Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Learning to see creatively - book review

A friend recently told my wife that creativity is not something that could be learnt, it’s something that’s within you and that you are born with! (unfortunately, I was not around at that time). The ironic thing is that the statement was made about the book “Learning to See Creatively” by Bryan Peterson – the very book that has dispelled this misconception quite effectively. In his own words, the reason he first wrote the book was “to dispel the myth that the art of image making was for the chosen few”. After selling hundreds of thousand copies, the book being in existence for the past 20 years (original version was published in 1988) and going through so many reprints and revised editions, we can safely assume that he has been successful in doing this at least for those capable of grasping it.

Whilst I can admit that people are born with talent and creativity, to say that another person cannot “learn” to see creativity is very…. well…. silly! Do all those who are successful in art, fashion, design, etc inbuilt with talent only? Do they not go and “learn” their craft from schools, institutes and colleges? Even those who claim to have made it on their own talent are actually “self-taught” – they look at their idols and mentors, “learn” from their style and keep improving based on the feedback they get. This is true for any of the art forms out there. Yes there are people born creative – but the majority of the successful artists (be it art, photography, design, etc) have “learnt” to be creative. The fact is that in order to make a “creative” composition of a painting or photograph, you need to follow several rules (or you need to break the rules…. and to do that you need to know what the rules are…). These rules have been developed over centuries and even artists like Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo have used these rules in their paintings – does that mean that “they” were not creative?

Well having got that out of the way, let’s get down to the review. For those who do not know who Bryan Peterson is (and if you are photographer you surely should know him) – he is a very successful photographer with a highly profitable image stock library, some of which have been sold for thousands of dollars on a repetitive basis. He has been photographing for over 30 years and has been teaching photography for over 20 years. He is also the author of several highly successful books including “Understanding Exposure”, which many consider to be the “bible” of photography (I have this book as well but it does not need a separate review – just a single sentence – “If you want to understand photography, just get Understanding Exposure”).

“Learning to see creatively” has the very laid back and easy to understand style that Bryan used in “Understanding Exposure”. He quickly puts us at ease that we CAN learn to see creatively and then explains how to do this by changing the way we see things around us and expanding our vision. He then discusses the elements of design (line, shape, form, texture, pattern and colour) in detail and then goes on to give the rules like the Golden section, rule of thirds, etc and explains how all these elements come together to make a creative composition. Photography is all about light and a separate chapter has been dedicated to show how light affects composition.

The book is an excellent read and I highly recommend it. Its easy to understand and you quickly grasp the essentials. Design and rules of composition can be highly technical (as shown in Michael Freeman’s book The Photographer’s Eye) but Bryan has kept it all simple so that any beginner or amateur photographer reading it is able to understand. He uses a lot of examples and his own images to illustrate the point. To me, Bryan is like the cool high school teacher who makes things very interesting without trying too hard, so you end up learning without really knowing it. 

Monday, November 9, 2009

Dancing Damsels

Some of the pictures from this shoot were featured in the Sunday Observer Magazine on 1st November 2009 (online version here and here).

One of our dear friends, Chathu, is a dancer of extra ordinary talent and experience. She has been dancing professionally for more than 14 years and has performed in over 20 countries worldwide. She has her own dance troupe, Ethnic Dance Studio, who perform at corporate events and shows but this year she wanted to do her own show to showcase the troupe’s talents. 

As part of the promotional material for the event, she wanted a few shots to be taken of troupe and herself and as luck would have it, I was in Sri Lanka at that time to help out. I was quite nervous about doing a “professional” shoot – it would be the first time that I will be “directing” live models (other than for my wife) and I had to ensure that I had at least a few “winners” that they can use for their newspaper articles, promotional leaflets, souvenirs and website. So the pressure was on - I was not sure whether I was going to be able to do it but I was sure going to try.

