Rajiv Chopra

A Gypsy, Bismillah & Esmerelda The Spider Sit With Yama At The Vaitarna

Ed’s History Challenge. Sheikh Cheli


Sheikh Chelib’s Tomb

I was tossing between going to some modern history of India, or staying in Kurukshetra. I decided to stay in Kurukshetra for two more weeks, blogwise speaking, before writing about some rather remarkable modern history in India. So, some history this week, and some mythology next week.

Now, Kurukshetra is actually Krishna-Mahabharatha land, and I was a bit stunned when I stumbled upon Sheikh Cheli’s tomb in Thanesar. Thanesar is a little village today in the Kurukshetra region. Almost 2,000 years ago, however, Thanesar was the capital of Pushyabhuti Dynasty.

Thanesar has 6 periods of settlement:

  • Kushana – 1st to 3rd century AD
  • Gupta – 4th to 6th century AD
  • Vardhana – 6th to 7th century AD
  • Rajput – 8th to 12th century AD
  • Mughal 16th to 19th century AD

We’ll come back to the Rajput one, in a minute. Sheikh Cheli, otherwise known as Abd-ur-Rahim or Abd-ul-Karim or Abd-ur-Razak was a Sufi saint, who was the spiritual Guru of Dara Shikoh, the eldest son of the Mughal Emperor, Shah Jahan. Dara Shikoh was a remarkable man in many ways, and would have been a superb leader. However, in the wars of succession, he was ousted and killed by his youngest brother – Aurangzeb.

About 10 km from Thanesar, is a place called Tarain, which is significant in its place in Indian history for the two battles that took place there in 1191 and 1192 AD.

Mohammed Ghori came in and fought the Rajput Ruler, Prithviraj Chauhan in two battles, in 1191 and 1192. He was routed in the first battle, and came back in 1192. He changed his battle strategy during the second battle of Tarain, and defeated Prithviraj Chauhan. Prithviraj Chauhan was captured, taken to Kabul, where he was blinded and beheaded.

The second battle of Tarain was significant in that it ended, for all practical purposes, Hindu rule in North India for the next 700 years. Mohammed Ghori returned home, and allowed his general, Qutb ud-din Aibak, to rule.

Qutb-ud-din-Aibak set up the Delhi Sultanate, and the Slave Dynasty. He started construction of the Qutb Minar, which was completed by his successor, Iltutmish.

Delhi, they say, was founded in 736 AD ( it has seen human settlement for 3,000 years, however). However, it was with the setting up of the Delhi Sultanate after 1192, that Delhi became the seat of power and politics.

Despite what the current brand of rabid Hindu maniacs say today, Delhi owe’s its first real importance as a city to the establishment of Islamic rule in India.

One Four Challenge: November. Week 4 Money Plant


Money Plant

Here is Week 4 of November. Now, I really cannot figure out this new post system of WordPress, but I will struggle along

This time I did use some third party plug ins.

First, I used the DXO Film Pack, Then, I used Topaz’s new filter – Texture Effects, and these two are really cool plug ins. I got the Topaz one for a great price, actually.

After that, I brushed back the original colour on some of the leaves, and then I enhanced the green in them.

So, here you have it.. Week 4, with a bit of fun!

And, what you see above, are the images of the previous weeks…


The Magic Frame: What’s In The Bag Part Three



This is part three of four in this series. Why four parts, you may ask.

Photography is a strange craft. Unless you are doing very casual stuff, then you have to plan your lenses, and plan your bag accordingly.

You may also wonder why I have one bag and one camera, with no spare lens in the photograph above. Quite simple. This is what I use when I am doing street photography. The gear you use, drives your photography, and it reflects your approach to photography.

When I started in street photography, I used to hide behind poles, and generally shoot with a long telephoto lens. This, I still do from time to time. However, in those days, when someone would look at me, my knees would wobble, and I would quickly look away. Additionally, I thought that it was somewhat glamorous to be changing lenses all the time. It made me feel important. I was quite the chick-magnet, I thought.

However, when you are shooting people in the street, you are essentially shooting strangers, and you are participating in a slice of their lives. When you do this, it is good to make eye contact and smile. In doing so, you give them respect. This is essential. I often chat with the people that I shoot. It is fun, enjoyable. It makes me feel a part of their lives, and less like an interloper.

The other reasons I use a “go-to” lens like the 28-300 mm that I have on the D810, or the 28-200 on the D 200, is that I do not have to change lenses. Not only do I not miss any action, I prevent dust from going into the sensor.

Street photography is about people. It is about participating in humanity. You can capture raw emotion, and this is something to do when you are part of the action. We are not thieves in the night, who snatch a photo. We are participants in this mad thing called “LIFE”. We are part of it, and street photographers need to recognise and remember this.


The times that I do use a second lens, is when I am on the street at night. Irrespective of whether I am using the D200 or the D 810, I will carry a 50 mm lens. The 1.4 aperture allows me to use a lower ISO, and helps in less problems with noise reduction. The one reason why I do like the D200, is that it is a lighter camera than the D810, and this is great for street work. The D810 is very heavy and you can end up with some rather sad shots, because of shake.

The 50 mm lens also means that I move to the subject. It forces you to compose and see differently.

In these cases, I use a sling bag, like the Lowepro above. The swing action makes it easier to change the lens, as I can swing the bag to the front of the body.

So, there you have it. A different set of bags for street photography!

Ed’s History Challenge: The Bhagwat Gita


For this week’s challenge, I am going to go into a bit of mythology. Why do I do this? Because, in India, often mythological lessons and stories blend into historical legend and myth becomes fact in the minds of many.

