuns who run the kindergarten allowed me to photograph some of the beautiful kids who are billeted there.
My understanding is that, in many cases, both parents work but are unable to care for their child during working hours. The nuns make sure the kids are well fed and cared for and most parents are usually able to visit on a weekly basis.
Many of the children are cared for in this way from crib to their first days at primary school.
Despite the smiles on their faces it was clear to see the sadness in the faces of parents as they left their young children at the end of visiting time.
How To Photograph The Innocent
The photo at the top of this post features three of the children, just about to go down for their afternoon nap. They were as intrigued by me as I was thrilled to meet them.
I love children and, as you know, they make wonderful subjects for photography. I suppose it’s the innocence in their expression that draws our attention.
They’re still young enough not to worry about how they look, which I think is a critical point when it comes to photographing them in an authentic way.
It’s great to photograph people without pretension, masks or inhibitions. We can learn a lot from children.
You’ll notice how I employed critical focusing and a shallow Depth Of Field to draw attention to the child closest to the camera.
I think the pastel color palette within the nursery was ideal for the gentle mood I was trying to portray.
How to Photograph a Group of People
You may also notice how I moved around so that the space between the three children created a triangular shape.
Placing circular or oval shaped faces into one or more greater triangular shapes is an important compositional technique to consider when photographing groups of people.
Make Sure You Control Where Your Camera Focuses
The above photo features a carving of Christ.
I was brought up a Catholic and have an interest in world religions, though I’m not directly associated with any particular religion or belief system.
I was fortunate to find the carving well illuminated. It was then a simple matter of moving in close and ensuring I directed the lens to focus on the eye closest to the camera.
Incidentally, there’s quite a strange effect that’s produced when the eye that’s further away from the camera is sharpest. It can be a little off putting, even spooky which is why that little trick is often used in the making of horror films.
On the desktop I employed Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop to process the image and then applied a vignette to help draw attention towards the face.
Finally I sprinkled some fairy dust and applied a subtle amount of glow to produce deep blacks and smooth, glowing highlights.
A very simple approach that produced quite a compelling result.
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