The shoot was challenging for me on many fronts
1)     There were 5 dancers for the group shots and I had to ensure that ALL their faces could be seen properly. This was a bit difficult with all the arms and heads twisting around the frame while they went in to their dance poses! More often then not, by the time I had positioned them and taken a shot, the models would have moved ever so slightly to a position where the face was in shadow or was covered by another hand. So I had to take several frames quite quickly and I had to keep moving around or moving them around to get the proper shot

2)     As you can see from the pictures, the poses were not the “run of the mill” ones you get in normal portraits. In order to show them in their element, they had to be in certain dance poses which required quite an effort on their part. It was quite difficult for them to stand still when they were half bent or had one leg in the air and I had to take my shots quickly before the moment was lost or one of the dancers moved.

3)     Even though I had read up quite a bit on lighting, it’s altogether a different ball game when it comes to doing it for real!!! The shoot was done at the Hilton Hotel and balancing the lighting in some of the indoor shots was a pretty big challenge. Even trying to get the out door lighting, especially the ones against the sun, were quite difficult.

As stated above lighting was a pretty big challenge and even though I was using a shoot through umbrella and a voice activated light stand (my wife Michelle) it was quite difficult to get some of the shots without hard shadows which I really hated doing.

The final part of the shoot was this particular dancer in a peacock costume. After taking some shots to be used for the promotion, I used a nearby chair to give a bit of a different “fashion shoot” look to the image.

With all the challenges, the whole shoot turned out to be quite fun. Highlight for my wife was when I lay down on the ground near the stairs to try and get a shot with a different view point – she found that quite hilarious. We had a few strange looks from the guests and one of the guests actually wanted to take a shot with the dancers :D We also came across another photographer (together with 3 – yes three – voice activated stands and full bridal retinue) doing a wedding shoot.

Had good fun doing it and it was a good learning experience. 

These and a few other pics of  the shoot can be found here 

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Yala Safari – everything other than the leopard

The previous post was all about our primary objective in going to Yala -  to photograph leopards. In pursuing this objective, we saw a lot of other interesting sights and had a few "adventures" along the way. 

The first “adventure” was trying to do two things in one trip with two completely different people
1) to have a serious educational wildlife trip - with Jerome, our wildlife expert and guru
2) to have fun - with Damith, our dear friend and clown whom we always take on our trips
Having these two conflicting personalities in the same vehicle was not pleasant at the best of times even though they got on better than we expected. Right in the middle was the calm, reflective personality of Rajive, providing a balance between the two.

We made use of a Montero to make the trip as we did not want to hire open vehicles to go in to the park. The Montero was quite comfortable and there was an endless stream of banter and jokes from Jerome and Damith until we got to our destination. One eventful incident on the way was when we were overtaken by a TATA jeep which was going at breakneck speed around the curved roads (quite a considerable speed as we were going pretty fast as well). After overtaking us, the jeep stopped quite suddenly by the side of the road a hundred metres ahead of us.  Without warning, out popped a skinny guy with long hair from the driver’s side and without looking to check for any vehicles, crossed the main Kataragama road quite casually. I had to brake quite hard to avoid hitting him but what was more shocking was that he jumped from my side of the road to the path of an oncoming bus which barely missed him. It was amazing that he didn’t get knocked down by either the bus or our vehicle. He quickly disappeared inside a house and even though we felt like giving the guy a good talking to, we continued our journey without any further incident.

Yala is a hot, dry, dusty and a tiring place during the drought season. We arrived in the afternoon and settled ourselves in a little place that Rajive had booked for us. The meals were fantastic here and we thoroughly enjoyed the food. Living quarters were not great but for that price and time frame it was the best we could do. The best times to see animals and birds are at dawn (the few hours after sunrise) and dusk (the few hours before sunset). However, getting away at the “crack of dawn” was inevitably delayed as we had to get the “baby” of our group (Damith) out of bed, in to the shower and to the vehicle as he was incapable of doing it by himself.