Mythology is often a living thing in India, in whatever warped form it may exist today.

One of our great epics is the Mahabharatha, and one of the climatic moments in this epic took place at Kurukshetra, in North India. This is where the battle between the armies of the 5 Pandava brothers, and the 100 Kaurava brothers took place.

Krishna was the charioteer for Arjuna, the archer, the third of the five Pandava brothers. At the start of the battle, Arjuna asked Krishna to wheel his chariot to the battle front and when he saw his cousins (the Kauravas) and his uncles and friends there, ready to do battle with him, he lost his nerve.

That is when Krishna recited the Bhagwat Gita (we pronounce it, in Hindi, as The Bhagwat Geet), and then exhorted Arjuna to do battle.

The Bhagwat Geet translates as “The Song Divine”, and is a pithy and wise book. Easy to read and hard to understand.

This photograph was taken at the very place that the Bhagwat Geet was said to have been recited. The soles of Krishna’s feet were said to have divine markings, and these are shown in the marble replica, at which the woman is praying.

It is a remarkably simple, quiet and serene place. It is very unlike the chaos of most Hindu temples. You feel the peace in the trees of this place.

Monochrome Madness. Clouds Over The Cricket Ground


To take this shot, I used a 12-24 on my D200, and kept the angle as wide as possible. The lights, therefore, are deliberately curved

This, by the way, is the Dharamshala Cricket Ground in North India. Lovely, eh, to play cricket with such clouds and the Dauladhar Mountains in the background?

Nature made the photograph possible.

Maybe, we should take the time to pay more attention to our world.

One Four Challenge. November. Week Three. Money Plant


For this week’s challenge, I went kinda retro.

I twaddled around a bit, trying to make a selection using the ‘focus’ selection tool and then I decided that this was too much effort. Making a clean selection was getting to be quite the grunt job. I was tempted to use the new Topaz Texture Filter, and then said, bugger it, why make my life too simple either.

So, I added a gradient fill layer. This is the B&W one, the diagonal one. In this layer, I added the radial “mask” to give it a smoky effect (sort off), fiddled with the angle of the effect.

Then, I added a curves layer. I also then adjusted the colour balance of the highlights to enhance the green. I then fiddled with the green channel of the HSL layer, and added some more green in selective colours!

And, there you are….

The Misstory Of My Hisstory… – Elephanta

Elephanta Caves, Bombay

                                                                                 Elephanta Caves, Bombay

Many moons ago, I started a blog called crooked-and-black.com. I abandoned it, because it took too much attention, to manage multiple blogs. It was cast in the form of a photographic journey.

I have decided to revisit this, and also to use this to talk about my ups and downs in my photographic journey.

Most of the time, as in the world of management, we see literature and examples of people who are fairly advanced along in their journey. Not many share the journey, to allow the world to see how it evolved.

I did think of cleaning up the image, and removing the scratches on the digital scans of the film. Then, I decided to leave them. We are so used to seeing oh-so perfect digital images, and the somewhat more artificial scratches generated by plug-ins that we forget what the scratches actually look like.

This photograph was taken at the Elephanta Caves, south of Bombay. This carving represents Shiva in one of his forms. If I remember well, this is his aspect of Nataraja, or The Lord of The Dance.

We speak of perfection. Focus on the absolutely perfect form of the temple carving.

Oh, I originally thought that I would call the “The Blast From The Past”, but I think Ed Mooney uses that, so I call it “The Misstory of my Hisstory”….

This is an old photograph, taken in my very early years, in this journey called photography.

Photography is, by the way, an exploration of the inner world as much as it is an exploration of the external world.

Ed’s History Challenge. The Red Fort Of Delhi

The Red Fort is a massive structure, and you cannot photograph it in one day. Impossible. I would even say that you need a few days for this.

The Prime Minister addresses the Nation behind a bullet proof glass every Independence Day. It was, however, commissioned by the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan in 1638 when he decided to move his capital from Agra to Delhi. This is where Shah Jahan had the famous Peacock Throne as well as the famous diamond, Koh-i-noor, that were plundered by the Persian king, Nadir Shah, in 1739.

The Fort was commissioned in 1648, and soon after Aurangzeb, his youngest son defeated his three other brothers in a war of succession. Shah Jahan was besieged in the fort, and was then sent to Agra to live in the Red Fort of Agra until his death. As per historical legend, Aurangzeb paraded his oldest brother, and Shah Jahan’s favourite – Dara Shikoh, naked on a donkey before the gates of the Red Fort. He was killed, and his sister Roshanara is said to have asked that Dara be beheaded. She then had Dara’s head served whole to Shah Jahan, who fainted at the sight of the head.

Aurangzeb refused to see his father during the last 7 years of Shah Jahan’s life.

Aurangzeb ruled for about 50 years, and for the last half of his reign, was in South India fighting the Marathas. This caused the Mughal Empire to slowly implode after his death.

I won’t go into the long history of the decline, but by 1857, the last Mughal Emperor was a puppet and a pensioner of the British. However, the Mughal King still had an aura and was the rallying symbol for the Mutineers. After his death, he was sent to Rangoon where he died.

That was the end of the Mughal Empire. However, the Red Fort has seen so much history that it is sometimes difficult to describe the mystique of the fort. It also contains, by the way, the older Salimgarh Fort that was built by the Suri Emperors in the years that Shah Jahan’s great grandfather, Humayun, was in exile.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 5,405 other followers