The park, especially the main visitor center, is full of Gray Langurs. It is quite interesting to see how much they look like humans. This guy was trying to relax and tried out many positions similar to us.

One of the highlights of the trip was being able to see a bask (group) of crocodiles feasting on a buffalo carcass in the water. They were too far to capture while doing this but these were the participants of this spectacle
Pic by Rajive 

Bee-eaters and deer were quite common as well and we saw plenty of these

Elephants are of course a favourite of any safari trip in Yala and we had our fair share of adventures with them. We had a good sighting of a large bull elephant which is supposedly rare in Yala. We were making our way to another leopard stop, when we saw some vehicles parked on the road and a lot of rustling noise from our left. We stopped for a couple of minutes and out walked a massive elephant with very long tusks. He walked right in front of our vehicle as he crossed the road and made his way in to the thick jungle on the other side

We also witnessed how protective elephants are of their young. We came upon a water hole where a group of  elephants had come to drink. Among them was a very young one, maybe about 3 months or so who seemed to be wanting to get in to the water. The adults of the group were very protective especially when several other jeeps came to look at them. All the little one wanted to do was get in the water and play but the adults kept pushing him between their legs to keep him protected. It was quite a sight. Once they had finished drinking their fill, they left with plenty of protecting adults around the little guy, with one of the elephants turning to give a warning trumpet as if ordering us not to follow them.

We came across another family of elephants which were in the undergrowth. Our presence made the head female nervous and she made a warning charge towards us. We decided not to disturb them further and went on our way.

The best elephant “adventure” of the trip was when Jerome decided to educate our young guide on the “Elephant Graveyard” myth. The myth is that all elephants of a group go to one particular place near a water hole to die because of sentimental reasons. This is not the case – as explained by Jerome, when an elephant becomes old, he finds it harder and harder to find food which he can chew on. So he makes his way to river banks where the plants are more succulent and easier to eat. At this point, since the elephant does not travel much due to its ill health, he dies around the same area. As time goes on, other elephants do the same thing and try to find areas where there is food which is easier to eat. They are eventually led to the same place and they too pass away in that area. So it is not a matter of these elephants finding a place to die – it’s a case of them finding food and dying due to old age. Of course, Damith couldn’t keep his mouth shut while Jerome was narrating this in all seriousness and he made a joke that Jerome should tell the story properly. This angered Jerome and led to an argument. Damith as usual had to  listen to a lot of harsh words. 

We were also amazed by the vehicles that came to Yala - one of which was a huge, old TATA bus full of people. They complained about not seeing a single animal and this did not surprise us the animals would have run away from the park itself with all the noise the bus and the crowd in it were making. Jerome narrated the funny story of how one group which had come to Yala in a bus had stopped off in the middle of the park to plant wickets and play a game of cricket - this was right in the middle of area where wild elephants and leopards roam :D 

The jeep all dusty and dirty, working its way across the rocks

The "kolla" Jerome - looking quite "elegant" 

Rajive - the "normal" one of the group

I got some very funny shots of Damith bathing in his underwear - unfortunately he found out about them and was rude enough to delete them from the camera. As revenge, I am not including any of his shots here :D

This is a huge rock that we saw near the beach area 

A Ruddy Mongoose drinking at the waterhole 

Found a great spot for dragonflies near the lunch area - but unfortunately, even though I had the necessary patience to photograph them, I was constantly disturbed by the impatience of the others in the group who were keen to move on 

A Serpent Eagle - I tracked this guy to another tree which gave me a clear shot but just as soon as I had set the camera and was about to press the shutter button he flew off 

Crocodile lunch? Not really - the heron is actually a bit further away from the croc. It looks like they are very close here because of the forced perspective

And finally, a very rare sighting of the endemic Sri Lankan River Hippopotamus :D

All these shots and a few more can be found in this album
Another funny story towards the end of the trip was when I our wildlife expert and tracker was unable to "track" the route back to his own house and we had to find it for him 

Overall a fun trip even though it had its moments!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Hunting Leopards

Patience is a virtue......... especially for a wildlife photographer! 
The reason I got in to photography was because of my interest in wildlife.... and the reason I got into wildlife was because of my wife. Even though I always had an interest in wildlife and nature, I never actively pursued it until I met my wife, who is a wildlife fanatic. We used to go on nature excursions in Sri Lanka - to rain forests and national nature parks - when I realised that recording these trips and the wildlife we saw, would be a good thing. Unfortunately my attempts at photography at that stage was, to put it mildly, crap. So I started researching, learning, reading and collecting equipment to become a better photographer. It was around this time that (fortunately or unfortunately) I came over to the UK which has limited my ability to do wildlife photography. But whenever, we visit Sri Lanka, we try to cram in as much of it as we can in the short time period we are there. Our holiday in August was no exception. 
I had always wanted to go to Yala National Park, especially to see/photograph leopards in the wild but never got the chance to do so. Since it was the dry season in August and because there was a particularly severe drought this year, it was deemed to be ideal leopard viewing time as they would be visiting water holes quite regularly. So, together with our good friends Jerome (wildlife expert, tracker extraordinaire and general funny man), Rajive (wildlife enthusiast, vehicle expert and philosopher) and Damith (....uhmmm.... just a funny guy), we made a trip out there. 
My primary reason for the trip was to photograph leopards - seeing anything else was considered a very low secondary objective. We got some reports of several sightings the weekend before we were to go there so we were very encouraged, motivated and even quite sure that we were going to have some good sightings. Inspired by the Planet Earth series and photographs by Rukshan Jayawardena, all I wanted to do was track or lie in wait at a water hole and then photograph a leopard at leisure. Very unfortunately, things don't always go according to plan.
Yala, especially during the drought season, is a burning hot, dry and dusty land which takes a lot of your energy. We were allocated a young guide (part of the regulations) who, even though new at the game, seemed knowledgeable and competent enough and assured us that he will do his best to show us leopards. He was particularly impressed with the DSLR and the (relatively massive) 150-500mm lens and wanted to ensure that we get some good close up photos of the elusive animal. Unfortunately, in his endeavour to please us, he became over enthusiastic in his efforts... 
My idea of leopard spotting was to spend hours at a water hole and lie in wait for the animal. The guide had different ideas. Yala is quite a large park and there are about 5-6 spots that were supposed to be popular with the leopards. The problem was that these spots are quite far apart and required a lot of very tedious driving on hard, rocky and unpaved roads. In his efforts to show us the leopard, our guide made us run around these spots quite a lot. We would go to one spot, wait for 10-15mts and when nothing turned up, he would make us go to the next spot. And the cycle continued, for the next 3 days, during  the first couple of hours in the morning and last few hours before sunset which are the times when leopards come out. 
Our first day was almost coming to a close with disappointment in the air because we had not spotted even one leopard when we suddenly came upon a procession of trucks parked in the middle of the road. There were some whispers that a leopard was crossing the road ahead. In my excitement, I actually got out of the vehicle - which is strictly forbidden and might even be fined - to see the animal but was only treated to a brief glimpse of it in the undergrowth. The shot below is just a random click I took while getting out of the vehicle - from the hip - didn't even put the eye to the viewfinder.

From Yala

The next day we did more of the "running around" and I was becoming increasingly irritated. I tried to suggest that we lie in wait at a water hole but was quickly shot down as the guide felt that we might be missing an opportunity elsewhere. Even though we came upon a sighting that day, the leopard was so well hidden in the forest growth that we hardly could spot him let alone photograph him. 
The 3rd and final day dawned and we piled in to the vehicle in high spirits hoping that today was going to be the lucky day. Being the final day, I wanted to adopt my "patiently wait in one spot" strategy but the guide was a bit apprehensive that we still had not got a good sighting and wanted to maximise the time running from one spot to another even more faster than we did the last 2 days. I did not over ride him on this because I was not sure whether my strategy would have worked, especially we had only 1 day, as numerous other guides/visitors were also not having any luck with sightings near the water holes. But that didn't stop my mood from going bad to worse and the guide was becoming very anxious about this. Even though I knew it was not his fault nor blamed him for our bad luck, he took the lack of sightings as a personal failure which only increased his determination. After a disappointing morning session and a tiring lunch, we set off on the evening rounds. Even though we saw several other animals and birds, there were no leopards - disappointment being expressed by a lot of the visitors/guides who were out that day. Several vehicles had been parked at some water holes for hours and they had not seen anything either nor had we, with all our running around. 
With just a couple more hours to the park closing time, things were becoming desperate and I was about to put my foot down and insist that we stay in one place, when our guide suggested one last attempt at a spot which was a bit difficult to get at so might not be crowded with vehicles. He sounded quite keen and his own disappointment at our failure so far made me relent and we followed his directions. I had already given up and didn't even have my camera on "stand by mode" to take a shot. We were making our way slowly across some rocks when our guide gave an exclamation and asked the vehicle be stopped immediately. 
I craned and twisted my neck and looked ahead to get my first proper glimpse of leopard, who was sitting quite strong and proud and looking at us quite curiously. But my "un-readiness" was costing me dearly cos it took me a few seconds to get the camera up to my eye and the lens through the window to compose the shot. Unfortunately, just as I had lined up the perfect shot, Rajive (who as driving at that time) thinking that I had no clear view of the animal because of the delay in me taking the shot, moved the vehicle slightly forward. The guide was horrified at this cos he immediately ordered, quite strongly, not to move the vehicle. But too late! The vehicle movement threw off my perfect shot and also alerted the leopard, who turned his back on us and started walking away and all I got was this shot. 
Exhilaration at the sighting and disappointment at the missed photo opportunity, filled me at the same time, in equally strong proportions. The guide was more optimistic - he had been so anxious that he would not be able to show us a leopard that the first thing he did was put his hands to the air and give praise to the Gods!!! After this, he ordered us to drive around the rocks very slowly, expecting the leopard to be on the rocks where (s)he disappeared to. (S)he wasn't there so we stopped the vehicle and waited a few minutes. The sharp eyed guide gave another shout - even though the leopard was not on the rock he had expected it to be on, it had gone over to another rock a bit further off and we were able to see it clearly. However, our positioning was not great as there were several trees right in front of the animal and there was no way I could avoid them in my shots.
The best shot that I could get, and the only one with the leopard's eyes in them was this one - unfortunately it has a twig going right in front of its face which takes away a lot from the picture. And the twig is positioned in such a way that it is going to be difficult to clone it out.
The leopard slunk away soon after and even though we did try a couple of other spots we did not get to see another one. 
After all  the excitement died down, we realised we were quite lucky to have had that sighting, cos even though not great, we were one of the few that had a sighting at all that day. The guide was relieved and also happy with the big tip he got (which he would have got even if we didn't see a leopard). I would have preferred to have had used patience and a wait strategy but there are no guarantees when hunting leopards - you win some and you lose some.
Even though I realise that having had that small sighting is much better than having had no sighting at all, it really pained me when the guide phoned us a couple of days later to tell us that he had had several sightings of leopards since then and that there was one which waited at a water hole for a full 2 hours, drinking and playing, whilst it got its photograph taken by a lot of people. Talk about being unlucky! Maybe the leopards were just hiding from me!!! 
PS. In recent times the knife has been twisted even harder when I see that Amila and Imran have had such great luck viewing and photographing these beautiful animals.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Raving at the beach

The original idea was to do a running update of our holiday to Sri Lanka with weekly updates to this blog as well as twitter feeds. Unfortunately, plans are always supposed to go wrong and this was no exception due to the inability to get a PAYG internet connection and our busier than expected schedule.

As soon as she heard we were coming down in July, the first thing that my wife’s cousin did was to beg (yes beg) us to take her to the Hikkaduwa Beach Fesitval. The festival was organised by Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau and was a 4 day event with a Drum Festival on the 1st night, a Beach rave on the 2nd and themed parties on the 3rd and 4th nights.

So a week after we landed, together with the cousin Natashaaaaaaaaaa, and our dear friend Damith, we made our way to the south of the Island to the tourist beach paradise that is Hikkaduwa. Needless to say we had many adventures – the 1st of which was trying to find accommodation. Natasha, in her brilliantly organised way, had arranged for 2 rooms in 2 different hotels and that had to be changed for the 2 nights we were going to be there. Confused? So were we. After much discussion with hotel staff, numerous calls to Natasha’s “friends” and a few trips up and down between hotels, we were able to secure 2 rooms, next to each other, in the same hotel for both the nights (better?).

Natasha and Michelle

After settling down in our rooms and relaxing with a drink, we set out in the evening to take a walk on the beach before went on to the Drum Festival. It had been quite a while since Mich and myself had walked on soft beach sand and we found it quite relaxing. Half way through the walk, we realised we were hungry and decided to take Natasha’s advise to sample some “Chicken Rotti” which was supposed to be a speciality down there with one particular shop doing a really tasty dish. According to Natasha, the way to find the shop was to look out for a board which said “Chicken Rotti” on the side – unfortunately, every shop we looked into had a board like this and after a bit of a walk we settled on a way side shop with a friendly enough shop owner. However, we fell in to the much dreaded “tourist” trap – we went in, ordered and had eaten without checking the price first – big mistake. We ended up paying a relatively big amount for something that really didn’t taste all that good and could have got for a fraction of the cost in Colombo.

After the meal we headed back to the beach to catch the sunset. I had wanted to photograph a proper sunset for a long time and I struggled a bit with setting up the tripod to the angle that I wanted. I also took my time to check the shots, use ND filters and even position a branch I found on the beach to a pleasing angle. All this preparation was a cause of great amusement and laughter for the others – including my wife – who were joking about the time that I took to take a simple sunset shot and that all the camera equipment I was carrying was actually a burden if I was going to take so long to take a shot. Well, all I can say is good photography takes time and now that the result is posted below, they can all eat their words!! Ha!
Sunset on Hikkaduwa Beach

The Drum Festival, which started 1½ hours later than scheduled, had its ups and downs. We were quite excited about one particular group (can't remember their name) who we had seen live before and considered them to be quite good. They were one of the first to play. They are quite a young group and they quickly got the crowd on their feet with some excellent rhythmic beats.
This guy is the leader (I think) and is extremely talented 

Here are a couple of videos of them performing – image quality is not great but the sound should give you an idea of what they are capable of

After they finished, the night went in to a slow decline in terms of entertainment. After such a high octane performance, the last thing we expected was a traditional drum performance. These guys were accompanied by dancers wearing traditional masks depicting devils and though entertaining, was inherently slow and down beat.

We were also treated to some "Brazillian Dancing" by some dancers brought in from the UK, which got the crowd going for obvious reasons. 
(Picture by Damith de Silva)

Several other drum groups performed and some of them were good, but none of them could get us or the crowd as excited as the first group did.
One of the drummer really got in to the "swing".... 

To make matters worse, the heavens opened up and we were treated to a nice shower at which point we realised that the organisers had not arranged for any shelter even though rain was forecasted for the day. I had to protect the camera so had to squeeze in to a tiny space near the stage to get out of the rain whilst the others held the chairs over their heads!!! As soon as the rain passed and we settled back in to our seats, we had a power outage – most probably because of all that water on the equipment – which made us realise that the organisers had not actually “organised” anything properly. They actually had a big sign to say the event was “child friendly” but we had to question why a “child friendly” event would not any kind of shelter so that at least the children don’t get soaked in the rain!!! The last straw was when we were treated to a fireworks show with the fireworks being shot over the crowd. Admittedly, the effect was great but this meant that the burnt out fireworks were going to fall on to the crowd. We had quite a few of the people scrambling and screaming as the fireworks fell on them and one of them actually fell on Michelle’s arm and left a burn mark visible to this day. If this event was held in the UK, the organisers would have been sued for Health & Safety violations….

Another funny incident involved the writer himself (yes, moi) – after the drink at the hotel, the long walk, dodgy food, running around a beach to avoid the rain, having ears and head constantly assaulted by the heavy and loud drum beats, I was suddenly feeling woozy and faintish. I had to take a break and we went back to the hotel to take a shower and then hit the beach again to hear some of the DJ music. We finally got some sleep at about 5am.

The next day we got up at about 9:30, had breakfast and then headed out to Unawatuna Beach – a surfers and sunbathers paradise. The sea is great for bathing here as it is quite shallow but there are quite a lot waves which meant that the surfers were out in force

It was great to be just sitting around, doing nothing but look at the sea, having good food and a nice cool drink (makes we want to cry as I think of it now….).

Dam the man
Yours truly - all cool and dapper
(Picture by Damith de Silva)
Michelle - finding it amusing being photographed

Quite a lot happened during the time we were there – a few of the guys showed off their football dribbling skills, a newly wedded couple came on to the beach for some photographs (Damith took some nice shots of them but will avoid posting here so as not to infuriate the official photographer), Damith asked for and took a picture of a very “colourful” couple, a few cute dogs ran around doing funny things which got Michelle to run around with the camera.

Damith with football dribblers in the background 
A sweet couple - our only regret being not getting their email address so that we could have sent this pic 
(Picture by Damith de Silva)

On our way back we decided to stop over at the Galle Fort – which was first built in the 17th Century and is still standing even after 400 years of existence and a devastating tsunami in 2004.

The Lighthouse at Galle Fort 

The clouds were rolling in and it looked like it was going to pour but there were patches of sunlight through the clouds, when I took this shot.

But the cloud passed and the sea was starting to get rough, with some of the waves crashing on these rocks with quite a bit of force

And just before we left, I tried to do some off camera flash shooting of the 2 ladies. Again they were very amused about the time it took for me to balance the ambient and flash to get the shot but hey – results speak for themselves :D

That night we went for the Beach Rave at Hikkaduwa. It was a bit confusing for us cos it looked as if we had stepped right in to a nightclub at Brighton (UK). The reason was because the DJs were all from UK and they were playing typical trance/techno music – and the thing that confused us was that the Sri Lankan crowd normally doesn’t like such music. Most of the nightclubs play pop/dance music as that is what is popular with the crowds. This was apparent because after a couple hours the heavy crowd that was at the main stage started moving towards the rear towards the Dialog (one of the sponsors) stall, which was playing more popular dance music. By the time we left, at about 3am, there were more people near the Dialog stall than the main stage.
(Picture by Damith de Silva)

Damith had a great time running with the camera photographing all the women – they thought he was the official event photographer (with the 40D and flash attached) and were quite keen on posing for him. He also found some very interesting characters in the crowd.
(Picture by Damith de Silva)

We also spent most of the night screaming out Natasha’s name (Natashhhaaaaaaaa) every time the music stopped – I think most of  the crowd thought that we were shouting the DJ’s name and were looking out for "DJ Natasha". Or maybe they just thought we were weird.

We had to leave the next day as Natasha had to get back to Colombo so we missed out on the theme nights. The journey back was quite interesting as well cos we had to locate one of Natasha’s friends who was unable to give any form of directions or landmarks as to where he was and then 5 people squeezed into a tiny car for a 3 hour journey!!

Overall a great time – thanks Natasha and Damith!